Just say no!

I love older people and the wisdom they give. As I sat with a group of spry seniors, I overheard this gem. “Parent’s don’t say ‘no’ to their kids anymore, that’s why the kids today are spoiled and feel so entitled.”  

Just saying ‘no’, is something you and I already know should be done more often.   

I'm not talking about teaching them to say no to drugs, premarital intercourse, or following a hippie to a second location. I’m talking about a parent saying no to 90% of their kid’s ridiculous questions and demands.

I know your kids are adorable, and you want to say yes to light up that beautiful smile. But stop it. You aren’t your kids’ BFF, you don’t need your kids to like you, just respect you.  

No wonder we have spoiled kids with a massive sense of entitlement. We gave it to them by pampering, placating, and caving to their every whim and fancy. Becoming aware of the pattern your kids are weaving for you is the first step.    

As a new parent, I was always told to try and say ‘yes’, and to limit ‘no’. Now, four kids in, I'm singing a new song, (“No No No” by Destiny’s Child - 1997 #1). 

We need to say no more often. Sometimes a toddler’s first favourite word is ‘no’, because that's all they hear, and that’s great. Bring it on!   

You don’t need to yell or scream it (complete with awesome wagging teacher finger), just a firm, friendly ‘no’ can work magic. Kids are designed to test boundaries. It’s what they do. It’s what you did as a kid too. Kids are craving structure and order.  

“No!” creates boundaries and limits.  

No!” creates expectations for behaviour.

“No!” stops more ridiculous questions.  

While we always want to treat our children with respect, every daffy outrageous question doesn’t deserve your PhD-thesis-defending/crown-attorney-airtight-evidence response. Don't give every question equal consideration, some questions are just plain dumb.  

“Can I bike to school?” (we live a block away)

OPTION A - “No honey, if you wanted to bike to school, you should have gotten yourself ready and left 10 minutes ago, because it takes time to find helmets and your bike lock, and you will be late because you need to lock your bike, and you can't be late today because you have the assembly, so you will need to run as fast as you can to school – did you just ask me to drive you?”

OPTION B - “No. Go!”   

or -

“Daddy, can I have ice cream for dessert?”

OPTION A – “No honey. It's too close to bedtime, and you took too long to eat your dinner, so you can’t have sugar before bedtime. Too much sugar makes it harder to fall asleep, and you will have crazy dreams. Next time, you will have to clean your plate faster for you have time for dessert, okay honey?”

OPTION B - “No.”

or -

“Can I stay up late?   We have no school tomorrow.”

OPTION A - “Remember what happened the last time you stayed up too late? You were cranky and none of us enjoyed the next day, and that was when you made all those bad decisions that led to loss of playdates and the movie night, so no, sweetheart, you need to go to bed at a regular time so that your body can rest and recharge.” (and the defence rests, your honour)

OPTION B – “No. It’s time for bed.”

Hint: Option B is better in all three cases.

They are kids, pushing boundaries is just what they do, it’s a natural stage. I know my kids are inherently good kids. I would be more worried if they didn't try to push limits or negotiate/manipulate.

Most times when kids ask dumb questions, they already know the answer. It’s a game to them, it’s fun to spin that big wheel of chance. If you are not consistent, they will keep trying their luck until they hit the jackpot.  

Every ‘no’ builds a fence of predictability and structure. Maybe a ‘yes’ in the short term solves the issue at hand, or makes life easier, but what is the long term impact? 

There are likely hundreds of reasons why parents don’t say no to their kids. Maybe it’s just easier to say yes, and be liked (but not respected)? Maybe ‘no’ was what their parents always said to them, and they want better for their kids? Maybe they are spineless and powerless, having created a child-centric house?

If you start saying no today, you may experience a few tough ‘push-back’ weeks, but in the long run you will be amazed at how much smarter and well-behaved your kids appear, fewer daily battles, and just how infrequently the dumb questions are asked.  You will almost missed them, but not really.  

TAKEAWAY POINT - Kids need to hear ’no’ 90% of time. Not only will they truly appreciate a ‘yes’ if it comes, but they are craving the order, structure, and predictability that a ‘no’ creates.

What can you say no' to today to make tomorrow better?   

What are some of the dumbest questions your kids ask?

Let’s get the conversation going at [email protected] -- what have you said/done that might help other parents?

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About the Author

Jeff Hay is a Kelowna-based writer, motivational speaker, parenting coach, and father of four.

Along with writing for Castanet, Jeff also writes for the Huffington Post, the Good Men Project, and the National Fatherhood Initiative in the United States. 

When he is not playing his favourite role of 'DAD', Jeff speaks throughout Canada as a popular parenting educator, working on his website – www.thedadvibe.com, and writing his parenting book for dads, “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!

Jeff dedicates his life to improving the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

E-mail Jeff your thoughts or questions anytime at [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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