Imagine this – after a hectic day at the office, wasting time stuck in traffic and finishing off a long list of household tasks all you wish to have is a cup of ice cream. It is just then that your spouse walks in and tells you “Just what are you doing? You can’t have ice cream now!” How would you feel? You will be utterly disappointed and would even pick up a fight with your spouse, right? The same thing can happen to your kids! They are humans as well and they have their own ups and downs in life. They have mood swings and often in those, they become stubborn on having something. In such times, it is essential to understand their psychology rather than dismissing their demands with a “No”.
Child psychologists believe that “No” should be used sparingly in the disciplining routine by parents. Their excessive usage can breed resentment and future rebellion against the parents. It is important for parents to approach their child’s apparently illogical demands with sensitivity. Even when you cannot adhere to their demands, there has to be a clever way of saying “No”. Here are some strategies, taken from a real life instance, where you say a No without using No.
Tip #1: Agree to Disagree (Later)
Just before the dinner, your child demands chocolates. You cannot allow him that, so you have to say No. Use a clever way out of the situation. Rather than saying “No chocolates before dinner” use the line “You can have the chocolates once you are done with dinner”. This will diffuse the situation in many instances. But there will be whining and obstinate children who would negate the offer. So, you have to find some other way.
Tip #2: Give a Choice
In the same scenario, you can offer two choices to the child. “You can have one candy now, or have four if you wait till dinner”. Often in their craving for more chocolates, the children will agree and wait it out until the dinner is complete.
Tip #3: Present an Alternative
Your child might love chocolates, but he may also love Mangoes. If you understand the food likings of your child then this strategy will definitely work for you. You can promise the child some chocolates next morning and some mangoes right now. Children in their fear of losing out on all the treats gladly take up the alternative.
Tip #4: Use the Distraction
Children in their early years can be distracted away from their demands. How? Use “see that pigeon is back again. What was his name? Let us ask Jewel (name of the pigeon) how he has been.” This will draw all the attention away from the matter of debate and the child will now focus on something completely different. (Note: This trick has a very short expiry date.)
Tip #5: Make him run around
You can start a playful session with him. Act as a monster with claws and start with “I’m going to eat the kids that want chocolates before dinner….” Chase the child around the house and in no time at all, he will forget his demands, though he may still want to have a running dinner!
Tip #6: Use Favorite Characters
Children have their favourite storybooks and characters. Just sight them examples as to what would happen if their favourite character wanted to have some chocolates before dinner. You will find that the enthusiastic kid, unknowingly, turns the conversation away from his demands and finally forgets his whining for chocolates.
Tip #7: Get Authority Figures into the discussion
When the child just won’t let go of his constant whining, it is time to get some of the authority figures (such as teachers, dentists, doctors, etc.) into the fray. You can promise the child that “I don’t think you can have chocolates before dinner. But the next time we go to see the doctor (or whoever you are referring to) we can ask her about it. Remind me, OK?”
Tip #8: Join them
If you cannot beat their demand, it is time to join them. Remind them “I want some chocolates too. But there is a rule against eating chocolates before dinner. I wish it was not there!” Make a sad face, and you will find your child coming over to console you.
Tip #9: Call on their Imaginative Power
Children have a lot of imagination and you can utilize this. “Know what, I cannot give you real chocolates before dinner, but let us pretend there are 20 candies in my hand and here I give them all to you. And here are some more.” Children love the pretending play and they love numbers too, and you can utilize this in a playful way.
Tip #10: Make him wait
If you have a certain cooking pattern, then tell your child “you can have chocolates before dinner only on the days when we have salads”. And make sure that you delay this day by at least a week!
Tip #11: Guard it, but do not eat it
When your child is hell-bent on having chocolates before dinner, you may give some to him on a plate. But the rule is: your child has to guard it and cannot have it until dinner is complete. Once the child agrees, you can take out some chocolates.
Tip #12: Remind a Prior Incident
Help him recollect an incident where he had chocolates before dinner and could not complete his dinner. And this resulted in punishment. They would fear the bad experience and let go of their demand.
Tip #13: Remind him of the consequences
You may use real life or fictional stories here. “Do you know Jaime, Sam uncle’s son, once had chocolates before dinner and after finishing his dinner he could not sleep because of a tummy ache. Do you want the same thing to happen to you?” Most of the times this trick works and the children would gladly let go.
Tip #14: Apply some logic
Children have their own way of looking at the world and their own set of logic. So, use “You know what happens when you eat chocolates before dinner? Your tummy will be full and you cannot eat dinner. If you do not eat dinner you will never be able to become a big boy.” Every child wants to become big quickly and there lies the strength of your proposal.
Tip #15: Satiate his Hunger
At times the child is demanding chocolates only because he is very hungry. So, the approach here would be to say: “I think you are hungry. Let us go for dinner right away.” And you can greet him at a table with his favourite snacks.
Tip #16: Make someone else the rule breaker
Grandma’s are truly adored by children, so you can use her to get out of trouble. “I cannot break the rule and give you chocolate before dinner. But grandma can do that. So, the next time we visit grandma’s house, you can have chocolates before dinner.” This is another way to project a future where his demand would be met.
Tip #17: Let’s check with the books
This trick would work as long as your child cannot read. Take up any book and read out loud your thoughts on why children cannot have chocolates before dinner. Children value published books more than what their mother or father has to say.
Tip #18: Sing a “No” Song
Saying a No in words and expressing the same in lyrics is a different thing altogether. So, pick up any of your son’s favourite song and mould it. An example would be ““The N says No… The N says No… Every letter makes a sound, and the N says No chocolates before dinner”.
Tip #19: Put her in your role
Girls have their favourite dolls, who they take as their children. Utilize this for your purpose. “I just heard Maggie (her doll) says she wants some chocolates too. Can you tell Maggie why she can’t have chocolates before dinner?” You will be amazed to witness the girl lecturing and threatening her doll on the topic in the next few minutes.
Tip #20: Use Signs
Make two boards with “OK” and “Not OK” signs. You can simply put up the “Not OK” sign in this instance and the children will mostly not feel bad about it.
These are some simple examples of handling a request from your child which cannot be fulfilled. Disciplining does not always have to start with an upright “No”. There are plenty of other ways too.