The Power of Saying No!
A few years ago we met this great family on a holiday. They had a daughter who was the same age as ours (age 10). The girls started hanging out together at the place we were staying. After a day or two of fun and games, I noticed that my daughter started to avoid the other girl. When asked if she wanted to go and spend time with the other girl, she said no, choosing to stay with us instead.
A little while later, when I asked her what was up she said about the other girl; “she insists that I do things that I don’t feel are right”. She wasn’t comfortable and she knew that it was okay to tell us that she didn’t want to be with her. We didn’t make her go and neither did we push for more details. We respected her “no”, and I knew we would have a conversation about it when the time was right.
This builds trust and mutual respect between us. The more mutual trust and respect we build the easier it is to ask each other to do things. This might sound like we’re saying the less you ask your kids to do, the more they will be willing to do for you, but that’s not the case at all. The less you force your kids to do things and the more you respect their opinions and feelings, the more they will respect and trust you. Then they will gladly help and support you when you ask them to.
So what does this all mean?
Let children have their own opinions which they are free to voice safe in the knowledge that we hear them and respect them. When they say no, we respect it. This, naturally, doesn’t mean that you have to give up your needs as a parent. Your needs and boundaries have to be honored too. In the case of my daughter, the only infringement could have been a degree of embarrassment with me telling the other mom that my daughter didn’t want to play with hers. The price of me forcing my daughter to go play against her wishes would have been much higher.
So if your child says no to you, how might you respond? Use curiosity and ask your child what they would be prepared to do instead or if they have a better way of doing something. If they don’t want to do something in that very moment you may inquire when they would like to do it. There’s no right way for every situation, but if you remain curious you’ll get there quickly.
This way, you create a space for the child to meet your requests on their own terms as independent and intelligent human beings. This way the child is heard and their no is respected and accepted. They also get to think about why, and how, they like to do things. They will develop their own process. The child will develop more internal knowledge and start to trust themselves with their own process. These are incredibly important skills to teach them.
If you object and have concerns that they will become self-centered and stubborn, you don’t have to worry. Ultimately, you’re not giving into every wish and desire of your kids, but rather modeling mutual empowerment. You can acheive way happier and very compelling and productive relationships this way, and the sense that you have to maintain control will dissipate. Your kids will develop a rich understanding of how to partner with you and learn to be skillful and flexible while still retaining their individuality and personal happiness! That’s a pretty compelling alternative to your child potentially becoming someone else’s doormat sometime in the future…
This is a tricky concept and it runs into deeply habitual territory. I’m as always happy to field any questions or comments that you might have!
Gonan is the originator of the philosophies behind Gozamm, the home of the Parentology, Trust and Open Heart workshops. An industry thought-leader and a perennial innovator, Gonan is setting trends in the realms of families and business worldwide. Her eclectic background; being born in Turkey, married to a Swede, having lived in the Middle East for 25 years and now living in California, she truly brings a new dynamic perspective to an important field. -- view all articles