Parenting is all about allowing your kids to grow into healthy, responsible, mature young adults in a safe and loving home. To that end, knowing when to say no to your children is crucial, not only for their healthy development, but for you as well. Nobody really wants to be me Mean Mommy. However, children crave boundaries and structure, so you can relax in the knowledge that saying no to your kids won’t turn you into Joan Crawford. To the contrary, setting and enforcing boundaries with your children conveys to your kids a sense of consistency, which is exactly what their little psyches need to feel safe.
My mom was a pretty tough cookie, so I know from experience that the hard lessons are the best (and most memorable) ones. Did your son leave for school this morning forgetting his clothes for football practice? Did your daughter forget her trumpet again? In the past, perhaps you’ve dropped everything and driven the items to the school, but next time say no. Tough as it may be to leave your child twisting in the figurative wind, these really are the teaching moments.
When you stop rescuing them from their own careless small mistakes, they learn to be more mindful because they don’t want to make that same mistake again. More importantly, they learn these lessons on the small stuff, rather than after they leave home and realize you aren’t there to fix every mistake they make. Best to teach 'em early.
Now if your kids aren’t old enough to get themselves ready for school, their mindfulness may not be your issue. Perhaps you’re dealing with tempers instead. It’s easy to give in when they pitch a fit to get their own way and you’d do almost anything to make the noise stop. Resist it, young Skywalker! That’s what they’re betting on. Remaining calm when your kids act out is definitely the harder choice, but it benefits you both in the long haul. Talk it out, ask about their feelings, engage them, but do not cave to the tantrum because it's easier. By holding firm in a loving way, you retain your parental authority, they learn that you can’t be manipulated, and amazingly, they learn that their parent is strong. And your kids need to know you're strong.
If your parental resolve has gone off the rails lately and you’ve caved in to your kids’ every desire and tantrum, you can get back on track again by re-booting their expectations. Choose one small “no” at a time rather than instituting a shock-and-awe “things are gonna change around here” tactic. One caveat: pick the hill you want to die on carefully. In the grand scheme of things, not everything is worth fussing and fighting over and being a kid is a hard thing. If he wants to wear his Spiderman pajamas to school, who cares really? He'll figure it out eventually.
Bottom line? You have no reason to feel guilty when you say no to your kids. Boundaries = LOVE AND CONCERN. Your kids are counting on you to communicate limits about what is acceptable behavior and establish consequences for what isn’t. They desperately need to know the lay of the land in your family. Sure, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth sometimes, but when they react poorly to your boundaries, try not to take it personally. No matter what they do, trust yourself. You’re still the parent and you really are smarter than a fifth grader.