10 ways to help your child take “no” for an answer

take no for answer

Mummy, I want bread.

Mummy, I want some OJ.

Mummy, can I have some yoghurt?

Mummy, can we play for 10 more minutes? (And this is after they’ve already extended for 10 minutes.)

Mummy, this, mummy, that… By the time you’re at request no.235 for the day, the word “no” is already ringing in your head. But wait, hold yourself back, breathe, and read this post first. Here are some tips on how to help your child accept “no” without throwing a tantrum.

1. Don’t use “no” upfront.

Usually when you start with the NO, all they hear is the NO, and then the bawling begins and no amount of logic or reasoning will help.

Instead, try stating the reason or the context first. For instance, “We are in a crowded place, and it’s dangerous for you to play running games here. So I need you to stop now, and we can continue playing later.” (Did I use the word “no” in that at all? No!)

2. Focus on the positive.

For example, “I can’t give you what you want right now, BUT after your nap, we can eat some cookies together! How does that sound?” Or try phrasing it in the positive. Instead of no, no, no, or don’t, don’t, don’t all the time, try positively-worded instructions like be gentle, be kind, be courteous, be friendly, be helpful. You just might be surprised!

3. Rely on routines or established schedules.

For example, “It’s lunch-time now, but you can go to the playground in the evening, which is when we usually go.”

4. Reach an agreement beforehand.

If it’s bedtime and your child tends to drag it (Which kid doesn’t really?), agree on the number of books you will read at bedtime before it’s time to go to bed. Then if your child still protests, remind him of the agreement and the importance of keeping his word. If your child tends to lose it when it’s time to go home after a nice outing, reach an agreement on the time that you’ll be spending at the activity before heading home. That way, you minimise the chance of having a you-against-me battle when going home; just follow the agreed schedule.

5. Practise empathy and acknowledge his feelings.

Acknowledge his feelings, say “I know you’d really like to stay on and play because it’s so super fun here.” OR “I can see you’re upset because you can’t have those strawberries right now, and I know you love yummy strawberries. When I’ve finished the chores, we’ll go to the supermarket together and grab the biggest punnet okay?” Follow on with hug and kisses.

6. Use your body language.

When you have to say no to your child’s request, don’t shout it from across the room where you’re busy doing the dishes. Especially when your child has taken the pains to come to you, and ask – you know that it means something to him. You’ve got to be physically close to your child, even kneeling so that you’re at his eye level. This will help him to be more receptive to the rejection, and be more willing to accept the reason / logic behind it.

7. Be consistent.

All the tips here will work a lot harder for you, if you’ve worked hard at enforcing clear consistent rules. No eating after brushing teeth. (If you really have to eat, then you’ve got to brush again.) No snatching things from each other, otherwise the toy goes straight into the storeroom. No calling each other names. Consistency is key, when helping a child differentiate what’s right from what’s wrong.

8. Call upon a super-hero.

JJ’s favourite super-heroes are spiderman and batman. Occasionally they come to our rescue when we get stuck in a battle of wills. “JJ, spiderman wouldn’t throw a tantrum because he doesn’t get a banana, you know? He’s too busy fighting the bad guys!” It usually works to distract him, or at least to release the tension in the room. (Sometimes…I can almost see him stop and think about what his fav hero would do.)

9. Sometimes they just need a reminder.

Especially if it’s something that you’ve already told your child multiple times and she already knows what not to do. For example, no eating after brushing your teeth. Instead of scolding them (“Don’t be silly, NO EATING after you’ve brushed your teeth.”) You can just remind them, “But sweetie, you’ve brushed your teeth, haven’t you?” Then wait.

They will usually get it pretty quickly, as long as the rule has been enforced consistently.

10. Say “yes” often.

Make it a point to say yes often, especially when it’s something that you don’t actually have a strong case for turning down. You know, the extra two minutes at the playground, or that occasional ice-cream for dessert. You don’t want your child to remember you as the boring EVERYTHING-ALSO-NO-mom.

There are of course certain situations when we have to use a direct and loud “No.” For instance, if your child starts to run across the street, you’d be yelling “No!” while simultaneously grabbing him off the road. But for most day-to-day situations, there are gentler ways to get them over the bumps.

If you’ve found this post helpful, do share it with your friends!

For more ideas on how to deal with tantrums and difficult behaviour, do check out our “Raising a Resilient Child” workshop in October!

Little Lessons: Parents need to be good listeners

I came across this quote recently:

“We often think that if we are able to successfully express our thoughts and feelings to another person, we are good communicators. We think that if we talk to our children about God’s righteous ways, we are teaching them and reaching them through communication. However, truly beneficial communication is based not only on the ability to talk, but also on the ability to listen.”  

Me? Guilty.

Guilty of trying to talk TO my child, instead of talking WITH.

Guilty of being too fast to speak and too slow to listen.

Guilty of thinking I know it all. So I don’t have to listen.

I even get smug after speaking my peace, but if you actually dig deeper beyond the surface, the true heart-to-heart connection is missing.

