One of the very first steps of parenting for me, is to teach my child to safely and confidently say “NO” to ME! The very idea of teaching our children to say ‘NO’ may come across to you as a joke. You may even go upto say that children already know and have learnt this word early in life, probably as early as 3-4 years of age. But what you must know is that it’s very important to also teach them to mean it and be assertive when required.
My daughter is hardly an year and a half and every time I ask her something she says, ‘no’. For instance, “Do you want to eat?” Straight comes no. “Do you want water?” No. “Do you want to help me put the toys back in place?” A bigger no! Trust me, she understands it all. “Are you hungry?” Forever no! Phew! When kids already have learnt on their own to say ‘no’, then why am I even stressing it’s importance? Here’s why –
Let’s first understand that it’s no joke. Kids really do need to practice saying no. So, instead of getting frustrated when your toddler says ‘no’ for the tenth time, be proud that the kid is assertive. Kids of this age realize that they can assert themselves, so arguing with you is one of the many ways in which they gain confidence. But at the same time, it’s important to let them exercise this assertiveness politely. So, how can we do this? – We can empower our kids to make choices about what they want to do when and how they want to spend their time, also with whom they want to do so. This means, we must respect their wishes for them to respect ours. Parenting isn’t easy!
Also, let’s teach children that sharing is caring. Being assertive is good but at the same time, let’s teach them to grow having strong and effective communication skills as well. For instance, if your child is playing at the swing and his friend whines to play on the swing too, it’s not necessary that you teach your child to give up on what he’s doing only because the kid is crying. Instead you could teach your child to answer politely, “I will be happy to let you swing when I’m finished”.
We must let kids exercise power of their voice. And the only way they can learn this skill is if we step back instead of jumping in their situation to fix it and let them practice. This will help them as they grow up, to make confident choices and speak their minds without any doubt, fear or pause. By teaching our children to say no, we are helping them know themselves best, we are teaching them about their inner power. If we raise our children in an environment that lets them say No, we are truly preparing them for the outside world. We are teaching them the very important fact which is very much needed in today’s world, which is that they don’t need to do anything that they don’t feel comfortable doing.
We must never force, bully, punish, belittle or threaten our children just because they’ve said no to us or to do anything that we want them to do. That isn’t the correct norm. Instead we must try and build a bond with our child that will last a lifetime. I have made it a norm in my house to ‘follow ones own intuition’. For instance, my daughter enjoys waving hi and bye to our friends and relatives everytime someone visits or we attend parties. But sometimes even after I tell her to, she doesn’t wave, I don’t force her this moment, instead I let her be by respecting the fact that she might not be in a mood to do so. By allowing this, I’m only giving her the freedom to accept her own thoughts and actions. But the truth is that this is not an easy task to do. Our egos are so trained that when we ask our kids to do something and they say no, then our ego comes in way as to how our child could disagree to us. We have all been raised as people pleasers and we believe that the ones who initiate “peer pressure” are parents and relatives. We have been taught to follow traditions and respect our families to the point of disregarding our own inner sense and power.
Normally, it is socially unacceptable for anyone to hear a child say No to their parents, relatives, or any elders. It’s even more difficult to teach our girls to say no because in our culture, girls are (still) typically rewarded for practising good manners and taking care of others, they are raised that way. Whereas boys are applauded and get high-fives for being brave or taking a risk. But what we must always remember is that we must teach them both equally the same concept of NO. By teaching our children that it’s OK to choose to say no when they don’t want to do something, we are empowering them for life. Let our children not be taken for granted or be taken advantage of and we can do this simply by helping them say NO.