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Family therapy, upper west side, nyc

The Value of Saying No To Your Child

Often parents wish to give their children EVERYTHING. They want to make their children’s life beautiful; they want it to be free of narrowness and deprivation. They want to give them what they may never have had.  They feel generous and loving and they hope their love will nurture and help grow their kids into full and effective human beings.

You may ask, so what would be wrong with that?   Well, in principle, not much. Loving, nurturing parents stand the best chance of raising happy and successful kids.  But with one caveat: the word EVERYTHING needs to be examined.

Create a Balance of Needs

If a child grows up with the idea that they and their feelings always come first, that their feeling gratified and catered to is the most important thing in the world to their parents, something that is not so good will be the outcome. If you feel your needs are at the center of your parents universe, you begin to expect that all the time.  You have no room to develop a sense of mutuality, a sense of cooperation, a valuing of others needs, a wish to be kind and thoughtful to others. All of these attitudes help you to live in the world outside of the family.

Family life can then end up being a struggle between what has now become somewhat tyrannical children and parents who are emotionally torn between being “perfect loving parents” and having space for their own needs and their own sense of authority as the adults in the family.

We have all heard the phrase ”tough love.” I would prefer to suggest “balanced love. I mean love that is balanced with the awareness of the limitations of one’s personal power, balanced with recognition of other’s needs and balanced with concern for others. One other balance is between the fantasy of omnipotence and the groundedness of reality.  In the real world, we need to recognize other people’s reality. That is a foundation for success in relationships, in business, in intellectual pursuits, in love and in parenting as well. Knowing when it makes sense to say no is a key to a balanced life. This is true for adults as well as children. If we can learn to say no to our kids, we can have a more equitable and enjoyable family life and we can be role models for our children as well.

Counseling and Support for Parents

I have been in private practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 25 years. I provide support and guidance for parents struggling in relationship with their children. Please contact me for more information on my practice.