The Importance of Your Child Saying NO
A few days ago, my husband got home from work. Usually our daughter is super excited, greets him with a hug, and they have a quick exchange about their days.
On this particular day, my daughter didn’t immediately give my husband a hug, so when he swooped her up in a playful manner to hug her, she said “No, I don’t want to be hugged!”. It was a little too late at that point so my husband finished hugging her and put her back down.
Since my daughter had said “no”, understandably, she got upset that he hugged her anyways. Despite this being part of their normal routine. After being set down, she looked at my husband and said, “this is my body and I get to choose who hugs me and when”.
This statement initially surprised my husband and I, especially since it was so playful and what they usually do when he gets home from work, but it is absolutely true.
It is her body and she does have the right to say no to affection/physical touch, even if it is in a safe setting and from a loving parent.
Obviously, a father hugging his daughter after being away at work all day isn’t a bad thing, but if she doesn’t want to be hugged then she should be able to say no and have her no be respected.
If my daughter says no to affection every time my husband and I try to show it to her, and we do it anyways, it will teach her that her no doesn’t matter.
Having your child tell you no can be an extremely frustrating thing. As children grow up, their no changes from being a silly no as one of a baby’s first words, to the defiant no of a toddler, to the disobedient no of the school aged child, and finally to the disrespectful no of tweens and teens.
When children say no, they are exercising freedom of choice.
They are trying to have independence whether it comes across in a positive way or not. As we raise our children, they do need to learn to make choices and they need to have the freedom to say no when they don’t want to do something.
If our children learn that their “no” is never respected at home, then it’s likely they will believe their no doesn’t matter outside of the home either.
Every parent wants their child to say no to drugs and alcohol, no to peer pressure, and no to things they don’t feel comfortable doing.
That is why it is so important that parents allow their children to say no at home and respect their no.
Respecting your child’s no doesn’t mean you allow them to disobey or be disrespectful, you’re allowing them to learn responsibility.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend say in their book “Boundaries”:
“Children need to have a sense of control and choice in their lives. They need to see themselves not as the dependent, helpless pawns of parents but as choosing, willing, initiative-taking agents of their own lives.” Pg.182
“Boundaries are our way of protecting and safeguarding our souls. Boundaries are designed to keep the good in and the bad out. And skills such as saying no, telling the truth, and maintaining physical distance need to be developed in the family structure to allow the child to take on the responsibility of self-protection.” Pg. 175
Here is the book if you’re interested! I highly recommend it!
Saying no is a choice and gives a child a sense of control.
Naturally, all choices have consequences either good or bad and if we make the consequences logical for our children it will further their development as they learn to take responsibility for their choices.
Within the realm of consequences, when necessary, it is important that our children do not feel condemnation, judgement, or isolation because they said no.
They need to still feel loved and secure and know that their parents love for them doesn’t change because they said no or did something wrong.
If they do feel condemnation, judgement, or isolation as a result of their no, it could make them fearful of saying no in a social setting because they may think they will lose friends or approval because of it.
Even when they say no to something they shouldn’t, we can teach them responsibility and give logical consequences without making them feel like they lost approval or security within their relationship with us as the parents.
Not only should we teach our children freedom and responsibility with saying no, we also need to teach them to accept no. Our children need to be ok saying no and accepting no from others.
Our children will be told no many times throughout life, and if they can’t learn to accept it respectfully when they are young, there are more likely to struggle throughout their adult life.
Our children need to learn the positive and negative side that comes with saying no. They need to know when it is appropriate and respectful, and when it is not.
Letting your child say no teaches them responsibility for their words, actions, and self-protection.
From the example above, my daughter is already practicing self-protection by acknowledging that her body is hers and only hers.
She can and should absolutely say no to someone touching her if she doesn’t want them to regardless of the situation.
It may take time and a lot of patience to begin accepting your child’s “no”, but teaching them the responsibility that comes with making choices for themselves is one of the most important things you can do as a parent!