My husband has been many places.. including Europe, the Middle East and Cuba.
You know where he hasn’t been? Colonial Williamsburg.
You know why? Because his parents knew how to shut down kids who weren’t behaving.
As the story goes – when my husband was about 10 years old, he and his siblings were supposed to take a family trip to Williamsburg, VA. But due to poor behavior (and I’m sure after many threats), the trip was canceled.
Yup. Done. You’re not going. Go unpack. It ain’t happening. For realz.
When I heard this story, I thought to myself – damn, those parents are my heroes. I admire what they did because most of us are more champions of the empty threat than letting kids suffer the consequences of their behavior.
When it comes to children, it’s often so much easier to say yes, than no.
I recently went to a museum with my children. One of my tween daughters was being super cranky. One of my 5 year olds was throwing fits. I think the others were reasonably well behaved but it was hard to know since I was drowning in the other two’s dismal behavior.
I threatened that attitudes needed to improve or there would be no TV that night. There are only three things that my kids truly care about… iPhones, TV and dessert. Who knows why TV popped out of my mouth but it did.
The behavior did not improve. So no TV for the two offenders.
Later on, they asked, “Can we earn our TV back?”
I agreed they could. My 5 year old set and cleared the table and wiped down the counters.
My tween helped me put away a lot of laundry.
Each of them got to watch a TV show that night. Was I too soft on them? I don’t think so.
They made some mistakes during the day but they were able to turn things around. And in the end, isn’t that what we want to teach our kids? It’s okay to fail. But then you get up and try again. You strive to make amends. To do better.
But sometimes there is no earning back. There is no compromise. The answer is just no.
And then as a parent, you brace yourself for the backlash.
It could be no to the bright orange puffy snacks at the grocery store which results in a tantruming child. It could be no to a social media app which means an onslaught of anger from your tween or teen. But you hold your ground.
Because kids are an unending fountain of wants. So saying yes (when you really want to say no) does not shield you from the next child request. Better to stick with your gut, ride out the emotional storm and then move on.
I remember as a kid, I wanted a monkey. To me, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable request and I could not understand why no one was getting me one. I must have asked my parents a million times and unbelievably, they did not buy me a monkey. WHY WAS NO ONE BUYING ME A MONKEY?!!
As a teenager, I had given up the monkey dream and knew I could only be happy if I had a Suzuki Samurai. They weren’t very expensive (for a car) and I was more than happy to get one secondhand. But despite my desperate pleadings, I was told no. Not safe. A tin box. Buy one yourself when you’re an adult.
I. WAS. MAD.
So of course, as soon as I graduated college, I showed my parents! I bought a Suzuki Samurai and rode around with the wind in my hair and my orangutan Clyde in the passenger seat.
Okay, I didn’t. Because who the hell wants to take care of a god damn monkey?! I did eventually buy a Jeep Wrangler but I would never have let monkey butt touch that smooth leather interior.
My point (which is surprisingly not about monkeys) is – despite the fact that kids like to torture their parents with constant begging – no is just sometimes the very best answer you can give.