The beauty of the word no is that it’s really short — two little letters that can pack a whole lot of power for moms! In fact, it’s so powerful that its use can help teach our children important lessons. And those lessons can apply whether your child is 2, or 12. Of course, we don’t want to overuse the word no. For example, if your child is doing something she shouldn’t, pair the word no with helpful instructions. Instead of saying “no, no, no!” with increasing volume, try this: “Madison, no. What’s another way we can we can disagree with our brother other than hitting him?” See, paired with some different words, the power of no really increases.
Here are five lifelong lessons children learn when you say, “No.”
1. Their desires aren’t safe.
Your toddler wants to play in the pool unsupervised or eat bugs. Your tween wants to use unsafe social apps or go to sleepovers with people you haven’t met. Your teenager wants to drive the sports car or go to a party with no parental supervision. No matter what the scenario, the word no communicates the same message: Your desire is not safe.
2. Their desires are not what is best for the whole family.
We have a blended family and a great age difference between the 17-year-old and the 4-year-old. Regardless of which child it is and what the event is, we always emphasize what is most important to the family as a whole. Sometimes, competitive sports go by the wayside while we all bond as a family with the grandparents and a cookout. And, sometimes, a job has to be missed to support another family member’s recital or award ceremony. We even make our kids stay home and babysit our youngest because my husband and I need a date alone!
3. Their desire is not a good desire.
Just because a tween or teen likes to read a popular book series or listen to the most popular singer, it doesn’t mean the content of the book or song is appropriate. Certain board games or online games popular with teenagers are not allowed in our home. Why? In addition to keeping our children physically safe, it is also our responsibility to protect them from bad influences: from music to movies, books to games, friends to mentors. There is a battle raging for the hearts and minds of our children and we need to stand firm and teach them why.
4. Their desire is not what they really want.
This happens as a child gets old and we listen attentively or perceive what our children are communicating – beyond what they say. My husband recognized the demand of our oldest daughter to work a lot of hours during her junior year in high school was really her desire grow in independence, even thought we said, “No.” The reticence of our middle daughter to speak about her feelings revealed her desire to live with us full time and the pain she experienced in leaving us. While the frequent request of a child to miss school may be the result of being bullied.
5. Their desire will lead to a greater Yes.
How good does it feel when you press in as a parent and say, “No,” when they get frustrated and then they win the regional science fair? Or, when they want to give up and they fight cancer into remission? Or, when they have to include everyone in the game and later become the outcast’s greatest defender? Sometimes delayed gratification results in children who have beautiful broken hearts for the poor, unquenchable hearts to be heroes and live in a world of infinite possibilities.
So I hope that my children will look back one day (as I do) and appreciate the times they were told, “No.” And realize that I did it all out of love.
Let’s Talk: What was the toughest no you had to say to your child?