In a recent opinion editorial published by the New York Times, a New Jersey author, Scott Sonenshein, discussed some positive effectives of saying, “no,” to a child. Despite the frequent attempts to vilify negative affirmations from parents to children, several new studies show what common sense already tells most parents. To build character in children, they must be refused on a regular and consistent basis.
Soneshein points out in his article that most parents, throughout the history of the world, have understood children as a group of individuals who are growing and learning. Because of the immature nature of a child, it is important to correct behavior on a consistent basis if the child is to develop into a responsible, productive member of society. Saying no to a child does not have to be a negative experience. By teaching children that all humans are eventually given negative answers in life, parents enforce the idea that challenges can be overcome and that negative answers can actually be positive and beneficial. If a toddler asks for cake for every meal of the day, for instance, the parents answer should explain why this is a poor choice that will ultimately lead to illness in the child. In this case, a negative answer is the loving answer and a positive one would be considered neglectful.
Soneshein also sites a study where children are asked to construct a new object from the ones they are given. In this study, younger children were shown to be more resilient than older ones and more adaptable to negative answers. Soneshein relayed the message that parents should not always be in the habit of purchasing every item children ask for. Not only does this create spoiled and entitled children, but it limits a child’s ability to become resourceful when they lack something they believe they need. We have all heard the stories about how our grandparents didn’t have fancy toys so they got creative with dirt and a box. Much like this example, children learn extremely resourcefulness when they are given negative answers.