The difference between a loving limit and saying, no
I wonder how you feel when you say no to your child? What comes up when you respond with words like the ones I have written or similar ones:
“No, you can’t have that”
“We can’t go there” or,
“No, I’m not willing to buy you that”.
Maybe you feel guilty or harsh and worry about their disappointment. Maybe thoughts arise along the lines that they are spoilt or ungrateful when they keep asking.
Some of these feelings and thoughts may come from society and others may come from times when you were younger and were responded to harshly when you asked for something you really needed or wanted.
Maybe sometimes you say yes when you actually want to say no and then feel resentful. Or you could even feel frustrated because after you have said yes to one thing your child immediately wants something else and it may feel like they are ungrateful.
Ultimately, we want our children to be happy and maybe by saying yes, you feel you are helping them feel happier. Whatever feelings and thoughts are coming up for you as you read this, I want to send so much love and empathy to them.
In my experience, knowing the following can help you gently navigate how and when to say yes and when saying no might actually be more useful for your child.
I wonder if it’s helpful to know that when a child is asking for something in a more frantic or desperate way, it may not be about what they appear to be wanting (which could be sweets, screen time, a toy, or a dummy), it may be more about a control pattern which is used to suppress emotions that are bubbling up.
I know even as an adult who has done a lot of personal work that at times I will still reach for a chocolate or want to start scrolling on Facebook or some other social media platform when I have strong feelings. Maybe while reading this you have become aware of ways you use external things to suppress your own emotions.
When children are using a control pattern, their request for something will often have a different energy about it. This can be a helpful sign for a parent that your lovely child requires some empathetic listening. When your child is requesting something as part of a control pattern it means their emotions are close to the surface. These emotions will mostly be about previous fears, frustrations, and hurts.
It might be helpful then to set a loving limit for your child and say no. When we say no at these times it is not to end a behavior or stop your child from getting something, it is about giving them the opportunity to release the emotions that your child needs to release.
When you say no your child may then cry, scream, and tantrum about not getting what they were asking for and I encourage you as a parent to really listen to whatever it is they are saying with deep empathy.
It is very important that when you set a loving limit that you as a parent feel well-resourced to be able to listen to what comes up for your child. You can say “I really hear how much you want that toy and how beautiful it is”, “I see how upset you are that you can’t get it and Mummy or Daddy is not willing to buy, get or do that for your right now”.
After you have set a loving limit and your child has stopped crying or tantruming I firstly recommend noticing what your child is like. Are they calmer, more connected and do they seem happier with life? I believe this kind of feedback can be really helpful, especially for parents that are new to listening to their children’s emotions.
Secondly, when deciding whether to say yes or no, it is important to listen to yourself. Do you want to get or do this for your child? Your child will feel at a somatic level whether you are willing or not.
If you stay aligned with what you are willing to do, your child will learn to trust their own somatic sense of the world. They will know what they sense about others is correct. They will also learn that it is ok to say no to people when they don’t want to do something and that looking after yourself is important.
When you can say no to something that you are not willing to do with your child, they will also learn that you are able to look after yourself and set your own limits. When your child reaches adulthood, they will be comfortable asking for what they need and are likely to trust that others have the capacity to look after their own needs.
There are, of course, other aspects that influence this capacity, however, learning to listen to what you are willing to give your child when they ask for things and accurately responding to your child will be of great help to them later in life.
I hope reading this was helpful. I wonder if you would like some help processing any feelings or thoughts that may have surfaced or whether you would like some support and listening time?
If so, please contact me to book a session – I would love to be able to help. You can contact me here through my website or through my Facebook page. If you would like to know more about my work, and me, please feel free to browse what I do. Much love, Megan