If you'd rather listen to the podcast than read the blog, click here for The Parents' Solution. The podcast drops November 29, 2022! As a parent, caregiver or teacher, the child in your care is looking to you to teach them the life lessons they will need to be successful. One of the greatest lessons you can teach a child is how to say ‘no’. This simple but powerful word can help your child develop a positive sense of self as well as an understanding of how to accurately read into situations that they will face.
The Benefits of Setting Personal Boundaries
Setting personal boundaries is an art form these days as the constant pressures of life fight to gain our every minute and every ounce of energy. Being able to say no and stick to it takes a lot of guts. You must be able to figure out what is being asked of you and weigh it against the time and effort it will take (or take from you) to accomplish what is being requested. Is it worth it? If not, say no … and stick to it.
It is critical to teach this essential art form to your child for the following reasons:
Ø Safety: If a child has a hard time saying no, they may find themselves in a situation where they feel uncomfortable or scared, but pressure to say yes overwhelms their common sense. Being able to say no will help the child focus on making smart choices based on the safety of the situation.
Ø Confidence: Learning to say no to both other children and adults will help a child understand that their words should be acknowledged. They will learn that they have rights as well, and deserve to be respected for their decisions.
Ø Assertiveness: Learning how to say no will help teach children to be assertive. There is a way to refuse without being rude, and without being a pushover.
Ø Self-awareness: Learning to say no will help a child work through the process of reasoning why they should refuse a suggestion based on the environment, behavior of the person asking, their own feeling of safety, and their sense of morality.
Lines in the Sand vs. Lines in the Concrete
There are certain situations that call for a hard ‘no’, while other situations require some reasoning to reach the best outcome. As the parent or teacher, talk your child through the process of deciding when ‘no’ needs to be a line in the sand or a line in the concrete.
For example, if a child is not comfortable with hugging a distant family member, it is not for the parent to force them into a ‘yes’ when their body language is clearly ‘no’. If the parent learns to respect their child’s needs and feelings, they will be able to hold a conversation to find out why the child is uncomfortable and build the trust that the child desperately needs with their caregiver.
It is crucial that a child learns to reflect on why they feel a certain way and decide on whether their feeling is fleeting or reasonably based. If the reason behind saying no is sound, then it is the parent’s responsibility to support their child’s decision. If a child does not learn this, then saying no will be a challenge and they will find it difficult to set personal boundaries even if a situation is unsafe.
Things to Watch Out For
Being able to teach your child to say ‘no’ requires patience and observation, because it is easy for the power of ‘no’ to become something that your child takes advantage of, so be careful of the following:
Ø Confidence vs. Arrogance
Confidence is when a child has a healthy sense of their rights and understand that they are valued as a human. Arrogance is when a child thinks they are more valuable than any other human and that their rights supersede everyone else’s.
Ø Self-Awareness vs. Self-Centeredness
Self-awareness is when a child has a sound understanding of how to reflect on what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. They also have a good sense of who they are and how their reaction will affect the environment they are in.
Self-centeredness is when a child focuses on what they are feeling but does not reflect on why they are feeling that way. They believe that the environment centers around them and their needs and do not contemplate the effect of their actions on other people.
Ø Being Assertive vs. Being Rude
A child who is assertive can speak directly with the positive intention of setting healthy personal boundaries, or refusing a request that is unsafe, devaluing and/or immoral. This child can both display confident body language and offer respectful dialogue while not backing down from their decision to say no.
A child who is rude can also speak directly but with an unmistakable addition of bitterness, anger, pride, or pain that all come in the form of a bad attitude. The attitude may be on display only in the body language or only in the dialogue or in both. They will not back down from saying no but will do it in a way that is disrespectful to the person they are speaking to.
In all this, it is important to remember that the child in your care must learn to respect people, but that respect can not be offered at the expense of self-sacrifice. The process of teaching your child how to say no is a crucial life lesson. It is powerful knowledge that your child will need to build on as they grow into adulthood.
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