Mr. No

Awhile back, when we took a parenting class with my therapist (who is amazing at counseling parents and helping out with parenting problems!!), we discussed parenting styles and analyzed our own.  Ryan, not surprisingly, fell into the “drill sergeant” category (authoritarian).  He is Mr. Do-It-My-Way-BECAUSE.  I’m not saying he’s a bad parent.  He isn’t.  I love that he is not afraid to put his foot down and he is not a pushover.   I tend to be a little more lenient, but I kind of wishy washy back and forth from lenient to drill sergeant depending on my mood (hence the counseling).

I try not to write too much therapy stuff here because this is public, but I know this is an issue many other parents deal with.  Different parenting styles.  Ryan and I have been working for the past year and a half to meet in the middle and become more democratic parents.  We try to give more choices, stand our ground more, not criticize, let the kids deal with their disappointment and consequences that come to them.

Most of the time we do pretty darn well.  Our boys are very strong willed.  They are very persistent and very independent.  They like to try to push the limits whenever they can, regardless of how many times they have been redirected, scolded, told no, directions explained etc.  With that being said, Ryan and I have to be on our game and work hard to maintain consistency.  And now that I’m typing all this out I’m realizing I might be the one knocking things off the rocker.  Anyhow…   Most of the time we’re on the same page.  Most of the time we do a good job of maintaining order in the house regardless of what limits are being pushed by the boys.   However, there are still times Ryan falls back onto his “Drill Sergeant” ways and there are times I become too passive only to explode after being pushed too far by the boys.  This is our work in progress.

Lately, however, I’ve noticed how much Ryan is a Mr. No guy.  Mr. No-All-The-Time.  Okay, I’ve stated I sometimes tend to be a pushover, but I in no way feel like I give into my kids for no reason at all.  I don’t.  I just choose to pick my battles and try to let the boys have some decisions in things as well as have fun in situations that might typically make a child misbehave.  A few examples we’ve run into recently…

Shopping at Target.  Now, I by far take the kids shopping more than Ryan does and I have my own routine and rules while I’m out with the kids.  Since they have been old enough to ask to play with things at the store I have allowed them to play with toys etc while we shop.  They learned early on that they don’t get to keep these items… at the end of our trip they say good-bye and we put them back.  Sometimes we end up with a pile of things in the cart, sometimes we swap throughout the trip as they find different things to keep themselves entertained.  It works for me.  They know that even if they ask to buy it the answer is no and that it is just something to keep them entertained.  So, we’re all shopping at Target.  Porter is picking out a toy for a friends’ birthday party and it is in the cart (a truck that makes noises).  Hudson is sitting in the front of the cart and reaches back to get the truck and play with it as we shop.  Ryan takes it from him and tells him no.  (and here’s where we disagree).  I don’t back him up.  I asked Ryan why it is such a big deal for him to play with the truck.  I allow them to play with toys in the cart while we shop and by immediately butting heads with Hudson he’s creating a battle that really doesn’t even need to be started.  Is it such a big deal that he looks at the toy we’re buying for a friend?  Yes, I know… I should back him up.  But I don’t.  And he gets ticked.

Today, Ryan is getting ready to go shovel the sidewalk outside before P’s basketball game.  Porter excitedly asks if he can help (because he’s all ready to go to his game, just waiting on me and Hudson).  Ryan immediately says “No I’m going to shovel and you’er staying inside.”  Really???  Is it that terrible of a chore to just say “SURE why don’t you come help me?”  Most days during the week when it snows Porter goes outside and shovels the sidewalk for me, and sometimes even the driveway.  It burns some energy and keeps him occupied.  Of course, naughty me, I don’t back Ryan up and I ask him “Why?  Why can’t he go help shovel?”  And then he is ticked at me and asks when I’ll start backing him up.  And I tell him “When you stop being Mr. No All The Time.”

I just feel like…. there are SO many times kids are told no during the day.  So many things that deserve a no rather than nit-picky little things like helping shovel the sidewalk.   I do tell them no, lots of times.

You want chips and ice cream for breakfast? Uh… no.

You want to ride your bike to school?  Uhm… no way.

You want to start the fire in the fireplace?  Heck to the no!

And of course there are times when we need/want to tell them no because timing is inappropriate (They want to play a game while I’m cooking dinner, for example… though instead of no I tell them “Sure!  We can play the game AFTER dinner…)

You get my point…..

I just don’t want them to grow up always hearing negative.  I want them to have some decision making power, but know that there are limits.  Shoveling the driveway?  I could care less if you want to shovel the driveway!  Go for it!  I hope you always want to do that!  It isn’t going to hurt anything and the alternative is an upset kid stuck inside for ME to deal with and explain why Daddy didn’t want him to help (to which I have no answer because there really isn’t a reason he can’t help other than Ryan’s first instinct is to say no).

So we have some work to do… some work getting on the same page and some work at slowing down and thinking about what kind of answer to give the kids.  Does anyone else have this problem in their house?  How do you handle it?

I feel bad that I don’t always back Ryan up (we do try really hard to back each other up but it seems like so many times lately he’s snapped out a “No” to things that really he could have made a fun moment for the kids), but I also know that I don’t think it is fair for the kids to always hear no. And in Ryan’s defense, I noticed that the rest of the morning and day he was much more intentional with the things he said to the kids rather than negative negative negative.  He let Hudson help him take things up to the attic (which he normally would have been all “Uh NO!”) and he set a much more positive mood for the rest of the day.  I applaud him for this, as even though our morning started out rough and grumpy (everyone was in a bad mood because we were all not on the same page), our afternoon went great and we were much more in tune with each other.

  1. My husband and I were literally having this exact discussion tonight! We are totally not on the same page and our 3 year old is taking advantage of it. I'm not sure how we are going to handle this. I'm trying to not let him know until after the kids are in bed, but that doesn't work either because it is too far removed. I don't know what the answer is, but we have to figure something out soon because our three kids are going to take over!!

  2. We are in the same situation too. Maya is SO strong willed and most definitely a “spirited” child. Patrick and I are where you guys are-I tell him to pick his battles, and what I do usually depends on my mood or how much sleep I've gotten or how many babies are crying. He says she should listen just because he said to and he's the parent (even though I don't feel it's wrong for her to ask why she needs to do something-she's 3, and learning!) …so no, no solution here. Just another person who is dealing with the same thing!

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