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Just a Guy Wishing His Kids Said "Yes"

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What happened to kids listening to their parents?

Father and son talking

Bruce Sallan: It seems whatever I ask my boys to do, the response is always some sort of "no," whether it be questioning why I won't do it myself or saying "later." Am I missing something, or have I just become a total wimp of a dad?

When did it become OK to disobey our parents with relative impunity? I guess when we boomers became parents and began spoiling our kids by giving them everything they wanted.

A friend suggested a great response the next time I get questioned about something I ask them to do: say I won't pay for their things anymore. I won't take them to their friend's house next time they ask, and forget about ever getting to use my car or asking me to pay for gas or going to the movies. Good response. Why didn't I think of that?

I even thought of myself as somewhat strict until I got a bit of self-awareness and realized my 12-year-old rarely ever just said "yes." I was so inured to the "no"s that I either negotiated or did it myself. Yipes, how did I become such a doormat?

My excuse has been some guilt over my divorce and the absence of their mom in their lives (her choice). But, their step-mom is wonderful, and who doesn't have some hurdles to overcome in their lives? My boys are blessed in many, many ways.

So, the truth is, I have no excuse. I better start being the best parent I can be, vs. seeking to be my kids' best friend. But, what do I know; I'm just a guy.

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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
denise August 8, 2009, 1:38 PM

Bruce, you’ve got to stop watching my house! My son seems to have completely forgotten the word “yes” unless it’s to go buy him something. As a single mom, it’s so tiring. Any active suggestions? And, next time you come and observe, just knock and I’ll let you in. Would love to meet you anyway. LOL.

Loren August 8, 2009, 8:31 PM

Great subject Bruce! I couldn’t agree more, kids get too much all the time. I see nothing wrong with busting them when they complain or say “no”. We as parents have a job to do, which is to raise our kids not be friends with them. So the next time I say “no”, you’ll back me up, right honey???:-)))))))

Linda Sherman August 8, 2009, 9:13 PM

Great blog Bruce!

Bruce Sallan August 8, 2009, 9:16 PM

Well, what is the right response…hmmm, let me think. I know what it is….
Oh yeah….YES DEAR!

arnie  August 10, 2009, 2:27 PM

uh oh. Even though i normally do what you tell me, i think after reading this im gunna step it up a notch.

David August 10, 2009, 9:17 PM

I normally have a great deal to say in this comment space … but this time, have no brilliant ideas … I know what I was like as a teenager, and it wasn’t pretty … I remember that many, many years ago, in my twenties, I was expressing to someone how the thought of having to deal with teenagers made me queasy … she said, “Well, I myself used to feel that way … and when my son was a teenager, it was very difficult for me as a mom … but later, I learned that as long as you realize that teenagers are psychotic, you’ll do fine … and sure enough, when my daughter became a teenager, I knew she had simply become psychotic, and we got along fine.”

NOTE TO ANY TEENAGER READING THIS: Uh, er, um, I wasn’t referring to YOU, I-I-I was referring your friends and—heh heh—uh, yeah, that’s it—I meant your FRIENDS are psychotic, not YOU … please just go to your room and play video games until you’re 19 and we’ll be OK!

Eleanor August 11, 2009, 9:19 PM

“NO” is just another annoying phase. It will pass. Be a “Father” to them, not a pal. Guide and lead them by example. Love and teach them is all I can say.

Bruce Sallan August 11, 2009, 9:27 PM

Eleanor - you’re a wise woman. I’m grateful and very happy you’re my mother-in-law. Now, could you get your daughter to stop giving me such a hard time, PLEASE!

Mary August 14, 2009, 12:52 PM

Right on target! Great blog…

Kathi Browne August 14, 2009, 9:24 PM

I have had the same problem and have had to remind them who drives them around, washes their clothes right before a game, and feeds them (continuously!)… it didn’t sink in until the day I said ‘no’ to driving them to school.I wrote down the bus number on a paper and told them I’d see them home at 3:45pm. The look was priceless. They did dishes and everything after that, until I slipped back into my bad habit of doing things for them.

Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this and that moms and dads alike spoil their kids.

From a man who wishes his kid said NO September 20, 2009, 9:10 PM

Interesting thought bounce around in my mind after reading your dilemma. I can’t take the part of agreeing with you or telling you that I completely understand where you are coming from. Perhaps if I get some clarification on a few key points that seem to be bugging me, I will be “swayed”.
First of all, being the parent for your children is critical in not only your spoken word but how you react physically in any given situation. They learn what they see you do much more than what they hear you say. I find it impossible to understand how you are challenging your son by what is written and how he does not like it. It’s hard to offer any advice with limited information. Allow me to answer it in general. If there are clear rules and clear punishment there would be no conflict and you would in essence be the a great role model. (who is the passive one), or where did he learn it?
I also think that it is a common misconception among parents that they need to be a child’s best friend. I think that you set yourself up for some pretty big disappointments as well as confusing the child. I know I have been accused of that myself. I strongly believe that the parent cannot be a best friend as we lead, guide and set a daily example. I do think that there will be a time when our parenting will be reduced and a lifelong friendship can be established.
Your last comments about following our orders and maybe even fear us at times conflict with every bone in my body. There are many times as a parent I would say to my younger child NO! and raise my voice so to get their attention because of some immediate danger. While they are young, if we can establish that they have a voice and they are listened to and respected. Those are the critical lessons that will last a life time and are the things we are obligated to teach. Fear and giving orders, in society, have long been established as a very ineffective way of being a leader/parent.

BigLittleWolf September 30, 2009, 2:13 PM

Sorry, but I don’t think “no” is a teen phase. I think it’s a test, that quickly becomes habit. And one you need to break, by not allowing it.

But you know that already.

Start narrowing their options. I’m with the mother-in-law, Big Guy. (And apparently, Nancy Regan.) JUST SAY NO. So you get YES - and cooperation - when you want it.

As for the root of all evil, a.k.a. “single parent guilt?” We’ve all been there, done that. But you’re already way ahead of the game. You hooked a great step-parent! You’re also there for them, clearly. That’s two for two!

Kids aren’t psychotic (laughing…) but they ARE smart as hell. They know they can wear us down - especially exhausted single parents. And if it takes reminding them with car keys/money/general veto power that whatever you say goes… then so be it.

Eventually they get it, and you’re three for three.

(Just-a-guy… just DON’T use the old standby - “because I said so.” It’s so… mid-century.)


Chas January 11, 2010, 12:19 PM

I’m 25 years old and let me be clear when I tell you there was No talking back in my house, there was no disobedience and if I ever told my parents “no” I knew there were swift, stern and feirce consequences to my actions. I recall being 13 years old and my dad asked me to pick up my shoes from the living room floor. I rolled my eyes and told him “I’ll get it later.” To which he promptly replied with a quick smack to my rear and a small paint stir. He didn’t strike me repeatedly or ever abuse me, but he got his point across that he was the dad and I was the child. Parents, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t let your child get away with this kind of subtle manipulation! My dad and I argued, like normal parents and teens, but I grew up with a healthy respect for my parents and a sense of respect for authority that has served me well. If you’re afraid of striking your kids (to each his own) then when they ask you to take them to a friends house, tell them you’ll “do it later.” If you have a forgetful teen that’s easily cured when you promise them a ride to the football/soccer/baseball game/misc fun weekend event, get engrossed in something and tell them “I totally forgot… sorry.” If you have a problem with a lying teen, promise them something and then when it’s time to pony up, tell them, “Oh… well I was totally lying… Guess nobody likes a liar.” Parents, if you don’t take control of your kids, they’ll certainly get control of you. Please… don’t make me embarrassed to be a part of this generation!

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 6:01 PM

Interesting post! Nice to read. I’ve got a single thing to give about funny t-shirts.

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