If ‘No’ Doesn’t Work, Get the Chair of Wisdom
Q. Our 8- and 10-year-old daughters came to me and asked if they could go to the movies with two friends from school that they wanted to "get to know better." Turns out the friends are boys. I told them they were too young for boys; they could invite girl friends. They said they already knew their girl friends and wanted to get to know these boys better. I nixed the idea, but wanted to know your thoughts.
I'd have pondered their request for several dramatic moments, and then asked, "Do either of you know what a nunnery is?"
But seriously, my most immediate thought is that we are failing, as a culture, to protect the innocence of children, especially where sexual issues are concerned. Too many are coming of age on the Internet unsupervised, but even the most vigilant parents have difficulty preventing their children from being exposed to images and ideas that stimulate their sexual curiosity.
In situations of this sort, I advise parents to simply say "Absolutely not." If pressed, simply say: "You're too young, period."
If the child begins to badger, sit down in a comfortable chair, face the child, and say, "Now, I want you to do all you can to get me to change my mind. Say everything you can think of to say. If you feel that crying or screaming might get me to change my mind, then cry and scream. I'm going to sit here for even two hours if that's what it takes to convince you that my first answer is my final answer. So, get on with it."
The likelihood is that the child is going to stand there for a moment, and then storm away, perhaps even yelling things like "I hate you!" But if the child takes you up on your challenge, just sit and listen, nodding your head and saying, "I understand" and "Yes. If I was 10 years old, I'd feel the same way." Every so often, say, "My answer is still no, but you're doing a great job, so keep it up."
You can even give the chair a name, like the "Chair of Wisdom." Whenever the child seems to be having difficulty accepting "no" for an answer, ask, "Do you think we need to go over to the Chair of Wisdom and continue this fascinating discussion?"
Yes, a strategy of this sort is bound to be extremely frustrating to a child, to which my sole comment is "So?" Better the child be frustrated and the parent remain cool than both parent and child wind up furious at one another.
Furthermore, parenting requires a sense of humor. A child may not like the Chair of Wisdom when he's 10, but he'll be laughing at the memory when he's 30.
In short, you handled the situation just fine. Nonetheless, keep the option of the nunnery in mind.