Parents naturally want to see and make their children happy and many will go to any lengths to grant their children’s wishes, even if it means never saying no to them. Children, however, need to hear the word no as much as they need to hear the word yes. According to Dr Markham, saying no to your child helps with setting boundaries and limits, which aid in their development — emotionally, physically and mentally. Never saying it, Dr Markham says, can leave children ill-equipped to deal with real life situations.
Once you set limits, it goes without saying that kids will test you to see if you mean it or if they can shift those set boundaries. Children will try all sorts of mechanisms like: begging, pleading, whining, crying, throwing tantrums, showing anger or all of the above, to get their way. This is one way for them to show their distress for not getting what they want, but they also do it because they also want to see if they make you change your mind and give in to their wishes.
Does this sound manipulative? Well yes actually, it is very much so.
As a parent, if you end up giving in all the time, you teach your kids that they need not respect those limits because they don’t mean anything and neither does the word no. You teach them that if they beg, plead, whine, or cry, they’ll eventually get what they want. This cringe-inducing behaviour is what they will continue to turn to, to get what they want. You teach them to be disrespectful, selfish and manipulative.
If, however, you are firm and consistently hold to the limits you set, your kids will progressively learn to accept those limits much more easily and quickly. They will learn to respect you and your wishes, and become respectful and responsible adults when they grow up. They will learn that they can’t always have what they want and that is normal. No one in this world can have everything that they want.
Dan Mager, author of Roots and Wings: A Guide to Mindful Parenting in Recovery states that if there are two parents/guardians involved, it’s critical for them to be in agreement when it comes to setting and enforcing limits. He continues to emphasise that conflict between parents usually causes them to undermine each other and sends mixed and confusing messages to their kids. Furthermore, he says that, kids who are adept at learning how to play one parent against the other, figure out which parent to go to in order to maximize the chances of getting what they want.
It’s in the best interests of their kids for parents to strive to stand in unison and work as a team, even if they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye about it at the time. Parents, you can discuss it at another time but stick together in front of your kids! 🙏
Summarising, continually giving in to your children’s wishes and desires creates a warped image of how the world works. They will learn to see the world as existing merely to fulfill their desires and perceived needs, making it harder for them to be successful in the future if those needs can’t be met. Children need to learn to cope with the limits placed upon them, especially if they don’t like them for the older they get the more limits society imposes on them.
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Till next time…