I am sure that there are many of you reading this that have faced situations where your children ask for something that you don’t let them have, like junk food, not so junky but still not good for you food, a television show or a movie simply not suited for their age level, etc. And the first response from a spouse or relative’s mouth is “Mommy(or Daddy) said no.”
This is a phrase I hear often, especially since I raise my children a lot differently than people around me are used to.
I get why this is the first response – people like to please my children; they like to see them smile AND they like to be the ones to make them smile. I get it. I also get that this is the easiest answer to give and that it is a true statement. However, there is SO much more to it than that. The phrase “because mommy said no” makes mommy out to be the bad guy, when really, she makes decisions for her children out of love.
I also get that people have different ideas about what is okay for a child to have; that a little sugar never hurt anyone, that food dyes don’t really effect children’s brains and behavior (yes they do!!!), that they themselves grew up eating Doritos, jelly made more with sugar and corn syrup rather than fruit, and soda, so these items must be okay. However, most times the amount of crap per serving, including sugar amount, is a lot higher than people realize AND the people wanting to give these foods have no clue about what else the child has consumed that day. In addition, people wanting to feed these foods to my children obviously have different thoughts on the subject, which is fine for them, but not for my kids.
After all, mommy (or daddy) is the one who knows exactly how her children respond to certain things. It’s mommy who is there to calm the kids when their little bodies can’t handle the sugar/chemical overload; it’s mommy who is the one to wake in the middle of the night to ease fears from a nightmare from something they saw during the day. It’s mommy that has to teach that though ‘Aunt Betsy’ says something is okay to do at her house, that it’s not socially acceptable to do elsewhere.
I would like to explore alternatives to this phrase, as I personally find it disrespectful to make mommy out to be a bad guy when she makes decisions for her children out of love. I realize people don’t necessarily mean it that way, but that is how it is perceived – not just by the parent, but by the children as well. SO, what are some alternative phrases or ways to turn this around and make it positive? If you are a parent, perhaps you can work these suggestions into a conversation. If you are a family member who often finds themselves having to say no when you don’t want to, perhaps one or more of these will work for you…
1. Don’t put yourself in the position to have to say no if it’s not something you like to do. If you have things around that you know the kids aren’t allowed to have, put them out of the children’s sight.
2. Turn it into a positive – “you can’t have __________, but you can have ___________.” It’s not always possible to keep a child from seeing something mom doesn’t want them having. Here’s a for instance: You are at a park and the ice cream man shows up. (My children are allowed to have certain brands of ice cream or frozen yogurt every once in a while, but I draw the line with the ice cream man – I believe everything sold from these trucks have at least one, if not all of the artificial food dyes, TBHQ, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) Johnny wants the ice cream from the truck as the other kids have – instead of saying, “mommy said you’re not allowed to eat that,” how about “that stuff isn’t good for you. How about we call mommy before we leave the park and ask her if there is a different ice cream that we can get for you instead?”
3. If it’s not a situation that you can avoid or turn around, explain the truth as best as the child can understand it. “These have a lot of sugar in it and sugar is not good for people because it makes them sick,” or “you are not old enough for that show; you have to be six.”
4. Be okay with the fact that the child may cry or have a tantrum of sorts – especially if they are toddlers – it’s normal and part of a learning process for them :).
Before ending this post I would like to say thank you to my family members and friends who have tried and continue to try to respect my decisions in the way that I raise my children. For the most part people have been able to come to an understanding about my beliefs and try hard to be respectful even when it hasn’t been their way of thinking. Thank you.