Why Can’t Moms Say No To Kids?


The six-year-old hooked a knee up over the hotel counter and hoisted himself aboard. “Will ya make me a cucard?” the boy asked the popeyed hotel clerk. “How about a card for me? Will you make me one? How about a cucard for kids? How about a cucard, how about a cucard, howaboutacucard??”

The hotel clerk looked at the parents. The parents looked away. The boy leapt from the counter to the hanging luggage rack as if he had just returned from the summer Olympics. “Can I have a CUUUUUUUCAAAARD???”

“You will have to ask your dad,” the hotel clerk prompted.

‘THAT MAN IS NOT MY FATHER,” hooted the boy. “And how about that cucard? Can you make it now?”

“She will make it in a minute, Daniel,” said the mom at last. “Go get your brother.” The clerk's eyes rolled straight back into her head. Daniel scampered. I pondered what kind of disorder young Daniel might have that would make him act this way-- and make his parents shut down like lab rats in the shock cage.

“Some vacation they’re gonna have,” muttered one clerk to the other. “Don’t people ever tell their kids ‘no’ anymore?”

Of course we do. But saying no and meaning no and making kids pay attention to no is not always so easy. It is a skill you have to learn. And when you are raising military kids on your own, saying no and making it stick is THE CENTRAL SKILL for a happy military life. So I am always picking up new tips from the experts. Here are a few to try:

The Eye Level No. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Debra Manchester MacMannis wrote an awesome blog last month about setting boundaries with kids. She suggested,

“Kneel down to your child’s level, look them in the eyes, and tell them in simple words what you expect. This way, it is crystal clear that your message has been calmly sent and received. For example, before entering a store, explain that you are going in to get a sandwich, not candy, and you will picnic in the park if there is no fussing in the store. Don’t buy candy when asked. Calmly say no each time, and perhaps change the subject or look away."

The Thesarus No. One of my favorite moms has no fear of saying no. She is clearly the one in charge. But when her kids pester and pester, she comes up with new words for no: Nope. Nada. Never. Nein. Negative. Certainly not. Negatory. Never in a million. It is a light-hearted response, but one she starts with the thesarus the kids know that no is the answer. They stop asking.

The All Inclusive No. I am a particularly squishy mom when it comes to saying no to my kids sometimes. One thing I learned was to turn to my kid and say firmly: “I said no. AND I WILL NOT CHANGE MY MIND.” It worked. It worked not because the kids knew I wouldn’t change my mind, but because I heard those words and reminded myself not to change my mind—cuz I always need a little help to raise those little military products of superior discipline.

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