No More No! How to Avoid Power Struggles
No More “No!”
By the time Jason was three, he had heard the word ‘No!’ about 15,000 times! And, according to some research, that number is low. So when Jason’s mom said, “It’s time to take your medicine,” what do you think he said? You guessed it! The problem is, this wasn’t just your typical toddler control battle. Jason needs his medication to stay alive because he has cystic fibrosis.
Jason’s mom, unknowingly, had trained him to say ‘no.’ In fact, she trained him really well! It didn’t help that Jason’s independence was right on target developmentally. Of course, there are times when parents need to set limits and just say no or children will become spoiled. However, too many “no’s” will eventually cause the relationship to suffer.
When children are young, the word ‘no’ brings on power struggles in the form of arguing, whining and tantrums. When children are older, too many no’s can result in outright rebellion, deception or simply giving up. This can present itself as non-adherence with medical requirements as well as other risky behaviors like drug or alcohol use.
Telling relatively healthy children or teens (with a mild to moderate medical condition) that they “can’t” do something because of their medical condition is the number one way to promote rebellion or depression down the road especially if it’s a typical childhood activity that their peers are doing.
Obviously, things are different if a child has severe complications from his or her medical condition. But even then, wise parents say yes as often as possible with a positive, can-do attitude and a heavy dose of creativity to overcome the obstacles.
We are not saying this is easy but parents have to be able to let go and encourage kids to push their own boundaries and find out for themselves what they can and can’t do. For example, parents should be worried about whether their children are dressed well enough to go play outside in the snow, not wondering if they should be playing out in the snow.
Look into your children’s future. What do you want for them? They won’t be kids forever, and if you want them to do things like go to college, have a career, and a family of their own, you have to start telling them YES YOU CAN now. This is how we raise kids who believe in themselves. This is especially important when they have special healthcare needs that may make some of their developmental tasks harder to achieve.
So learn how to say Yes Instead of No. Parents can still set limits and say ‘Yes!’ by using the following phrases:
“Yes! Just as soon as …”
“Absolutely! Right after…”
“Sure! As long as …”
“Great idea! But first…”
Here’s how it sounds: “Mom, can I have some cookies?” “Yes! Just as soon as you finish eating your dinner.” Put the emphasis on the word “Yes!” with great enthusiasm and big smiles. It helps to pause for just a moment right after the ‘Yes!’
Here’s one for teens: “Mom, can I borrow the car to go over to Bill’s house?” “Sure! Right after you’ve done your medical treatments.”
So what about little Jason? His mom learned how to set limits without saying ‘no’ by saying ‘Yes!’ instead. When Jason asked, “Can we go to the park?” she said, “Absolutely! Let’s go right after your medical treatments are done.” And they did.
Jason’s mom also learned to use choices. This is especially important when kids have healthcare issues and other special needs. She used lots of little choices as much as possible like “Would you like to do your medical treatments now or after playtime?” or “Would you like your medicine with apple juice or chocolate milk?”
Jason was so happy to have choices that he stopped arguing about taking his medication.
We are happy to report that Jason is enjoying good health and a great relationship with his dear mom.
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