Helping your child learn to accept no for an answer is a common theme in the world of parenting advice. Children tend to feel safe and secure in an environment with structure and limits, and part of providing those boundaries is telling them No… they cannot have ANOTHER handful of candy, or No… they are NOT having chocolate cake for breakfast! Of course, sometimes it’s fun to shake things up and occasionally say Yes to those outrageous requests, and that’s okay. But generally, there are some limitations and children need to understand and accept that sometimes the answer is just No. (So deal with it!)
Unfortunately for most parents, saying No is usually the easiest part. The big challenge is sticking to your guns and making sure that No actually MEANS No! Kids can be very skillful at wearing us down and manipulating us into giving them what they want. However, it is much more detrimental to say No and then give into the pleading and whining than to just say Yes in the first place. You might as well say Sure, have another Twinkie!’ rather than say No and then break down and let them have it. If No only means No some of the time, then your child will test it constantly, and you will find yourself in ongoing battles involving whining, arguing, and temper tantrums that will sap your strength and sanity!
Here’s where saying Maybe comes in handy. It’s okay to take a moment to decide what your answer is going to be. In fact, it can be very useful! One benefit is that taking some time to answer allows you to weigh out what you feel comfortable with and whether you’ll be able to stick to a No answer or not. It also gives you time to make the most out of the situation: Maybe upon consideration, the answer is not a simple Yes or No, but rather ‘Yes if you put away your toys and get dressed first!’ Saying ‘Maybe’ or ‘I’m not sure, I need to think about it’ not only helps you make the parenting decisions you are comfortable with and can be consistent about, but it also models adaptive problem solving and decision making strategies that will serve your children well in life! We don’t always have the answers at the tip of our fingers, but it’s okay to take some time and make informed or thoughtful decisions. That’s a value worth imparting to your child!