The Importance of the Word “No” in Parenting

Even as an adult, I struggle with the word, “no.” I am a people-pleaser, by nature, and I never want to feel excluded from something or disappoint anyone that I love.

As a result, I often find myself doing things that I don’t enjoy, volunteering for things when I don’t really have the time, or feeling ragged because I have overcommitted myself to too many projects. In fact, my mother gave me a cross-stitched NO that sits on my desk to remind me to fight my knee-jerk reaction to say yes to everyone and everything.

One day last month when my to-do list became too long and I was teary-eyed from saying yes too much, my mother said, “Where is your NO at?” Crying I said, “It’s underneath the pile of YES.”

As an adult I still need my mother to remind me of my NO. Isn’t that funny?

When I was a kid there were two things that I could count on. One was that if I asked my Mom & Dad for something that I knew was not a good idea, I knew that they would tell me, “No.” The other was that if I didn’t know how to say “no” myself, that I could always blame them for anything I didn’t feel comfortable with.

Our kids need us to say “no” and they need to know that, even when we don’t, they can tell others that we said it anyway to get out of tricky situations.

When our kids are small our, “No,” is a big part of shaping them into who they are as adults. Have you ever seen a mom tell their child yes to everything and then watch that kid grow up?

They aren’t better people because they got everything they wanted. This sense of entitlement carries on throughout their lives thinking everyone should give them everything – just because they asked. I don’t know about you, but that’s not the kind of people I want in my family.

The Real World

The “no” is a really important part of development and it’s an important for expectations about how the real world works.

It isn’t just me who feels this way though, the experts agree that our “no” is so very important in parenting. In this article in Parents, social psychologist Susan Newman, PhD, author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It — and Mean It — and Stop People-Pleasing Forever she states, “Kids who understand that they can’t always have their way will be more likely to be successful in school, relationships, and their careers.”

So should we just be telling them no to everything? Nah! The reason is that it won’t be as effective anymore and they probably won’t listen. Parenting expert Joanne Mallon believes in a middle ground.

“It’s effective to limit the times you say No, so that when you do say it, it has more effect. Tell them what you want them to do instead. Otherwise they have to work it out for themselves, which is hard when you’re two.”

If you find yourself saying no over and over and over again while still getting the same results, it is time to switch things up a bit (for both of your sakes). Consider a change of scenery for your child. It can be as simple as removing them from the situation and putting them somewhere else.

Every mom knows that distractions are always way easier than yelling. If your child is climbing on the couch and you have told them fifty times to stop by saying, “No,” head outside or to another room and try a change of scenery. It’s often as simple as that.

Whatever you do though, remember that even when your child is an adult, they still might need that help from you to say, “No.”

I know I do.

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