Saying No When Other Parents are Saying Yes

Most parents struggle with saying NO when all other parents seem to be saying YES: getting your kid a cell phone, allowing video games, social media, etc.  It’s easy to get swept up in the status quo. We get it! We're parents too!  In this episode, I share my own personal experience of saying NO and how that paid off down the road, both literally and figuratively.  I also give practical advice about how to manage that "salesman" each of our kids can be when they want something so badly and we struggle to not give in. 


Here are just a few of the benefits of saying NO when other parents are saying YES. 

  1. You’re modeling for your kids how to stand up and say NO when culture is saying YES! Wouldn’t you agree this is a life skill our kids NEED in high school, college and beyond? 
  2. You’re teaching them to say YES to the right things by saying NO to the things that are ultimately harmful, long term. Again… a life skill they need when they leave home. 
  3. You’re helping your kids strengthen their self control muscles by delaying gratification! Each NO you give them, helps them build up a reservoir of self control to draw from when they are in situations 5, 10, 15 years down the road like dating, driving, and enjoying new freedoms like drinking or taking adventures to new places. 
  4. Each NO you share with other parents gives them courage and confidence to say NO, too! You strengthen your community when you lead by example and share your parenting experiences and choices with those around you!       

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“Have you ever had a time where you told your kid NO to something and everyone else was saying YES to their kids? We definitely have. Maybe it was the decision about getting your 10 year old a cell phone or telling your 8 year old they can’t watch tik tok videos with their favorite cousin or stay the night at a birthday party when you didn’t really know the parents well. How did that feel?


I’ve been through that recently with my own kids and it’s tough! And I don’t know about your kids…but mine are relentless when they want something. I think all kids are bullies when it comes to harassing us about wanting to do something or wanting to have something. They ought to all be in sales at this phase of their lives…they are GOOD at going for what they want! Don’t you agree?” 


Welcome back, parents! This episode is all about “Saying NO when other parents are saying YES” and how to navigate that - in a practical way - with your kids.  


Let’s be real…Most times it seems a lot easier to just give in and say yes. We are exhausted as parents.  But the consequences of giving in and going along with the status quo, which oftentimes goes against our moral character-what’s good and right… those consequences are severe in the long run.  As both a mom and licensed counselor for 20 years, I’ve got to tell you…if we can’t say no to our kids in the moment, it’s going to effect them AND have an effect on our culture years down the road.  And this is enough of a common issue in our parent community - to have a real chat about. 


Let me just start by sharing a personal story. 


Personal Story:Our oldest son loved video games when he was around 11/12 years old. One day he and his friend started shaking down their siblings piggy banks to get money to buy accessories for the players on their favorite game. They were literally going room to room, taking change from their brother and sisters piggy banks. It was insane! They were acting like drug addicts who break into cars to get money for dope. Because of this, we grounded him from the game for 2 weeks -We said  “NO” to this behavior that had gone over the top.


The first 3 days were brutal - on all of us. It was similar to an alcoholic or drug addict coming off of their favorite fix-by definition, it was withdrawal! You know how they get… Anxious, angsty behavior, not knowing what to do with his time, pacing around all slumped over in a bad mood- hating us for being “the worst parents ever”. 


But another thing happened after the first 3 days of withdrawal.  Like any kid, he found a new obsession. Designer sneakers! He found he could buy and sell sneakers online and make money. So at the end of the 2 weeks of being grounded, he decided to sell his gaming console to buy the first pair of shoes. Well, guess what… as you can imagine, this new endeavor turned out to be a bit of a scam. And my husband and I figured it would be, but we allowed him to make this decision so he could experience the failure himself and then learn from it. So, although he had the money, he was never able to successfully use the app to buy a pair of sneakers for resale…but he kept trying for weeks. At that time, he was distracted from the video game and had practically forgotten about it because the console and all the games were gone from the home. The new obsession hadn’t borne any fruit, but it held his attention. And he had successfully passed the gaming withdrawal period.  


So, he decided on his own to ditch this idea of buying and selling shoes. With his chunk of money in the bank, my husband and I started talking to him about something new! The freedom of driving and having your own car. At first, he wasn’t interested and pulled another one of those sales talks about why we should let him buy back the gaming console…we stood firm and said no.  We explained to him how much more engaged and happy he had been since he stopped playing the games. And I’ll never forget it-his younger brother and sister came to him tearful and told him that when he was gaming, they thought he was depressed and never wanted to have anything to do with them and told him that now they were starting to really have fun hanging out with him, playing board games and wrestling again.  


