The Reason Every Kid Should Talk Back to Their Parents

The parent in me wants to squash every little insurrection as quickly as possible. But the psychologist in me is glad when my children say “No.” This is why…

when kids say no

Sunlight is dawning across the living room floor, and the dollhouse is full of Lego Star Wars action figures. They’re sleeping in beds, sitting on toilets, cooking breakfast, and one rogue Jedi is standing on the roof. On an early autumn morning, my daughter and I play dollhouse as the rest of the household slumbers.

Her older brother wakes up, walks into the room rubbing his eyes clear, and sees his new birthday presents defiled by a dollhouse. A look of horror takes over his face—like his dog is lying dead in the road—and he pushes past us to snatch up his action figures.

I hold out my hand and try to be patient. “Give them to me.”

He looks at me, and his horror becomes an oppositional “No!”

The parent in me feels like a failure because I’m not being respected. The parent in me gets angry because I feel out of control and I’m supposed to be “in charge.” And the human in me feels just plain sad, because the morning just got a whole lot harder.

But the psychologist in me is secretly thrilled he said “No.”

Because the inability to say “No”—the inability to set personal boundaries—is one of the most common, insidious causes of human suffering.

When we can’t say “No,”

we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die,

we begin to live our lives according to the forceful should of others, rather than the whispered, passionate want of our own hearts,

we let everyone else tell us what story to live and we cease to be the author of our own lives,

we lose our voice—we lose the desire planted in our souls and the very unique way in which we might live out that desire in the world,

we get used by the world instead of being useful in the world,

we give in to the pressure of a friend and we drink and drive and we endanger lives,

we cave in to a persuasive boyfriend and we end up pregnant,

we get taken in by a sales pitch and we bury ourselves in oppressive debt,

we get abused by a boss and end up with long hours at work and a short fuse at home,

we cater to our kids’ every need and we begin to resent their demands and we fantasize about a deserted island in the Caribbean,

we submit to unhealthy partners and they keep drinking or working or gambling or flirting and we end up in the backseat of our own lives.

There is no end to the ways our lives are diminished by our inability to say “No.” And when a client of mine is being wrecked by porous boundaries, I will often ask this question: “How did your parents respond when you said ‘No’ as a child?” And I will almost always hear this answer: “Oh, you wouldn’t dare say ‘No’ to my parents.”

So, on an early autumn morning, I’m faced with a decision. Do I squash this little rebellion? Raise my voice? Demand that he share? Threaten something? Threaten anything? Or do I take a deep breath and remember the reason it is sometimes good to say “yes” to the word “no:”

Our families are where we first learn how to say “No” in a safe, supportive environment. If we don’t learn to do so there, we won’t learn to do so anywhere. If our children can’t say “No” to us, they won’t say it to anyone.

When my son is offered a bunch of pills or my daughter is offered the backseat of a car, I want my kids to have had a lot of practice at saying “No.” Someday, there will be more at stake than a bunch of Lego action figures and, by then, I want them to know their worth isn’t jeopardized one iota when they don’t give themselves away to everyone around them.

I want them to know their voice matters.

I want them to know they are the author of their own story.

Do children need to learn to set boundaries assertively rather than aggressively? Yes. Do they need to learn the art of compromise? Definitely. Do they need to learn to wisely choose moments of submission? Absolutely.

But all of that learning begins with a “No.”

Because the truth is, you can’t truly say “Yes” until you can say “No.” We need to know we have a choice in life. The freedom to say “No” is the very beginning of our ability to say “Yes.” To ourselves. To life. And to love.

So, on an early autumn morning, I can come down on him, or I can bend down to him. Some days the “parent” in me wins. And I think that’s alright. Sometimes our kids need a parent who won’t bend. But on this particular day I bend, because I figure anyone who looks like his dog just died may have a little more to say.

And what does my “obstinate” son have to say?

“Dad, they’re mine and I get to decide if she can play with them.” As he picks out several of his new action figures to return to his sister.

A kid in charge of his own sharing and giving. A “No” that reminds me it’s good to ask before you take. A “No” that teaches me his heart is young and restless and messy, but also full of charity. A “No” that lays the foundation for an authentic “Yes.”

Because, in the end, we can’t truly say “Yes” to our own voice and the language of love it is speaking, until we’ve been allowed to say “No” to the voices all around us.

Which is why, more and more, I’m happy to say “Yes” to the word “No.”

Questions: Do you agree with this post? Does it make you uncomfortable? How do you handle it when your kids say “No?” How did your parents handle it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Disclaimer: This post is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Disclaimer: Kelly's writings represent a combination of his own personal opinions and his professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with him via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Kelly does not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accepts no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Caralyn

    I think part of the wisdom of being a parent is knowing when the child should be saying yes and when they should be saying no….until this moment I never saw the psychologist side of it so thank you. It makes sense, especially considering the only time my mom and dad heard my no was when I had had enough of the insanity and chose to become estranged from them (at different times for different reasons). Even them my mom would send flowers, cards, emails….and now I’m realizing that again that’s her inability to accept no! I’m definitely sharing this with my husband!!!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Caralyn, I think you are sharing an important insight from your experience: “no” is also what allows us to stay IN relationship with our loved ones. If our “no” isn’t respected as a boundary, then the only alternative to maintain the boundary is to leave the relationship. Thanks for this reminder.

  • Sarah

    This is beautiful, and a reminder that our small people have big feelings and potentially big dreams. May I ask, though, what does that space between “Hand them to me,” and your bending to him look like? What do you say so he doesn’t learn defiance (you’ve just told him to hand you the figures), but you move to listen? I want to empower my children’s “no,” as you say, but I don’t have the words to get me there… Can you help?

    • drkellyflanagan

      Sarah, it’s a great question. I think the space between is a great way to put it. The issue is, what are we reinforcing? The idea of the post is that we WANT to reinforce, to some extent and in wise ways, a child’s ability to say “no.” What we don’t want to reinforce is twenty minutes of crying and pitching a fit. So, if we “bend” quickly after the “no,” and especially if the “no” was done assertively rather than aggressively, we will have reinforced a healthy “no.” But if we bend after the temper tantrum, we will have reinforced the acting out, and we don’t want to do that. I often say to my kids, “I wish you would have used your words instead of acting like that, because now I can’t change my mind or I will be rewarding you for acting up.” I want them to see that them engaging in dialogue and relationship actually leaves me free to compromise, acquiesce, etc. That is, by the way, on my good days. My kids would probably tell you a very different story about my not-so-good days. : )

  • Athanasia

    In my “growing up house,” saying ‘no’ in any form to my dad resulted in his hand reaching for his belt. In those few seconds you had the opportunity to retract the word. If the belt got unbuckled, even when you apologized and became compliant, you got hit. End.of.discussion. Depending on the level or amount of defiance, the belt hit clothed skin or bare skin – up to the age of 12. A plastic jump rope was used on my sister once. He felt badly about it after he saw the welts he left on her little legs.

