Sunday 27 April 2014

Conversations with a Superpower (The Power of NO)

Occasionally we see the word NO as a Superpower - we tell our daughters to say 'No' to pressure from boys to go to bed with them too soon, back in the day Nancy Reagan told us to 'Say NO to drugs' and we warn our kids to say 'No' to strangers. In those cases it's a superpower that keeps our kids safe and happy.

Usually we see it as a mean word, a villainous word that we don't like to say to our kids. In fact we'd rather get chips banned from the swimming pool shop for everybody than have to say this terrible word to our children each week. Parents these days seem to go to ridiculous lengths to avoid saying the word, to avoid being the 'horrible' parent.

Somewhere along the line, we've lost our confidence in the word NO. We've become scared of it.

I want you to see the word 'No' a little differently. It's not evil. It's like Captain America's shield. We can stand behind it with confidence and we can us it to protect ourselves and those we love. We can use it to maintain justice and social order.

I grew up in the '70's, and back then, parents said NO all the time. We got used to hearing it, and it made no difference to how we loved our parents, it was just part of life. We'd ask for chips and they'd say 'No'. End of story. The difference, is in the '70's, our parents didn't feel bad about saying no. There was no guilt attached, they weren't obliged to indulge our wishes. There was a pecking order and rules (and usually a lack of disposable income) so the adult could say no to a child and not give it a second thought.

This guilt we have about not indulging our children is a disservice to them. They need to hear the word 'no' without it being something we are uncomfortable with.

So to the parents that want junk food banned from the weekend sports grounds, I say, just don't buy it. The rest of the world doesn't need to be rearranged around your fear of the word 'no'. You need to become more comfortable saying no. If you say it enough with ease, you'll find it a very useful parenting tool.

As children become teens, you will find you will need to say it a lot. You will also find that some children are given freedoms that you don't consider are safe, and you won't be able to ban those activities from the world. You will be the one who needs to make sure your child wears a helmet on his skateboard, when no one else does. You will need to be the one who doesn't let their kid go to the park at 8pm at night with his friends. You will be the one who refuses to buy alcohol for your 16 year old. If you have been comfortable saying no with confidence when they are little, it will help you be able to say no on these other issues, when you feel you are swimming against the flow in this era of laidback parenting.

In his book "Why We Suck" Dennis Leary says "Will your kid hate you? Yup. And here's a little headline for you: your kids are SUPPOSED to hate you. Your kid is your kid - not your goddam best friend. Believe me - they may hate your fat ass now but they will thank you immensely later on....My mom always kept our feet nailed hard and fast to the ground. She told us no when we wanted to hear yes and my dad was right there to back her up." For the record, from his book he seems to be very fond of his own parents, and seems to have a close relationship with his now adult kids.

Kids want to hear yes, but that's not implying it's mean to say no. Saying no means you care. It means you are looking out for their best interests. It means you are parenting. And sometimes that's not fun, but that's the gig you signed up for.

So I say embrace the word NO with both hands. Use it with confidence. You are using it to fight the good fight. It is your gift to your children, that they grow to be well adjusted adults.

Linking with #ParentPower



  1. OK round two of my comment love...hopefully this one sticks!

    Love, love this post, any doubt I had about running #convocoffee is completely gone after reading this post. I agree no is such an important thing to talk about, it has become so hard and such a challenge - yes has become the cheap and easy way out for - me included some times. Oh my first comment was so much better than this :( Never mind, thank you for linking up to #convocoffee lovely xx Josefa

  2. I'm pretty comfortable with the word no. I use it a lot. I'm also good at ignoring mother guilt. I think I'm pretty unusual. Ultimately, I believe that I know best and stuff what my children want!

  3. There goes Captain America again ;)
    That Denis Leary book sounds awesome, I only knew him for 'that' song in the early 90s but I recently discovered he's had quite the serious acting career and I like the sound of the book. I wholeheartedly agree about the importance of teaching 'No' in everyday life. For us lately we've been working on 'needs' versus 'wants' - with our changed financial situation the girls are having to learn to accept 'no' when it comes to getting everything they want, and that's not a bad thing!

  4. I'm such a 'no' mum in fact I say it so much they come to expect it. I've just started yes to things I usually say no to just to confuse the wee things!! But I agree, they need boundaries, how else will they ever get by in life. The whole world is a big no so we have to teach them from a young age! Nice to see you back after a break :) x

  5. I was 'that' Mom that was always saying no - not just because I could but because it was necessary. I grew up in the same era as you (OK - a little bit before you but not much !!!) and if we asked for something and it was 'no' that was it. When we are out and hear parents saying "No, no, no, oh OK" it drives us nuts - say it if you mean it or don't say it at all. Children need to know how far (If at all) they can push you and they will never stop trying.
    It's good to know I'm not alone in this thinking.
    Me xox

  6. Great post Lydia. I've definitely not avoided using the word 'no' and agree that it needs to start early. I have never seen any problem with it and didn't actually realise there were parents against using it. It's about drawing the line and making sure kids understand that early.

  7. Great post! When my daughter tells me I'm not her friend anymore, I tell her, "That's OK, I'm your mum, not your friend". Friends come and go. Mums are FOREVER!!

  8. I concur. We need to be comfortable with the word "no" and ironically, kids respect you more even though they mightn't like you in the short term. (Works well in the classroom too).

    But having said that, I am a weak pushover parent/teacher who has spoilt and indulged everyone!

  9. No means no in my house as far as my girls are concerned. Saying no to others is a different matter, although just lately I've been getting a lot of practice.

  10. No is a word I don't think people use properly or often enough. I see parents negotiate with their kids when actually "NO" is needed. I am all for compromise and negotiation but sometimes "NO" is the word. You can explain your no, 'no, you cannot get a tattoo because you are only 14 and it's not legal, when you are 18 and an adult you are free to choose to do that' or "no, I am not going to buy you that toy right now, because christmas is coming" or "NO, I will not allow you to treat your sibling that way". These are not going to harm anyone. People need to learn no.
    Thanks for sharing with #parentpower

  11. I try to say 'not now' rather than 'no' to the kids. No is an important word to understand and respect so I do use it if they are making the wrong choices. Thanks for linking up with #parentpower

  12. This is a really interesting read. I do say no to my children. Children need clear boundaries and by saying no teaches them where those boundaries are. Thanks for sharing. #ParentPower