Sometimes in parenting, we make choices based on our child’s reaction or our convenience. Do you ever give in to your child’s whining or complaining because you just want it to stop? Or what about when you’re in public, and you don’t want to ignite a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store?
You scramble to make a choice because you feel rushed or caught off guard; we often stumble through our words, get confused as to what we should do, and end up making a choice based on our child’s emotions or even our convenience.
What parents don’t realize is that this puts the child in charge, making it confusing for them in the long run. If there is no clear, loving authority in your child’s life to guide and direct them, they will begin to run the show, using their emotions to control the situation. Children aren’t emotionally mature enough to realize what they are doing. It’s not intentional; it’s learned.
So how can we set ourselves and our children up for success when our child demands something, and we need to respond with a “no?”
In my parenting research, not only with being a parent myself but soaking up all the information I’ve acquired over the last 11 years in the parenting education business, I find that the solution is rather simple.
Trust your God-given instincts.
You can easily get caught up in all the parenting techniques, must-do’s, and hacks that Instagram and Tik Tok have to offer, but what it comes down to is being attentive to your specific child.
More and more, parents mistrust themselves in their decisions on what their child might need at any given moment. Before we make a decision, we scroll through Instagram or find yet another parenting article to walk us through how to parent. And while there is NOTHING wrong with doing this (you’re doing it now), I want to reintroduce you to your motherly and fatherly instincts.
This leads me to my first tip on what to do instead of giving in to your child’s demands.
1. Document things for a few days
Nothing helps solve a problem more than taking a little documentation and observing your and your child’s reactions. Within a few days of documenting your interactions when your child’s demanding something they can’t have, you will get a pretty good idea of where to start. Unless we identify the issue, we can’t solve it. Make note of your child’s needs.
Do they need you to respond more gently and use a softer voice? Some kids are more sensitive. When you do, is their response more positive? Or perhaps your child needs more explanation for why they can’t have what they want. Most children like to understand the why behind a “no.”
“I can’t let you watch that movie yet. It has content that you aren’t emotionally mature enough to handle. I know that’s disappointing to hear, especially since you’re friends are allowed to see it, but that’s my boundary.”
Here is an example of explaining the “why” so your child isn’t left with a “because I said so.” From this, they will likely deduct that you care for their well-being; you’re not just keeping them from having fun.
Deducting these interactions will help you know how to respond to your specific child in a way that won’t push them away but rather establish healthy communication skills.
2. Don’t make a rash decision
When put on the spot, it’s hard to make a wise choice. It’s perfectly okay that when your child asks something of you, you respond with. “I don’t know the answer right now. Let me think about it.” This could be in response to them having a sleepover, asking for candy at the grocery store, or whatever it may be. This response will also teach them about making thoughtful decisions, not just ones based on how we feel at the moment.
3. Allow the emotions but don’t give in
Our goal in parenting shouldn’t always be to avoid battles with our kids. They will arise and can be used for teachable moments in your and your child’s life. One of the biggest lies of our culture leads us to believe that parenting should be easy, our kids always obedient, and our bedtimes always smooth.
That every word coming out of your mouth should fall into the “gentle parenting” category, and if not, you’re a bad parent. That our child’s responses to our demands should be perfect. That we have to word things perfectly, so our kids behave better.
But that’s not reality. And waking up to the fact that things won’t always go our way sooner than later will help us regulate our own emotions and expectations. It will also help us accept our child’s emotions when things don’t go their way.
There is a difference between holding your boundary and not allowing your child to feel. You can do both, hold a boundary, but also let your child feel upset about it. You can work on wording things in ways that help your child accept what they don’t like, but at the end of the day, they will need to learn how to accept when an answer is no. And you will need to accept that they won’t always like it.
4. Empathize but don’t enable
When your child gets upset that the answer isn’t what they want, it’s important to help them see that you are there and that you validate their needs, even when their emotions are big. You can also give them something to look forward to when the answer will be yes. This especially works well for young kids.
“It must be really hard that you can’t have chocolate before bed. I know how much you love it. But it will keep you from sleeping well! After you finish your breakfast in the morning, I would love to give you a piece of chocolate. Would you like some apples or cottage cheese as a special snack right now?”
You can do a few things by responding this way. You empathize with their big emotions (even though it may seem like a small deal for us, our children see it as a big deal), you give them something to look forward to, and you give them a choice. When kids have a choice, especially those strong-willed kiddos, they are more likely to accept the bad news and move on to what they CAN have. You’re also not giving in to their demands, which isn’t enabling them.
5. Try and reflect on your own childhood
Parenting can be made easier when we reflect on our own childhood, remembering how we felt in any given situation. This can give us insight into why we respond the way we respond. It can also help us empathize with our kids along the way.
Do you remember what it was like when your parents didn’t let you go to that concert with your friends? How did it make you feel? Even though you don’t necessarily need to change your boundary, you can meet your child in their emotions and be there for them. Your kids need to know that you aren’t there simply to ruin their lives but that you make the loving authority decisions to keep them healthy and safe. You can even share with them that story and how even though it upset you, you were thankful they cared enough to keep you safe.
And even though they might not recognize it now, they will most likely thank you later.
What are some ways, both positive and negative, you’ve responded to your child when they demand something of you, and the answer is no? How did they respond back?
Positive parenting tools for every parent
Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation
Bark Premium (Parental Control App – use this link or code WFTBBLOG to try it for an EXTRA one-month FREE) – Read more about Bark Premium; perfect if your child already has a phone, but you need a parental control app to do the heavy lifting of content monitoring.
The Bark Phone – Perfect for parents looking to find their children an affordable phone that protects them from all angles – internet, unsafe apps, messaging, cyberbullying, emails, etc. Starting at $49/mo, all plans include a phone, Bark Premium, and wireless service, with no contract commitment. For younger kids, you, as the parent, can enable the phone for messaging and calls ONLY. And as they mature, you can allow more freedoms/apps (any app you wish). This phone grows WITH your child and eliminates the need to purchase multiple phones at various times in their maturity.
Computer use – When it comes to their computers, you can use Covenant Eyes.
TV’s, gaming consoles, and at-home protection – Bark Home (manage screen time and filter websites on all of the internet-connected devices in your house — including gaming consoles, TVs, and more. VidAngel (Skip or mute what you don’t want to see or hear on popular streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.)
Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below.
Book List for Kids and Parents
Check out my recommended books for parenting.
Journaling for Kids
When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination.
Chores for Kids
Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge
Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a beneficial tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their progress and keep you from constantly reminding them of their daily tasks.
If you’re looking for something simpler, this is also a good option.
Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer.
If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”
Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids
Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to share their questions and emotions without judgment.
We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences.
Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!
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