    In my own home, when the children were very little and ‘no’ was said, they did indeed get a swat on the padded, diapered bottom. Or the hand. Never with an object.

    As they got older, about age 4-5, if they said a defiant ‘no’ their punishment was standing in the corner for 5 minutes. Then we’d talk about the ‘no’. If they continued with defiant attitude, back in the corner for 5 more minutes. (I’m specifically remembering the time my 4 y.o. son refused to apologize to his great-aunt.)

    Once they hit 6, we drew up contracts which listed regular household responsibilities and natural consequences. All parties signed it. The kids were given the opportunity to negotiate the contract terms, within reason as appropriate to age. This continued into middle school. From 6 on up, if they said ‘no’, we were always willing to listen to a reasonable explanation of ‘why’. They didn’t often get their way, but they learned to discuss, debate, reason and decide. They learned to take responsibility for their actions and make recompense for negative results, be it apologize, repay, or suffer natural consequences.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Athanasia, I like the way you took a developmental approach, changing your method as the kids aged. I often tell parents (and myself) that if I won’t be able to discipline in a particular way when the kids are 16, I shouldn’t be getting too wedded to it when they are six. Always call them to greater maturity by a system of rewards and consequences that encourages them toward that maturity.

    • Luke

      To me, hitting a child, especially a baby is much worse than hitting a full-grown adult human being. An adult can walk away from a good smack. You may leave all kinds of scars on or in a child / baby. Their skin and bodies are far more delicate. It’s despicable that your father did that to you kids.

  • Lidin Rancier

    This is perfect for what I’m going through right now. My saying no to my mom has led her to believe someone has changed me or I’m all of a sudden against her. My husband tried to remind her that I’ve always been this way and she’d rather be in denial than accept me and my ability to comfortably create boundaries. I pride myself in having this ability. And him and I look forward to empowering our daughter to do the same.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Lidin, you should pride yourself on that. Finally finding your voice takes great courage! I’m so glad to hear you have the support of your husband. My best to both of you.

  • Larah Ritchie

    This is a delicate balance as a balance. Learning how to discern…in the moment…if their ‘no’ is a sign of defiance or a sign of self-empowered boundary setting. Making sure that, when you let them know you’re unwilling to accept the defiance, that you aren’t using language that quelches the self-empowerment. It’s tricksy. And sometimes, even the most adept of us make missteps. *sigh* Thank you so much for writing about this and sharing your experience!

    • karen eisele

      I think you bring up a very valid point. it is a very delicate balance-too much in one direction and children do not learn any boundaries or acceptable social norms; to much in the other direction children do not learn self-regulation or self assurance. I think every one dreams of being the perfect parent and rasing the perfect well adjusted child. Thank heaven for the Safety net of forgiveness when neither one occurs..

      • drkellyflanagan

        Love this exchange. The balance is indeed delicate and probably something we will never totally find. The day will come when my children tell me what I got wrong. I hope I’m willing to listen!

        • Liz

          I agree – it is a delicate balance and we as parents will never get it perfectly right. My children are now young adults, and I am quick to admit that I most definitely didn’t always get it right, particularly with the eldest. I think one of the most important things we can do as parents is admit mistakes, and apologise, and listen. Then hopefully our children will also learn to admit their mistakes, apologise, and move on. I too, however, am very glad that my kids were at times defiant and even yelled at me – that was never a possibility in my own early years, and I have suffered as a result, exactly as has been outlined here.

  • Christi

    I think that this sounds dangerously like human wisdom rather than godly biblical wisdom. I don’t think that any of us have trouble loving ourselves enough. Scripture says to honor your parents and to tell their authority “no” because they are trying to set boundaries is disrespectful. The example you gave is not a life changing example such as abuse where he would need to say “no” for safety reasons. Saying no is his response to not getting his selfish (and childlike) way. I just don’t think that to embrace the concept that people don’t love themselves enough is not accurate realistically. Sin is rampant within even the youngest of us. Our job as parents, mentors, family members is to help them see and remove the sin in their lives so they are more like Christ.

    • god you religious people

      I hate myself, honestly. And I think there are other people who feel the same way.

      • god you religious people

        Besides, since when is loving (respecting, caring for, being patient with) yourself a sin? “Love the Lord your God as YOU LOVE YOURSELF.” If you care to make the connection, I don’t think that much of God.

        My parents were the sort who went on and on about Godly Obedience, but didn’t respond to my emotional needs much at all. And here, I’ve turned out an agnostic. So um, that “Biblical” approach won’t guarantee a child will turn out the way you want them to.

        Children aren’t really yours to turn into whatever you want, anyway. You cannot predict what choices your kids are going to make as adults. They may sin like crazy.

        Your job as a parent isn’t to make them Holy. No one can do that, geez. Your job is to love them. Maybe look up the Bible’s definition of love at some point.

        • Christi

          I think the verse you might be referring to is Matthew 22:37 which says: And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” You might also be referencing Matthew 22:39 which says “And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 and though some might draw conclusions in this way, it is not a mandate for self-love but more in the vane of the “Golden Rule” as in, treat others as you want to be treated.

          I’m sorry that you feel like your basic emotional needs were not met. I understand that feeling as well because it sounds like you and I came from similar backgrounds. Biblical teaching, of course, doesn’t guarantee that any child will turn out godly. However, to use another more secular example, just because your child won’t grow up to be dietician doesn’t mean you don’t teach them about proper diet and exercise. It is for their good to know and learn healthy habits. Hopefully, even though they might have a sweet tooth, they might implement some of the good habits/teaching implemented at home and/or information shared with them earlier so they don’t end up with significant preventable health problems. Just a quick example off the top of my head…

          Children actually are a heritage from the Lord. (Psalm 127:3) He gives life and takes life as is His will. (Romans 4:17) They are actually “on loan” to us to raise and educate both secular and spiritual wisdom to hopefully guide them to become productive members of this world and to make positive impacts in their spheres of influences. I would expect they would, of course, sin… They are human, just as their parents are human. But, I would also hope that they would exercise their faith to believe that God’s Word is truth even though it might not appear that way to them. Truth isn’t on a sliding scale. There is Truth whether we believe it or not and there will come a day when we will reckon with God’s truth. You are absolutely correct. My job as a parent is not to make them holy. I could never do that. Only God can work the process of sanctification in a child’s (or adult’s) life to make them holy. To love them is to tell them the truth, no matter how hard it is to do so. To not tell the truth is to take the easy way out. I would say that you or I didn’t love our child enough if you knew God’s truth and it was not shared with them. The Bible’s definition of love actually says “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, BUT REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH.” (I capitalize not to shout but just to highlight the key point.)

