The Value of “No”
Episode #6 of the course Parenting skills to raise responsible, mature children by Roger K. Allen, PhD
In today’s lesson, I’m going to talk about the value of the word, “No,” a word that is difficult for many parents to speak. And yet, “No” is one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children. It is one way we set boundaries and help our children learn and accept the realities of life.
“No” can mean, “I don’t want you tearing pages out of books,” “I’m not buying candy at the store,” “I don’t want you hanging all over me,” or, “You can’t go out with friends tonight.”
If a child wants something badly, hearing “No” results in frustration and disappointment. Consequently, children (from toddlers to teens) often whine and fuss or throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. However, if this goes on and on, it’s because they’ve learned that if they keep whining and throwing fits, they’ll wear us down and eventually get what they want. We reward them for fussing.
It can be hard to say “No” because we don’t want our kids to be upset with us or we don’t want them to be sad and disappointed. So, we give in or get caught up in trying to convince them that “No” is for their own good. We take too much responsibility to keep them happy by over-negotiating everything they want. By so doing, we create an unpleasant home environment, one that wears on us.
If we try to prevent disappointment, our children become self-centered and entitled. They also fail to learn responsibility for their emotions and inner experience. When a child has to deal with a “No” in its many forms, they learn to handle sadness and disappointment. They learn to soothe themselves instead of expecting life to always give them what they want. After all, life doesn’t grant us every wish and whim. Our children mature as they learn to tolerate disappointment and delay gratification.
Saying “No” is not only good for our children, it is also a way we take care of our own needs. And by taking care of our own needs, our kids are in the process of learning that others have needs. They not only learn to accept boundaries and the realities of life but also learn respect and cooperation.
Here’s how you say “No.” Stand tall. Trust your authority. Speak clearly and firmly. Say the word “No” without explaining yourself or expecting them to accept your decision. Don’t try to convince them to accept your decision. Get on with whatever you are or were doing.
And finally, don’t get hooked into feeling like a bad parent if they don’t like every decision you make. Stop trying to keep your kids happy all the time. It is not your job. If you take it on, they won’t. They’ll be forever trying to get you to give them what they want so they can be happy. This is not how life treats us and not how it should treat them. By hearing “No,” they’ll grow emotionally mature and look back one day and see the wisdom of your parenting.
In the next lesson, I’m going to introduce a skill called “Connecting and Redirecting,” which we use when kids are behaving immaturely.
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