I meet a lot of very concerned and well-meaning parents whose lives are completely dictated by their children’s whims and fancies. They run from pillar to post satisfying their children’s demands. It could range from getting the latest mobile, video game to staying out late at a party.

Lets admit it. Kids are the best experts on their parents. They know what buttons to press, when and for how long before their hapless parents cave in. It is tough to say No and stick to it. Especially when we are faced with heavy artillery of high-powered tantrum of a toddler, pestering power of a 10 year old or an “I don’t care what you say” attitude of a teenager. We all have at times given into a tantrum for the sake of peace at home.

And what is the harm you might say? If I can afford it then why can I not buy the best for my child? The problem is that your child might not get a healthy dose of Vitamin No, which is essential to build muscles of self-control and responsibility. Not only this, studies have clearly indicated that self-discipline is twice as important as intelligence in predicting school success.

I remember meeting this amazingly intelligent 12 year old boy, Vishal, who was just running his helpless parents down with his wilful behaviour from eating only junk food, demanding money, watching TV excessively, and refusing to go to school. Any attempt on parents’ part to discipline was met with a fit of temper. The parents came to meet me to understand the “deep-rooted cause” for their child’s behaviour. The answer was quite simple to me. This boy was doing all this because he could get away with it. All the parents needed to understand was that they had to reclaim the power and establish clear limits and boundaries.

Limits give children a sense of safety and security that there are responsible adults who are strong enough to take a stand and not buckle under pressure. And chances are high that in a society obsessed with instant gratification, when faced with difficult options they would be able to regulate their impulse and make intelligent choices in later life. On the other hand, a child who does not learn to manage his/her pleasures will be controlled by it.

At the end of the day, it is a kids’ job to test the boundaries and limits placed on them and it is our job as adults to feel empowered enough to say a clear and calm No. Not because we do not care but we do deeply enough to take the tougher option when necessary.

Try to

  • Explain the reason for your stand to the kids.
  • Be convinced yourself before you say No. Kids can easily make out the uncertainty or guilt in your voice and play on it.
  • Stay calm and respectful when you are saying a No.
  • Tell the child what to do, instead of what not to do all the time to encourage constructive behaviour. So if your toddler has taken to tearing magazines and books then rather than constantly hounding her with a “No, No”, take out a pile of old magazines and let her tear out pictures from there and keep your other magazines out of her range.
  • Be understanding if they find it difficult to accept a No (its tough for all of us) but explain to them that you are just doing your job as a responsible parent.
  • Make sure you are having enough fun, playful times with your children and staying emotionally connected
  • Be a good role model. If your child watches you being self disciplined in your lifestyle then he/she will not resent it.
  • Let some limits be negotiable as long as long as they are done with the spirit of reasoning out. If your teenager wants to stay out a little later as it his friends birthday then after discussion and work out a reasonable time.


  • Letting it turn into a battleground of power. Children find it difficult to understand the logic behind, “Because I say so”. Irrational rules can make children. rebellious and resentful. Then they might go behind your back or start lying to get what they want.
  • Getting carried away with too many Nos. Keep a balanced approach where the limits are clearly defined.
  • Using a No to public ally humiliate them or as a “put down” or building fear in them. This could alienate them further and make them see you as being unreasonable and dictatorial. Not only would this damage your relationship with them but also impact the way they relate to authority in future.

Basically don’t say yes when you need to say No!

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