          It sounds like your parents did love you enough to tell you the Truth. None of us are perfect and that includes followers of Christ. We make many, many mistakes all the time. I’m sure the same can be said for your parents but in love they shared, possibly in the wrong way, but out of love for you, the Truth about godly obedience. I would do the same for my children in a heartbeat.

          Honestly, we are all in need of the Truth. That Truth is found in Christ – the Bread of Life. I am just one beggar trying to tell another beggar where to find Bread. The Lord takes care of the rest.

          • AKmamaOf6

            Christi. I tend to agree with “god you religious people” on this one. I agree that most people DO hate themselves and that is the root of many, many problems in our world. People do NOT know how to truly love, as love is an action and not a feeling. I am 38 and am raising 6 children. I am Christian. I didn’t understand (’till this year) why God loved me, that He indeed did love me, and that I should accept His love…and the only way to do that is to love myself first! That is difficult. We are cruel to others and that is a reflection of our own self-hate. We constantly question our actions and ourselves. I have seen this very prevalent in oldest children (and only children) of adults that I know and almost non-existent in the youngest child. I wish to God that I would have figured this out longer ago before my oldest was 15 and now I see the self doubt in her and it kills me. I “made” her obey, I “made” her go to church, I “made” her feel terrible about herself but did I really love her? I don’t think so. I still struggle with her the most, meanwhile my youngest is my joy because she is a confident 5-yr-old who I allow to make choices instead of “making” her do what “I want” her to do. Life is all about choices. I want my children to be strong when they are adults and I don’t want to squash them any longer. I want to love them. I need to learn how…I’d better hurry. They are going to be gone soon.

            • in His image

              you cant love yourself without letting the love of God for you penetrate your heart first. its His love for you and yours for Him that cause you to love yourself. when you realize you were made in His image you cant help but love yourself. none of this applies unless you are born again and then know who you are in HIM. when He ravishes your heart and you fall in love with Him, He will reveal to you what HE sees when He looks at you and then my friend, you will love yourself. its a process. i still struggle with it from time to time but you have to believe His word and trust and keep pressing on.

            • Elsea

              i cried when i read this… i did the same with my oldest son…and i knew it was happening because it happened to me, but i could not stop the reactions and learned behaviors and how i interpreted what my religion counseled…and my youngest is like yours–joyful and confident… I was the firstborn daughter of a firstborn daughter of a firstborn daughter, btw… I think there was a generational pattern there!

          • Punkin

            Christi, do you even have the ability to think independently??? Are you THAT brainwashed that you are totally unaware that most of us aren’t constantly referring to bible verses? Look, you have the right to your religious views, but you DO NOT have the right to keep imposing those views on others.

        • Andrea Graham

          I’m sorry you went through that. You make some good points here. Too often truth and love are divorced. Without love, truth isn’t true. Without truth, love isn’t loving. Whether parents are legalistic, heavy-handed authoritarians who seek to set themselves up as idols in their children’s lives, or lawless, weak-handed spoilers, they present to their children an inaccurate picture of who God is. That tends to injure the child’s faith, if it doesn’t kill it outright, or prevent it from taking root to begin with. In any case, the spiritual abuse you evidently suffered is among the offenses against a child that Christ warned would be dealt with severely in the Lord’s court. See Mathew 18:6 BTW, domineering behavior is worldly, period. One of the several places where Jesus said that is Mathew 20:20-26 The money quote: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Church leaders are called to be slaves to the people called to submit to them. Do steer clear of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that turn the Bible into a bludgeon to secure their throne in their own little kingdom while giving mere lip service to God’s. That isn’t what true Christianity is about.

      • Bunnykill18

        Yes we do and it’s sucks and I HATE don’t talk back word I have asperger and when I hear the word I hurt in my head and I’m Danish so it’s funny in a way and spoiled I HATE too my world is something very black and white and if things don’t goes my way I feel like hell I WELL be good and I WELL be nice and polite but sometimes it’s feels like I most be pushing just to be me so yeah it’s sucks BIG TIME 😐🔫

    • Rachel Martinez

      It is human wisdom, but it’s not dangerous. Psychology (though perhaps or perhaps not this author’s observations in this article) is based on science and often contradicts the Bible. Unfortunately, the Bible has no understanding of science which makes it dangerous, because this is a scientific world that we live in. I grew up Christian, though I am no longer… and one of the things that convinced me that the Bible was written by men and not by God, was that there were no significant descriptions of science in action in the bible. There was no understanding of the orderly explainable world that we live in. “Let there be light?” It was never as simple as just, “let there be light.” I could write books on what it entails for there to be light. If there is a god and if he created this world, he loves science. Science is in every cell of your body and in every medicine you take and in the buildings you live in and the earthquakes you run from and the sun you bask in. The God who created this universe based it on scientific laws, on principles of physics that have nothing to do with your Bible. Your Bible is full of superstition and is en total a complete misunderstanding by Iron Age men of natural explainable scientific phenomenon. There is no greater proof that your Bible is corrupt than by just looking around and seeing the never ending examples of science that surround you. Whether God is real or not is another topic, but if he is real you are doing yourself a disservice and him a disservice by shunning the science that he is obviously so passionate about.

      • Christi

        Rachel, it seems like you might be having trouble with the concept of faith which is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). Just because, in your estimation, scientific concepts and/or laws and principles are not fully explained doesn’t mean it is corrupt and not the divinely inspired word of God. I have many cookbooks at home and in many of my recipes, it tells me to boil water but doesn’t give me explanation on how to actually boil water. Does that mean that the recipe is faulty or incomplete because it doesn’t fully explain some concepts? Does it also indicate that the cookbook was written by an electrician or a plumber instead of a chef simply because certain concepts, basic to the author, were not explained to my satisfaction? One thing that constantly comes into my mind when I read the Bible is that the gap between what I know and understand and what God knows and understands is gaping. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) He knows way more than I could ever expect to know. The fact that I don’t understand everything He talks about in the Bible or purposely doesn’t explain fully is not an indictment against Him as fallible but against my shallow understanding and comprehension of things.

        It says in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21) The Truth is God has revealed Himself in creation and science and in all life forms. He has also revealed Himself in the joys and trials of life, the pleasures, the pains and the waiting periods. Everything in this life is to glorify Him. However, there are some who will refuse to see it. That does not mean that the standard of Truth has changed. Our eyes deceive us in a million different ways and if we trust what our eyes see and what our feelings feel, we discard the Truth and do not have faith, which is the basis of Christianity.

        If, as you say, that psychology is based on science and, indeed, often contradicts the bible, it is also, indeed, dangerous. It, too, as a science – it’s practices and system of beliefs, will bow to the Word of God at His ordained time whether we believe it or not.

