18/05/2009 20:10 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Why "No" Isn't A Dirty Word

pouting boy It is so much easier to say "yes" -- or is it? Part of the art of being a good parent is setting limits and doling out the discipline. But so often we find ourselves giving permission even when we shouldn't.

At least, I do. With two smart, high-energy children in the house, and me working in the middle of it, it's so much simpler to say yes.

Yes, you can watch TV. Yes, you can have a biscuit. Yes, you can hold my laptop hostage for three hours while you play games on Club Penguin. All to avoid the battle.

No parent wants to be a push-over. And it turns out that kids crave order and boundaries. But how do you set -- and enforce -- healthy rules while also keeping the peace?

The art of diversion: Know what sets your kid off. Does walking past the ice cream shop set them off whining? Cross to the other side of the street. You know the triggers, just figure out how to avoid them. Plan in advance, rather than waiting for the meltdown.

Be generous with praise:
I aim to catch my kids in the act of being good. Did your child remember to say "thank you?". Did the siblings play nicely together, with no bickering? Tell them you are proud of them.

Set the rules, and stick to them: Kids need structure, and helping them understand what is expected of them goes a long way to avoiding the dreaded tantrum. Be consistent; no one wants to be known as The Enforcer, but you have to stick to your guns.

Consistent consequences: If you make a threat, always, always follow through on it. If your kid is misbehaving in public and you threaten them with going home, be ready to go home if they don't comply. Never make a threat you aren't prepared to follow through on.

Don't debate: It isn't a negotiation. Don't get sucked into a debate. The answer is yes or no.

Punishments that fit the crime:
A time-out should be deserved. If there is a real violation of the rules, send the offender to the naughty chair, corner or their room for an age-appropriate amount of time. A good rule of thumb is number of minutes per age.

Last but not least? Remember, "no" is not a dirty word.

So what about you? Are you a softie like me, or do you set a hard line?