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The Power of Parents Who Say 'No' - Speakeasy

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The Power of Parents Who Say ‘No’
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The Family Coach
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By Catherine Pearlman
Scene from “Modern Family.”
ABC
ugg I grew up in an affluent area. Most kids owned multiple Cabbage Patch dolls and Gear bags and pairs of Jordache jeans (not to mention the beloved Atari 2600). I certainly had enough, but it felt like all of my peers possessed more. I wanted Benetton sweaters and a cool bike. I wanted to take trips to Mexico over Christmas break and come back with a bronze tan. I wanted to impress people with a fancy car, not the red Datsun 510 parked in our driveway.
flowergirl gowns As I got older, I didn’t merely crave material items—I wanted freedom. On weekends, my friends’ parents left them alone in their apartments while they went elsewhere. I was never left unattended until I went to college. My friends had no curfew. I had to be home by midnight. Plus, my mom watched me like a hawk.
ugg cheap As a teenager, I felt humiliated, uncool, and angry. Why couldn’t my mom just be like the other parents? In my world, one was popular if she had the right haircut and could stay out late. My mom, however, refused to budge. She stuck to her guns, and I begrudged her throughout my adolescence.
ugg cheap Fast-forward some 25 years. Now I’m the parent and I get to decide the rules. Do I buy Uggs for my preschooler? Should my fifth grader get the new iPhone 5? Will I allow my daughter to walk home from school with the other kids? Is she old enough to roam the mall solo?
ugg boots It isn’t especially hard for my husband and me to decide what we think are the right choices for our children. No, the challenge is having to deal with the unhappy child when he/she doesn’t get what he/she wants, especially when the other kids do.
uggs on sale cheap As a parent, this battle has been going on a long time. In her pre-school class, several of my daughter’s little friends wore Ugg boots. When I got a hand-me-down knock-off pair, my daughter turned up her nose. “These aren’t Uggs,” she snapped. ”
“Huh?” I said.
Her response floored me. “Real Uggs have the name on the back. The kids in school told me mine aren’t real.”
This was hardly an aberration. Were I to record a montage of my children’s responses after hearing the word ‘No,’ it would sound something like this: “But why can’t we watch YouTube videos? Why can’t I have a cell phone? Why can’t I have my fifth dessert? Why can’t we drink soda, have a video game, stay up later, join the country club, … ” Inevitably the response to my retort is, “But all the other kids are allowed.”
When my kids were young, it was a manageable backlash. But now, as they age, the pressure to fit in grows exponentially and so does the parenting pressure. Sometimes I just want to take the easy route. I want to give in. Parenting is exhausting and why fight the little stuff? But then I realize, not being able to stand my ground on soda will make it so much harder to hang tough about the bigger issues like Internet safety and dating.
Although I couldn’t see it as a child, I now realize how amazing my mom was all those years ago. She knew what she thought was best and she didn’t care if I hated her for it. That’s strong parenting.
My childhood disappointments and restrictions actually taught me valuable life lessons that I am trying to pass on to my kids.
Not getting every fad item taught me to work to afford what I wanted. I also learned to budget my money. Often once my mom said no, I realized I didn’t really want the item that badly. As an adult, I still don’t need a lot of “in” things. I much prefer to save my money for something I really want or need.
I learned that even though some kids had all the stuff and freedoms I craved, they came at a price. People sometimes make poor choices with money. They buy things they can’t really afford and run up large debts so they can fit in.
Lastly, I learned that having every desired item doesn’t me one happy. There are other ways for me to be fulfilled. I am gratified by working, helping a neighbor, being a good friend, cooking, drawing with chalk in the driveway, and playing the piano beside my daughter. I think this kind of happiness was learned in childhood.
The peer pressure your child encounters in school to have the “in” item or the latest technology or the most freedom turns into parenting peer pressure. What is hardest for me is that I know how my children will feel when I say no. It hurts. They won’t understand it. They will be angry and will direct that at me.
I just have to remind myself that sometimes the best lessons are the most painful.
Catherine Pearlman is a social worker who also works as an assistant professor at the College of New Rochelle. She’s the founder of The Family Coach, a business that specializes in helping families resolve everyday problems. She blogs on parenting at www.thefamilycoach.com , and Tweets at @thefamilycoach
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