Say 'No' and Mean It!
For John and Becky Schweitz’s children, Christmas came far more than once a year.
"Because Christmas was every time we went to Target," said John.
It was so bad, in fact, that John’s family and friends nicknamed him, "Santa Claus."
When they went to Target, John’s kids would ask for all sorts of things. The requests came, not for big items, but for a lot of little ones, like DVDs and M&Ms. John would almost always say, "yes."
"You don’t realize it’s a problem until you realize there’s no more room for the DVDs where the DVDs are supposed to go," said John.
John would say "yes," partly because it was easier than dealing with a temper tantrum from his children, and partly because he felt guilty.
"I think that part of it is that Becky and I are both working parents and when you’re spending time with the kids you don’t want it to be a frustrating time, you want it to be happy times," he said. "When have those moments at the store, I would just take the path of least resistance and say, 'sure.'"
By giving in, John may have felt has was keeping the peace, but according to psychologist Dr. David Walsh, he was really robbing his kids of a big opportunity.
"What they’re being robbed of is the lesson of self-discipline," said Walsh. "That’s what’s going to be the key to their success and happiness. It doesn’t grow automatically. It’s like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the better it’s going to get."
John began to realize that when he heard Dr. Walsh, author of the book "No," speak out on the issue.
"Then he started talking about the new book. I swear he was looking at me the whole time because he was talking to me," John recalls.
So what if, like John, you are reading this story and saying, "that’s me!"
How do you turn things around in your house?
The younger your children are, the easier it will be.
Daycare director Alice Journey has worked with kids and observed their parents for 26 years.
She says her parents know the right script. They say the right things, but then they don’t follow through.
"They are allowing their child to go out the door when they say, 'no, you don’t have your coat on.’ I often think that parents are saying the right words but they’re not willing to get their tennis shoes on and be there," she said.
Dr. Walsh says, make sure your kids know the rules and the consequences if they break them. Then, follow through on those consequences because if your kids figure out you don’t mean what you say when they are little, imagine how difficult it will be when they are teenagers.
We talked to some seniors at Eastview High School in Apple Valley about the way some of their friends run right over their parents when they don’t get their way.
"Sometimes they just yell and scream and say how unfair it is. Sometimes they just throw a temper tantrum and they end up getting their way," said Ryan Lynch. "They do it all the time. It’s almost too easy."
But even if your kids are teenagers, there is still time to turn it around.
Dr. Walsh says the first step is to sit down with the teenager, not in the heat of the moment, and tell him or her that a bad pattern has developed and you are going to change it.
Then, Dr. Walsh says, tackle just a few things.
"Pick just a few things that we really want to start to get under control. Maybe it’s the amount of time kids are playing video games, maybe it’s tantrums when kids are going to bed. It can be any number of things but you start to identify what are the things that are really causing a lot of the problems. Because then what you’re doing is putting in place a pattern that can be translated to other situations."
Your kids are not going to like it, but that’s okay. It is their job to push the limits and your job to enforce them.
And remember, by choosing the harder path, by standing your ground and saying 'no,' you are investing in a future full of 'yes' for your children.
Dr. Walsh says kids are only going to be successful in school, successful in relationships if they can manage themselves.
"We don’t learn that automatically," Walsh said. We have to be taught that. We outsource that to our parents."
So for the sake of your kids, get your tennis shoes on.
As John Schweitz found, "'No' is a good thing. No doesn’t hurt. It hurts a little at first, but kids get used to it and the more they get used to it, the better off they’ll be."
By Julie Nelson, KARE 11 News
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