It’s important to say No to your child Part 2:

Written by Jeffery Rosenbaum, Ph.D.

Children do best when they know the rules, routines, and the expectations at home. Families establish plans so everyone knows what to expect. Children like to know that their parents/caregivers are in charge, no matter what they say and how loudly they protest. Children need to know that they can’t always do what they want and that they will sometimes hear No.

Simple plans are the best for children. They can include expectations regarding transitions, getting on/off screens, getting ready in the morning and at bedtime, homework, mealtimes, and when they are in a store and want something. If children are not following the rules and are continuing to do what they want, they should hear No.

Plans work best if everyone knows them and understands them. Plans need to be set up in advance and reviewed frequently with the family. The first few times it’s likely that children will challenge the plan. They will want to know if their parents/caregivers will stick to the plan. From their point of view, if they are no longer getting what they want, this is a big loss for them.

If children challenge the family’s plan, it works best to review the plan with them, permit them to ask a question, and then tell them that the answer is still No. There should no further discussion as this may lead to a back-and-forth argument. The expectation should be that the children will follow the plan. Compliance should be praised, and it is best to avoid threats and power struggles.

It can become complicated and tense when children are not following the plans and when multiple people are trying to redirect them (e.g. siblings, relatives). It works best when the parent/caregiver is the one who intervenes. The people who set up the plan will have the most impact when they are redirecting their children to follow it.

If this is a new plan for the family, it might not work smoothly in the beginning. Children will try to get things back to where they are in charge and where they are getting what they want. They may challenge the new plan and try to undermine it. Seeing that parents/caregivers are sticking to the new plan will show them who is in charge, and this will help them adjust.