Sunday, May 13, 2012

When A Child Says No, She’s Sure to Grow

Many of us were not allowed to say no to our parents or primary caregivers.  We were children in a time when most parents preferred that their children be seen and not heard, especially if we had even the slightest intention to be oppositional or defiant.  This was a normal expectation in the autocratic world that it was.  But the fallout to this is that we still can’t say no today as adults and we need this capability to be all we were meant to be.

When our child tells us no, a couple of things are going on at that moment; we feel resentful that we weren’t allowed to say it, we’re still trying to please our parents and know they wouldn’t tolerate what our child just did, and we feel frustrated because we’re not getting the cooperation from our child we need at the moment.  The result is instant anger over the NO response we just received and a personal mission to force our child to comply in the moment.  Our relationship with our child suffers and afterwards we feel bad for the way we responded.  

We must allow our child to say no if we hope for them to grow.  Possessing the power to say no to others is required for our child to be all they were meant to be, and more.  When a child is able to say no and still feel whole and complete, their soul and spirit form as they should.  This leads to a greater sense of self-concept and a wholeness to be courageous when danger lurks.  You’re not always going to be around to keep your child safe, that task belongs to them.  You want your child to have the power to say no on the school yard, on the playground, on a date, at a party, in a business partnership, and in a marriage.  Training for this critical ability begins in the safety of the home so start letting them say no today.

Allowing your child to say no when you make requests as a parent does not mean that he wins and you automatically lose.  It means you must examine why he is not cooperating and you must also find alternative measures for getting your needs met in that moment.  When terrific twos (18 months to 6 years of age) say no, it is usually because they crave more power than what you’re giving to them on a daily basis.  Some quick fix solutions in the moment include; rephrasing your request using a choice, adding a fun element to what you need, or redirecting their attention to something completely different.  Getting your needs met without the resistance may mean using more visual cues to give your child more advance notice, setting up rules or agreements in advance, or using a visual timer.  Most importantly, commit to not over reacting to a no.  If you do over react, your child will see it as his reward for saying no and do it again and again and again.

Bill Corbett is the author of the award winning book “Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids” in English and in Spanish, and the founder and president of Cooperative Kids.  You can watch his new TV show CREATING COOPERATIVE KIDS at  He has three grown children, three step children, two grandchildren, and lives with his wife Elizabeth near Hartford, CT.  You can visit his Web site for further information and parenting advice.


  1. Excellent discussion and points! Thank you so much. Carolyn

  2. Great thoughts about what's behind the "no." I liked your suggestions for responding to the child's "no", too. I pinned your post to my Discipline Pinterest board at


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