Let’s face it—our kids are accustomed to instant gratification: without leaving their rooms, kids can communicate instantly with friends and entertain themselves with music, videos and movies. If they have their own funds (or ask for yours), they’re able to buy things with the click of a button. In this kind of environment, it can be difficult to figure out how and when to set limits and say “no”.
We’ve all done it— caved into our child’s (or children’s) demands in order to avoid a hassle, a tantrum or making a scene in public. Sometimes it’s simply because it takes less energy to give in than to establish firm boundaries and stay consistent with them. Sometimes it’s because we feel guilty that we don’t spend enough time with our kids and are so often distracted by the demands of work.
But kids are much better off in the long run if they learn that their needs don’t always come first. Kids won’t stop throwing tantrums and slamming doors if that kind of behavior gets them what they want. But if incessant pleading or whining is no longer an effective persuasion tactic they will soon give it up. When you say “no” to the newest gadget, the designer jeans or the latest toy kids learn to tolerate disappointment and defer gratification —they learn an important truth — we can’t get what we want whenever we want it. And when they’re not happy about it, as long as they aren’t in danger of hurting themselves or anyone else, a good plan of action is to let fits of tears, anger, or frustration play out without engaging or intervening.
We all want our kids to know we love them, right? Of course! But loving and over-indulging are completely different animals. It’s helpful to check in with yourself about how willing you are to say “no”, to enforce limits and to let your kids be mad at you when they don’t get what they want.
It’s okay for kids to be disappointed
Kids need to learn how to bounce back from feeling discouraged or defeated in order to grow up into resourceful adults.
You don’t have to buy them the moon
When kids don’t get their every wish granted, particularly with material things, they come to understand that their source of happiness does not exist outside themselves.
Caving In Has Consequences
When whining, crying and yelling matches get them what they want, you end up reinforcing and rewarding negative behaviors and eroding your ability to set limits.
Limits aren’t bad
Kids don’t learn much about respect, patience, manners, and cooperation if you aren’t willing to put any limits on their behavior. They’ll need all of those traits to get along in the world as adults. “Bedtime in 10 minutes” needs to mean exactly that. “You’re grounded; no going out this weekend” is not negotiable. Each time you don’t stick to the limits you set, your kids are less likely to respect them the next time around.
It’s easier when our kids are young and the “no’s” seem obvious and fundamental: no touching the stove, no running into the street, no hitting your brother. As they get older saying and sticking with “no” and establishing limits is not as straightforward and our own emotions can get in the way. Keep in mind that the best gift you can give your kid is to foster the skills and traits they’ll need to successfully navigate the world as an adult.