Monday, July 15, 2024

Just Say “No.”

November 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

When clarity is not mine, but everyone around me is pulling for an answer, I just say no.  I make that my “go to” answer.  Why?  I believe that saying NO when I am not clear teaches my children to heed their inner compasses.  It makes them pay attention to that feeling in their  gut that tells them when something isn’t quite right.  It teaches them to tune into themselves, so that later, when their peer group comes up with a crazy scheme, they will ‘check in’ with themselves, rather than go along with them on a casual “why not?”

[I am on the phone]

“Linda, can I watch a cartoon?”

“hmmmmmmm…..Kian, I am on the phone.   I can’t process that right now with you, so right now I am going to say no, and when I am able to process it, I will.”

“Does that mean I can watch it later?”

“I’m sorry Kian, I can’t talk about it right now, but I promise you that as soon as I get off the phone I will.”

“But the show is going to start!”

“I’m sorry Kian, I cannot talk about it right now.”


“I know Kian.  I’m sorry.  I am on the phone right now and I will talk with you about this later.”


I step into a quiet room and finish my call (my son is 8 …. if I had younger children with this situation I would excuse myself from the call and make myself available to them)  I return to Kian and listen to his feelings about not being able to watch the show.   If he is having such deep feelings about something, the chances are there is more to it that just missing a show.  And by that same token, allowing him to watch the show at that point won’t meet the deeper need.

You might question me: “why not just let him watch the show, if it means that much to him?”

I have to stay with my initial gut feeling on it.  I did not feel a resounding “YES” when he asked.  I didn’t even feel a “why not” — which I also count as a “no.”   I ask myself whether I have had the opportunity at that point to gain clarity about the situation, or am I reacting to an emotional experience?  Am I reacting from fear or imbalance, or am I responding?  I think the answer is in that.

Allowing, by the way, doesn’t have anything to do with having no limits, or not stepping into a guiding role for our children.  More on this later.   😉


Lots of Love,




2 Responses to “Just Say “No.””
  1. Julie Libbey says:

    linda, thank you for this! this is a really hard one for me and my daughters really have “got my number” on this issue, which is, with enough protest (dramatic, high in volume, angry, relentless), they will eventually get their way. in the article you mention:

    “if I had younger children with this situation I would excuse myself from the call and make myself available to them”

    at what age is the child that you would do this for? and, would this create a problem with your older child who might think “wow, my mom will drop her call for my little sister to talk through it, but for me it’s no and her walking away until she will even consider it.”

    thank you for the great article which really hits home for me!

  2. Linda says:


    When my older son was about 4 1/2 I began getting him accustomed to the fact that I would address his needs when I was done. I excused myself from the noisy situation by going into a closet in a bedroom – far enough away from the noise to actually get the call done. But more importantly than that, planning my calls so that they happened when the kids are otherwise engaged (with a 15 minute television show, for instance) is a good tactic.

    The bottom line is, first, are they getting their needs met? Are you spending high-level time with them each day, even if it is just 15 or 30 minutes?

    Have you involved them in the problem solving around this? What have they said?

    Julie, I am wondering if they are testing how far you will go for them. Are you familiar with BF Skinner’s work with Operant Reinforcement ….I believe that he showed that the most effective way to create behavior that will resist extinction is by providing a reward on a variable schedule. In other words, if you give in to their screaming after 5 minutes the first time, and then the second time you give in after 10 minutes, and then the third time it’s 20 minutes before you give in, you are actually teaching them to be persistent! if you are not consistent and stick to your boundaries, then your girls will keep trying forever to get you to back down….because it sounds like at this point they have already learned that if they persist with their behavior, you will give in.

    Maybe you need to decide on a consequence that you will enforce the next time this happens so that you can get your need met. This is not punishment, but a consequence for their deliberate actions. Maybe the consequence is that you will not take them shopping later in the day, because you have now used your free time to contend with their actions, and so you will need that free time later in the day to have for yourself. The trick here is that you will have to see it through as planned, no matter what.

    Finally, I think that we often don’t feel filled up when we don’t take time for ourselves and really spend that time ON OURSELVES. This becomes a cycle.

    It a complicated thing! Call me if you feel the desire.

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