        • Rachel Martinez

          If the cookbook told you to stare at the water and let the heat from your gaze bring the water to a boil, I would like to think you would throw that cookbook away and get a different cookbook. But maybe that same cookbook tells you to have faith in the heat that radiates from your eyes and the cookbook assures you that the cookbook speaks the truth. Would you have faith in the cookbook just because the cookbook told you to have faith? Would you stand in your kitchen as your life passed you by, endlessly staring at the still water atop your stove? I think you might. I think you do.

          • Christi

            I guess time will tell. I hope, for your sake, since you sincerely believe that it is bologna, that you are right because if you’re not, it will be too late. You have access to the Truth and have heard the Truth and it is your choice as to what you put your faith in whether science, psychology or Jesus Christ and His Word. I wish you nothing but blessings but do hope that you would consider that there might be more than what you perceive with our limited perspective.

            • Rachel Martinez

              For your sake, I hope you’re right too. Otherwise, all of the evil done in the name of God and all of the people oppressed in that same name will have suffered for nothing.

              • drkellyflanagan

                I’ll be honest, this exchange has been hard to watch. One of my hopes for this blog space, as I describe in the footer, is that “we can begin to put down all of our competitive identities and encounter each other as members of a human community who have more in common than in conflict.” I wish you two women could sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about the last time each of you was betrayed by a lover, or lost a loved one, or the words someone said about you that have always haunted you, or your most embarrassing moment, or the thing you doubt the most about life and love and people. I’m guessing you’d still disagree about the above, but it might not matter quite as much. Not sure if I should post this comment, but I’m going to anyway.

                • Guest

                  To quote from, “Boondock Saints,” (ironically it was a priest speaking), “Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.” Regardless of it’s origins, I think there is a lot of wisdom in that and I believe it. I also believe that organized religion is the perpetrator of vast amounts of human suffering as well as a huge obstacle to scientific progress. So should I sit and have a cup of coffee with a person that I see as being affiliated with that evil? What for? I can have those conversations with logical and rational human beings. Why would I want to talk to her?

                  • drkellyflanagan

                    For what it’s worth, my thought would be: the human ego has been the perpetrator of vast amounts of human suffering. And the ego will use religion, rationality, rabbits, whatever, to do its damage. Usually through division, the creation of out-groups, and the demonization of those out-groups.

                • Rachel Martinez

                  I kept writing and rewriting a response to this, but each one came out more offensive than the next… and unfortunately I hit enter on one of those attempts. Maybe you saw it in your email(s), even though I deleted it here, and if so I apologize for that. I wanted to choose my words more carefully, because I recognize that I have a lot of anger surrounding organized religion. That being said, I give up. I’m not able to write a diplomatic response to this. Happy Friday.

                  • drkellyflanagan

                    Rachel, it feels like there’s something holy about your struggle with your anger and how to respond graciously. I hope you stick around here. We need people like you who are working that hard at life!

                    • Jessica

                      drkelly…your response to all of this was beautiful. Thank you for showing me a good example of a reasoned and logical mind with a heart filled with compassion.

                • Tammy Foster Schwenger

                  Great advice! It would be nice if we all could follow it. If we did I think we would be surprised with what we may learn,on both sides

              • Tetema

                Rachel i want to kindly suggest that you look up islam , because as you said we live in a scientific world. Seeing as the bible does not hold any answers for your questions , maybe islam will. A little research can go a long way. Best regards

                • Rachel Martinez

                  I appreciate the spirit in which your suggestion was given, but I have no hole for any religion to fill. However, should I ever find myself in the market for a religion, I will certainly give it a thorough once over. =)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            Or you could write a tell-all book:
            “WOMEN WHO STARE AT COOKPOTS”.

      • Ann Power Smith

        Rachel, I applaud your efforts here, but it was quite clear from Christi’s initial post that her thinking is boxed in with a tight seal to iron age dogma…absolutely impenetrable to any empirical evidence that contrasts her particular religious ideology.

      • Ashley

        If God tried to explain every scientific truth He created (which is everything) there is no way people, especially people from earlier times, would be able to grasp the full knowledge of it. But the reason I think science isn’t more prevalent in the bible isn’t bc it “doesn’t exist”, but bc its really not that important. Science is something people can learn on theor own, but spiritual things can only be revealed by God, and in my opinion, science is soooo irrelevant to what is TRULY important-eternity. Science is but for a moment, God in all His goodness is forever. Why waste my time focusing on something so insignificant? Will it change my life at all to know scientifically
        what, why or how things work or happen? No. I might have more knowledge in my mind, but it won’t change my life in a substantial way. There are plenty of books about science, and I read those when I want to learn about scientific things, which is very interesting to me. When I want or need more than science will EVER be able to offer to me, a glimpse of eternity beyond this life, I go to my bible & no amount of scientific research will provide an explanation for things eternal.

        • rafaelrobyns

          Ashley, it must be comforting to think the bible tells you about something beyond this life, but the same claim to absolute knowledge about eternity has been made by countless other groups according to their holy books. Those books provide no objective knowledge of anything that we know exists. On the other hand, if you were to give up all that science has brought to you would find the life you know about to be quite different. It’s not a matter of how much scientific knowledge fills your mind, which I agree is irrelevant. Science has been important because it is the most successful method we have to explain how the world works and, thereby, to improve our life in it, if that knowledge is used wisely. You don’t have to know any science to understand these benefits. And if you cannot see how you have benefitted, perhaps it is worth thinking about how science has changed everything in your modern world, from transportation to food production to communication to construction to medicine.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      And The Party Line (“SCRIPTURE(TM)!”) gets invoked.

    • Peggy

      Read Melanies post again. To be told by an authority figure of any kind to do something when there is no reason just because they did not take the time to think about what they were doing always deserves to be questioned and sometimes that starts with a no.

    • Christopher Bradley Kerr

      Please keep your biblical/religious views to yourself. This topic has nothing to do with religion, so please stay on topic. I’m sick of seeing religious posts put into every discussion these days. Not everyone shares the same religious views. If you want to talk about your religion then go to a religious forum and post there.

      • Luke

        So, why can’t they express their view, albeit their religious views?? That seems very hypocritical when you’re asking for people to be able to have their say.

        • BlueAmethyst

          It’s not what she said, it’s how she said it. If your pay attention to the language in Christi’s post, you will see it less of a rebuttal, and more of the religious rant that it is. Shitopotamus’s remarks where criticizing the fact that it’s a common theme for religious folk to deliberately post rants like that even when off-topic. The Internet has a term for it: Trolling.

    • AuroraBird

      So Christi… I can take your car without asking? And you can’t report me for theft because it’s “sharing” & you would be childish to not share your car, right?

