Sometimes parenting can make for long days. Maybe you feel like you had to say “no” too many times or you kept doling out negative comments to keep your kids in check. As part of being an active parent, it’s our job to think about actively building a family environment in which our kids have a good chance of becoming the caring, productive young adults we envision for them. I’m going to suggest that rather than thinking about things as “no,” instead realize that you have bigger and better plans for your child. You want more for them and many “no’s” are really an attempt to change to a more positive behavior or activity.
For example, many readers on this website are wondering about all the time their child is wasting on video games and YouTube. “It’s time to get off the Xbox” you say. Maybe you even feel guilty about saying it. But that is a good “no!” Saying “no” to video games gives our kids more time to do other more meaningful activities. Then why do so many parents struggle with saying “no” and turning off the screens? By limiting screen time you are giving your child opportunities to do more things, even better things. Fill your home with good things and activities, then anything your child chooses to do at home in their free time is going to be something you approve of. Common sense, right!? I don’t want things in the house that I need to limit or don’t endorse or that don’t fit our family values. Make your home an oasis in the world where everything is a “yes.” Eliminate the things or activities in your house that have little or no value.
Here are a few examples of how my husband and I have said “no” to some very common things and how those small decisions have turned out to be big positives in our family, and made parenting easier:
· Saying “no” to sleepovers means saying “yes” to family game night, make-your-own pizza, and ping-pong tournaments. An occasional sleepover is fine, but a child who is gone from Friday after school to Saturday afternoon on a weekly basis is missing out on their own family’s fun. Of course, you do have to have some fun activities happening at your own house to benefit from this! Many moms say “yes” to “half overs” when there is an invitation for a sleepover. Simply allow the child to participate in the activity or birthday party then pick them up after dinner. That is generally a win-win and a great option in this age of unsupervised screens.
· Saying “no” to Xbox and PS3 time means saying “yes” to raking leaves, shooting hoops, playing capture the flag with neighbors or working on a new hobby. Get off the screens and go outside and play.
· Saying “no” to keeping a perfect yard means saying “yes” to letting the kids practice their mowing and edging skills, letting them launch their bikes off homemade ramps in the back yard, building a tree fort, and mowing a temporary golf hole. The grass does grow back!
· Saying “no” to technology/phones/entertainment in your children’s bedrooms means saying “yes” to interacting and connecting with your kids! “Out of sight out of mind” is not what you want if your goal is to raise personable young adults and build stronger family bonds. Time together is what you and your children need most.
· Saying “no” to technology/homework in your child’s bedroom means saying “yes” to interacting with your kids and “yes” to limiting internet surfing. We all use computers for our jobs and homework. If the computers are right around the corner from the kitchen and very accessible to all, then we know what the others are working on and we can be helpful with homework if needed. Younger siblings hear the older ones talk about their homework or classes and learn the ropes. We as parents know more about what’s going on at school. Consider converting your infrequently used dining room to a study hall while your kids are school age and still at home.
· Saying “no” to mature-themed TV shows means saying “yes” to watching re-runs of Gilligan’s Island and Bonanza, and episodes of Treehouse Masters and Planet Earth. There will be plenty of time in future years to watch the more mature stuff. Let your kids be kids now while they can.
· Saying “no” to running the TV all the time means saying “yes” to making it a special event. On the nights that we are able, we wait until everyone is done with their work and then close out the night with a board game or a TV show – together. Imagine how positive this is for your family; our together time is our reward for getting our work done, a special event.
· Saying “no” to filling the bonus/play room with nice furniture means saying “yes” to building Nerf forts and having handstand competitions and wrestling matches. It’s great to have one place in your house where the kids can have their space and physically goof around.
· Saying “no” to DVD players in the car means saying “yes” to interacting and enjoying the ride! Kids learn conversation, debate skills, and patience in the family car. Car time offers an opportunity to build family relationships while talking about big subjects, playing cards, signing along to Billy Joel, and daydreaming while enjoying the beautiful scenery out the window.
· Saying “no” to expensive clothes/hair means saying “yes” to making your own style and saving your money for a family trip. Maybe you can learn to cut your children’s hair? It will save you a lot of money and time! We figure that we’ve paid for several vacations this way.
Parents set the tone for the family. If your end goal is to build a caring, loving family then make conscious decisions through the years in which you say “no” to the things in the world that take away from your family and say “yes” to the things that bring out the best in all of you.
As the years go on, you’ll find that you rarely have to say “no” at all!