The Ticking Time-Bomb

Boy scowling

Ready for Meltdown

Sometimes it seems like we’re not just parents, we’re members of a very skilled bomb squad… one little crossed wire or “No, you may not” and BOOM, the whole situation could explode! We want our children to learn how to gracefully accept the answer “no”, yet in any given situation we may be reluctant to throw it out there and trigger some big meltdown. Maybe it’s because we’re in a public location, or perhaps we’re just tired and not up for a battle at that moment. Whatever the reason, we’re prone to caving in just to diffuse a situation and keep the peace.  Like it or not, we have all been known to say no, then let the whining and crying persuade us into changing our mind!

When we’re at the top of our game (or in the neighborhood grocery store) it’s possible to cunningly use strategies like the “No Disguised As A Yes” tactic. This is when you respond with something like “Yes, you may have a lollipop after you sit nicely in the shopping cart.” You’re saying yes, but you actually mean no. (At least, no not now… maybe later). This delayed yes is a great way to gain some leverage if you want your little one to do something like clean up or use the potty. You have something they want… they can have it AFTER they do whatever it is you ask them to do. This is also a great way to teach your child to be a good listener because you are reinforcing them for following directions.

Another strategy is to plead the 5th and say nothing. Better to silently take a moment to consider your options than to say an automatic no that you later recant for a yes. This only teaches your child that no doesn’t mean no, it could very likely mean yes if she whines enough!

Temper Tantrum


When it comes down to it though, it’s good to face our fears and tell our children a firm “no” so they learn to accept it. With safety issues, no is always non-negotiable. With situations NOT involving imminent peril, I always prefer to pick my battles in the privacy of our own home or car if possible. It’s just much easier to endure the inevitable meltdowns and deal with the situation on my own terms.

Just like many other things, accepting “no” and handling disappointment is a skill that children can learn and that we need to teach them. How do any of us learn a skill? Through practice. Make a conscious decision to practice each day with your child, and then find an opportunity to say no once or twice and follow through with it, despite whatever tears and rage may follow. It’s like letting the bomb go off in a controlled environment!  In the end it will be worth it to teach your child that sometimes the answer is no, and that you mean what you say. Our children will not be permanently scarred by crying hysterically because they can’t have that third lollipop. We might be temporarily shaken by it… but the Mom Squad is resilient and we’re always there to pick up the pieces and carry on!


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