By Jennifer Richardson
I was sitting with a friend at a park a few years ago, and I observed a father attempting to explain to his child the need to exit the playground. Dad was using every argument he could think of to convince his very active son that it was time to get into their vehicle so they could go home.
The child repeatedly said they should stay longer. The father answered several times with information about the lateness of the hour, the places they needed to go, the plans that would be ruined if did not go pretty soon, and eventually the treats that would be withheld if the child did not descend from his perch at the top of the playground equipment.
After the dad gathered their things and made a few attempts to pretend he would be leaving, the child questioned again if they could just stay longer.
With an irritated look and a comment about how mad mom was going to be, the father simply tossed their stuff onto a nearby bench and sat down to wait the child out. It was a full surrender, and the winner knew it; he returned to his blissful playing.
My companion and I smiled quietly to each other, like many parents, we had been there too. Most of us have.
I realized only later that the father had never actually said “no.” Kids don’t generally like the word no, and if we are perfectly honest, adults don’t really enjoy hearing it either.
One could probably conclude that the word no is hard to hear. It can result in anything from minor irritation to major disruption. It is not just hard to hear, people are now finding it hard to say.
Take a visit to anywhere kids hang out and you may find that people are no longer teaching the concept of “no.”
Rather than saying, no you may not, we are saying– how about something else. Rather than, no that is bad for you, we say– well just do it out of my sight. Rather than saying, I said no and I mean it, we are saying– OK whatever. Rather than here is my definitive answer, we are saying—if you bother me enough, the answer is yes.
No can be stressful and yes can be peaceful; we value the cease-fire so highly that confrontation becomes the enemy.
You might wonder, what can no do that yes can’t? What does “no” do for a kid, why do they even need to learn that concept? Wouldn’t it be easier, nicer, and smoother if we could just always find a way to say yes to our children? The answer is no. When used fairly, no is one of life’s best teachers.
No offers boundary, protection, and clarity. Many times in life, especially in childhood, no offers the ultimate safeguard for situations they don’t even understand could be dangerous. And no helps define wrong and right.
No is a legitimate response. They really cannot have everything they think they want in life, if they did, it would not be long before they didn’t even like themselves.
And no helps a child to hone their own response skills and discuss other ways to effectively reach their goal. It builds within them an emotional resiliency and stability because it requires patience and a willingness to concede to someone else’s viewpoint. No tells them that not everything is theirs for the taking, and they do have to consider how their actions affect others.
There may be tears, and disagreement, and some good old fashioned rebellion in the short term, but no needs to be said. The payoff in the long term is amazing and helpful to all of us. Learning to accept someone else’s judgement when we are young intrinsically encourages a respect for authority and the acknowledgement that we will always be answering to someone for something.
Most important of all, no offers a child an opportunity to deal with their own feelings. No, used correctly and kindly, ultimately tells a child that they can survive not getting their own way. It develops the ability to cope and adjust. Saying no sometimes; it helps turn them into patient, considerate, respectful grownups. And that is a great big yes.