Negotiating with children is like bargaining with teeny tiny terrorists. I completely understand why nations avoid brokering deals with madmen.
I am reminded of a time when “No” meant No. It was my childhood. I wasn’t in charge … of anything. I wanted to be a Brownie and eventually work my way up to Girl Scouts to gain unfettered access to those cookies, and my sister recently told me that she had her heart set on seeing David Cassidy in concert.
The answer to pursuing those, and so many other burning desires, was: No. Simply no.
There was no begging or pleading. It was over before any of that exhausting nonsense started. I could be as mad as hell and my dear sister might still be scarred from missing Cassidy in concert, but we didn’t think for one single second that we were running, starring in, or even invited to, the show.
Parents in the 70s and 80s said “No.” They were good at it and made no apology for it.
Children in my neighborhood were rarely seen or heard because we were mostly outside playing while our parents were doing whatever it was that parents did. They weren’t our friends, chauffeurs, tutors or strength and conditioning coaches … my parents were often at work.
In my day, I did not walk five miles up hill both ways to school in my bare feet, but I did dress myself and lock the door behind me by the time I was in 6th grade ... because everybody else had already left for work. Nobody was helicoptering anyone. A few of us out of the five could have used a little additional hovering once in a while, but you get the parents you get, and ours were about as laissez faire as the times permitted.
Truth be told, most of the parents I knew were. Though we heard “No” often, we had freedom. As a result, we became industrious, creative and probably who we were meant to be. There were no voodoo reverse psychology techniques at play. Nobody I knew had a therapist (until much later). It was a pretty straightforward kind of parenting and we fell in line.
I am not saying it was better, I’m just saying it was better.
Which brings me to today. So is it the way we were parented in the 70s/80s that has spawned this: “God forbid you get out from under my parenting thumb” generation? Is this backlash parenting?
Were we too free—free to the degree that we became windblown, worrisome and prone to the belief that keeping our own offspring in Baby Bjorns until after grad school somehow makes good sense?
Are we so afraid to say “No” that our harshest retort has become:
“Maybe later, you little sweet, sweet sweetie …let me shift entire schedules around to make sure you aren’t let down in any minor, measurable way!”
I am working on saying “No” these days. I say it firm and I say it loud. It works like this:
- Can we sell this stuff door to door for a fundraiser? NO!
- Can we have a sleepover? NO!
- Can we do competitive (insert name of sport/activity) and spend four nights a week and all of our money at a gym, dance studio, court, field, pool, theater, or rink …?
Maybe later, sweetie? You see, I’m not very good at this yet.
Is it weird that instead of asking myself:
What Would Jesus Do? … I often think: What Would Pittsburgh Dad Do?
Of course that’s weird …
I don’t expect you to say “No” in this particular scenario.