The One Sentence That Lets My Kids Know I Mean Business

I was trying to enjoy some adult conversation with an out-of-town mom friend when my 4-year-old asked me for a bag of fruit snacks for the fourth time. He wouldn’t let it go. I was annoyed that instead of playing, he was whining about fruit snacks. I was about to lose it in in front of our company—something I didn’t want to do.

“I’m not changing my mind,” I told him.

He stopped and looked at me and started to ask again. I repeated myself, trying to stay calm, which we all know is really damn hard.

“I’m not changing my mind,” I repeated.

Just like that, he went off to play and didn’t ask for fruit snacks for the rest of the day.

I can’t take credit for this sentence. I think I’d heard it on a parenting show, or maybe I read it in a book. When I first encountered this phrase, I had only a 1-year-old who was barely talking, so I put it in my back pocket and forgot about it for seven years.

Like most parents, I had a habit of changing my mind after saying no, even as hard as I tried not to. We all know how difficult it is to put up with tantrums or crying in public. Sometimes you give in to make everyone’s lives a little better (but especially your own). This doesn’t make you a bad parent; it makes you a normal parent.

Now as my youngest was trying my patience in a big way, he helped me remember those five words. I looked my son right in the eye and let him know I was standing firm. When he ran off, I breathed a brief sigh of relief and braced myself for him to back—but he didn’t.

I used the same phrase the next day and the next. My other two kids didn’t catch on quite as fast as my youngest, but it eventually worked with them too. They all got the picture that if Mom says, “I’m not changing my mind,” she really isn’t.

The fact that this phrase worked so well on my son that first time may have had something to do with the fact he had friends over to distract him, but because it did work—for whatever reason—I gained the confidence to keep using it. And, because he saw I didn’t give in that day, he made the connection that when I utter those words, he might as well stop what he’s doing because I really won’t change my mind.

While this phrase has made my job as a mother to three kids easier, it doesn’t mean they magically started being little angels who never fuss, complain, act out, or test me. They still do all those things on the daily. That 4-year-old will be 12 this year, and my oldest is 14.

Guess what? I still say, “I’m not going to change my mind” all the damn time. And the results are even better now since all my kids have had lots of time to get used to it. It’s saved me from going to the bad place more times than I can’t even count.

As a mother who’s experienced the struggle of being consistent and knows how hard it is not to give in when your child’s having a meltdown, these five words been a huge gift to me. I hope they make your life easier too.

Photo: Getty