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Okay to Say No


I have heard many theories about when a parent should and should not use the word “No” with their children. Some theories state that your children will hear “no” many times during their life so parents should attempt to say “yes” as much as possible. Some believe that saying “no” too much will cause damage to their self-esteem by causing them to believe that you do not value their individuality or their “wants.” Others believe that children should get used to hearing the word “no” so they are not shocked to hear it when they reach adulthood and have to comply to life’s rules, so tell them “no” even when it is not necessary.

I believe that there should be a balance between your child’s age, their sense of responsibility, and the extent of their privileges. Thus, how often you use the word “no” – or “yes”, for that matter – depends entirely upon your child and your own ideals.

I have met parents who believe that the word “no” is harmful to the child and so they attempt to reply to every request – whether a want or a need – with a “yes.” These children come to expect that their every request will be granted and do not understand how to deal with the situation when it is not. Parents cannot play the role of a buffer throughout their children’s lives. Sooner or later, your child must learn to stand on their own. When they do, they will be told “no” – by their bosses, friends, co-workers, law enforcement, etc. Best they understand how to react to this concept before it takes place. Additionally, children who do not hear the word “no” become incredibly spoiled, often narcissistic, and are generally brats. I have known these children and their parents. By the time the parents realize that they have done more harm than good by avoiding the word “no”, it is generally too late to repair the damage without a great deal of commotion and heartache. Again, when deciding whether to tell your child “yes” or “no”, consider their age, their sense of responsibility, and extent of the privileges they deserve. A sixteen year old who has always been highly trustworthy and doesn’t keep secrets is still, without a doubt, a sixteen year old. Even the most highly honest one is only honest until they aren’t. Put them in the right situation, and they will lie. This is why it is our job as parents to decide whether or not they are ready. f you need better clarification, think back to when you were sixteen and be honest with yourself.

On the opposite side of the coin, constantly telling a child “no” can be just as damaging as always telling them “yes.” As children age and mature, they need to understand the concept that “with privilege comes responsibility.” It is necessary to teach them how to balance the two in a reasonable way. Always telling a child “no” can stunt their growth in this area. All of us, even adults, hopefully learn from our mistakes. Some believe that this is one of the most lasting forms of learning. Of course, learning through our mistakes can be a dangerous process, which is why parents are in charge. We must decide how much “risk” our children are ready to handle. For example, our six-year old may not be ready to ride their bicycle to the market at the corner because they have only been riding their bike for about six months, don’t understand all the “rules of the road”, and are too young to deal with strangers in a non-protective environment. However, our thirteen year old, while still assuming some risk since they will not be under the ever-watchful eye of a parent, because they have been riding their bike for seven years, have taken a bicycle safety course, and have been taught how to deal with strangers, can be allowed to make the same trip. We do not protect our children properly by always telling them “no.” We only stunt their growth and their feeling of confidence and they come to believe we either do not trust them or do not believe they are capable of taking care of themselves to some degree.

From the time our children are born, they are moving away from us. At first that process is slow and can be measured only in minute increments. But as they grow older, that distance increases, sometimes in ways that make us, as parents, very uncomfortable. This is why is it very important for parents to maintain a perspective that allows us to carefully balance the need for “yes” and “no” responses with our children. No one ever said that parenting gets easier as your child grows older. It doesn’t. But the reward as we watch our children grow in to healthy, happy, responsible adults is immeasurable!
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Content copyright © 2014 by Cynthia Parker. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cynthia Parker. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cynthia Parker for details.

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