There’s real value to trying to find a way to say “yes” to your child. That doesn’t mean that “no” should be avoided at all costs. Why are so many (AP) parents afraid to say “no”?

“No!” is not a word we like to hear that much from anyone but especially from our children. We ask them questions or ask them to do something and are sometimes surprised and annoyed when the answer is “no”. What we were really asking is that they obey us and are telling them what to do- only in question form. Why did we ask if we weren’t prepared to hear more than one of the two options? Must our children always obey? They may rightly have their own ideas or wants in the moment.

Our children may just have a strong need for autonomy which all children feel at some point. There’s real power in being able to say “no” and in an effort to avoid power struggles, I’d like my child to feel safe and comfortable enough to be able to say “no”, and “yes” doesn’t become something I never hear. What you resist, will persist, right?

I think part of the problem comes from societal expectations. This idea that manners or politeness are critical elements of being, is distorted and unbalanced in the perspective of the continuum concept. Suggesting “no” is simply being contrary or “rude” is inaccurate. Why do we cave to these senseless societal pressures instead of trusting our own inherent sense of what’s right or what we need?

4 Responses to NO!

  1. Todd Tyrtle says:

    “No, but…[alternative]” works pretty well sometimes.

    Also, having a good reason to say “No” and sharing it with your child helps. Just a hint: “Because I said so” is not a good reason.

    What we’ve noticed is that after ten years of saying no, with good reasons or with an alternative has helped our son in a few ways.

    – When faced with a “no” he knows there’s a good reason for it. He is encouraged to ask us for reasons and there have been occasions where we said “You know what, I don’t have a good reason. Now that I think about it, yes you can”.

    – When faced with a good reason he’s often quick to suggest a viable alternative or compromise.

    Bottom line: Authoritarian parenting does not work and doesn’t raise a healthy child IMO. However, parenting with earned authority works beautifully. Several of us talked on this subject, actually, in a recent podcast I produced.

  2. Annie says:

    Thanks Todd, I very much agree. :D Respectful communication needs to work both ways.

    I’ve heard great things about your podcasts!

  3. Lindsay says:

    I very much agree. It works both ways, if I have the right to say no to my child, she has the right to say no to me too. I would far rather that she learn that she can question things (even if the answer won’t change, she has the right to know why) and that negotiations are possible, then that she learn to bow to authority and just do whatever she’s told, no questions asked. People complain about adults who mindlessly follow directions, but it’s what most people are conditioned to right from birth.

    I’m also trying very hard lately to not ask questions I know the answer to or that I only want one answer (applied to Kris too!).

    Great points Todd, I’m going to go check out your podcast.

  4. Mon says:

    Agree! I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying anything to my child that I’m not prepared to hear said back to me.

    ‘No’ can be said respectfully, as can ‘yes’ be said disrespectfully.

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