Why it’s OK for us to say ‘no’ to our children sometimes

There is a constant tug-of-war between doing what you think is right, and doing what you think other parents believe is right.

The challenge of raising children in this day and age is fraught with tension between intention and pretension.

There is a constant tug-of-war between doing what you think is right (intention), and doing what you think other parents believe is right (pretension).

It’s a game of: “Should I … shouldn’t I?” We carry an invisible burden of guilt, because we choose to stand firm on a particular decision that other parents may have disagreed with, or considered a little too strict. (Their argument is that we may be “psychologically”  damaging our children by being strict. And I say that carefully, because this is another issue I have with today’s ideology of parenting. But that’s for another post.) And the temptation we face is to go with what others would expect from us as parents (pretension), rather than to stick with what we genuinely believe to be the right thing (intention).

So today I am going to stick to writing about why I will continue saying ‘NO’ to my children when I, as their parent, believe it to be needed! (If you as a parent don’t like saying ‘no’ to your children, that is your right as their parent, and you are welcome to keep it) 🙂

To my beautiful children:

  1. I will say ‘no’ because I love you, and I have been entrusted to raise you in the best possible way I can. If that means you will throw a tantrum because you don’t get your way, then I am more than willing to walk that road with you. It’s for the best. I promise. You wont understand now but one day you will come to appreciate it. (Now I sound just like my mother 🙂 ) My intention is to teach you that sometimes the world will answer ‘no’ to your application for a new job, or your request for a raise, or that spot on the team you’ve been pinning your hopes on, or that university application you spent so much energy on – whatever it may be – sometimes the answer will be ‘no’. And there is no amount of tantruming that will change the answer.
  2. I will say ‘no’ because you do not deserve to have every latest toy, technological gadget, or fashionable item of clothing. Contrary to what the world’s advertisers would have us believe, it is a privilege to be given the things we hope for, and a reward to receive the things we have worked for, it is not a right and we cannot simply demand the things we want and expect to get it… My intention is to teach you to appreciate all you have, to be aware of and have compassion for the many who have far less than you, and to safeguard you against the culture of entitlement that plagues so much of our society these days.
  3. I will say ‘no’ because I believe in you. I know what your capabilities are, and I will push you to always strive for the best. For YOUR best, whatever that may be. Rest assured, I will be your biggest cheerleader. SO, if I say ‘no’ you can’t quit just because you don’t feel like going to practice (for example), it is because I believe it will be in your best interest to stick to it… Bear with me. The outcome and the achievement will be beautiful and it will be all yours. My intention is to teach you that there are times when commitment trumps convenience – in fact, it always does!
  4. I will say ‘no’ because sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes. Trust me, I know full-well what it feels like to have to pull yourself together, realize your mistake, sometimes apologize and face it head on. I will not always “bail” you out, not because I don’t love you, but because I do.. More than life itself. My intention is to show that you that our mistakes need not define us, and we can always find redemption if we own our mistakes and honestly strive to make amends.
  5. I will say no because I want you to be proud of yourself (in a gracious and humble way, of course), knowing that all your achievements have been your own, that you are an amazing kid and that you can do ANYTHING you set your heart on. Yes, you should reach for the stars! I will always help when you “cannot”, but I am very likely to say ‘no’ when it is simply a case of “will not”. My intention is to teach you that you can always give it a go by yourself! You’ve got this!
  6. I will say ‘no’, because it is my job to protect you. I will try to not be unreasonable, but this mama bear get’s a little ruffled when I think of you being in a dangerous situation. When I say ‘no’ to a party, or a sleepover, or a trip, or a date, or a curfew (or anything like that), it is not because I want to spite you. My intention is to protect you!
  7. I will say ‘no’ because you do not have to do what your peers do. You don’t have to follow their lead. You are strong enough to make your own decisions by learning to say ‘no’ yourself. And being/doing the same as someone else, just to follow the crowd, is a mediocre path to follow anyway. My intention is to give you the strength to say ‘no’ to others. When your conscience compels you to say ‘no’, I hope you would have learnt from me how to say it – and that it’s ok to say it.

Alongside these 7 reasons, sometimes I will say ‘no’ because I want you to be self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-worthy. If those are just a few character traits that I can unselfishly help you cultivate, then half my job is done. I will say ‘no’ because you are our greatest gift. The love we have for you reaches higher than the heavens, and runs deeper than even the deepest mysteries of the human soul. We will most probably fail many times throughout our journey together, but know this, our NO will become your life-giving YES.

So yes, my dearest children, I will say ‘no’, not once, not twice but many, many times over.


Parenty logo 2Jacqui Bester is firstly a wife, and mom to five rambunctious children who drive her nuts and fill her heart with unspeakable joy all in the space of a single day. She writes about her day to day adventures and misadventures in parenting, life and marriage. Jacqui is known for sharing a brutally honest account of her MESSY “mamahood”… the joy, the fun, the laughter and the tears. She enjoys a good mystery-crime novel with a lovely glass of red wine, trying out new foods and restaurants with her hubby on the odd date-night, exploring new places, learning new skills, and generally anything else that calls for a more adventurous approach to life. You can find her over on One Messy Mama.

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