I struggled immensely when selecting a title for this article. The other option was “Parents And Their Inability To Say “No" To Their Kids & Mean It”. You’ll see why as you continue reading.
There are many areas that we need to address when considering how to better prepare our kids for their future. The topic that I’ve chosen today is a massive one that I’ve experienced first hand. This is also one of the big reasons that families come to me when they need help.
Within the past 20 months, I have personally observed & experienced many kid meltdowns - or explosive episodes - because they are unable to accept being told “no”. Or, should I say - they are unwilling to accept “no” for an answer. Simply put: they cannot cope or cannot accept. And yes, we’re allowing it to happen all around us.
I feel that we’ve created an environment where some of the people in charge - A.K.A the adults - have become very, very soft. The adult’s inability to: 1. Say it 2. Mean it and 3. Stick to it - all three of these deficits are factors which are negatively contributing to our kid’s development. And recently, I can’t unsee it - this is happening all over the place.
For me - there are many, many reasons why kids need to be exposed to not getting what they want. I feel so strongly that the upset or explosive behavior can be eliminated, reduced or replaced if kids are exposed to what “no” feels like often enough (and early enough). Adults who don’t have the intestinal fortitude to put this into regular practice with their young people are asking for amplified trouble later on down the line. Then, they look to outside sources for assistance when things really get dicey with their child. Or worse, they place blame everywhere else - except where it should be placed. It starts with us.
Let’s dig into some of the biggie reasons why this is worth it…
Building & Maintaining Parental or Adult Authority:
Kids need guidance and structure from their parents. Saying "no" establishes parental authority, which is important for a healthy parent-child dynamic. It helps children feel secure, safe and helps them understand that their parents are looking out for their best interests.
Hearing "no" helps children learn to cope with disappointment and frustration. They begin to understand that they won't always get what they want immediately, teaching them to manage their emotions and persevere through challenging situations.
Building Stamina + Tenacity:
Facing rejection or denial of certain requests encourages children to persist in their efforts. It fosters a sense of tenacity and determination, as they learn that setbacks are a natural part of life, and success often requires continued effort.
Saying "no" helps kids understand the boundaries of acceptable behavior. It provides a clear indication of what is not allowed and helps define the limits within which they can safely explore and learn. I much prefer to teach kids about boundaries rather than rules - it’s much more effective.
When kids experience limits and hear "no," they learn to regulate their own behavior. This self-discipline is crucial for their emotional and social development, as it enables them to navigate various situations independently.
Delayed gratification is a crucial component of resilience. Many of our kids are lacking in resilience. Hearing "no" helps children understand that some things take time and effort. It teaches them that sometimes we have to take a break and try again. This patience is an essential quality that contributes to their ability to withstand setbacks and persevere in the face of challenges.
Accepting "no" helps kids become more independent. They learn to navigate challenges on their own, developing the confidence to tackle problems and make decisions independently.
Learning Delayed Gratification:
Constantly saying "yes" can foster a sense of entitlement in children. Learning to accept "no" helps them understand that they can't always get what they want immediately and teaches the valuable skill of delayed gratification. In addition, it can teach them that working towards something is a major part of growing up.
Developing a Growth Mindset:
Accepting "no" encourages a growth mindset, where children see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than insurmountable obstacles. This mindset fosters resilience by promoting a positive attitude towards setbacks. Dealing with setbacks is part of learning.
Developing Problem-Solving Skills:
When children encounter obstacles and hear "no," they are prompted to think creatively and problem-solve. This process of finding alternative ways to achieve their goals enhances their cognitive abilities and resilience. It forces them to ask: “Is there another way to do this”?
Children who are accustomed to hearing "no" learn to take responsibility for their actions. They understand that certain behaviors have consequences. Kids who learn to cope here build accountability very quickly and for me, accountability is hugely valuable.
Safety and Well-being:
Sometimes, saying "no" is essential for the child's safety. Whether it involves preventing them from engaging in risky activities or protecting them from potential harm, setting boundaries is crucial for their overall well-being.
In the words of the amazing Canadian psychologist, Dr. Jody Carrington:
"Whenever possible, follow a lead. Whenever necessary, take charge" (from her book - Kids These Days, page 71)
Some of us have forgotten that we're the ones in charge. It's time to start acting like it.
Developing Emotional Regulation:
Hearing "no" helps children learn to manage their emotions when faced with disappointment or frustration. This skill is essential for emotional regulation and coping with challenges throughout life.
It’s tough to strike a balance in juggling all of this for our kids. Parenting and teaching are darn hard! And, I’m sure after reading some of the above, some adults may realize that building skill here for themselves is critical too. If the grown ups are not equipped to say it, mean it and stick to it - our kids are going to continue to struggle.
I’d like to also mention that it’s not only what you say to the kids, it’s also how you say it. If the adults are saying “no” in a meek, mild manner or in a tone that leaves the door open to negotiation, our effectiveness is going to be limited. Tonality, delivery and being direct can help reinforce your message.
A final thought: rip the band aid off and learn to say “no” like a champ. Assert yourself and remember that you’re in charge. Saying “no” to our kids - early on in life - is an experience worth teaching.
That's all I have for now.
Thanks for reading.