As a parent, you want to strike a reasonable balance between saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ It can be difficult to say ‘No’ to your kids, and saying it too often can breed resentment and defiance. Conversely, saying ‘Yes’ too much also has its downsides. From a financial perspective, saying ‘Yes’ too often can encourage a sense of entitlement, give rise to the notion that money is limitless, and ultimately inspire unrealistic life aspirations for your child.
If you’ve considered the situation carefully and it warrants a negative response, consider these options for saying ‘No’ – without actually saying ‘No!’
Suggest an Alternative
Offering an alternative is especially useful with younger children, who may not have sufficient conceptual understanding to process statements like ‘Maybe’ or ‘Next week.’ Diverting your youngster’s attention by engaging them in a different behavior or activity has multiple benefits:
- It gives the appearance that you didn’t say ‘No’ – even though you did!
- Introducing a new activity or behavior can be a learning opportunity.
- Hopefully, your child’s less likely to get upset, because they’re getting something, even if it’s not their original request.
Maybe It’s “Maybe …”
Sometimes the answer to your kid’s request isn’t a ‘No’ or ‘Yes.’ You should never use this approach to merely deflect or delay a decision, but if the answer’s genuinely unclear, or is dependent upon other factors like time or finances, then it’s OK to say ‘Perhaps’ or ‘Maybe.’ For example:
- “Maybe if I get a bonus …”
- “Perhaps, if you get good grades in school …”
- “Perhaps when you’ve done all your chores … “
- “Maybe when you’re older, you can choose to …”
- “Perhaps tomorrow/next week/next year/sometime in the future …”
While there are times you’ll need to be firm and assertive in saying ‘No,’ negotiating isn’t always a bad thing as a parent. Just know your limits and avoid over-negotiating! Working together to achieve a compromise can be beneficial for both you and your child, such as:
- Suggest that your teen get a summer or part-time job and contribute toward their request.
- If they’re already working, ask for an amount that they can contribute.
- Consider matching their savings efforts.
- When they’re old enough to get a car, agree on exactly who’ll pay for gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.
Explain Why Not
When you have to put your parental foot down, it’s important that your kids understand why. Offering an explanation can help turn a negative into a positive:
- Knowing why you said ‘No’ helps your child grow as a person. Being able to apply past results to future scenarios improves judgement and decision-making abilities, standing your child in good stead to make sound life, financial, and other choices in the future.
- Your decision may be a great jumping-off point for a broader discussion. For example, if you said ‘No’ because the request goes against family’s values, take the time to talk about those shared values and why they’re important to you, your child, the family, and others.
- As your child’s biggest financial role model, saying ‘No’ may prove an ideal opportunity to model sensible money habits e.g., if you refused your teen’s request for an expensive pair of sneakers, reiterate the importance of developing a budget, sound spending strategies, and diligent savings behavior.
While few people like saying ‘No,’ it’s an important parental skill to hone. Saying ‘No’ can be done with humor and empathy, using language tailored to your child’s developmental age and personal characteristics, or – as these examples demonstrate – without actually saying ‘No’ at all.
SageVest Kids is the family-focused financial literacy website of SageVest Wealth Management, a Washingtonian Magazine Top Financial Advisor. We help individuals, couples, and families throughout the DC Metro area connect with their wealth in meaningful ways. Please contact us to find out more about our private wealth management and investment services.