    • rimsha

      How is Sin rampant in a child ? a child only knows what it hears, feels , observes or what it is taught. When If Sin according to you is rampant even in the youngest of us according to your Chrisitian teachings , then a child would have to be receiving punishment before he is even taught what is right and wrong.

    • Alani g

      Hey, after seeing so much argueing, I wanted to point something out. I am disappointed that the replies to this posts have been hostile and rude. You’ve all gone completely off the iriginal subject of the post: whether godly or human wisdom is best when raising a kid. The original post didn’t put emphasis on the bible. So why did everyone single it out? Your hate or competition for religion has caused you to completely forget the original reason and subject for this comment: child rearing. Ugh it’s so annoying when this happens. And it brings out the worst the people, such as hypocrisy and downright hate. And to think, if someone had responded to her comment by making an honest reffutal, we could have had an interesting discussion. Godly wisdom and human intellect. Sigh

      • Alani Gamble

        Sorry I meant contempt for religion and ‘original’ subject.

    • Pineapple

      Of course children can grow up into adults and not love themselves enough. When you have been beaten, compressed and squashed of your own personality due to control by your parents-for the fear of saying “no” it is only a natural consequence. Goodness me, less reading and more practise is needed for this “so called religious person”!

      • Pineapple

        Also, just because a child is saying “no” doesn’t mean they are automatically being selfish! What if that child was being abused? Are they not allowed to say “no” then? This biblical post is nothing but “rubbish”

  • Lama Tassabihji

    Your writing says all the things I want to say….
    Having the patience to let them say no has so many more benefits than just arguing with them and ending up both in horrible moods!
    An amazing read as always!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Lama!

  • Catharine Phillips

    Thank you, Kelly. Love it. Linked it on my blog this morning. Blessings on your head and heart!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Catharine, I’ve loved your recent reflections on the changing light and the (un)changing bushes. I start my morning with you and Richard Rohr in my inbox. Thanks for linking up to me!

  • karen eisele

    What a blessing you are to your children(though I am sure they don’t always see it that way). When one can pause and reflect on the long range impact of our actions and words on another it is a sign of growth. We don’t have to replicate the harm that was done to us from whatever situation formed our self view. Growing up in my household saying “no” was not tolerated. As I raised my children I tried to be more open to their views but wasn’t always sucessful. I wonder how many of us would have been spared being a “doormat” if we had been allowed to say “no”. What potential for a full life was lost or delayed because we weren’t allowed to be “in charge of our sharing and giving”? We may never know those answers but we can work on learning not to be uncomfortable with that small word as we practice it for ourselves and allow others in return to use it with us.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Well, thank you, Karen. As I often find myself saying, writing it is way easier than doing it day in and day out. But I think the hard work is worth it, as you say, because we want to raise a generation who can live wholeheartedly!

  • John Sullivan

    As I’ve come to learn from, appreciate and respect your offerings, this is yet another expression of your gift for bringing head and heart to the everyday (hour?, minute?) dynamics of parenting. At least one other voice of wisdom cautioned me about framing issues in the “either-or” mode. Using the “yes…but” or the “no…but” approach can create a space for compromise or even the creative and effective third alternative (i.e., not my way, no; or your way, yes; but, a different way) to show up. For example, your son saying, “No, you can’t play with all my (fill in the blank), but, I’ll let you play with this one or two or whatever.”. And the beat goes on…

    • drkellyflanagan

      The good stuff’s always somewhere in the middle, isn’t it, John? Thanks for this reflection.

  • Diana

    Now that you phrase it like this, I realize that whenever someone gave me a real choice to just be – even if that meant yes or no – , many times (if not all of the times) i stopped being defensive, wanting to counter-act just to feel that i have the freedom to be. I developed a protection/defensive mechanism to just do the counter/opposite thing anyone would want me to do. But when I met this person who let me to AUTHENTICALLY be, I realized I stopped saying no. That was the time when I had the courage to say yes to love, because I was given the choice to say no and to also assume my choice.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Diana, I was in a seminar recently where the instructor asked us to put up our hands, and then she pushed on them. Every single one of us naturally pushed back. She was making the point that resistance is a natural part of being human. When we keep pushing on someone, it is natural for them to push back. When we take a step back, we give them the freedom to stop resisting, to stop saying “no.” So glad you met the person who stopped pushing and let you step forward on your own!

  • Lori Ann

    I instinctively allowed my children their “no” when they were young; but as I read your words here, I understand I never had mine as a child and still cannot find my voice for that one particular word.

  • Brea

    Saying no in anger and frustration is a reaction. When people react out of anger they are not thinking clearly. When my children are reactive, “no” or any other type of outburst is not acceptable. They are encouraged to leave, calm down, get their thoughts together, and then come back and have a conversation. Listening to what my kids say is vital. More often than not, my children will still “get their way”, but at that point there is an understanding and respect. My children are encouraged to have a voice and that they will be listened to, even if they are wrong. A lot of time I will question them to get them to think. At the end, even if they stubbornly refuse to let go of their opinion, they leave with a lot more information to process and build upon.

  • drkellyflanagan

    Hi all, I love to respond to every comment, but it looks like I’m running out of time tonight. Will continue to respond as time permits. As always, just know I’m grateful for your thoughts, read every comment, and take each to heart.

  • Lisa Cash Hanson

    I have never really been a fan of psychologists I have to admit. But I’m a first time mom and many days I feel like an alien. My daughter has no problem saying no and she is 2 1/2. Some days I feel like all I do is fight her on multiple issues. She is incredibly strong willed and it’s exhausting at times. She comes by it naturally so I can’t get too upset. But this post made me feel much better about her constant “no’s”

    • drkellyflanagan

      Lisa, I appreciate your candor, and frankly, I can’t blame you for your feelings about psychologists. : ) Glad this post helped to relieve some of the pressure to stifle all her “no’s.” She’s 2, it’s her job to say “No.” You get the harder job of helping her learn how to do so wisely and kindly!

      • Lisa Cash Hanson

        That is true 🙂

  • Helgapia .

    Love your post. ♥ Thank you. — Just ONE thing — there is NEVER a situation where a COMPROMISE is okay. NEVER. A compromise is always a lie, for one or the other.
    With love,
    Helga

  • Catherine L

    I love this article. and i totally agree with it. I think its easier said than done, but i think it is something we should all strive to do sometimes depending on the situation. Thank you.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Great point, Catherine. I think there’s a misconception out there that allowing kids to say “no” is the easy way out. I think the reality is, mentoring a child regarding boundary setting is far more tedious, time-consuming, and emotionally draining than coming down hard and silencing every bit of resistance.

