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 enough.
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 her wishes.
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.