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April 23, 2024

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Just Say, “No!” and Other Powers We Can Learn from Our Kids

Moms and dads are always telling kids how to behave, but there's an awful lot we can learn from how they act!

"Put on a jacket!"
"Eat your broccoli!"
"Use your inside voice, please!"

You have probably said at least one of these statements one hundred times or more to your kids. Adults are constantly dictating behavior to kids, but sometimes we should reverse course. Here are five kid behaviors adults can learn from. 

1. Just Say, “No!”

Most toddlers favorite word is no. A child will cross his arms and stand his ground shouting, “No!” until he turns blue and passes out. Adults do not have the same ease in using the word. Why is saying no so hard for adults? According to an article in Psychology Today, adults often want to belong to a group so they may say, “Yes,” to receive approval from others. Another reason a person may resist using the word no is fear of upsetting another person. Lastly, you may want to be helpful and feel valued so you’ll refrain from saying no.

How can YOU just say no?
Psychology Today says the word no should feel empowering. By practicing and remaining diplomatic, most people can improve their ability for saying no to others. Envisioning how easy it is for a child to say no may help you realize you can do it as well.


2. Ability to Negotiate

If you tell your child his bedtime is 8 p.m., often he will ask, “How about 8:30?” Or if you suggest he eat five more bites of his dinner he may respond with, “Can I only eat three bites?” Children have little fear or resistance in negotiating with adults or other kids. Why is negotiating hard for adults? An article on states, “Our research found nearly one-fifth of workers never negotiate after they’re offered a job.” After interviewing 2,000 people about why they don’t like to negotiate, found the biggest reason was the fear of losing their job. Other answers were people felt they would seem greedy or they wouldn’t get a raise anyway.

    “A negotiation is an experience that is rife with conflicting motivations,” says Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. 

How can YOU negotiate better?
Negotiating is an important skill since it enables you to earn a higher salary or pay less for a car or house. This skill can help you in both your personal and business relationships. Similar to saying no, you will feel empowered when you are able to negotiate effectively. In a Psychology Today article, “How to Negotiate Like a Lawyer,” Ruth Lee Johnson offers strategies to help you improve your negotiating skills: 1) prepare; 2) plan; 3) assert; and 4) implement a solution. Johnson stresses the importance of listening to the other person and doing your research before starting any negotiation.


3. Play Creatively

If a child sees a basket of dolls or LEGOs, he has the ability to play creatively for hours. Sometimes a cardboard box is enough inspiration for a child to pretend to be in a car, train or plane. As people age, they no longer use pretend play. Why is creative play challenging for adults? Associate Editor for Psych Central Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., says adults cut themselves off from creative play. “Play for adults is perceived as unproductive, petty or even a guilty pleasure,” Tartakovsky says. This leaves adults feeling as if creative play is unnecessary even though it helps people to feel happy.

How can YOU play creatively? 

Tartakovsky suggests you add play to your life by changing how you think about it and giving yourself permission to play. She recommends using your childhood memories of play to reconnect with the idea. Get down on the floor and play with your kids!


 4. How to Succeed

If you have watched a child learning to walk or learning to ride a bike, you have seen that despite falling down he will continue to get up until he’s mastered the skill. Children don’t allow failure to hinder them from trying again until they succeed. Why is it difficult for adults to succeed? Most success is the result of many failed attempts such as mastering a new skill. Guy Winch, Ph.D., author of Emotional First Aid (Plume; 2014), says when people fail they believe they are helpless and unable to achieve goals.

How can YOU succeed?
Winch suggests the best way to overcome failure is to focus on the aspects you can control. After you are able to figure out what isn’t in your control, try to improve it by taking a class or preparing and practicing for the next time you attempt the skill.


5. Finding Humor in Everything

Children laugh at almost anything. If an adult speaks in a high-pitched voice or stumbles over a shoe, a child can erupt into a fit of laughter. It is easy to make a child laugh. If you ask any comedian, they will probably tell you it’s not as easy to elicit laughter from an adult. Why? People hold back laughter due to a fear of offending others. Robert Provine, Ph.D., author of the book Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (Penguin Books: 2001), states that adults laugh less than children due to the fact they play less.

How can YOU laugh more?
Provine found people are more likely to laugh when they are with other people as opposed to being alone. Make a point to be social, watch funny TV shows and spend extra time with your child since laughter can be contagious. Next time you become frustrated by how easily your child reacts in given situations, let it inspire you to do the same with your relationships!

Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling degree. She is married and the mother of twin boys and a daughter. Her work has been published in Parent Magazine, Upworthy, Twins Magazine and more.


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