Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Habit of No

As every parent understands, one of the most important tricks to learn in parenting is picking your battles. I believe we spend our whole time parenting trying to learn what's really important, so that by the time our kids are out of the house we'll have almost arrived.

Having said this, understand that I haven't been parenting all that long, really. Even though I am almost 41-years-old, in parenting years I am young. I just happened to start late.

That is why I am still working hard to get out of the habit of no, as I'll call it. You know, where everything your child asks is "no" before the full sentence even leaves their lips. Now, I realize some of this is a personality thing, but I also believe every parent falls into this rut at times and some are worse than others. I think I'm on the "worse" end. Let me explain.

I can safely say that every sane parent can agree on some "absolute" no's. For instance, not allowing little Johnny to chase his sister Suzie with the scissors. Yup, I'm pretty sure on that one. Or not allowing precious Junior to set out his racetrack in the middle of 8th Street. Pretty sure on that one, too.

However, opinions differ on other no's. For example, I absolutely will not allow my kids to run around a restaurant. I think it's rude to other paying patrons and irresponsible parenting. That doesn't mean they don't want to and haven't tried, but this is one area I have cracked down even harder as of late. Children can learn to sit and eat - they can swing their knees and wiggle their toes, so they're not totally still - and learn that eating and sitting go together. If they can sit through a church service without running around the church, then they can sit during a meal, especially a meal in public. Behaviour in church is another possibly contentious issue. I am not perfect with this, but I do have very strong ideals about children's behaviour in the church sanctuary, before and after church, because I believe the sanctuary of God should be treated with respect.

On the flip side, and this is where I err the most, I tend to be too idealistic, an area I have been re-evaluating of late. Strong idealism brings on the habit of no. Strong idealism doesn't always have to have a reason for no, it just insists on obedience. Worst of all, strong idealism is a precursor to failure because even the idealistic can't live up to their own expectations.

Now I'm not always an ogre. I don't always say no. I'm just this way more often than I want to be. So I'm practicing. Relaxing a bit. Saying yes when there's no good reason to say no. For things like letting the kids both climb out of the van through the driver's door - it makes their day for crying out loud! Like letting them skip 25 times around the van before they get in if they want, when we're not in a rush - the biggest reason I am guilty of the habit of no.

You know, it really takes very little to satisfy children. Life's too short for "ogreism". I really, really want to improve in this area. Learn to relax more. Most importantly, I want to save no for what really matters.


Laura said...

I wish I had practiced this when my girls were a little younger. As a result, I am learning this later in life. When they can reason with me, and I have no good argument for "no", then I have to relenquish my stand and give in. I am also learning that that doesn't mean that I am weak, but maybe learning a bit of wisedom. (I hope anyway). You sure gain the respect of your teenagers!

I too am learning to pick my battles with teenagers and when I can compromise. Compromise is NOT bad and in fact a good thing when used in the right way. It teaches your children that it is okay to sit back, look at a situation and if and when necessary, give in. Give and take is good in EVERY relationship and if you can learn this much younger with your kids, you will have less battles maybe later on when they are older.

Thanks for your post!

Anonymous said...

Instead of a plain "no!", I try a "not this time" or "maybe next time" or "why don't we put it on your wish list?". Seems to work for my kids; they're not hearing the nasty "NO!" all the time, and I don't feel like an ogre.

What's really fun about picking battles, is when I have decided not to fight a particular one (always at home, of course) and my husband decides it's a battle that MUST be fought. That gets funny looks from the kids, and confuses me, too!!

I do agree with you about the restaurant battle and the church battle, though!! However, you haven't really "lived" until you have had your child run completely around the church- in the middle of a quiet service during preaching, playing peekaboo with you behind the pastor!!

Thanks for your insight!!

Darla said...

Laura: I am definitely scared of the teen years, since that seems to be EVERYBODY'S warning!

Rachel: Yes, it's always pleasant when our husbands are not on the same wavelength as us. That's a "battle" in itself!

I honestly don't know what I'd do with three kids, like you. I find two enough of a challenge, believe me. And talk about insight, I think you have enough of your own.

Thanks for your comment. Oh, and by the way, have a great time in Germany!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Darla!! As for my insight... well, let's just say that's debatable! You think I'm a mess now?!? You should have seen me with 5 children all under 6 and pregnant!! Now I don't have anyone or pregnancy to blame for my idiocy- just me!!