She simply said "No"

You utter the words with respect and parental authority: “Please stop texting and do your homework; please make your bed; Let me look over your homework.” When your tween offers a simple “No,” you are incredulous. Could you have heard correctly? “No,” is not what you expected nor, is this response acceptable.

You feel your whole body tense, you fear what is coming next, a battle of the wills you do not have the time, energy or inclination to pursue.

You don’t need pointers on how to parent. If your tween continues to refuse after you have changed your requests into commands, consequences will have to ensue.

Sounds like any easy system to enforce, when you are a parent engaged in the thick of such things however, it can be exacerbating and exhausting.

It is difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that your tween seems so self-assured when she offers a negative response. This is not the caring, and compliant child you have raised.

What black magic took over when she entered her tweens? Who taught her that when something was being asked of her she had the right to refuse? Well, you had a hand in that sort of teaching, something about which you should be proud. “If a friend asks you to do something you know isn’t right, or about which you feel uncomfortable, simply refuse.” When you reinforced this rule however, you did not intend for it ever to apply to the requests of her that you put forth, after all, you are the parent.

We live in a world in which our children have been primed to believe that they have the right to refuse. At a time when all kids get trophies for playing the sport, not just the winners, we have created a sense of entitlement and expectation that is constantly reinforced. Turn on a typical tween targeted television show and you are sure to see an episode on your tween’s favorite sitcom portraying an instance of bucking authority. This is not only presented as possible, but acceptable. Children talk back to parents, teachers, and anyone else in an authority position. Tweens met with negative responses to their own requests negotiate the system to get what they want, or what it is they believe they deserve.

We live in an age that reinforces refusal. Certainly there are many positive aspects of this quality; humans refusing to accept maltreatment for example, or demanding equal access to goods, services and of course basic rights.

How then do parents re-establish respect and the understanding that asking translates into a firm expectation?

Communicating clearly and effectively is a good place to start.

1.) One mandatory mantra: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Toward this end consequences for refusals must be clear and consistent. When you fail to follow through the meaning of your message does not translate clearly to your child.

2.) Use down time to conduct discussions. Calmly affirm what you expect from your child.

3.) If your child protests make it clear some things are never up for discussion. Even if he offers the most astute suppositions on why texting his friend trumps homework time, rules are firmly implemented for a reason. Too many exceptions can lead to failure to follow through on expectations.

4.) Holding your tweens to the rules takes time and energy. If you stay the course however, you will shape your child’s behavior. Remember, they are egocentric by nature. They are also at a point in their lives when they are taking the first steps to affirm their independence. Coupled this means they are often insistent that refusal is their right.

Ultimately, when you just say “no” to “no” you provide the much needed structure, rules, and support your tweens need to negotiate the outside world.

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