When your child’s NO means NO

As first time parents, so many things are on the learning curve that sometimes it’s perfectly possible to stop learning. Taking NO for an answer from your child is probably one of those things. Do you find yourself making grownup statements like – “Don’t talk to me like that” or “I don’t take NO for an answer”? If so, you may actually be curbing your child’s individuality and encroaching on their personal sense of boundaries. Controlling the outcome of what is supposed to be a choice hinders a child from learning empathy and compassion and instead teach them guilt and apathy. Here are situations when your child says NO and you would do well to respect it.

1. Are you hungry

From the time they’re babies, we are so used to pre-empting their needs that we soon forget that they’re no longer the voiceless, helpless little things we birthed. They have opinions, they have tastes and they have personalities. Which we refuse to acknowledge or accept and always think we know better. We always assume that the NO to the “are you hungry” question means that they don’t like the option that we have offered to eat. And we keep offering choices in the hope that something catches their fancy. At worse, we force something down their throats. This is bad because then, they won’t really have an opinion at all. And you needn’t worry about starving a child. No child starves out of choice. They’ll eat when they’re really hungry. Leave them be.

2. When you’re tickling them

Tickling is a form of abuse. If not enjoyed by the child. The tears are real, not tears of joy. If they ask you to stop, please stop. If they’re asking someone else who’s tickling them to stop and they don’t, make them.

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3. When they’re feeding themselves

Yes, I’ve often used the excuse of “not wanting a big mess to clean up” to feed my 4-year-old son. And so, it’s no surprise he still expects me to feed him every so often. But this is a super important skill to have in their repertoire. It’s gross and fine motor skill learning and if they insist on eating alone, leave them alone. Don’t think of the mess now. Think of all the time you’ll save feeding them into adulthood.

4. When they’re scared

Whether it is of a ride or getting into a pool, don’t force them to do it. Understand that as irrational as their fears may seem to you, it’s very real to them and their little world. Instead, be empathetic and ease them into it, only if they’re willing. Try to logically explain the lack of dangers, that you’re there to protect them and only if they agree to want to try it, let them. No, they’re not participating in Khatron ka Khiladi anytime soon. So, take a chill pill.

5. When they want to dress themselves

Be it picking out outfits that don’t go, or trying to button a shirt for an hour, I know it’s eye-poppingly hard to watch. But again, this is an important skill. Give them time and help to learn it and you’ll thank yourself later for it. As for outfits that don’t go, that’s your impression, not theirs. They’re kids. They can carry off a Nemo outfit for Dinosaur Day.

6. When they don’t want to be hugged or kissed

Which Indian parent hasn’t parroted the “Go give a kissie to Daadi/Uncle/Mausi” line and forced their child to hug and kiss a virtual stranger? This might be the most important NO you have to listen to. When you force your kids to be affectionate with lesser known family even, it’s likely they’re going to misinterpret the mal intent of someone who’s not so well-meaning. They need to know that their NO has import and has their parents behind their back. Similarly discourage strangers from planting kisses or firm hugs on your baby, no matter how well-meaning or close they might be.

7. When they refuse to try something new

Be it broccoli or a new rollercoaster ride, again NO means NO. It’s not like you eat all foods in the world or are the daredevil of the century. So imposing these unreasonable expectations on a child is just that – unreasonable. When they’re ready, they will do it. Be patient. And respect their NO.

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