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Can't Take "No" for an Answer

Can't Take "No" for an Answer


Tali is a little girl who can't take "no" for an answer. When she asks Mommy for a cookie, the answer had better be "yes, here's one I just baked for you" because if it is anything else, Tali has a complete meltdown. It has come to the point where Mommy and Daddy are both afraid to disappoint their little girl – they just can't take the scene that follows. "But why? Why can't I have just one? I promise I'll eat my dinner! I promise! Ple-e-e-e-e-ase? Just this once and I'll never ask again! Pretty ple-e-e-e-ase?" Again, unless the parents rapidly have a change of heart, they're in for a very unpleasant time. It's hard on their nerves. It's easier to give in.

Yet, if they do give in, Tali has a very good chance of growing up to be an obnoxious young lady. She may use badgering and battering to get what she wants in other relationships including friendships, marriage and parenting. She will have learned the lesson that most people can't tolerate a scene and she will use this to her advantage.

Expressing rage of this sort is antithetical to the Torah personality, the very opposite of the humble person who respects everyone, particularly parents. What can her parents do to help Tali learn to show more respect and consideration by graciously accepting the answer "no"?

To begin with, they can help prepare themselves for the inevitable confrontation. They can imagine the upcoming scene in their minds, breathing deeply as they "see" it unfold on the inner screen. They should watch this "movie" as many times as possible, particularly when just about to fall asleep (and the drowsy mind is in a particularly receptive state) and when waking up (same thing) and a few times during the day. This work will help to desensitize them to the conflict that will ensue as soon as they utter the word "no."

Next, they should create a new script for the inner movie – a script in which the parents say "no" calmly and quietly and refuse to budge from that position. No matter how much the child tantrums in that movie, the parents hold their ground. "No" means "no." The movie ends when the child has exhausted herself and can carry on no longer.

Then, the parents should have a little meeting with Tali. They should explain to her that they are changing their tactics and from now on, when they say "no" they will mean "no" and they will not be changing their mind. They should let her know that they understand that this will cause her frustration and upset but that they expect her to keep her voice down and say one sentence only – something like "I'm not happy then." She should leave it at that. They should also tell her that when she can do that, they're going to give her a sticker and when she's collected five such stickers, she can go to the dollar store to buy a small prize. The parents should then wait for the next opportunity to say "no."

When it comes, if Tali keeps her cool and responds appropriately, she'll get a sticker. If she forgets what she's supposed to do and whines, begs, tantrums or uses other forms of manipulation and intimidation, the parents will wait until she's finished her "show" and then remind her of what she was supposed to do. They shouldn't express anger or disappointment. They should simply encourage her to do better next time.

Using this positive, good-feeling form of discipline, parents can help their children accept the reality of "no."

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lisa February 28, 2015

Not partial to wait for children to have tantrums. In the mall, they are the ground crying and sometimes kicking. I applaud the parents who give a swift slap on the hands or but to let the child know this type of behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable. Children need love not their own way. Reply

chaia Buenos Aires, Argentina February 11, 2010

very interesting, thank you!!! Reply

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