One day, Vera was being a little uncooperative while getting ready for school.

Without talking to her first and understanding the reasons behind her behaviour, I jumped to the conclusion that she was just being difficult. I slipped into my chiding tone of voice and then a few seconds later caught myself and tried to change tack. It was too late. She already clammed up and just refused to share what was in her little mind. So I gave up, and asked daddy to take over.

When daddy went to talk to her, she told him after a few minutes that she didn’t want to go to school because “teacher keep asking me to write small letters.”

Turns out she was a little put off because she felt she wasn’t good at it. (She’s used to practising block letters at home, and we have not spent much time on writing small letters.)

When I found out from daddy later, I was both relieved and ashamed. Relieved that this was something we could deal with together, now that we know what’s going on. Ashamed because I had jumped to my own conclusion that she was just being unreasonable…

Sometimes I slip into this I’m-your-mum-so-I-know-it-all mode. But what a lesson I received in the importance of loving and listening.

I’m determined to listen more, encourage them to share their feelings more, and assume less. Will you join me too?

art of listening

This is the third post of the Little Lessons series – because as parents we are constantly growing and learning along with our kids. If you want to follow the entire series, you’ll find each new post listed here every week.

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7 things my marriage has taught me

I’ve been married to the man for about five years now. All in all, when I look back, I feel like we’ve been on the fast track almost all the way. After being married for barely three months, we found out that I was pregnant with Vera. Soon after that, JJ happened. And now bun number three is in the oven.

(Yah I know we’ve been richly blessed in such a way, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but boy sometimes I do wonder “what if” things didn’t happen so quickly…)

But you know there IS good in all the change and challenges. We’ve been forced to move beyond our selfish wants and desires, in order to meet the needs of family. (If there’s something that can make a person less selfish almost overnight, it’s got to be parenthood.)

But I digress…Here are a few things that my marriage has taught me over the past few years of transition.

1) In order for the marriage relationship to thrive, we need to move from a “me” to “we” mindset

We all enter into this relationship with a tendency to focus on our needs, not on the other party. I honestly believe it will take a lifetime of training before we can confidently say that we are truly other-centred.

But if we start each day asking ourselves, how can I serve my spouse today, we are off to a good start to this lifelong journey of learning and moulding. Don’t you think?

2) Flaws are meant to be overcome, not ignored

Early in my marriage, I realised that I had plenty of insecurities to deal with. I was possessive over my husband’s time and practically wanted to monopolise every minute that he had.

Needless to say, we were quarrelling over little things because of the missed expectations. The poor man could barely understand why I got vexed whenever he made appointments without consulting me.

I had to come clean with my innermost feelings and insecurities, and communicate them to him in such a way that we could work out a suitable compromise.

He tried to take steps to let me know early whenever he made plans. I also came to understand why he needs his personal space, and how that actually works for our benefit.

It wasn’t always smooth-sailing, but as I consciously prevented those niggling doubts from taking hold and sowed trust into the relationship, things got more manageable.

Change begins from me. When we make the effort to grow individually as a person, the benefits that we bring to the marriage partnership flow many times over.

3) No one knows your feelings until you voice them out

However well you think you understand each other, or however strong your intuition may be, it’s still best to not make our own assumptions, and to hear from the horse’s mouth.

I learnt that my husband was often clueless about how I felt, even when I showed signs of “obvious” displeasure at certain things he said or did. That’s when I realised I should never assume that he understands how I feel, and that all I need to do is to find the right time to share my feelings with him.

4) It’s always good to check your love tank

Each one of us has an emotional love tank. Some of us need quality time and words of affirmation to top it up. Others need acts of service or gifts or lots of hugs and cuddles to keep it filled. Whatever works, it’s best to know when we’re running low, and to express your needs to your spouse.

We can all take a page from The love dare:

“Love, however, is your primary responsibility in marriage. Did you not vow to a lifelong love at the altar? Are you not the one God has privileged to fill your mate’s love tank? And remember this: when your spouse deserves your love the least, that’s when they need your love the most. No one on earth is more strategically positioned, commanded, and called on to love your spouse than you are.”

5) Even if you’re not in the wrong, you can still take the initiative to make up

Saying sorry isn’t only the prerogative of the person at fault. When there’s a quarrel, usually both parties are at fault in some way anyway, so just go ahead, swallow your pride and take that first step.

Try not to let the anger seeth in you, or to use other events as convenient excuses to vent and lash out. I find the sooner we deal with it, and at a time when both of u are calm and less emotional, the better.

6) We need to make couple time happen

Time for ourselves doesn’t automatically happen these days, especially after kids.

We make it a point to call for time-out, relax at a new cafe (or an old favourite one) and share the things that we’ve learnt at work, or from books we’ve read, or the things that are causing us worry and stress.

Sometimes we also go on a couple jog or walk, which allows us to keep healthy and tune in to each other at the same time.

