My 8-year-old daughter wanted to watch a video and eat her dinner at the same time. My husband and I have had a hard time setting limits with her. We often give in to her wants, even though we don't think it's a good idea, because she looks miserable when she's not getting what she asks for. We get confused about the right thing to do. On this evening, I didn't think it was a good time for her to watch the video, and especially not while eating dinner. So I said no.
She began getting upset, and begged and pleaded. I sat down next to her, touched her gently and said, “No, I want you to have dinner with us.” She finally began to cry hard. I stayed with her, looked at her, and said as gently as I could, “No, you can't watch the video now. You can eat dinner with us.” After crying a long while, she said she wouldn't eat dinner at all. I told her that would be all right, that she didn't have to eat dinner.
She cried some more, then said, “Now I can't eat dinner because I'm crying so much because you won't let me watch the video!” By this time, I had gone and gotten my own dinner, and was eating it while sitting beside her and touching her and listening. I said something like, “Well, when you're ready, there will be some dinner for you if you want it.”
She eventually stopped crying, decided to eat dinner, and was absolutely fine. She wasn't upset with me, ate well, and dropped the whole idea of the video. Setting the limit and listening seemed to make sure that she and I were in good communication, and this has made me so much less afraid to say no. I now know how to make things right between us by hanging in there while she cries.
— A mother in Marina, California