Parents, just say ‘no’ to your kids

You can just say no to your kids. Picture: iStock
You can just say no to your kids. Picture: iStock

I HAVE three words for parents: just … say … ‘no’, writes Sara Fitzpatrick.

As mums and dads struggling to get through the day with our little ones intact and somewhat happy, we tend to forget this is an option.

But I’m here to remind you that saying ‘no’ is indeed a very real option and we should be saying it more often.

‘No’ is empowering, it is effective, and our children need to hear it.

More: How I lost myself to motherhood

Raising kids isn’t easy. Picture: iStock

My husband recently reminded me of the power of ‘no’ when the case of the unicorn suitcase infiltrated our household.

My five-year-old daughter has a lovely pink floral suitcase which Granny kindly bought her a few months ago.

She was delighted to unwrap said suitcase on her birthday: it was the pride and joy of both her and her younger sister.

They use it for real and ‘tendy’ sleepovers and enjoy filling it with random objects for no particular reason because it’s fun to shove Barbie, books, used tissues, stickers that no longer stick and remnants of Tiny Teddies into its compartments.

As I write, it is packed with three headbands, one unicorn light, two snow globes, a ballerina necklace, a panda maze toy, a ripped drawing of a rainbow and what must be a dog, seven beads from a broken necklace and a pair of Ken’s Hawaiian board shorts. I am not putting that shit away.

Bring on the Barbie and let little girls be girlie

Does being a sh*t mum make you a bad parent? 

Parents, remember the power of saying no to your kids. Picture: iStock

Now, despite owning this perfectly fine piece of luggage, the five-year-old wants another case that she spotted at Kmart: one adorned with a unicorn in which she wishes to use for our upcoming trip to Bali.

“You already have a great suitcase and you don’t need another one,” I told her. “Granny would be very upset if you didn’t use it: it wasn’t cheap, you know. And besides, you love it!”

“But that’s my dream, Mummy, to have a unicorn suitcase,” she exclaimed, with a twinkle in her eye.

The conversation went on and on: both of us repeating our lines and refusing to budge.

My husband was sitting right next to us, in the lounge room, and did not interject.

Mum’s confession: I know I’m awful when I yell at my kids

Can tough love make kids more resilient?

Sometimes kids need to hear the word ‘no’. Picture: iStock

“Dad, can you please explain it to her,” I said, in the nagging voice he likes so much.

“No.” he answered.

“What?” I gasped. “You’re going to buy her a new suitcase when she already has a perfectly good one from Grandma?”

“Just – no. I’m not getting into this. The answer is no, end of story.” he added, not once taking his eyes off his book.

What a man, I thought. And then: Oh yeah! Of course.

I can just say ‘no’ and leave it at that. I don’t have to explain it to her: she’s not listening anyway.

So I said: ‘No’. I didn’t engage further and she let it go – hasn’t brought it up since.

Now, I’m not too bad at the discipline thing.

This is me most days: “No, you can’t wear nail polish to school, no, you can’t eat icy poles in your bedroom and, no, you can’t watch A Nightmare on Elm Street – you’re five.”

I don’t allow movies during the week, bedtime starts at 6.30pm for stories and learning, and two marshmallows are permitted at night if most of their dinner is eaten.

Make time for storytime. Picture: iStock

But sometimes I forget that I can indeed whip out the ‘no’ word and be the parent.

And I have seen my friends fall into this trap too: one admitted that if her child asked for chocolate for breakfast she wouldn’t oppose it.

My husband is naturally good at being an arsehole … I mean, strict.

“Put a cardigan on,” he’ll say.

“But I’m not cold,” replies the five-year-old.

“If I’m cold, you’re cold. If I’m hot, you’re hot. End of story,” is his response.

I’ve heard people say that ‘no’ is damaging to a child: It’s a negative reinforcement and we should be coming up with cleverer ways of saying no, without actually saying ‘no’.

Screw that. I don’t have the time or patience to get clever with this, so it’s a big fat ‘no’ from me.

sara.fitzpatrick@communitynews.com.au