Toronto Zoo

Learning to Say ‘No’

By Lorraine Pelley

Saying no to your child is never easy. The tears, emotional pleas, and tantrums make it difficult to stand your ground and fear of your child not liking you for doing your job as a parent adds to the anxiety. Today’s parents also face the risk of judgement by others who are quick to share their opinion and criticism. So, in trying to keep the peace and make sure everyone is happy, many parents will avoid saying no to their child.

Saying no can be beneficial for your children because it sets boundaries on what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Boundaries are an essential part of your child’s development because they teach children about limitations, how to be considerate towards others, and that the world does not revolve around them. Without boundaries, children can grow up to be disrespectful, entitled, irresponsible adults who lack good decision-making skills and are more aggressive.

Saying no to your child increases their independence and self-confidence because they learn how to do things for themselves. Rather than doing what they ask, parents who say no to their child’s “you do it” demands are teaching them how to problem solve, manage different situations, and perform various tasks.

All this growth and development help your children prepare for the future. Life is full of no’s, and strangers will not care about how your child feels. When they are young, saying no to your child will give them the skills and emotional stability to handle the response when they are older.

The word no should be used as a learning experience, so following up with an explanation will help your child understand why you are saying no. It is also important to stand firm in your decision, so your child understands that you mean what you say. If you are having trouble saying no to your child, there are things you can do to make it easier.

First and most importantly, do not be overly critical of yourself and your parenting skills. As a parent, you are there to teach and guide your children on how to act appropriately. It is easy to second guess your decisions; after all, no one said it would be easy. It is important to praise yourself for your efforts and focus on the positive, especially when you see your child’s tears when they hear the word no.

It is OK to step away from a situation where you find it stressful to give yourself a break. As a parent, it can be challenging to take a few minutes for yourself, but they are vital to our mental wellbeing. If you need to step away from the situation for a few minutes to regain control, do it.

Doing your job as a parent will not turn your child against you. Saying no to them in some situations will help them grow into respectful and confident adults who will love and respect you.