Tell Your Kids “No” Early On, Otherwise You Can’t Later
We had a lengthy discussion this morning about a toddler in Missouri that insisted on having a poop-themed birthday party. I caught a lot of flak for insisting that the mother just tell her kid, "no."
Now, I'm not saying that a poop-themed party was a horrible idea or that kids should never get something they want. The problem comes when parents cave in to their children.
In the original story, the mother says the line: "I tried suggesting other themes, but she always insisted on poop." That word. Insisted. I get that three-year-olds can get tantrumy and screamy when they don't get their way, but you have to say "no."
I doubt that I'd have a "poop party" for any of my kids, but that's just me. The mom "Rebecca" in the story had a quote that totally set me off. She said "I tried suggesting other themes, but she always insisted on poop."
That is the definition of bad parenting. Mom "tried" to steer the kid in a different direction but the 3-year-old is INSISTED on a poop party. The mom actually wanted to do something different, but the 3 year old WANTED it her way. In other words, mom caved and the 3 year old ran over the parents. "But it's her birthday!! What's the big deal?"
Listeners argued that it wasn't a big deal, that you should make your kid happy for one day out of the year. But here's the thing, if you can't win this battle against your kid at age three, it's not going to get better.
You're the parent. You know best. Use this simple insignificant incident (a birthday party theme) to show this kid that, "Sorry, you don't always get what you want." This is where it begins. If you can't say "no" to a 3-year-old, you're never going to be able to tell them "no" when it comes to important decisions as they get older: staying out past curfew, inappropriate clothes, questionable friends or activities, etc. The kid will just "insist" and, gosh, who are you to crush her spirit? "It's only alcohol--and not drugs. The other kids' parents are going to be there. Plus, she PROMISED not to drive..."
I'm not a perfect parent. But I'm very proud of my kids and think they've turned out great. And you know what they heard a lot when they were toddlers? "No."
They learned early that I'm not in their lives to be liked, I'm here to be Dad and to do my job. And if you cave to your children on the smallest of issues, it will damage your authority.
I read this book years ago, it's called No: Why Kids--of All Ages--Need to Hear It and Why Parents Can Say It by Dr. David Walsh. I promise that it's worth reading.
It was written by a child psychologist and backs up everything I've been saying. We live in a "Yes" society with need-it-now kinds of attitudes. So when these kids win these arguments early, it subsists through puberty and will become a bigger issue down the line.