Why We Give In to Our Kids

say what you mean

“Mommy, can I watch one more show?”

“But please Mom, can I just have one more piece of candy?”

“Can I have a sleepover tonight? Her mom said it was okay! You said last weekend that maybe we could do it this weekend!”

Sound familiar? Kids want things, and they instinctively know how to beg. As they get older, they also learn what I call “creative reasoning skills.” I like to believe that when they are adults, these skills will be put to good use. Maybe someday, they will lobby for people’s rights or defend innocent victims in court or explain why their invention can change the world. But for now, these skills are bent on getting candy, screen time, play time, and sleepovers. And they often work.

I don’t intend on being a pushover. I certainly don’t see myself that way. Matthew 5:37 says, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” But more often than not, what begins as a “NO” turns into a “MAYBE” and then, in the end, a “FINE!” Now there are times when the situation calls for a little grace. We may come to the realization that changing our “No” to a “Yes” is the right thing to do. And that is okay too. But when we are constantly changing our answer, kids catch on, and every request becomes a battle.

The good news is that you can turn things around. It begins by recognizing why we give into our kids. Here are five reasons:

1. We are tired of being asked.

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” In other words, they wear us down with persistence. We just want them to be quiet and stop asking.

2. We are convinced otherwise.

They have reasons…so many reasons (these young lawyers in training)! Eventually, we are persuaded. My 12-year old convinced me the other day to allow more time on a certain phone app because I was brushing the tangles out of her hair, and it’s so painful that she needed the app to get her mind off of it.

3. We are guilted into it.

They bring up past offenses or reasons why they “deserve” it. Kids have a memory like a steel trap when they want to. They will recall eight Sundays ago when you said, “We can have more sleepovers in the summertime.” They will bring up exactly how many times their sibling has had a sleepover over the past six months, and therefore, you owe them two sleepovers.

4. We don’t have the energy to fight it.

Simply, sometimes we are so run down from the day that we feel we don’t have it in us to be firm. We just want to survive the day, and so we take the easy road.

5. We love seeing them happy and satisfied.

This is probably the most common reason we give in, and it comes with good intentions. It feels good to say “Yes” and see smiles on their faces! And, we love to give them the things they want. If they’re happy, we’re happy.

If you are guilty of any of these reasons, know you aren’t alone. You simply need some fuel for your “No” fire. A scripture that encourages me when I have to say no is Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Giving and receiving a “No” doesn’t feel good in the moment, but it is best in the long run. It is an opportunity to develop character, patience, peace, and honor. It is a chance for kids to learn what is right in that situation. (That doesn’t mean they are going to like it.)

Here are some practical tips for when you have to say no:

  • Think about your answer before you let it out of your mouth. Think about your reasons. Perhaps talk it over with your spouse or another adult. Be sure of your answer.
  • Say “No” matter-of-factly and without confrontation. Take the indignation or exasperation out of your voice.
  • Expect kick-back at first. Whining, crying, pouting, and arguing will likely happen. Don’t let it rock you. As you continue to be consistent with your answers, this will decrease.
  • Do something else. Don’t wait around for an argument. You can even say, “Let’s talk about this later when you’re calm.” Then leave the room.

What’s tempting you to always say yes?