From time to time, we do embark on couple devotional books (admittedly a lot less now as we’re both caught up with work and family). Such books are useful as they serve to remind us of our joint purpose, and suggest practical ways to enhance the relationship, or to tackle certain problems.

7) Respect is paramount to the man

Ask any man what’s most important to him, and you’l probably get the same answer. The reason why men are created to strive, to pursue, to attain achievements at work, is because of their God-given need for respect and significance.

At home, give him the respect he deserves (even when he does not deserve it), and help your children do the same. He will appreciate you all the more for it.

What is one thing that your marriage has taught you?


Communication with toddlers 101

It recently hit me. The realisation that I sometimes act like a military mum at home.

Vera, pick up your toys!

Vera, brush your teeth!

Vera, go to sleep now!

Hup, two, three, four, hup!

I sometimes secretly wish I could get her to drop 10 for me. Ahh, the unspoken thrills of a military mum.

I know I sound a bit smug, to think that I can wield this sort of power over my child. But guess what… I think I actually stop communicating with her when I go into this mode. I can even see her eyes glazing over, or switching attention to something else (anything for that matter). She may after some minutes comply with the instruction, but mostly when she catches mummy’s signature I-mean-business look.

But what do I mean when I say I stop communicating?

A close friend of mine recently shared with me what she picked up from a communications course. She shared that most of us are used to communicating as a means to an end — what we call task-oriented communication — as part and parcel of the busy lives we have grown accustomed to.

In the process of seeing communication as a means to get things done, we forget that communication, at its most basic, is all about loving and building relationships.

Particularly so in the home, and with our kids. If we only communicate when we need them to do something, and neglect that part of communication that is love-originated, and love-focused, can you imagine how our relationship with our children will be like?

Don’t get me wrong, I know rules and regulations have their place, that our kids need to learn obedience and to take on greater amounts of responsibilities as they grow. But in the midst of that, perhaps it’s good to call time-out everyday — just to love and to communicate out of that love.

No strings attached.

Unconditional love. Unconditional communication. Essentially, communication that is centred on the other person — my child. And usually, no words are required. More like a hug. Or two. Or just sitting beside her, watching her draw or fix a puzzle. That’s all I really need to do. The challenge is to be fully present, and I mean hundred percent, not multi-tasking or trying to reply whatsapp messages at the same time.

It’s hard, I know. Every fibre of my being screams out “I need to do ____ now, I can’t just sit here and not do anything!”

But it can be done. If we intentionally set aside time and energy to be fully available. It could even start with a few simple minutes a day, at a time when you feel most relaxed and unencumbered by your to-do list.

I don’t know about you, but the next time I’m tempted to do the military mum thing, I will come back to this quote.

100 ways to say I love you

It’s Thanksgiving Day today. And what better to say ‘Thank you’ to our spouses and loved ones than by loving them?

Here’s a list I recently came across of 100 ways to love your husband his way. We often love the way we want to be loved. However…often ‘our way’ may differ from ‘his way’. For example, a woman likes to express and receive love by communicating and sharing about our feelings. But a man may prefer to express and receive love by doing fun things together. (I guess this is a common stereotype, but it may hold some truth.)

I won’t copy and paste the entire list here. But here are 15 ways that really spoke to me.

  1. Respectfully communicate with him.
  2. Protect his dignity on a daily basis.
  3. Foster an atmosphere of laughter in your home. Look for ways to laugh together.
  4. When you go out on a date together don’t bring up problems—have fun instead.
  5. Focus on what he’s doing right, instead of focusing so often on the negatives.
  6. Give him special time with you apart from the children.
  7. Give him time to unwind after he gets home from work. Your evenings will be much more enjoyable.
  8. Be creative when you express your love, both in words and in actions.
  9. Talk with him about having specific family goals for each year to achieve together to feel closer as a marital team.
  10. Extend God’s grace to him and be forgiving when he offends you.
  11. Give him time to be alone. (This energizes him to reconnect at other times.)
  12. Tell him how proud you are of him for who he is (giving him specific reasons).
  13. Give advice in a loving way — not in a nagging or belittling way.
  14. Honor him in front of the children (differ respectfully in private when necessary).
  15. Look your best—dress to honor him and make him proud to be seen with you.

Takeaways for me:

– Respect him and protect his dignity (Part and parcel of giving your man the honor he deserves in the home and out.)

– Focus on laughter and having fun together (This should be easy, hmm, but why is it that sometimes we digress from fun to ‘get things done’?)

– Focus on his strengths and build him up (Need to do this more consciously.)

– Give him time with me, and to be alone  (Now we hardly have time alone together, except at night when the kids are asleep. Which is another reason why I am thankful the kids are usually down by 8.30pm.)

– Don’t nag (Guilty.)

– Forgive (Can’t do this often enough.)

– Look my best (I struggle with this one, now that I feel like I have absolutely no time to myself. Excuses, excuses.)

Which ways of loving are most relevant to you, and which is the one you find the hardest?  

Btw, there’s a ‘100 ways to love your wife‘ too. Print this out for your man yeah? 😉

Happy Thanksgiving!

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