Pros And Cons Of Saying Yes And No To Your Child

Do you often say ‘No’ to your child? It’s a word that spreads negativity and must be used sparingly, for best results. Here are some ideas to turn the negative into an affirmative experience.

By Susan Philip

Pros And Cons Of Saying Yes And No To Your Child

The Oxford English Corpus and other studies lists ‘No’ among the 100 most commonly used words in the English language, though rankings vary. Surprisingly, ‘Yes’ doesn’t make it to the top bracket in any of the assessments. That says a lot about the signals we send out while communicating.

As parents, we tend to use the word ‘No’ a lot more than ‘Yes’ with our children. And, we do so for various reasons, including a subconscious desire to show our authority, to prevent an argument and to move on to the next issue on our agenda.

But our habit of saying 'No' adversely affects our children in many ways, some of which are:

  • Giving rise to a defeatist attitude by making children think that they may never get what they want.
  • Forcing children to turn rebellious by making them refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer.
  • Pushing children towards becoming secretive. They may think that since they’re bound to told ‘No’ anyway, it makes better sense to do what they want without seeking consent.

Which means, your child’s reaction to your tendency to say ‘No’ isn't good for her overall development. To understand if you are a 'Yes' or a 'No' parent, you can engage in a simple assessment. Make a note of the number of times you say these in a day. You may be in for a surprise.

A ‘Yes’, a ‘No’ or a...

For instance, teenage is a turbulent time for both parent and child. It is also when the ‘Yes/No’ conflict can contribute to tensions. But using these in a more balanced way can also be an opportunity to teach your child some valuable life lessons.

The conditional ‘yes’

Your teen has homework to complete and needs to prepare for an upcoming a class test, yet she asks, "Can I watch TV?" While you will be tempted to say ‘NO!’, curb that instinct. Instead, try saying “Yes, of course you can, after you complete your homework. You can watch your favourite serial, and then prepare for the test.” You’ll find your child more willing to accept this arrangement than being told, “No, you can’t watch TV till you finish your studies” or an outright 'No'.

The ‘yes, later’

Is your teen asking for an expensive smartphone? Don’t refuse him straightaway. Instead, you can tell him that if he waits for a year or two, by which time he will be in college, he can have the latest model. But if he insists on getting one now, he’ll have to make do with an outdated model in college. Such reasoning will seem logical to most teens. It will also teach your child to be patient and encourage her to work towards a goal.

The ‘yes, but you take the responsibility’

When your teen seeks your permission to do something like going to a movie with friends, you may be tempted to say 'No' justifying it with various reasons. Resist that urge. Instead, tell your teen he can go if he and his friends arrange with a responsible adult to be picked up and dropped back. And that you need to be in touch with that adult. This will put the onus on your teen to ensure his own safety. He will also understand that you are reluctant because of concern for his safety and not because you love saying ‘No’.

In all three instances, you’ve said ‘No’ but in a positive way. The trick lies in using ‘Yes’ to get your child to monitor and regulate himself. It is an affirmative that comes with corollaries. It teaches children to be accountable for their own actions and think about the consequences.

The advantages of being a ‘Yes’ parent

It’s no secret that a ‘Yes’ creates positive energy and is much more welcome than a ‘No’. If your child perceives you as a parent who is willing to listen to him before saying 'Yes' or 'No', he will be more open to sharing his thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams with you.

On the other hand, if you create the impression that you’re going to say 'No' regardless, you may lose your child’s confidence. Your child may begin to see you as someone who is arbitrary and harsh. Consequently, you could miss out on precious opportunities to mould her life.

There will of course be times when you have to say an uncompromising NO. But if you are sparing with your 'No', your child will be more ready to accept your refusal when you are firm in denying him something.

The other side of the coin

As parents, while it is our duty to nurture our children in a positive atmosphere, we also need to expose them to circumstances that aren’t to their liking. This is necessary if they are to learn and come out stronger from such situations.

Therefore, we must help our child learn to accept ‘No’ gracefully. A child who is never denied anything by her parents will certainly be in for a rude shock later in life. When she comes up against a ‘No’, she will be unable to take it in the right spirit or cope with the disappointment.

Balance the ayes with the nays

To put it succinctly, the next time, think before you say ‘No’. Practice counting till ten before you respond negatively to a question from your child. Think about whether you can answer with an affirmative or at least a conditional ‘Yes’. Do so if you can. If you can’t, be firm in saying 'No'. Your child will respect and accept the nays when these are balanced with the ayes — and when there is some learning to be gained from the experience. 

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