5 Tips To Say “No” To Your Teen Without Feeling Guilty!
As I continue my parenting journey with my two teenage daughters, the challenge on how to say no continues. As a matter of fact, I just faced one a couple of days back & my husband and I had a long discussion again on what is the right approach. The irony is that there is no right approach, as every child is different. One cannot force-fit the same solution for all teens. Even though they are siblings.
My elder teen is 16, and the younger one is 13, and they both are like chalk & cheese. So very different in their attitudes, choices and reactions. Hence what works for one may not necessarily work for the other. Therefore when I say no to one, I may not need to give a detailed explanation in some cases, while the other will demand an hour-long explanation. This may result in some heartburn with usual acquisitions of me being an overprotective mom. And of course, the melodrama of how as parents, we must trust our teens and not question their intentions is how it all culminates.
I am sure all of you who are raising teens are facing the same issues and finding new, innovative ways to “say No” to our teens. Sometimes I feel parents should be awarded for their innovation streak which comes out of this necessary compulsion. Jokes apart, we parents don’t want to break our teen’s hearts. But at the same time, we don’t want to raise teens who take things for granted and are not used to things not happening their way.
The VUCA World
As parents, we must understand that today’s kids are living in what I call a “VUCA” world. I define “VUCA” as:
V- VOLATILE– Liable to display rapid changes of emotion depending on whether the internet speed is acceptable or they have the expected “Likes” on the social media posts.
U- UNCERTAIN– of what they want to do or where their priorities lie. These change every day due to the exposure to social media, influencers, and friends & of course the ever-cautious parents.
C- Our kids certainly live in more COMPLEX times than us as a result of a plethora of choices to follow, from clothes to career to numerous online challenges.. with social media dictating how one should eat sleep dress and most importantly live our lives. Terms like Cyber Bullying, FOMO, Body-Shaming & Imposter Syndrome are things happening in our world & maybe closer to home.
A- We live in times that are in many ways, AMBIGUOUS. Maybe that’s why kids want precision in what they read, hear & expect – they don’t like that moral ambiguity. But we as parents are still transitioning from the morals of yesterday to the realities of today. That’s where the conflict arises. Therefore all their choices, questions, likes & dislikes are influenced by this complex world.
Therefore when we react to our teens, we must keep this background in mind. My husband & I are strong proponents of “Reverse Parenting” Approach. To know more about this, I recommend going through my blog on Powerful Parenting that will make your Teen Soar. The Reverse Parenting approach ensures that we know the pulse of what are teens are thinking & we do a course correction mid-way if required. This approach helps us to relate with them better and probably be more empathetic while saying No. Does this mean we succeed always? Definitely no, but it does build a healthy ecosystem of communication in the house.
Another good read is this article which gives insight into how the Teens of today are different from past generations. And hence our approach towards handling them should also change.
How to Say “NO” to Your Teens without breaking their heart!
Well, at least you can try. Please note this approach may require tweaking from time to time based on the moods (Yours & Your Teens), the intensity of the issue on hand & sometimes as simple as the time of the day.
Don’t Say “NO” Instantly
In the era of instant noodles and instant gratification, you don’t need to give a reply instantly. Hear your teen out and seek time to revert. This will be tough as today’s teens require immediate answers (in their favour). I usually say that I need time to think over & in some cases discuss with her Dad and revert. And that’s actually true. The world has changed from the times we were teens. We cannot wear the same lenses and analyse the situation as per our times. Sometimes a little bit of thought may change your No to a Yes.
Case Study 1 – My daughter wants to try her had on Insta marketing, where she endorses some products on her Instagram handle. If people use her code, she earns her share. In my times, something like this did not exist as there were no social media. And our prime focus was on studies. But now, thanks to Tik Tok, many of today’s teens have become instant celebrities & influencers. Thus encouraging other teens to use these platforms for their gains.
So when my daughter approached me to try this out, I took my time and told her very clearly that this is new for me and I need to to think. Needless to say, I had to face a barrage of “whys”, “what’s the harm”, “I need to start somewhere”. But I took my time, and finally said yes with the condition that it should not become a habit & should not impact her grades.
Another advantage of delaying the inevitable “No” is that your teen may herself decide not to pursue that option. Teens have a very fickle mind and they change their mind quite frequently. Sometimes things may just settle down in their due course without you being the bad cop. If they don’t, then it certainly requires some thought from your side.
