We go to Target to buy shoes, but my daughter wants
sunglasses too. She gets frustrated when it's time to go to bed
because she wants to keep playing outside. When we're driving in
the car, she gets upset if we don't listen to her music.
I acknowledge her desires, but I don't always fulfill
them. Sometimes she says, "I never get what I want," and I listen
because I know she is communicating what she's feeling, but I know
in my heart it isn't true. At some point I have to say, "enough,"
because part of my job is deciding when enough is
As parents, we tend to feel guilty if we don't fulfill our
kids' wishes, especially if the kids cry or get angry, or if we're
trying to make up for something we feel we aren't doing. Saying no
can be hard for me, too; I am not immune to guilt. But I also know
that my child cannot make me feel guilty. It's something I have to
choose to feel.
My daughter's desires are developmentally appropriate; I
don't think she is greedy or trying to "manipulate" me. She is
simply being a little girl and asking for what she wants. I respect
her ability to ask, but she doesn't always get what she asks for.
It can be difficult for her to hear "no" and "enough," but that
doesn't mean I won't say it.
I spend time with my daughter every day, I listen to her
when she needs to talk, I look her in the eye so she knows I am
listening, and I validate her feelings and acknowledge her desires.
I hug her, love her and take care of her.
And at some point I say "enough," for her benefit and for
mine. I say no because she needs boundaries; they create structure
and, unbeknownst to her, they provide a sense of safety. And I say
"no" so I don't end up resenting her needs. I won't allow her young
desires to put a strain on our relationship.
I have no desire to make her feel guilty for her
neediness, and I have no desire to carry guilt for not fulfilling
Instead, I say "enough" when it has been enough, and I
console her if she is upset or angry about my decision. This is how
I love and respect my daughter, and this is how I teach her to love
and respect herself.
Cathy Adams, a certified parent coach, is the author of the Self Aware Paernt blog at ChicagoParent.com.
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