Recently, I was talking to a friend who mentioned receiving a request on social media that she did not want to accept but felt she was being rude if she didn’t. I immediately told her that she’s entitled to her privacy and that self-care includes the word no and is never rude. Ever. I remember growing up being taught to always be polite, especially to adults. How often does this reverence for adults and politeness in general lands us in situations that we are not comfortable with? As a woman I know that men are often lechers, I experienced no shortage of this growing up. Children are especially vulnerable to the power dynamics that exist between younger persons and older ones.
How can we protect our children? I think that we empower them when we teach them to use the word no. Teach them to say it often and loudly. Teach them that we don’t owe people our discomfort in order to avoid theirs. Children need to know that their parent’s stand behind them and that they won’t be reprimanded for standing up for themselves.
I mentioned earlier that I was taught to be polite, being rude was not tolerated by my parents, but saying no was. I remember when I was in the sixth grade waiting for my mom to pick me up from school and she was unusually late. Normally, she was waiting for us, we never waited for her. I knew we had plans to go to lunch at a friend’s house so it wasn’t completely weird for my friend’s dad to approach me and tell me that he had been instructed to pick my brother and I up from school. Even though I knew this man, knew I was meant to go to his house that afternoon I declined. I told him that if my mom had made alternate arrangements for my transportation after school she would always tell me beforehand. I refused to get into his car. Finally, we went to the school office where I called my mom and she apologized for worrying me, I was indeed supposed to ride with my friend and her dad. All of the adults were very impressed with me for sticking to my guns. Even though they were giving me credit, the real credit should go to my parents who had me feeling so sure of myself and them that I went head to head with an adult and won.
I often hear a lot of negative talk around using the word no with toddlers and kids. Redirect, use positive words, I’m sure we’ve all see this parenting philosophy. In many cases it makes sense to tell a child what you’d rather they do than yelling “No!”. I think that overusing the word no causes it to lose its effectiveness. Also, one of the reasons toddlers say no so much is because they hear it so often.
Bottom line: teaching our kids to say no and use it appropriately is important. It’s also important for them to get told no on occasion. Life doesn’t give you what you want all the time.
How do you feel about saying no?