I’m going to start this article off with a statement that most parents will find both unbelievable and bizarre:
90% of the time you tell your child “No”, you’re likely in the wrong.
Right now you’re probably disagreeing with me, and that’s okay. I was of the same opinion not too long ago, but then I decided to do something very thought-provoking; I began to question my motives for telling my toddler “No” so often. I found that 90% of the time, I was telling my child “No” or “Stop” not because she was genuinely doing something wrong or dangerous, but because I was trying to satisfy my own needs and preferences.
Recognizing the fact that most of us have been conditioned to impose our will and preferences on our children, solely on the fact that we’re their parents is very important. It creates an environment of tension and constant battle, particularly at toddler-hood when everything they do is seemingly so problematic.
For instance, this morning my husband put his shoes on to get the mail. It’s winter now and it snowed 10+ inches the night before. My toddler who just turned three wanted to go out with him. He said “No, it’s too cold; you don’t have shoes and you’re not dressed warm enough.” She didn’t want to comply, she wanted to come and she started to yell. I got a nearby blanket, covered her up and told him to carry her. He did. Guess what? She was happy and the potential toddler meltdown was avoided.The amazing thing about this story, while seemingly so uncontroversial and unsubstantial , is that he recognized that it felt second nature to tell her “No.” I’m guilty of it too. Children value their person-hood and freedom as much as us adults do, and this is something that most parents do not consider. It’s the source of most disputes that occur in the parent-child hierarchy.
Imagine this scenario..
You and your best friend (presumably an adult), are going out for lunch. Your friend says she’s not too hungry and instead would like a piece of chocolate. What would your reaction be? Would you tell her, “No, and that’s that”? Or would you respect their decision?
What if it were your child instead of your friend? What would happen if they wanted to eat a piece of chocolate before any other food, and you told them “No”? They would likely throw a fit as a toddler. It’s not because they’re bad, it’s because they value their sense of preference just as much as we do.
So what then do we do if our child wants to eat a piece of chocolate instead of something more healthy? Let them. I know, your immediate reaction is something like, “But, but, they will become hellbent on eating every piece of candy under the sun, and die of rotten teeth!” It’s not true. Children have an amazing ability of self-regulations, just as we do. Sometimes you and I will pig out a bit on some chocolate or ice cream, but we regulate ourselves; and you would find that children actually self-regulate quite well if given the opportunity.
Once I stopped forcing my child to eat a certain way, two things happened:
- The battles stopped.
- She became disinterested in eating a lot of chocolate.
When given the freedom to choose for herself, she actually made wise decisions most of the time; much like myself. When we stop using force to “control” our children, we’re able to use more effective means to direct and guide our children. When my child chooses to eat sugary food, I get creative. I tell her nicely that it’s okay to eat this type of food once in awhile, but it’s bad for us because it’s bad for our teeth and our tummies. As Stefan Molyneux points out in this video, he role plays between the idea of a tummy and a mouth. This is how you can help your children learn, through fun and interactive experiences rather than through force and control.
Behavior Disorders, Addiction and Rebellion
It’s one thing to tell your child ‘No’, but it’s another when you’re also using verbal abuse and physical aggression. In some studies, over 90% of parents still spank their children. When we attempt to control our children through verbal abuse and physical aggression (inclusive of spanking), the likeliness of them rebelling as teenagers, becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol or developing a behavioral disorder are increased. Many studies have shown a very strong correlation between verbal abuse and/or spanking to over 11 measurable negative behaviors; and even a drop in IQ.
Humans of any age do not like control
It’s within our nature; we value independence and our ability to make decisions for ourselves. When most of the decisions your child makes result in a battle, you’re attempting to control them too much. While the intentions are always positive, we forget that our children are not some sort of inferior being whose needs and preferences are just as valuable as our own. Don’t take my word for it though, try it yourself. It’s not easy at first, but if you start off by questioning your true motives for telling your children ‘No’, you will begin to see it’s almost always based on your personal preferences and it’s almost always for trivial reasons.