Column – Children must understand adults make final decisions

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2022

He was sitting with his back to the wall crying as the other kids played one of the numerous games set up for them in the gym. He wanted to catch a snake that had been spotted outside, but I didn’t allow his quest, and he took it hard. I hoped he would forget about the snake and join in a game with his fellow campers, but he refused to be consoled or join in any of the activities offered.

I talked with him about the reasons that our group of campers couldn’t go looking for that snake, but the tears kept coming. I will admit that there were two times that I almost relented. Camp is supposed to be a fun week, and I didn’t like seeing any children in my care unhappy. I was tempted to change my decision. Next, he pulled on my heartstrings when he explained how much he likes snakes and that he had never seen a snake in the wild. I was tempted again to change my decision, but I knew that I had to stand firm.

I had to stand firm for two reasons. First, the decision I made was one that was best for him and all the campers. The rocky crevice where the snake was supposedly seen could hide additional slithering creatures, and there was a chance they could be poisonous. I knew I couldn’t keep a close eye on all the campers to ensure they were staying away from all the areas where a snake may appear. It was an issue of safety.

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Secondly, I needed him to know that my no meant no. Changing a decision because he chose to cry instead of playing a game would teach him that all he had to do to get what he wanted, regardless of my initial decision, was to cry or throw a fit.

It can be tempting to change your decision when children cry, have a tantrum, or throw a fit because you had to say no, but it’s important to stand your ground. Children need to know that your no means no. Children must understand that you are in charge. They may not like all your decisions, but they must learn that you are the one with the final say. Giving in to a child’s fit, tantrum or tears sets a bad precedent. It gives them control of decisions or situations that should not be theirs to make.

This doesn’t mean that you can never change your mind. It’s okay to change course if you realize that your decision wasn’t the right one or if something has changed. It’s okay to say, “I’ve thought about it, and I’ve changed my mind,” but the reason we change our mind shouldn’t be because they threw a fit.

Standing your ground doesn’t mean that you have to be mean. You can say no, explain the reason, and refuse to relent while being kind and loving.

I hope that young man gets to see a snake in the wild one day, but it wasn’t safe to do so on that day, so I had to stand my ground and keep my no as no.