April 17, 2018

One of the most important parenting tools is understanding when to say no, and teaching your child why sometimes the answer is no.

“My baby doesn’t want to do that.” “My baby cries when I do that.” “My child only wants to eat macaroni and cheese.”…All day and every day I hear this from my parents. This is one of the hardest but most important times to be a parent.

Being a parent means saying “NO” sometimes. Being a parent means setting boundaries. Being a parent means doing what you know is best even though your child doesn’t think so. The truth is what kids really want is someone to teach them what is best, to set boundaries and love them unconditionally.

Unfortunately some parents think that saying “NO” somehow makes them a bad parent, or that their child will hold a grudge against them if they don’t say yes.

As a parent, you have the luxury of having experienced life for the past xx years! During that journey you have probably had your share of frustrations and disappointments, happy moments, sad moments, friends that have come and gone, personal struggles that you still struggle with or have overcome. That’s life right?

So when I tell a parent that a baby needs to do tummy time and they say that they don’t do it because the baby cries, I do not understand it. Tummy time is essential for a baby to develop the core strength they need to sit, stand and ultimately walk. With the back to sleep campaign to protect our infants from SIDS, many infants are simply not spending enough time on their tummies to develop these muscles. I can always tell the babies that are doing their tummy time. I explain to parents that of course a baby will cry at first because they do not have the strength to pull themselves up, but eventually (and it doesn’t take very long) they can do it and actually enjoy this time!

The same thing happens with setting boundaries...I see parents saying “He doesn’t want to go to sleep at 8 p.m…..” What???? A small child may not WANT to go to sleep but we all know that without sleep we can not be our best! Your child just wants to play! It is up to you to be firm and consistent with your expectations. When your child doesn’t sleep, that means YOU don’t sleep, and that means you can not be the best parent you can be because you are exhausted!

I see these situations as a metaphor for life. With anything that is worth it in life, initially it will feel like a struggle but once you get past that initial discomfort, the results can be amazing!

The truth is that children thrive with structure and guidance. Trust your gut and hold your ground when you know it is in the best interest of your child. In the end, setting these boundaries around the health and well being of your baby will  allow them to grow into a healthy and confident child. This will continue onto every stage of your child’s life.

It’s the delicate balance between giving them the roots they need to grow and gradually letting them develop their own personal wings to fly.

-Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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