Read on for what you can do next.
Many-a- times suggesting alternatives can be a good strategy instead of directly saying NO. This is possible if you are ok in principle with what your teen is asking for. But you don’t agree with the options being presented.
Case Study 2- My daughter wanted to spend time with one of her best friends who is changing school this semester. Fair request. Their group of friends wanted to meet in the malls & roam around which I felt was not necessary every time. I suggested that they are welcome to spend time at our place and this can be done in rotation if all parents are comfortable. They can, of course, go out a few times but not every time.
My daughter agreed to this with some reluctance, but after a few meetings, they realised this was more fun. As they could chit chat, bake, see Netflix and spend hours together with no annoying phone calls from parents.
But again this may not work every time, so as parents, we also need to keep our thinking hat on for more alternatives.
There is something that we also need at this time. Read on.
The hardest part about raising teenagers is trying to respond to their behaviour like a grown-up. And this becomes evident when we also try to get instant concurrence from them on our suggestions. Our teen will not be thrilled and take up our recommendation immediately. This entire process is what I termed as a “Cycle of Acceptance”. Its starts with Immediate Rejection to Cautious Consideration to Critical evaluation & finally Obliging Acceptance. And as parents, we need to be very patient while our teen goes through this emotional acceptance cycle.
The same is true for the smallest of things like where to celebrate her birthday to allowing her to go out late with her friends. I do have a case study on the birthday bit.
Case Study 3- Like any other teen, the discussion for my daughter’s 15th birthday started two months in advance. There was a daily debate on the venue, cuisine, number of people and the activities. As parents, we gave her all the options which were probably different from her wish list. We, of course, shared the pros & cons of all the options.
The final choice was left with her. She went through this entire cycle of acceptance.
The outcome was what we wanted with some of her wishlist thrown in. Therefore it was a win-win for both.
If the answer is no even after so much deliberation, then we have to decide the next course of action based on the actual issue on hand.
Negotiate with Your Teen
Yes, however harsh it may sound, you will have to do it sometimes.
Case Study 4 – My elder daughter wanted to do a sleepover at her friend’s place for a long time. But I had put a condition that she needs to be at least 15 before she does that. My logic was simple. She needs to be old enough to take care of herself and understand the people around her. I came under tremendous pressure from her as all her friends were allowed. And I was apparently the odd mom out.
I think in today’s world, there is no right or wrong, and it’s all based on our value systems & beliefs. Therefore it sometimes becomes difficult to justify certain things to your teens which are based on your values systems. God knows how many times I have tried to answer the question “why is it inappropriate?”
So coming back to negotiation, this can be short term or long term. Long term is as I mentioned above. Short term can be as simple as you need to finish your work before you can do certain things. Or I need to see you act responsibly before I say “Yes”. Like this, you are giving hope to your teen that you are willing to listen to her point of view. And you both can meet mid-way on the requirement.
Good Cop Bad Cop
You don’t have to be the Bad cop always, and sometimes you ask your spouse to play the role. Maybe you are the one who says No every time, and therefore your teen does not respect it anymore. So direct your teen to talk to the other parent. As a mother, I encourage this as it brings in a different point of view. It also helps the teens bond with their Dad. And if Dad gives some leeways, at least I cannot be blamed for :-). Jokes apart, it does give me a breather from taking individual decisions which I am not sure. However, the important thing is that we both as parents give the same message across to our teens. The last thing you want is your teen playing one against the other, which sometimes is possible, in all innocence, of course.
The above list is not exhaustive, but some of the tips that have worked for us. We still have a long way to go, and every day is a new day. And yes there have been times that none of the above worked, and we have given in. And there are two reasons for this approach.
Firstly, I feel we can say NO for so many reasons and occasions. So we have to weigh our options and choose the lesser evil and say yes sometimes. Keep the “Nos” for times when you will need it more. You cannot be seen as a “NO” parent all the time. Play your cards wisely so that your Nos are respected and not taken as a Norm.
Secondly, sometimes we let them make mistakes as long as the outcome will not harm them emotionally or physically. But will teach them a few things which will be valuable lessons for life. There is nothing like self-realisation which will stay with them forever.
So next time you have to say No to your teen, try these tips out.
These Tips will allow you to say NO without feeling the guilt of breaking your teen’s heart!
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