To Raise Better Kids, Say No

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photo: momboleum via Flickr

“Can I get it?” “Will you buy it?” “Pleeeeease?”

They’re words most parents hear all the time, and while it may not come as a surprise, research now suggests: saying no really is good for your kids.

“It turns out that saying no pays off far beyond avoiding raising spoiled kids,” Scott Sonenshein, author of Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – And Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined, said in a New York Times article. “When we always yield to our children’s wants, we rob them of the opportunity to find solutions by adapting what they already have. Kids who learn from denial realize at an early age that they won’t always have the perfect tool for every job.”

It turns out, when kids don’t get everything they want, they make more with what they do have.

Sonenshein cited a study that asked a set of volunteers to write an essay about a time in childhood when they didn’t have much; a second set wrote about growing up having a lot. Afterwards, the researchers presented both groups with a problem that required using the supplies in different ways. It turned out, the people assigned to the scarcity group had better solutions than those in the abundance group. The conclusion was that scarcity — even thinking about a time when they experienced scarcity — drives people to use their resources in more creative ways.

“Each time we acquiesce to our kids’ latest request to buy something, we subtly condition them that their resources have limited uses. An occasional veto will compel them, in this case literally, to think outside the box,” Sonenshein wrote. “Imagine the upside of a weekend full of ‘nos’ — it’s likely to be one occupied with new experiences: invented games, a family dance party or time spent outdoors.”

Do you struggle to say “no” to your children? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.