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Why is it so hard to say “no” to our kids?

March 13, 2010

Earlier this week I attended a workshop called “Just Say No!” run by my colleague Irene from Eagle Life Coaching. Irene spoke about how many women have difficulty saying “no,” and she encouraged reflection on saying “no” from a place of intention to a bigger “yes.” I found this topic to be so relevant to parenting. We so often need to say “no” to our children that sometimes we may not always be conscious of our bigger “yes.” We say, “No, you can’t have ice cream right now,” from our intention of having our children come to meals hungry and ready to eat the nutritious food we provide. We say, “No, you can’t take toys away from your brother,” from our intention to promote healthy sibling relations. However, sometimes the “nos” can feel so frequent that we can lose sight of our intention.

On the other hand, when we lose sight of our intention, we run the risk of not saying “no” when we probably should. How often do you find yourself not saying no, simply to avoid a conflict or meltdown with your child? Or do you initially say no, but then give in to their request anyway, in effect, undermining your own authority? I know many parents who have great difficulty saying no effectively to their children.

I’ve been asked why it is that so many parents seem to have difficulty saying no to their kids. I have some ideas on this, but I’d love to get your opinions. I think the reasons vary from parent to parent and from situation to situation, but there are some commonalities. I think some parents fear being perceived as “mean” by their children. I think some just want to avoid potential conflict. I think some become overwhelmed and confused about what to do, what is best, and whether or not they should say no or not. And I think some feel guilty about time spent away from their children or about what their children have experienced due to the parent’s past behaviors (e.g., angry outbursts, separation from the other parent) and they want to “make it up” to their children.

I’m sure there are other reasons as well. What do you think? Do you think today’s parents have more difficulty saying no than previous generations? What makes it difficult to say no?


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