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Permission to say "No"

  • Lori Borgman Contributing Writer
  • 2005 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
Permission to say "No"

Listen up, because this will happen few times in your life as a parent.

I am giving you permission to say no.

Who am I? Nobody. A voice crying in the wilderness.

Here and now, I’m telling you it is OK to tell your child no. The kid isn’t going to turn into a pillar of salt or melt into a puddle of green, sticky, goo. Oh, he might buck around a bit and she might throw a hissy fit, but you’ve seen better theater at the Multiplex.

It’s OK to say, "Mommy is not taking you to the park right now. Mommy is not playing Candyland or reading you a book because Mommy is tired; entertain yourself quietly for awhile."

As a matter of fact, there are times when saying no is better than OK, it is the best thing for both you and your child.

It’s OK to say, "No we’re not buying candy at the store, because, well, because."

It’s OK to say, "No, you’re not allowed to talk to me that way, freedom of speech has limits in the home."

It’s OK to say, "No, you can’t have a computer with Internet hookup in your bedroom behind a closed door."

"No, you don’t need your own television; you can watch the one in the family room. And no, you’re not watching MTV, we’re raising civilized human beings not sexual predators."

Moms and Dads, it is also fine to say, "No, you’re not dressing like Britney, Christina and Paris. Yes, I know some of them used to be Disney dancers but they’ve gone from mouse ears to bunny ears and you’re not going along. Our aspirations for you run higher than gyrating hips and a permanent pout stuck to your face."

It is even OK to tell your teenager, "No, you’re not dying your hair orange, piercing your face six times and having some guy named Tito drill a stud into your tongue, because expressing yourself is not nearly as important as trying to fit in right now."

It is also OK to say, "No, we’re not paying for college if you go on drinking binges, blow off classes, and reject the values you were raised with. That’s not higher education, that’s a subsidized rebellion."

Some of the worst peer pressure that exists today is the peer pressure among parents. Pressure to be the cool parent, pressure to say yes to every request and pressure to be your child’s best friend. (And if every parent on the block hosted a co-ed sleepover, would you do it, too?)

There is a perception that you are mean if you ever say no. In reality, you are mean if you don’t. Calmly saying no with a smile and confidence against a backdrop of love often constitutes doing what a parent should.

Sure, there’s an off chance your child may write a best seller one day, but is that all bad? Adult children flush with cash are more likely to help take care of parents in their golden years.

The thing is, if your kids don’t hear you say no, there may come a day when you hear them say no.

"No, I’m not into working and personal responsibility."

"No, I don’t respect my parents."

"No, they never set any boundaries."

"No, they didn’t seem to care."

No. A small word that judiciously used now can prevent big headaches later.



Columnist and speaker Lori Borgman is the author of several books including  Pass the Faith, Please (Waterbrook Press) and I Was a Better Mother Before I had Kids  (Atria). Comments may be sent to her at  lori@loriborgman.com.