Just say no.

I just read this article.  Don’t waste your time on the link, really.  It’s basically about a group that is suing McDonald’s for using toys in their Happy Meals that lure kids in like little marketing drugs.  According to one intelligent group spokesman, it’s almost like having a salesman come door-to-door trying to sell products to your children.

Um, sure it is.  Except that it isn’t at all, since McDonald’s isn’t in your home nor does it visit there.

My favorite part was this claim he made:

“At some point parents get worn down,” Jacobson says. “They don’t always want to be saying no to their children. We feel like an awful lot of parents would be relieved if this one pressure was removed from them.”

Wow. Isn’t it a parent’s job to say no?  A lot?

I am not trying to make any statements about fast food, childhood obesity, or even about the level of stupid some lawsuits have reached; however, I just want to go on record for saying that everything important in parenting has to be repeated over and over and over again.  Saying no is no exception. Making and enforcing rules is kind of a job requirement.  Yes, that might be a little inconvenient.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tell children no one time and they would never again repeat their request?  According to Mr. Jacobson, my life would be so much easier if I could eliminate the pressure of turning down my child’s plea for a heart-attack kit in a smiling cardboard box.  Perhaps so, sir, but I can think of far more overwhelming pressures that would be much higher on my list of things to eliminate, like the pressure of giving them every thing they ask for and turning them into arrogant and entitled brats, for example.

Just today I told my son, “It’s my job to provide you with all your needs, not any of your wants.”  Does anyone else feel like sometimes parents believe themselves obligated to meet all their children’s needs and wants?  It’s insane.  One of my greatest triumphs (at least financially) was at the grocery store a few weeks ago.  Clark asked for a treat at the check out.  (Tangent:  I’m not fond of stores having candy right there, but I’ve learned to say no.  Frequently.  On the other hand, if I see an inappropriate magazine at the checkout I almost always call the store on the carpet.  One is a matter of availability, the other is a matter of exposure.)  So I said no.  He started to ask why he couldn’t have one, then he stopped himself and said, “I know, mom, I know.  We can’t buy the things we want so we’ll have enough money for the things we need.”  Amen, Clark.  And frankly, even if there is enough money to buy something, it’s still okay to say no.

There is a really great talk by Bishop H. David Burton called “More Holiness Give Me” where he explains:

“Parents who have been successful in acquiring more often have a difficult time saying no to the demands of overindulged children. Their children run the risk of not learning important values like hard work, delayed gratification, honesty, and compassion. Affluent parents can and do raise well-adjusted, loving, and value-centered children, but the struggle to set limits, make do with less, and avoid the pitfalls of “more, more, more” has never been more difficult. It is hard to say no to more when you can afford to say yes. … More indulgence of children may result in less understanding of life’s important values.”

So yes, it’s hard to say no. But it’s also important.  Basically, all I’m saying, Mr. Jacobson, is that if you don’t like the pressure of saying no to your children, you might have a little more to worry about than Happy Meal toys.

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24 thoughts on “Just say no.

  1. Oh I LOVE THIS, Stephanie! Love it. I think a lot of parents think it’s their responsibility to try to help their children be “happy” ALL THE TIME. They don’t want to disappoint them. This leads to buying toys every time they leave the house among other things. I think you are right that it also leads to bratty kids. Who AREN’T happy. My husband thinks it’s important to teach our kids to understand NO now so they can learn self control now and especially later (he often says that spoiled kids are probably more likely to have issues saying no to bad things in jr. high/high school (okay, fine, I’ll just tell you, he thinks those are the kids that will end up pregnant teens)

    On my Blogger profile I chose from the list of occupations “Law Enorcement and Security”. I think that perfectly describes my responsibility as I see it.

  2. this is funny, because just monday, i was in public with the kids, and sawyer asked if we could go to mcdonalds. i was seriously considering it and he said “come on mom, we only go there if we get a shot from the dr. and we need cheering up. i need some serious cheering up right now- so please- we never get to go!” it just made laugh, and made me realize i have encouraged emotional eating. i needed a big mac after realizing that.

  3. I saw that article yesterday. It irritated me for all of the reasons you listed.

    Can you believe that they’re justifying their lawsuit with the fact that parents are too tired of saying ‘no?’ Worst. Reason. Ever. I hope it gets thrown out of the court. And that McD sues them back for being a bunch of fools.

  4. My husband told me about this and it is just like when they tried to sue Oreo’s for making us fat. I’d like to know where personal responsibility comes in for these stupid people.
    Also, that is one of my all time favorite talks (I need to read it again!) I’m on a anti-stuff kick to simplify my life and stave off entitlement in my kids. Thanks again for a great post.

