As much as you might want to give your child everything they ask for, it is simply not possible. And if you are dealing with a conflicted relationship, you may be worried that setting a limit will damage the already challenging relationship. In addition, sometimes kids caught in a loyalty conflict/alienated children can be very demanding and ask for things there is no way you could agree to. So how should a parent say no to their child? Well, let's start with what you should avoid doing. I recommend that you don't make your child feel bad or wrong or stupid for asking for anything. Children don't always know how the world works and what makes sense to ask for. If your child asks for ice cream for breakfast, they may not understand that this is not a healthy choice. To yell at them, demean them, or respond sarcastically can damage the relationship -- more than giving them ice cream for breakfast will. I believe that there is always a kind and loving way to say no. What I recommend is that you "join the wish" which would sounds something like, "Oh, I wish ice cream were a healthy breakfast choice! You can have ice cream later. Now you can choose between waffles and eggs for breakfast." So you are clearly setting the limit but you are doing it in a way that will not feel humiliating for your child. You are showing your child that it is okay to have desires and you will always want to satisfy them but you will not always do so because it might not be a good choice for the child. Your child should always feel that you are on their side, rooting for them -- even when the answer is no.
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