Begin typing your search...

Parenthood: Responding to your child’s feelings when you say ‘No’

In last week’s article, we explored the idea of trying not to react with an automatic ‘No’ when our teenager wants to do something that makes us uncomfortable.

Parenthood: Responding to your child’s feelings when you say ‘No’
Kesang Menezes


We instead suggested finding out what that action means to the teenager and if it is truly detrimental to his well being.

After this process of showing curiosity and understanding the child’s need, there will be situations in which we need to set a limit and say ‘No’. And here is what quite often happens at that point, at least in my home!

My child often behaves as if it’s the end of the world. So many big feelings erupt! There are arguments, tantrums, doors being slammed or sulking and refusing to talk. We often hear, “You are the worst parent in the world. You just don’t understand.”

And, yes! Sometimes I don’t understand why she gets so upset when I am creating some limits which are coming from a space of deep concern for her. I also want my teenager to learn to accept she cannot have everything she wants.

Why do teenagers react so strongly?

We also spoke about the changes in the teenage brain last week, which make them “feel” that belonging to their peer group is a matter of life and death. In the face of this, it’s pointless trying to give too many logical reasons. The best we can do as parents is to understand where they are coming from and to allow them their big feelings. That is easier said than done! Many parents in our programs talk about how difficult it is to have a sullen angry teenager in the house. For me, the first reaction is to “hit back” and retaliate with angry words. To tell her she cannot speak or behave this way. Or give her the “silent treatment” - “If you don’t want to talk then neither do I. Let’s see how this goes”. I have realized that these reactions on my part are really not helpful - to me or my child.

Here are a few things that help me when I feel frustrated with my teenager’s big feelings

  • Breathe… and then breathe again. I call and talk to a friend or my husband or go out for a walk. I do whatever I can to regulate my own feelings because I know that I cannot hold my child while I am feeling so unregulated.                   
  • I often do not give an immediate answer but tell my child, “Give me some time to decide.” Once I have thought it out carefully and I know
  • I cannot consider saying ‘yes’, I then try to remain strong and firm without justifying myself. I often feel tempted to give in as I cannot bear the unpleasantness. Sometimes it’s a battle of wills to see who gives in. Teenagers often believe that if they keep at it, parents will succumb. But then, we are not being the strong adult they need. Of course, even at this stage, your child may have valid reasons and you can still change your mind, but not because you cannot handle the drama.
  • Through the sulking or angry period, I continue to reach out as cheerfully as I can and go about the days routine as usual (though I feel hurt and want to withdraw to make her feel punished, I keep reminding myself to be open)
  • Texting is a good way of keeping the connection going- “I can imagine you are very disappointed that we didn’t allow you to go for that party. Amma was not feeling comfortable about it. Love you and only want to keep you safe.” This helps them understand our intentions.
  • I remind myself that I am the adult in this situation. My child is going through a challenging phase in her life. I need to put aside my ego and be the supportive adult. I realize that she has a right to her feelings and to her wants and I don’t want to make her feel bad about that. Holding my child’s feelings and helping her regulate is the best thing I can do.

Many parents may wonder why they need to continue to be the warm caring adult in the face of these big feelings and behaviors. It’s a good question!! The answer to this lies in looking at the big picture - If we react to their anger with our anger or withdrawal, what is happening to the relationship? Are we creating distance between us and our children? Wouldn’t we want to give our teenagers the message we are there for them no matter what? And that their needs are heard and understood. With this picture in mind, I am trying to follow these steps to help me through the turbulent teenage years and I hope to experience the bond which develops from offering this unconditional love while setting firm limits.

— Kesang Menezes is a certified parenteducator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know more about related programs and workshops, lookup

Visit to explore our interactive epaper!

Download the DT Next app for more exciting features!

Click here for iOS

Click here for Android

Next Story