Teaching My Kids The Power Of “No”

Teaching My Kids The Power Of “No”

I am almost certain this word was not introduced into my vocabulary until I was in my 30s. Maybe I am exaggerating, but growing up I felt like I always needed to be obedient and make others around me feel comfortable. As long as everyone was happy, I was happy. 

This ended up being extremely false. Others’ happiness may have brought temporary happiness for myself, but it did not surpass the hurt, frustration, or discomfort I had because of it. 

Something I want to teach my children as they get older is allowing them the safe space to say “no.”

Now, I’m not talking about letting them call the shots to eat junk, watch tv, and tell me “no” with every request. What I mean is giving them the authority to express when they are uncomfortable or might need some space.

One example is physical touch.

Teaching My Kids The Power Of “No”We are in the South. Everyone kisses and hugs one another. However, my kids are sometimes too shy, too frustrated, or simply are not wanting to give physical touch. If someone requests a hug or kiss from them, a polite “no thank you” is allowed. I want my kids to trust their guts and their limits. A “no” in this situation is perfectly acceptable, though sometimes as a parent it might make ME uncomfortable. I simply say something like “You don’t have to give them a hug, but you do need to tell them thank you for having you over.” Kindness and manners can be extended without physical touch!

Another example is when my children encounter conflict with their friends.

Littles are extremely territorial, at least mine are. When one of my kids is playing with something and another child asks for it, I feel the pressure as a parent to give an immediate “yes,” because I don’t want to come off as mean … to a child … talk about people-pleasing. Instead, I say “She is playing with it right now, but why don’t we set a timer for her to finish, and then it will be your turn.” While this is a soft “no,” it still lets my kid know that it’s okay not to immediately drop everything for the convenience of someone else. 

As I navigate this parenting of toddlers thing, I try to distinguish when I’m asking them something versus telling them something. Instead of “Can you please get in the car?” I try “Get in the car, please” instead. We can still politely tell our kids to do things without giving them the opportunity to defy us. 

I’m still learning boundaries every day, and so are my kids. One of the best things we can do with our kids is to help them navigate and draw those boundaries.

Remember, “no” is not a bad word.

Jessica Hauerwas
Jessica is a nonprofit leader who loves bopping around Lafayette for the best burgers or bands in town. She is the Executive Director of Downtown Lafayette Unlimited where she runs the day-to-day nonprofit. She and her husband Chris have three littles at home (Jane, Clark, and Louise) where there is lots of giggling and always a cup of coffee brewing. Jessica is passionate about community-building and empowering working mothers. Jessica also volunteers for various organizations, is a member of the Lafayette Re-Entry Coalition, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette, and a survivor of being a mother of three under 4.

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