None of us enjoys saying no to our children. We want them to be happy, and we want to provide them with the best. But unfortunately, giving our children everything will backfire. Instead of raising successful, compassionate, hard-working adults, we will be raising big kids with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. It turns out, saying no to our kids can be the best parenting move we ever make. And there are additional steps we can take to ensure our children grow into self-sufficient adults.
1. Know When to Say No
Always saying yes to your child will send bad messages. It tells her she will always get what she wants in life, even though we know it isn't true. It fails to teach her how it feels to be disappointed and how to handle that feeling. And it fails to teach her that everything in life has value. Saying no is important, but saying no at the right time matters too. Don't say no if you really mean maybe, and be sure to stand your ground when you do say no. Giving in to tantrums teaches your child that all she needs to do to get what she wants is to cry, whine, and pout. You are setting yourself up to lose many battles with your child's strong will, and setting her up for a lifetime of bratty behavior.
2. Don't Bribe, Do Reward
Many parents struggle with how to reward their child rather than bribe her. Just remember this: bribing sounds like this, "if you do such and such, I will give you such and such." Rewarding your child is the opposite. When you see your child doing something right, you reward her with a special trip to the zoo or a girls' day out with just you and her. Children thrive on attention from you and it means much more to her than any new toy ever will.
3. Emphasize Togetherness, Minimize Material Things
Many children these days have too many toys. Everyone — from friends, grandparents, aunts, and uncles — buys toys and other material things for birthdays and holidays. Eventually, your child will have so many toys that she won't be able to really enjoy or value any of them. Rather than buy out the store for each person's birthday, make some handmade gifts with your child or enjoy a family trip to the museum. Use your money for travel, books, and education. These memories and experiences will stick with your child long after that new toy has broken or lost its wonder.
4. Teach Her to Give
Since your child is likely to receive many gifts for her birthday, teach her to give to those in need by having her donate one item. It can be a toy she already has, or one she received a duplicate of. Or it can just be a gift she doesn't have any interest in using. Bring her with you to the children's hospital so that she can give the gift to a child who is ill or recovering from surgery. Being in the hospital and enduring treatments is rough for a child, and both children will benefit from this act of kindness.
5. Teach Her the Value of Hard Work
Every child can do a chore or two, even the younger ones. Teach your child that each of us has responsibility in life and that each member of the family needs to contribute to taking care of the home and each other. Your child can be in charge of feeding the pets, tidying the playroom, or setting the table. Praise your child for helping. It will make her feel good and important, and will teach her how her actions affect other people.
6. Use an Allowance
Don't just buy your child what she wants; give her an allowance. You don't need to give much, just a dollar or two a week at first. But rather than letting her do whatever she wants with the money, use a piggy bank that separates the money out into money to save, to spend, to invest, and to donate. Each week your child must put a predetermined amount of money into each. This way she can see how her money adds up in order to decide what to save for, what to splurge on, how splurging affects her saving, and what charity or group she wants to give her money to in order to do some good in the world.
7. Teach Her That Actions Have Consequences
Unfortunately, many children don't see the consequences of their actions. They also don't realize that everything they do affects other people. You should always reinforce good behavior with praise and love rather than focusing on bad behavior; children will often take negative attention over no attention at all. But your children will test you. Set clear rules and boundaries regarding the type of behavior you expect from your child and follow through. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great discipline tips for everything from natural consequences to withholding privileges.
8. Parents: Walk the Walk
Parents can't just tell children to act a certain way, and then turn around and do the opposite. If you want your child to develop strong values, you need to exemplify those values. Don't tell your child to not talk behind someone's back and then do it yourself. Don't tell your child to talk with respect and then fight rudely with your spouse. Don't tell your child to donate money or items and not do it yourself. Parents must always lead by example.
9. Require Summer Jobs
Teenagers should always have a summer job. They learn the value of a dollar and develop skills such as time management, money management, how to work well with others, and of course, responsibility. Each of these will benefit them both in college and in their career.
Raising children is tough work. Luckily, we can learn from those who came before us about what to do and what not to do. If you want your child to grow into a contributing, caring, successful member of society, don't be afraid to be out of her favor from time to time.