Give your child the gift of ‘No’
Every parent strives to create a childhood for their children that is better than the one the parent had experienced himself/herself. At times, when the childhood experiences of the parent had not been what they would wish for, the parent might have a tendency to overcompensate for that with their own children. That overcompensation might take on various forms, one of them being the parent’s inability to say ‘no’ to their young children.
There are also other scenarios when saying ‘no’ might be more challenging, such as cases when the child experienced some traumatic events in their young lives, such as a loss of a loved or an illness. One way of the parents coping with the trauma of their child and helping the child recover might be by being ‘extra nice’, which saying ‘no’ seems to be a direct contradiction of. (To set the record straight, no harm can ever be done to introduce periods of no ‘no’, such as when the child is not well or recovering from something on the emotional or physical level. This is not what this article relates to. However, should that temporary ‘no’ suspension extend to a permanent status quo, the long-term consequences of that could be serious, as they would impact the way the child views the world and himself/herself).
In other cases, the parents might find it extremely difficult to say ‘no’ to their last child, the ‘eternal baby’ in the family.
Meaning well, parents do not always realise the severe consequences of their little one never being faced with the word ‘no’. Saying ‘no’, as unpleasant as it might be at times for parents, lets the child know that there are certain boundaries in life, which should not be crossed. It also teaches the child to take responsibility for their actions – ‘If I do X I will experience Y, is it really worth me doing it?’ There is also the aspect of the integrity of parents as parents that gets affected in the child’s eyes (this happens on the subconscious level), when the word ‘no’ is never spoken.
The impact of never being told ‘no’ becomes very obvious usually around the time the child, by then a young adult, reaches their early twenties. It is also often accompanied by a long history of the child being used to having things done for them (again, I refer here to life-long patterns of the parents subconsciously overcompensating for something). The young adulthood, now a young man or woman, go through a process of finding himself/herself in the world and this is the time when their inner beliefs and values surface and are put to the test on a much grander scale than ever before. We then might deal with young adults who have an expectation that the world should and will treat them the exact same way as their parents have – with privileges. Such young adults find it very difficult to make a living or to live unassisted; they continue to rely very heavily on external sources and support. It is very challenging to help them, as in order to be helped the person needs to take charge of the change themselves. Such young adults have a tendency to expect to have everything done for them without their participation or any effort on their behalf. They are the masters of ‘quick fixes’, which when it comes to personality building, simply do not exist.
Although on the surface it might seem like it, it is by no means a harsh judgement of young people who fall into this category. Any judgement is contra-productive. The above description comes from patterns I have observed from working with some parents and their children. I believe that it is an issue that is not often discussed, yet which has huge implications on the lives of young people.
By the time those young adults are brought in by their parents, who by then begin to recognise that there is an issue there, their personality and outlook on life are very set and they all share the same inability and unwillingness to do anything which requires taking responsibility for themselves or their lives.
Is the lack of being told ‘no’ the only issue here? No, of course not. It is a symptom of something much bigger. It is a symptom of a way of parenting where we as parents tend to over-give, over-do and over-compensate for something. That subconscious message of over-compensating is perceived by the child as ‘there is something not whole and complete within me which the world needs to take the responsibility to fix’. Is there really something ‘not whole and complete’ within those children? Of course not. Yet, we will feel that which we believe, not that which is true. That subconscious message we send out as parents causes the most damage. Not saying ‘no’ is simply one of the manifestations of it.
Is there a right and wrong amount of ‘no’ then? No, is the answer. ‘No’ should simply be used when there is a genuine need for it. It should never be overused either, as that will have the opposite effect – the child will become immune to it.
Parents often comment how difficult it is to say ‘no’ due to the very strong negative reaction it brings up in a child, from anger to even rage. Some children might have quite a strong personality and they might have a tendency to try to ‘lead’ the adults in their lives. No matter, however, how strong their personality might be, every child has an internal need to be guided. The ‘no’, used when needed, expressed by a calm parent in a loving and decisive way becomes an integral tool in shaping their young personality. Naturally, a ‘no’ should always be accompanied by an explanation why. That gives the child a sense of being respected and validated, both of which are very important traits for a future adult. The child begins to understand and learn the power of making their own choices, of taking responsibility for their own actions, opening the path to their personal empowerment.