He obviously wasn’t happy about not being allowed to buy back the gaming system…but just like after the first “NO”, he had a 3-5 day withdrawal period or period of being upset and disappointed about realizing the video games were gone for good-but then something changed.


We continued to bring up this idea of driving…we introduced him to the next transition he would have in his life. We told him stories about how we saved our money from birthdays and jobs and purchased our first cars when we were 15.  We showed him pictures of our cars and laughed about all the memories of those years. We told him about all the fun times we had driving to see our cousins and what it was like to have the privilege of going places when others weren't. This got him interested. 


and then he came back around. 


He started saving his money. We took him to one of those banks for young kids where they allow them to make deposits and withdrawals and start managing money like a grown up. He loved that - a goal he could set and make progress towards. Something tangible since he was allowed to make trips to the bank and see his money growing. His goal was to save as much money as he could to buy a car at age 15. 


Those NO’s…when all his friends were allowed to continue gaming…were HARD! But…we’ve been without video games in our house for 4 years now and he just purchased his first car 3 days ago. Not to mention…our younger kids never got started on video games because of all this, so there’s no harassment and bullying by our 7 and 10 year olds and THAT is a huge relief!


You see-My son shaking down piggy banks was our cue that his behavior had gone beyond a healthy bit of video game playing. Once we recognized that cue and made a commitment to stop the behavior by grounding him (Saying NO)…we had time without the stimulus (the video games) to consider what to do next. Taking the issue away from him for 2 weeks allowed him to withdrawal from what he was addicted to and find something else to get interested in. Were shoes the answer? No…and we knew it wasn’t going to be fruitful…but we allowed him to try it and fail to buy everyone more time away from the games while we thought about something worthwhile (saving and investing money for a car) that would serve him in the future.


Think about the desperation - shaking down piggy banks to get your next fix… if we had allowed that to happen and just gave into our exhaustion and just let him continue that…what does that look like at age 16 when he’s driving a car and now responsible for his life and the life of others behind a thousand pound vehicle? What’s it look like when he’s dating a young woman and she tells him no, when he isn’t used to hearing that? What’s it look like at age 21 when he’s able to drink alcohol and because he doesn’t know how to regulate those passions and desires?  That’s scary! 


Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and say NO, even when other parents are allowing that same behavior in their home. 


And saying “NO” isn’t ever our problem, right? We usually rip off that response pretty quickly…but our biggest issue is managing their begging and justification. So we have to be ready with a reasonable response. 


And listen…that story I just told you…that’s just ONE of our parenting experiences. We don’t have this all figured out - in fact, we’ve had plenty of moments where our knee jerk reaction to our kids' disappointment was “Life’s not fair…get used to it buddy.” or “I don’t care what the Jones family is doing. Our house, our rules!”  


But what we found was that a more effective way to navigate their response to our “NO” is to validate their feelings first. It sounds like this: “I know this is a new rule for our family and we’ve been doing things this way for awhile already… but now we have new information and know this isn’t good for us. You’re right it’s going to be a big change. Change is hard for all of us.”  


Validating their feelings helps them feel heard and understood and allows them to lean in and listen to the “WHY” behind the NO. If we skip this step, we lose their buy in and they become defensive and tune us out. 


So, instead of getting ANGRY with them and being defensive, you respond with confidence. You’re the parent - it’s important to remember you’re the leader here. By saying NO, you are investing in their FUTURE and because you, the parent, know them best, you are able to make different rules and live differently in order to best support their needs. It’s also important to remind them that “It’s ok if you don’t LIKE these rules, but you DO have to respect them and follow them.” 


And we can’t be afraid to hold out…hold out for a period of time for them to get through that withdrawal period. And commit, during that time, to offer something different that interests them. Something more fruitful, long term. Then walk with them in that new adventure or new interest and engage them. This brings joy and unity back to your relationship and your kids will be driven in new ways…ways you never imagined. 


So what are the benefits of saying NO when other parents are saying YES. 

  1. You’re modeling for your kids how to stand up and say NO when culture is saying YES! Wouldn’t you agree this is a life skill our kids NEED in high school, college and beyond? 
  2. You’re teaching them to say YES to the right things by saying NO to the things that are ultimately harmful, long term. Again… a life skill they need when they leave home.
  3. You’re helping your kids strengthen their self control muscles by not being able to indulge in instant gratification! Each NO you give them, helps them build up a reservoir of self control to draw from when they are in situations like dating, driving, and enjoying new freedoms like drinking or taking adventures to new places. 


Now that we’ve talked about the practical steps of saying NO to your kids and managing their begging and harassment and realize the benefits of the NO…I want you to consider a few serious ways our culture is bullying us and harassing us to say YES these days.


