How many times a day do you say "NO!" to your children? 5, 10, 50? I bet it is a lot more than what you are actually thinking it is, I know this is the case for me. I was recently sent a link to a short video where the mother was going over all the things we tell our children "NO!" to. Although this mother is quite accurate in some things, and she does have a point, it got me thinking if this is what we should really be doing with our offspring.
Ok, so I am NOT saying to let the kids run wild and act like "Spot" from the movie "The Good Dinosaur", but I am asking "How can we give our kids boundaries without crushing who they are trying to become?"
If they don't have a choice of what they can choose from, how are they to learn these precious decision making skills? If we, as parents, continually take away their freedom to choose when they are little, they will never learn the satisfaction of a job well done or the disappointment of a hard lesson learned.
I know that watching your children make their own choices is difficult. You feel that you can do it better by doing it for them. If this is your way of thinking, you got to change your thinking! You are doing nothing for your child by squashing these tender teaching moments that will shape an incredible human being! I have witnessed far too often where the adult child still relies on mom and dad to make their choices for them. Kinda sad isn't it?
So, how do we go about building boundaries while teaching our children to make their own choices and decisions? Well, it all starts with a choice. If they are driving you crazy after a super long day of…..whatever, instead of saying "can you please just be quiet for two minutes so mommy can rest?" (of course you will be using your most sugary voice to do so, with no hint of irritation or raised volume included, right? Please answer truthfully, after all I am a mom too and have had plenty of these days!) Instead you can change it to a "YES!" answer by saying, "Hey kids, mom is really tired right now and need to rest for just a minute. Can you choose a "YES" thing to do right now?"
You will have to guide them on what a "yes choice" is - whether it be play a quite game, read a book, watch a movie, build blocks….whatever YOU decide is a good choice for that moment in time. The key is NOT to give them a choice you wound not be happy with. For example, if you want them to sit quietly, don't give them a choice to play cars (or some other noisy activity) instead give them a choice between a book or a puzzle. A major key is to keep the choice limited to 2 options. Don't make it hard, remember, you want your 2 minutes of peace!
You as a mom will have to set these boundaries. It won't be easy, but hey, neither was childbirth!! You WILL have to engage with the children to teach them the difference between a "NO Choice" and a "YES Choice". I have spent countless hours teaching this same concept to my own children, but because I invested time in their learning, it is easier now for me to ask them to choose a "yes" and they will respond pretty quick.
Examples of No & Yes Choices:
No, you can't go to the park right now, but you CAN go out back and ride your bike or play in the sandbox.
No, you can't have a snack right now, but you CAN help me with dinner or play with playdoh until dinner is ready.
No, you can't draw on the walls, but you CAN color this picture or make one of you own in your very own special book.
No, you can't jump on the couches and scream, but you CAN choose to build with blocks or play with Legos.
The list can go on and on. The following are just a few in-depth suggestions, you can take them or leave them. This is what works in my family. I will NOT tell you anything that I myself haven't tried, with success. Hope it helps.
Ok, you are asking yourself right now "so what on earth is a YES choice to cutting a siblings' hair?" Yup, I had this same situation! Russell decided to give Emma an impromptu haircut which made it necessary for me to become a YouTube hairstylist - quickly! (That is a story for another day.) Continuing on, obviously the NO choice is to cut the siblings' hair, a YES choice would be for the child to cut pages in a color book or pieces of scrap paper.
Coloring on Walls:
This is a good one! Your "little angel" just created a masterpiece on the living room wall and you are trying like crazy not to crush this creative spark by screaming and yelling looking like an insane lunatic! First, you need to calm yourself down, cuz invariably the child will say "It says I Love You Mommy!" Next, you need to recognize the child's inner artist, and explain that even though you LOVE the drawing, said child needs to keep their work in a color book or sketchbook. (BTW - if you don't have any of these, scrap paper will do wonders or you really need to go out and purchase some, even a lined paper notebook will work!) Before you paint over the masterpiece, take a picture so you can remember the memory of when your child wrote "I Love You Mommy" on the wall.
Jumping on the Couches:
This is a favorite at our house! I have encountered this more times than I can count! After telling the kids that they now have to sit on the floor instead of my couch, I ask them to find a YES, invariably they tend to play dress-up and chase each other around the house, not much quieter, but hey, they are no longer making my cushions lumpy!
Asking for Snacks Right Before Meal Time:
Ugh! There is nothing worse than spending time in the kitchen to prepare a meal for your wonderful family and having a child come in and say "can I have (such & such) for a snack? I'm starving!" Instead of jumping into reasons why they are going to "ruin their supper" with a snack, ask them if they want to help you prepare the meal. I have found that when they help, they eat better cuz they now have a claim on doing something for the family. What a great way to boost their self-esteem too!
This is just a short list of the possible "YES Choices" that can be offered to your children. If you never teach them what a "YES" is they will not know where their boundaries lie and they will continually push your buttons until you snap. So, for the sake of both you and your offspring, help them learn the "YES Choices" in life and stop saying "NO" so often. Besides, if you never give them boundaries, you will grow up to be the parent of an adult child who relies on you for everything. I beg you, give them a chance to start when they are young. It will be hard to watch them learn this process of choice making and learning boundaries, but it will be well worth the reward of seeing them turn into amazing people who are willing to do what it takes to make the world a better place.
If you have some amazing "YES Choices" or teaching moments, I would love to hear about them! Please share!