  • Di

    Thank you for confirming how I have taught my two boys. We need to also teach them how to respond to other adults who can’t handle “no”. My son is always in trouble at school because he has learned to “back talk” from home. I still think its a good thing to explain your feelings.

  • Tammy

    I always talked to my children about their No’s. I always allowed my 3 children to talk to me when they were upset with me as long as the did it respectfully. I never had a voice growing up!!! In so many ways I was treated wrong and my Mom still tries to control me and I am 52. examples wanted to go to collage/ NO, Get my own apartment/NO, met the Love of my life/ H— NO. I only started getting my voice after I moved 650 miles away and she till throws a fit 14 years later

    • drkellyflanagan

      Tammy, so glad you’ve found your voice and are helping your kids find their’s earlier. We need to make space for our kids’ frustration or they will never learn how to deal with it. Good for you!

  • Tracy

    I’ve often thought this same thing as my son stands up to me with all of the self-rightousness a 7 year old can muster. I’m glad he stands up to me, because he’s learning to stand up for himself against others, and he feels strongly enough about who he is to be able to stand up for what he feels is right. While it can be very frustrating at times, it’s important to me that he get practice with this in a place where he is safe and supported. Great post! 🙂

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Tracy!

  • Melanie

    Oh I love that you wrote this. My kids are teens now and they are a lot more empowered than I ever was as a teen. When my kids were young and would say no to us, and I listened, I really learned so much. I really began to question (and questioned my husband too) as to why we were making them do xyz in the first place? Why the heck should they do something they may not want to, if not for a darned good reason, like “someone would get seriously hurt physically or emotionally if they didn’t.” it made me realize that there was a fine line between how I was raised “You do it because I say so,” and “Am I asking you to do this, not because it’s important, but rather to enforce parental power over you?” I like what you said below about when to do this, e.g. not after a temper tantrum. When we transitioned from “my way or the highway,” to “let’s hear your side of the story as to why it doesn’t make sense for you to do that,” we learned a heck of a lot about how our kids thought and what their issues were. When we went forward from that spot, and worked on reasoning and negotiation, that is when we had peace in the family, and there were no more battles. Ahhh, it was zen. My kids learned there were things you could say no to and things you couldn’t, such as living up to your responsibilities with chores, going to school and keeping a peaceful home. Here’s a quote by one of my favorite parent educators Barbara Coloroso, Compliant children are very easily led when they are young, because they thrive on approval and pleasing adults. They are just as easily led in their teen years, because they still seek the same two things: approval and the pleasing their peers. Strong-willed children are never easily led by anybody–not by you, but also not by their peers. So celebrate your child’s strength of will throughout the early years…and know that the independent thinking you are fostering will serve him well in the critical years to come.
    Read more at http://quotes.dictionary.com/author/barbara+coloroso?page=1#baLm6Gj5729slp8u.99

    • drkellyflanagan

      Melanie, I hope everyone reads this comment. Beautifully practiced with your children and beautifully expressed here. When we give our children the dignity of having a voice, they are almost always more likely to respect our parental voice when we need to use it. Lovely to hear a story of that happening. Thank you!

    • Peggy

      I wish I had heard these things when my children were growing up. I was not allowed to say no and married a man having never learned how to say no and not knowing how to teach my children to say no, After 37 years of marriage am in the process of getting a divorce and am ok with that I know I did everything I could to make it work. My Husband did not support my efforts to build confidence in our children and I am trying to learn how to show my Son who is now a single father with full custody how to know his worth. I am so glad to have stumbled onto this site.

    • Pooja

      You are beautiful, Melanie

  • Sammie D.

    Sounds like a great way to bring a child up with O.D.D. An “I can do anything I like, because my alternative parents said I could. Screw you, rules of society! No no no! Me me me! Etc”

    • drkellyflanagan

      Sammie, glad you read the post and thanks for engaging with it!

    • Ankur Gupta

      Despite the sarcasm, I would rather prefer my child to be like that than one who is walked all over by psychological bullies..

  • Claire

    It is good to empower children to say no. When we honor their feelings, that is the first step in teaching them to respect us and themselves. It helps them to promoter their feelings. When it is urgent for them to listen to you and know that in certain cases, “No” is appropriate at some point, they will listen, because you allow them to express their feelings and you have taught them how to understand when no may be for their good. ( such as immediate danger)

    • drkellyflanagan

      Yes. Thanks, Claire! When we’ve permitted them a “No,” they trust that when we don’t allow them the resistance we must have a good reason. This learning takes time, though!

  • Miche Tetley Briers

    Great article… I’m a psychotherapist myself who has had to learn about boundaries and saying ‘No’ as an adult and it has been painful and long and hard. I now have a 3 year old boy and found myself about 6 months ago explicitly teaching him to say ‘no, don’t talk to me like that’ when I yell, which I don’t do very often, but I do sometimes and I can’t guarantee I won’t again. I want him to know that it is ok to challenge those in authority about their less-than-compassionate behaviour. It scared me to hear that teaching coming out of my mouth, as it is so directly in opposition to my upbringing where any kind of talking back was ‘cheek’ and dealt with strictly. But as time has gone on, he is learning to stand up to me, and it keeps our conversations open. I apologise and he learns, I hope, that it’s ok to not be perfect and that we can take responsibility for our behaviour. We talk about our ‘fights’ and we resolve them together. I feel like I am breaking new ground in my family’s legacy, in my relationship with myself and every day with this brave-hearted teacher I have in a 3 year old body. I don’t know where it will lead us, but my heart tells me our direction is true! Thanks for your wisdom and all the best to you and your family.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks for this, Miche! Isn’t it interesting that so many of us therapists had to learn about boundaries late. Hmmm. : ) It’s touching to hear the ways you are redeeming that with your son.

    • Maria1927

      Thanks for this so much. I told my daughter the same thing. I didn’t know where it would end up but I had her say to me “Don’t scream at me. Stop it.” Something like that. I gave her the power to talk back to me when I wasn’t treating her well. Breaking new ground in family legacy looks once in a while like I am getting owned by my 4 year old but baby steps. She’s mostly a fantastic. awesome little girl. love.

  • Mateo

    I had just read another post that was all about setting boundaries and being firm. I was going to say that that my 10 month old is too young for all tht assertiveness and letting me know what she wants, but that’s not true, because she’s already showing when she’s happy with something or not. As I read the previous article I felt very uncomfortable with this battle that I’m expected to have, because secretly there’s a part of me that feels immense pride that my girl knows what she wants and will grow to stand up for the needs and feelings that are important to her, rather than bending and swaying blindly to everyone else demands. At least that’s my hope for her. I hope that I won’t be too ego driven to hear her say no to me.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Mateo, there are many different camps on this one. I’m glad you found here some ideas that resonated with your discomfort about having a battle with your little one. When we give them the dignity of a dialogue, I think they are much more likely to reciprocate it!