Culture says: Screens are fine. They are here to stay. It’s no big deal, all kids are on screens. 


Culture says: Kids have to have phones! We are in a digital age…they’ve got to stay up with the times. 


Did you know the average age of kids having smartphones right now is 8 (3rd grade) and guess what… porn addiction in kids is starting at age 11! That’s 5th grade! Do you remember what you were doing in 5th grade? I was riding bikes, playing at the park, building forts, making up new games on the playground. Kids these days, saying YES to what culture thinks is ok- are hiding their phones under their bed covers searching for porn. 


Listen-It’s OK to say NO to phones, tablets and ipads. 


If you feel like you have to give them a phone for safety reasons, give them a talk/text phone only.  Give them the old flip phone you still have laying around if you have to give them anything. Will they get teased by their friends? Yes! Expect that. This is a chance for us to help our kids use those self control muscles to withstand peer pressure. 


Kids DO NOT need access to the internet instantly, in their back pockets. And let’s admit it -we are NOT GOOD at setting limits on what kids can access on phones, gaming consoles and ipads. Parents complain all the time about how they don’t know how to put these controls/restrictions in place and how kids just work around them anyway. If you aren’t going to monitor and block access to things that will FOREVER change your child - LISTEN-don’t give them the device and tempt them to begin with. 


And trust me on this, I’ve been a counselor for 20 years and if you DO let your kids have open access to the internet …you have to accept personal responsibility for allowing them access to those things they CAN NOT unsee -sexual images, perversions and violent attacks…this stuff will haunt your kid for the rest of their life. Be willing to say NO to this stuff. 


Culture also says: Social media is harmless - all kids do it, all kids have it. It’s HOW they communicate with each other and stay in touch.


We all know by now, social media is a sad replacement for in person, face to face connection! It will NEVER yield the same type of important and close bond kids make when they are physically together with others. And hiding behind a keyboard for a majority of their relationships will KILL their ability to truly connect. It will KILL it! 


You may understand that as someone who uses social media a lot, yourself. Think about how often you get together, face to face, with other parents and friends. An hour of mindless scrolling on social media at night seems to satisfy our curiosity about people we know, so we don’t reach out or dive deeper into a conversation about something with them. Prior to social media, we all connected so much more personally. 


Speaking of social media- you want to talk about a lack of character being lived? Now kids think it’s funny to slap your teacher, take a video of it and post it to Tik Tok. Shoot-they even think it’s cool to steal from stores because there aren’t enough security officers working to come after them - so they do it, because they CAN. 


What happened to: Respect for parents and teachers? When kids are spending more time on social media watching these idiotic pranks and parodies their sense of what’s right and wrong - their morality - their character starts eroding.


*So when kids come to us and ask for something we KNOW they are not ready for or is not good for their well being, we HAVE to be willing to say NO- to be DIFFERENT from other parents. We have to stand STRONG in our conviction that we are NOT willing to settle for the status quo. Doing this empowers other parents to do the same…it’s a ripple effect of GOOD.

YOU are the leader of your family. YOU have the ability to say yes and no to things in your household. YOU can choose today to sell the video game console or the iPad - you don’t have to wait for your kid to do it because they want some other shiny object. YOU can choose today to stop allowing screens in bedrooms and dock them in an open area on the main floor. YOU can choose today to take your kids to a soccer game and leave the ipads and gaming devices at home and have them watch -in real time-their sibling compete. YOU can ALSO choose today to talk to your kids about what’s coming next in their life - that transition they may not be thinking about-and how to prepare for that - driving, getting a job, planning a family trip.  

As a community of like minded parents, let’s continue to support each other in doing what is GOOD and RIGHT for our kids, even when we have to go against the culture and disappoint our kids, in the moment.  What’s even more disappointing to our kids is when they are out in the world as adults struggling from a lack of self control. Let’s risk disappointing them as kids to ensure they have the BEST CHANCE POSSIBLE at being kids of great character and adults who are respectful, responsible, grateful and able to say NO when they need to. 


That’s what this movement we are starting here at Families of Character is all about, a movement of LIKE MINDED PARENTS who are NOT willing to settle for the status quo. A community where we challenge each other to be better and do better in family life.  


You can do this! 


Help us get the word out- share our message with others. Join the Movement! Forward this episode to a handful of your closest friends. 


We hope to see you inside our private FB Group, The Thrive Community by Families of Character -this is where we challenge the status quo and support YOU in being the leader you need to be for your kids.


Also, check out our website, to find out more about how you can get your family on track, growing in character as a TEAM. 


Parents…Say NO with confidence when other parents are saying YES.


Until next time, we are ALWAYS in your corner. 

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