Friday, June 14, 2013

If you do one thing as a parent, please tell your child NO from time to time.  And mean it.

As kids have been coming through our home, we have discovered that most of them have not heard NO very often.  This surprised me.  I had figured that children who were in crisis/neglected/poor would be very used to the word, but that is clearly not the case.  Perhaps the parents are working from a place of guilt and therefore give in to the child's every request.  Perhaps they don't know that saying NO is a good thing to do- they don't want the child to dislike them.  Perhaps the child has been shuttled around to so many people that nobody has been willing to "upset" the child and take on the fight.  Most of the kids we've had have been only children, so perhaps they are just not used to having to share or wait.  Or maybe the parents are just too beaten down by life to take on the fight.  Whatever the reason, it makes it tough for them and for us, because at this house, we have rules and consequences.

Now, my children are oh-so-far from being perfect, from accepting correction, from taking the word NO gracefully.  We get the tantrums, the pouting, the whole nine yards.  But at least my kids no that when we say NO, we mean it.

Yesterday our darling four year old guest and I had what shall henceforth be known as "The Epic Noodle Showdown."  Had I known that it would turn into a battle, I would not have chosen to fight it at that moment...but once the battle is set out, you have to fight it.  The line "we don't negotiate with terrorists" kept entering my head.  As much as I wanted to just let it go, I realized that this might be the first time someone had actually held her to something...and I felt it was important that I carry through.  Little Mam did NOT want to eat her buttered noodles (how dare I serve such outrageous food, right?!).  Sadly, her ability to join us at the beach hinged on this act.  She wanted to go to the beach, but was pretty darned sure I would not REALLY make her eat her lunch first.

Wrong.  In the end, she ate the noodles and joined us at the beach.  But first, a sampling of our negotiations:

"I hate noodles.  I only like pasta."
"I am too tired to eat them."
"They taste bad on a pink plate."
"They will make me throw up on your table and you'll have to clean them up."
"If I spit them on the floor, you can't make me eat them."
"They will make me die and you will be in jail."
"I don't like them cold.  Heat them back up."
"You made them wrong."
"Noodles are for stupid people."
<dumps plate on floor...I serve her up a new helping>
"They will make my tongue fall off."
"Only one tiny bite? I only eat tiny bites."
"You won't really make me stay home from the beach because you can't leave me here alone." (ah, she found the flaw in my argument)
"Only mean mommies make kids eat noodles with butter on them."
"Parmesan cheese makes me dead."
"I will never talk to you and your kids will hate you for making me be sad."

And on and on and on.  An hour of negotiation over three noodles.  THREE NOODLES.  Now I don't forcefeed kids food that they honestly dislike, but I have watched this little lady eat platefuls of spaghetti, so I was pretty sure I was not torturing her.  I have a picky eater, so this scenario is not new at my house, but even my kids were perplexed..."just eat the noodles and you can come with us to the beach.  Just eat them quick and drink some lemonade to wash them down!"

When she finally ate, I smiled at her, briefly told her good job and helped her hurry into the car to go to the beach.  I saw no need to give her a lot of attention for finally choking down three noodles.  It was over.  The funny part is- and this is so often the case- at the end of the battle, she hugged me, she was happy, she behaved wonderfully and she clearly liked me MORE than she had before the battle.

Kids need boundaries, structure, rules.  Deep down they want to know that someone will hold them to it.  They don't really want to run the show- that is a lot of stress for a kid.  I remember in college how much I hated essay assignments that were vague- I much preferred a professor who laid out exactly what she wanted.  I am happy to provide structure for the children who come through our home...they deserve to have someone give it to them.  But man, sometimes it is ugly!


  1. Good for you!!!
    As a teacher, I know how hard and important it is to be consistent. I often see parents making one of two mistakes (and I'm not perfect either!): either giving in, or getting angry.
    You did neither. Thanks for not only handling that situation well, but for sharing it with the rest of us.
    By the way, she's probably experienced a lot in her short life, if she's already trying that much manipulation and knowing things like it's illegal to leave kids home alone.
    P.S. "They taste bad on a pink plate" totally cracked me up!

  2. I typed a huge comment on here the other day, and it got eaten! LOL!

    I know what you mean! I had a 25 minute battle with the 2 year old gentleman who is staying with us because... I wouldn't let him colour on the wall with markers. I know, you probably are shocked by how mean I am!

  3. Wow. It is amazing that the story ended with a HUG. I have a picky eater myself, it's not even always about FOOD, she sometimes just doesn't want to eat anything, or is over-tired, etc. She is so stubborn, I haven't found anything that consistently works for her yet. Working on it :)
    Nice post.

  4. p.s. Saw you at the Tattler Thursday Blog Hop.

  5. Ah the hills we choose to die on! Before I became a mom I never envisioned that I'd be drawing similar lines in the sand over broccoli florets, bites of hot dog, the minutes of video game v reading or math homework. Thanks for a fun post!

  6. I go through this with green beans, kids are just crazy sometimes. Thanks for linking up the Tattler Thursday Blog Hop. (ImNoHumdrum-Mum: Co-Hostess.)

  7. Oh have so been there ... so frustrating when they randomly won't eat things you know full well they like. I do stick to the no pudding until you eat at least a reasonable amount of something you've eaten quite happily before. Alice @ Mums Make Lists x