When my children were little, there were things I was prepared for and others that surprised me. Everyone knows about the terrible twos. Those first tantrums that happen not only at home but at the most embarrassing places the kids could muster. Remember going to that restaurant, your in-laws or church/synagogue/temple where kids are supposed to be well mannered and quiet?
I remember that first tantrum. My daughter came up next to me to make sure I could see her. She then calculatedly lifted her arms, threw herself to the floor and started crying. I walked away. She came calmly to the next room next to me and started again. I said “Honey, that doesn’t work for me.” Then, I walked away again. Luckily there weren’t many tantrums from her after that…… except that one in target. (We still laugh about it more than 20 years later.)
Then there is the time that your child looks at you and says “I hate you!” Hmm, I was ready for that one from other wise moms asking if I had heard that from my child yet. Thank you wise moms. Because of you, I was ready. Some parents will get emotionally hurt and possibly cry from this. The “I hate you” is not something we expect on the glorious first day of parenting. I didn’t hear about this from my own parents. But, I was ready and replied “My job isn’t to make you love me. My job is to raise you to be a good grown up.” My kids hated this reply. But, I knew they were protesting something like bedtime. They weren’t really hating me. They were hating what was happening or what the rule was that they needed to follow.
What about the “no’s”? Well, as our children are moving from their young toddler years, they are starting to recognize that they are different people from us. They are individuals. They are trying to figure it out. So, they start to say no to let us know they aren’t happy about something. They start to say “no” as they realize they are an individual. So, should we as parents shut this down? I say we shouldn’t.
There are a few reasons why I think we should allow our kids to say no to us. First of all, they need to know when to speak up for themselves. If someone tells our children to do something they shouldn’t, they need to be able to say no. There are far too many children in the USA and around the world that are sexually abused by someone. And this abuse is by someone they know and trust 95% of the time. I want my children and other children to know that it is OK to say “no!” There are times when our children may be bullied by other children to do things. I want my children and other children to have the power to say “no!” When my children are teens and they are with friends that are experimenting with drugs, I want them to have the courage to say “no!”
The power to say “no” does not mean that I allowed my kids to be defiant. When homework needed to be done, it needed to be done. No negotiation. When it was winter, they needed to wear their winter coat when it was cold. My children, and I would surmise yours, also need to be kept safe, fed and loved. This meant that I also have the power to say “no” when my children would protest.
So, how can I teach a child when it is OK to say “no”? When my oldest said “no” to me for the first time, I figured she was starting this process of separation. So, I started asking her questions that she “should” say no to. As it was a warm sunny day I asked her: “Would you like to wear your winter coat today?” I followed it with a few other questions that it would be appropriate to “say ‘no’ to.” After a number of these, I asked her if it was a “no” day? She said yes. I asked if she was done? She said yes and happily ran back to play. We repeated this a few times over the next year. She didn’t have any tears, and I didn’t have any defiance. We worked it out and she found her power to stand up for herself.
If you and your children are struggling with “growing pains,” and you feel that it is too much, you as a parent may want to work with a counselor. If your child is having intense meltdowns that seems to be out of the range of normal behavior, you should consider bringing your child to play therapy. In play therapy children can express in their own language (play) their troubles and trauma. I work with adults and children to address issues with parenting or overcoming trauma. My office is in South Fort Collins Colorado.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or request an appointment.