  5. This is beyond brilliant and I wish it were required reading for all parents. Goodness. One of my greatest fears as a parent is that my kids will pick up on the whole entitlement attitude that seems so prevalent these days. In a few years we’ll have our student loans and our business loan paid off and I’m terrified that we won’t say no. That we’ll give them too much. I guess I’d rather worry about that then worry about not providing even for their needs, but it definitely preys on my mind.

  6. UGH! How stressing to think you’re job is to make your job happy all the time. That is so NOT real life. What about teaching them about the ebb & flow of life and how to handle a no and disappointment and wait….

  7. Amen!! It is so important to be able to tell your children no. I remember a couple years ago Elder Robert D. Hale came and spoke to our Stake and he said the most important thing you can ever tell your family is not “I love you” but rather, “We can’t afford this” I think it is so good for children to learn this when they are young. This has really blessed our family and I think my children are much more grateful for things when they get them. I don’t even know what I’m typing… my two year old is on my lap with all of my plastic containers and singing “Do as I’m Doing”… Thanks, Stephanie, for the great post!

  8. I totally agree with Poppy. Where is personal responsibility? What about agency? Thanks for writing this. I had the same thoughts when I heard about the lawsuit on the news yesterday. Crazy!

  9. Wonderful post today, and I couldn’t agree more and especially the way you put it. Yikes to the mindset that’s so prevalent!

  10. No is easy for me when it comes to happy meals. My challenge is that my nanny thinks sometimes the girls deserve them. grrr. But, I’m sure there are other areas that I do struggle with consistently saying no.

    I have a girl friend who is fairly OCD and she will travel all over town to make sure she can get every single toy in a series. She’ll go to a mcdonald’s with duplicates of toys she has to trade them for one that she’s missing.

    I love the quote at the end. I think I need to print it off and hang it by my computer.

  11. I find it interesting that with each child you have to say “no” differently. Does that make sense? My oldest son doesn’t ask for much so I don’t have to say “no” much with him. My youngest is asking all the time. I have learned and practiced to work with him and teach him why we don’t need things all the time. When I do say “yes”, it is fun to see his reaction. He enjoys the item and moment more.

    Nice Post!

  12. Thanks for the giggle Stephanie. I needed it. I’m sorry if I’m one of the ones that would rather give the small gratification of a happy meal toy than the large one of the huge toys from the same movies at Wal Mart… Oh well. I also loved that this was written by a man. In my experience my hubby has a harder time saying no… to anything.

  13. Along these lines is the difficulty we have as parents with teaching kids that the things you really want should be earned. I like that you tell your kids that you are responsible for their needs, not their wants.

    We’ve tried over the years to make “allowance” an earned thing, and at the same time insisted that the kids pay tithing on the full amount, and put half of the balance into savings. We didn’t pay much to begin with, and by the time they had dealt with those non-negotiables, there wasn’t a whole lot of “disposable income” remaining!

    It’s remarkable how many “wants” turn into “never minds” when kids have to pay for them themselves. It helps teach, among many things, how to distinguish between needs, wants, and impulses.

    Why do I say this in response to your post? Because if we are able to convey this lesson to our kids, we eventually shift the responsibility for saying “yes” or “no” to them. Which ultimately is where it belongs.

  14. I find it much easier to enforce this with my ten-year-old than my two-year-old. It’s all about the rational conversation. With the two-year-old there’s no explaining why. I mean, I could explain it, but it’s pointless. So I just say no and the screams ensue. Too bad. I admit that he wears me down at meal times, though. There are so few things he’ll eat that it almost makes sense to give him popcorn for every single meal. Almost.

  15. Have I told you lately how much I love you?
    No, seriously. You are amazing. I would see that article and my response would be to say something along the lines of “big dummy-head,” “some people don’t deserve the title of parent,” or other words not suitable for children. But you? You take the same stuff and make an incredible response, complete with spiritual upliftment. And you didn’t call anyone a dummy-head. You. Are. Awesome.

  16. Love this! You read my mind and said it better than I could! My kids eventually realized they weren’t getting a toy every time we ate at some fast food joint because I consistently told them no. I think my children are the most intelligent kids out there and all ;D , but I think other kids would get it also if their parents were consistently responsible…

  17. Thanks for this, Stephanie! I feel I say “NO” too often, but this post helps me feel that I am only helping my children to realize what’s important. Overindulgence is BAD! =)

  18. It makes me sad when I see my kids’ friends who have been raised without enough NO in their life. My three year old calls the little nerf gun he saved up a month to buy “my allowance” and nothing makes me prouder. If I had just bought it when he asked, it would have been tossed aside by now.

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