"No" means "No" - even if you didn't mean it.

Have you ever said “No.” and then realized instantly that you had just chosen a battle that was not worth choosing. Don’t worry, it has happened to all moms.

Have you ever said “No.” and then realized instantly that you had just chosen a battle that was not worth choosing. Don’t worry, it has happened to all moms everywhere! That moment when the word no slipped from your lips and as you thought to yourself, why did I even say no? The whining in the background begins, and now you have no choose but to stick to it.

No is not a word I use often nor do I recommend using it. Our brains are hardwired to rebel against the word and so it causes difficult and exhausting situations for mothers everywhere. Instead of “no”, offering a different choice, or redirecting the conversation works much more effectively. But this way of thinking take – thought and preparation and so sometimes we forget, or in a moment of distraction a simple “no” can slip out and then the battle begins.

More important than not using a particular word or strategy to make parenting your child easier, is the importance of standing your ground. Accident or not, you said it and you must stick to it. Moms who cave on their word are moms who will always struggle to have children who listen. Once your child learns that you don’t mean what you say, she realizes that she can now negotiate, whine and wear you down until she gets her way. This is a challenging behavior to change once implemented.

And here is my story:

Kylie, my daughter, got out of bed after I had already tucked her in, came to my room to tell me good night when she spied a stuffed animal she had left in my room. It was sitting on my headboard.

“Oh my kitty.” She said. “I want to sleep with my kitty”

“No, not tonight, back to bed.” I replied with a cringe. As soon as it left my lips, I knew it was the beginning of a problem that would likely last longer than I wanted.

First I should explain a few things. This particular stuffed animal is a scented kitten. It smells wonderful and I love it, and she is very aware of it, which is why she put it in my bed. Kylie had put the stuffed kitten in my room over a week ago. And... we have a dog. Our family dog thinks that every stuffed animal that is lying around is one of his toys. And because this one is scented, I had been extra cautious that it stays put up so that he doesn’t get it. She would be devastated if he destroyed it and I would be too. (it wasn't cheap.) There was a list of reasons in my head that I had said no. But extensive explanations were not what were needed now.

I believe that it is important for my kids to learn to trust me. And so sometimes I explain my reason, this way they know that I have a reason, and that it is a good one. I want them to trust my advice so that when they ask for it later in life, they will likely take it. I want them to know that I am not just a mean mom that says no because I want to. However, sometimes a lesson on why is need, by not explaining. Since for the most part, I give them the opportunity to make their own chooses, sometimes, they just have to respect that mom said so. And tonight was going to be one of those testing times...

No matter my reasoning, the reality is I said “no”. Which immediately let out a response of “ooohhhhhwwwww….”. I had been battling some whining challenges at the time. It would have been so easy to just say I changed my mind and given it to her. Maybe the dog would have gotten it, and then she would have discovered that she should have kept it in my room, and her own bad choose would have been the bad guy. But it was too late. I had already made the mistake of saying no and now I had stick to it. Not because it really mattered. I always say “pick your battles”. This one was purely by accident.

So as the whining started, she headed to her bed. However, once she was there the crying started. And it was loud, very loud. With her brother trying to go to sleep in the next room, this behavior was not one I could wait out or ignore.

What are my options?

I waited in my own room for a few minutes, taking the time to think about what I could do and how it would play out.

  1. I could stomp into her room, point my finger and tell her to “knock it off and go to sleep!” That would undoubtedly make it worse.

  2. I could Just give her the stuffed kitten after all it would be easier than fighting over nothing. That would destroy the credibility I was working for as well as reward her whining teaching her that it is a good way to get what she wants.

  3. I could go in and explain to her how her crying was keeping her brother awake, which was selfish of her and pointless because it was not going to change my mind. That would be a lot of words which she would not care about.

No, this was going to have to be different. I was going to have to give her the choice. So I walked in, shook my head. “I just want that kitty” she sobbed.

“I know you do sweetie.” I replied softly. “And I know you are upset that you cannot have it tonight. If you want to cry about it, you can choose to do that. But your brother is trying to go to sleep and so are me and daddy, so you will have to take your blanket and pillow and go cry about it downstairs on the couch. Do you want me to help you carry your things downstairs?”

Kylie continued to cry, looking at me trying to figure out if I was serious or not. She must have decided to test me. I repeated the choice. “Ky, if you can get control of yourself and stop crying you can stay in your bedroom if want, but if you want to cry you have to do that downstairs because it is not being kind to the rest of us. It is your choice.”

“No, I want to stay here.” She sobbed.

“Well, you can’t cry up here.” I reminded her. I waited for a about 10 seconds. She didn’t stop. I went over to her bed, picked up a blanket. Took her by the hand and began leading her down the stairs. She pulled away from me and began apologizing and promising to stop. I didn’t get angry or frustrated. I just shook my head and told her, “It’s okay Ky, you can cry if you think that will help you feel better. But you’ll have to do it in the family room. By the time we got downstairs she realized I meant it.

Kylie insisted she would stop. She took a few deep breaths as I had taught her before to help her calm down. “Are you sure?” I asked again. She nodded. She was still sniffing some, but she was trying to stop. “Do you want to blow your nose? Will that help some with the sniffles.”

“Yes” she answered. I told her to get a tissue from the bathroom. She did and blew her nose. She came back out and we returned to her room. “I really want my kitty.” She prompted me one more time.

I looked at her sadly. “I know you do sweetie. I love you.” I kissed her forehead and left her room. Ten minutes later, she was finally asleep.

Worth it

It took a while, it was challenging and I felt horrible watching her cry and sniff. Especially when it was something I could so easily fix for her. I had given her freedoms to cry or not. I empowered her to fix the problem herself and I had given her choices to make so that she could learn to get control of her own emotional fits. I had choices to make too. But instead of being a fix it mom, I choose to be a good mom and mean what I said.

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