  • Shia

    My parents always berated me whenever I stood by my boundaries as a kid. As a result, I had a lot of confidence issues growing up and never knew how to assert myself. It took me a long time to recover. I think parents really need new perspectives on effective parenting rather than following traditional, fear-based, ‘prisonguard’ parenting tactics. This article offers a fantastic new outlook on healthy and empowering learning structures that can be used within the familial structure.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      I know at least one guy who’s in his forties and still hasn’t recovered. Guy is constantly apologizing to everyone just for existing.

  • Anja

    I totally understand. I have difficulties to say no and set boundaries. I am learning, but still…. I feel like a leaf in the wind sometimes.
    I am educating children and, because of my own situation I tend to listen to them, when they say no. It is so important.
    As an adult we have so much power and we tend to forget that. I want children to feel and be aware of the fact that they have a choice, a voice. I want them to know, that they matter, that their feelings are respected.

  • Liesel

    Thank you for this piece! I never got to say no. It has taken me years to learn how to look after me without feeling guilty, or a bunch of other emotions.
    My daughter(4), by the Grace of God, landed in a school where they get taught to say: STOP, I don’t like what you are doing. A diplomatic “no” that has to be said loud enough to draw attention from a teacher/parent/adult. A safety mechanism. A way of standing up for your rights.
    I choose my fights with her, she must feel she wins some of her fights. She also knows as her parent there are some rules that are not to be broken. We give and take.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Give and take is a good phrase, Liesel. If kids can’t do that with their parents, where will they learn how to do it?

  • Chloé

    i am in awe of your thoughts and the perfect way you carry them out. i am a freshmen in college and psychology has always been an interest to me. i hope to someday think of thoughtfully and speak with wisdom, as you do.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Chloe, the key is listening to the right people and then repackaging their ideas in your own voice. : ) Thanks for letting me know my voice is resonating with you!

      • Chloé

        i wish to know how you carried out your college career.. did you follow through with your first choice of a major, psychology, even though many people these days, whom think they know ‘what’s best for me’, says a psychology major is a ‘joke/ cop-out/ waste-of-time-and-money kind of major.. did anyone ever tear you down when it came to following through with it? at this point i am considering taking a semester off or , another words, taking a break due to my insecurities with deciding my life time future job, ha. a reply is much appreciated.

        • drkellyflanagan

          Chloe, in my context, becoming a psychologist was highly supported. But you would have loved our Google Hangout today. Almost everyone involved had stories of family and friends who were not supportive of them following their passion. The collective decision was that, if it’s what you love, you do so anyway, and you begin to collect people who WILL support you along the way. In fact, that’s the topic of our next Hangout in January, if you’re interested!

  • bellelynx

    i was always able to reason out with my father;with my mom,err..occasionally when i was younger. now i just keep my mouth shut whenever i can. this is really a great thing for me to read. funny though, my grade school teachers taught us to never talk back to our parents nor to adults.

  • MatosClanMom

    I absolutely love this post. At every sentence, I stopped, reflected and analyzed myself as a parent of three small children. I I felt you were sitting in my living room when writing this. Ironically, I had a very similar scenario just last night and I am the aggressive parent, who demands my children share and respect and do as they are told and not talk back, etc…but I must say in the few minutes I set aside to read your post I learned I should reevaluate my theories and parenting techniques and thought to myself, “maybe I should bend more” but not because I am tired of hearing my kids whine for juice but to allow them the opportunity to develop the act of reasoning and compromise and making healthy,wise and rational choices. Thank you for a few moments of clarity when the “parenting world” feels so foggy.

    • drkellyflanagan

      I really appreciate your reflection because you are “in the heat of battle,” as they say. As you work to engage them more in a dialogue, I’d love to hear how it goes! They’re lucky to have a mom who’s willing to bend. : )

  • do-over

    Raised in a “do as I say not as I do; cut I said so; thus said the lord” household…As a young mother I raised my son the same way. Then when he was about 10 years old. I realized there was almost a developmental delay of sorts. My son didn’t seem to have an opinion or care about anything. When asked, although he should be able to explain his actions & feelings he could not. Why because he has had no practice. In my ignorance, I had managed to single handely shoot down every free willed thought he had in his entire life. In my attempt to raise a respectful son I had stripped him of his ability to seemingly form an opinion about most things because at the end of the day it didn’t matter. I would just impose my will anyway….because mother knows best…right? What a mess I’d created. Each moment since then I’ve been trying to validate him and encourage him to form opinions…and then express them. My son is 16 now so he’s old enough for those times when I must be the parent and enforce rules I always explain why this is a requirement. And I also explain how I feel this will help us get to our end goal. Which we both agreed was the point of my parenting was to give him the tools he needs to be a productive, moral member of society. Be gainfully employed, with the basic life skills needed to be able to take care of himself , and one day a family. He is not as assertive as I would like, but I am doing everything I can to correct my stern and strict no compromise early beginnings. So yes every human being, even a child has a right to express their opinion. Every household can set perimeters for how that’s done but there must be an outlet or else you create depressed adult a drones IMHO.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Well said! And I love the identifier you used here. Most of my best parenting is a do-over. : )

    • todd craig

      Thank you for sharing your story. It took some courage and humility to do that. I am a 44 year old man who, after 12 years of living on my own, had to move back in with my parents four years ago. It is extremely hard. I am very grateful for whatever growth and perspective took place during those years I lived on my own. My parents have never changed and they never will. Their resistance is based on fear of change. Their 48 year marriage has been one that is both combative and dreary. It is very painful to watch. They are both broken people, incomplete, and they cling to each other to form one whole person. They are unable to give me the support or the tools I need to be my own person and to not live off others. I realize a lot of my mistakes, but this knowledge has only come within the past year. But I am optimistic as I realize that on the heels of this new knowledge almost immediately came the desire within me to chance. And that was all because everything suddenly became very, very clear to me. This article resonates with me so much because my parents (especially my father) 100% discouraged any kind of real self-sufficiency. He wanted – and still does – me to be afraid. That way he wouldn’t have to be the only one. Sometimes it’s hard not to hate him. The easiest path to forgiveness is when I understand that he is probably more scared than I am. So I have been resorting to advice and mentoring outside the family for the first time. This is also completely new as my parents did not allow anybody outside the family to come inside our home. All this becomes so much easier to accept and deal with when I realize that life really is not about the destination, but the journey itself. If were all about the destination, then I guess it would be time to die! : ) Thank you for your forum and the opportunity to share!

