I have a serious question. How can we expect children to say “no” when we as adults struggle to say it ourselves?
We see it everywhere. Parents caving in to their children’s wishes, even after they already said “no.” It might be a request to buy something or to get an ice cream before dinner or to go to a friend’s house. It’s just easier to give in than to turn down a child’s request because deep down most parents want their children to be happy, protected from life’s disappointments.
But here is the dilemma. How can children be prepared to say “no” to peer pressure, to difficult choices, and to experimentation, when what they see all around them are adults who cave into pressure, insistence, wining and their own need to be liked.
I grew up in a time when parents frequently said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” We all know that approach doesn’t work because children copy what is modeled for them. Especially when we tell them not to.
If the majority of the time children observe adults unable to say no……to little requests…to family members who take advantage, to a neighbor who always needs help, to a committee asking for more volunteer time, then how in hell can those kids learn to say “no” for themselves? How can kids learn to be strong and resist peer pressure? How can they learn to honor their bodies, their time, and their feelings,….. if instead they see it’s easier to just give in?
Children repeat what they see, becoming “people-pleasers” and saying yes to fit in, to be liked, and to be popular. How can we blame them? They are simply modeling what they saw.
That’s a scary thought.
That two-letter word some adults just can’t seem to spit out just creates children who will struggle with “no” as well.
Children face lots of tests in school, on the playground, with friends and on social media. To safely navigate their way through these challenges, they must be comfortable with the word no. It must be a normal part of life and part of their vocabulary. We want children to say no to peer pressure, to drugs, to breaking rules, to activities that might put their well-being at risk, to being inappropriately touched.
To do so, they must be empowered to stand up for themselves. But they won’t be as long as they don’t see, experience and observe that behavior. Learning to say “no” comes directly from hearing “no” as an answer ourselves.
Are you good at saying “no” when appropriate?
Do you turn down invites you don’t want to attend?
Do you say no to unreasonable requests?
Do you say no when it makes you unpopular?
Do you say no when it disappoints someone?
Whatever struggles you have saying no will show up in your kids.
It’s never too late to begin using this powerful two-letter word.
Children need to develop a strong sense of self, confidence, and comfort with the word “no” so that when the time comes, that little word will roll right off their lips.
Stay tuned for more on this two-letter word and how to get comfortable with it in upcoming blogs.