When Did “NO” Become a Dirty Word? The Value of Setting Limits

I was watching an episode of House Hunters where a couple who had already lost $30,000 on their last house looked at a house which was $70,000 over their budget. I said to my husband they would never choose that house and he said, “They will.” And they did.

How did sanity lose out to granite counters and double sink vanities? When did we decide that we deserve what we want regardless of the consequences? How can we expect our children to control themselves when we don’t?

The same week I was sitting on a plane next to an older mom whose children were in their 20’s. We talked about the rules and expectations we had for our children which garnered me the title “meanest mom on the block.” We agreed that it’s more important to be a “parent” than a “friend” and that our children had turned out the better for it.

But parents today seem afraid to say “no.” Whether it’s putting their baby down to sleep when they’re crying, timing their 3 year-old out for yelling, or telling their 13 year-old they can’t do something just because everyone else is. They seem more concerned about their children liking them and not fussing at them, than being firm with clear expectations and rules. Has life has become so stressful we lack the energy to stand up and not give in?

So, let’s learn to say “no” to ourselves and our children. Limit-setting promotes responsibility and self-reliance. Valuable qualities, indeed.

4 thoughts on “When Did “NO” Become a Dirty Word? The Value of Setting Limits

  1. Not telling our children “no” also leads to a sense of entitlement. I’ve seen it in so many teenagers and young adults that it astounds me. For example, I overheard my neighbors 20 year old son tell his dad that he is supposed to pay for his school and apartment and food. Needless to say the dad said “no” thank goodness. Suzie Orman says giving your children an allowance also leads to the same place. How many jobs are out in the real world that pay you for doing nothing? So by giving our children allowances we are setting up that expectation.
    Another sad example – my aunt’s friend got a limo for her kids 6th grade graduation. Sixth Grade! She asked her what she was going to do for High School graduation.
    I think many of the baby boomers have been fortunate enough that they are able to “do” more for their kids than there parents were able to do for them and they have enoyed giving their children all the extras they were denied as children. However I think, this sets these kids up with anreasonable expectation of how their life will be when they move out.
    I left home with an espresso addiction that I could not afford in college. I still cannot afford.
    Hopefully, I will raise my girls to expect to work for what they have and to value it and not expect others to pay their way. My fingers are crossed.

  2. I love this observation! We frequently get comments on what a well behaved and enjoyable daughter we have. She is 4 turning 5 soon. We agree and think she is wonderful. We also use logical consequences, she knows helpfulness and doing what’s asked of her (washing hands and using potty after school, picking her things up and helping out) is expected. That”mommy can’t hear her when she’s whining” and that not listening will result in loss of privileges (her one show a day, the healthy treat she was hoping we’d bake together, etc…). I believe this has helped her develop internal self control that makes her the likable and fun young girl she is. Buy when we are seen setting these limits or denying a tearful 4 year old something she wants (albeit due to misbehavior) by family we are considered harsh or strict. I can live with these challenges but I agree that many can’t or choose not to. But media, tech devices and reality tv seem to be having more of an influence on our children than grown ups and it’s not a good one I’m afraid.

  3. Love this post! I am so sickened by the entitlement teenagers have these days. I’ve heard so many parents let their lives be directed by their kids. I say, “Who’s the parent here, anyway?” and people actually pause to think about it. We, the parents, have to be aware of what we’re doing. I understand that we want to give our kids something better than we had, but I think so much of this is over-the-top in a big way!!

  4. Thanks for your great comments and support. Sometimes I feel like a lone voice because excess and indulgence seems the standard. I still remember when my oldest daughter who was 4 at the time threw herself down and started tantruming in the toy store because we wouldn’t get her the toy which caught her eye. I knew if we could just get her out of there she’d calm down but I was mortified. So I let her scream a while longer and then took her by the hand and calmly led her out of the store and didn’t look up to see who might be looking at me. Fifteen minutes later, she was her happy, sweet self. We need to remember that these meltdowns are temporary and that the result of learning you can’t have everything you want helps children regulate their emotions and develop self-control. I have learned more about myself than I ever imagined in becoming a parent and become much stronger from it. It takes a lot to follow your gut and do what you know is ultimately in your child’s best interest without caving in.

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