  • Pingback: The k(NO)wing of Parenting | Interdimensional Goddess()

  • angela

    Dear Kelly, I completely agree with your post because I feel and live and struggle each day with the consequences of not being able to choose and to say no to people and situations that are not right for me. I’ve been living all my life being too strong, adapting to situations which made me suffer too much till I collapsed phisically and psychologically. Some days before your post, I became conscious that this was closely related to the inability of saying no to my parents. And that I didn’t know who I really was and what I really wanted, since many of my choices came from that mechanism and where somehow not mine.. It was like fallng down to nowhere.. and it’s hard to cope with this situation and to go beyond it.
    So I’m glad to find someone who tells these things to people.. because the consequences on the children are so strong and long lasting.. and I suppose they are present and visible (more or less) in almost all of us.
    I mean: I’m doing a lot of good and important things in my life, I’m not naive, I can say no to a lot of things and people wouldn’t even imagine my story.. but there are a lot of aspects where the inability to say no becomes visible. Mostly in my private life. And these aspects are like a prison for me but they are also incredibly difficult to overcome.. I have to learn now, alone, so many things that my parents were not able to “teach” me with love.. It’s so sad. And so difficult. But it’s the story of my life, maybe it was just necessary..

    So I’m trying to learn now that I have the right to say no. Otherwise how will I be able to make it really different with my children? If nobody has given me help and love to learn it? If I don’t give myself help and love in laerning it?

    Thanks for your work and for your words. They’re so interesting, touching and full of hope. And in some cases – like this one – they arrived right when they were needed. when they were more effective to me because I was dealing with the same topic.. that’s great!! 🙂

    • drkellyflanagan

      Angela, I’m so glad this post came at the right time. My best to you as you continue on your healing journey!

  • Katherine

    I just stumbled across this blog. Thanks for this. I grew up in a rather abusive home. But one thing that stood out to me reading this post was remembering my mom yelling at me one day because she said that I am “too nice” and “too giving to everyone” and I need to “learn to set boundaries”…. but whenever I tried to say no to her (especially as an adult- she would yell at me “You can’t say no to me, I’m your mother.” If I said I had the right to set a boundary- it was the same. “You can;t set a boundary with me, I’m your mother.” Reading your description about becoming a sponge for everyone elses feelings and needs while ignoring our own really hit me and makes me really want to start saying “No….No…..NO…..NO!” Maybe I’ll try it. 🙂

  • Moira Bramley

    I am so grateful for you :))

  • Elle

    This is a tough one for me. Currently, I have no children. I cannot say what I will be like as a parent, or give examples of my parenting skills. I feel as though if you know your child enough to know what type of “no” they are saying this will work. I know this, yet because this is not the way I was raised something inside me wants to fight it. That something wants to agree with the naysayers that say this is not a smart approach. That something wants to believe that children should obey no matter what. I am thankful I have the opportunity to read other perspectives on parenting. I know I will make mistakes, but I am hopeful I will raise my children to be successful adults.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Elle, it’s a tough one for me, too! At the same time, it’s clear you are interested in learning and being challenged, which is essential for being a parent. I trust you’ll find your way to an approach that seems right to you.

  • Anja

    very nice just how do you react to the word no? simply don’t react at all and let it go? I want my kids to be able to say no!!!

  • Brandy Echternkamp Schlieper

    I really needed to hear this. But it also made me think about how permissive my parents were and how I feel that has impacted the kind of adult I became. I have a hard time being told no and I like to be in charge. My parents let us do whatever and eventually even stopped making us do chores, etc. There were lots of contributing factors but that’s neither here nor there. As an adult I wish my parents had set a curfew, enforced chores, had expectations, and followed through with discipline when we needed it. Now I struggle with how to set appropriate limits, how to enforce household chores, how to teach my children the very skills I did not learn. And I am trying to teach them to myself as well. My children are only 3 and 7 but I know I need to lay that ground work now.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Brandi, you are making a subtle, yet crucial point. Allowing children to have a voice and set some of their own boundaries is not the same as being permissive, having no expectations, and limits. It’s not an either-or. I’m glad you are seeking to find the healthy middle ground for your children!

  • Lisa

    My husband and I live by a very strong moral code and have strived to teach those morals to our children in a way that didn’t smother them. We have always allowed our kids to discuss/argue/get their point across or as you put it “talk back”. So far two out of three have succumbed to drug and alcohol abuse- dropped out of high school and given into peer pressure in numerous other ways. Are they strong willed? Yes but they aren’t using that will in a productive way. I have often asked myself if maybe I had been a little more strict and a little less willing to take no for an answer if things would be different now.

  • Upi

    Thanks Dr Kelly for sharing your thoughts on what you deem important enough for our world to hear. By the responses, it appears that you have created a safe place for folks to write their thoughts. It has opened up for some very interesting discussions. Even though there is a stark difference of opinions, I am very happy folks are writing them. Perhaps this is helpful to all, hopefully 🙂 I personally find tremendous clarity when I open up and write. Thanks for having the courage to comment on some of these discussions.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Upi, for this affirmation. One of my main hopes in growing this blog is that it remain a place where a diverse range of opinions can be openly discussed in a mutually encouraging and supportive environment, remembering we are all human beings first, and all of our other categories, labels, identities, and tribes second.

  • Joanie

    i read this article after googling ways to say no – man if i haven’t found myself in so many of those positions before. Drinking when i don’t want to, hooking up with a guy because i was too afraid to say no…super risky behavior, but for a people pleaser, it’s life or death when you think someone might be disappointed in you. i don’t know how to say no and it destroys me from the inside out. A friend just called and i knew, I KNEW he was going to ask to hang out. He gets lonely on his days off and always is looking for someone to drink with. I KNOW exactly how the conversation is going to go – he’ll ask me to hang out, i’ll try to stall and say no, he’ll nag, i’ll feel bad because i know i’m hurting his feelings and i’m supposed to be the one to make other people feel better. So even though I took the day off from work to get ready for an interview tomorrow (which was hard enough!! Me – taking time off for me? ha!) i said i’d come hang out with him for a little bit. Why is making myself angry so much easier, or seem so much easier, than making others angrier? I immediately started crying when i hung up the phone, wanted to punch the wall, had no where to put all that frustration and anger, so i ended up binging and purging – self-punishment, like maybe that’s going to help me say no next time. But it won’t. it’s a never ending cycle of self-hate and self-harm and people pleasing. I wish my opinion of myself was nearly as important as others opinion of me. I don’t know what to do…i hate this, i can’t stop doing it.

  • meh

    I am in the situation where I feel that my parents do not respect any decision I wish to make, and as an older teenager I find this very difficult to deal with – it causes difficulties in my social life and makes me depressed and exhausted. They won’t listen to the words “No”, or “This isn’t what I want” and I end up caving in to what ever they say. This article is perfect.

    • Yep

      Exactly how it is for me…

    • I hope things are better for you now. It’s definitely a stage everyone goes through with their parents- I know I did with mine. Sometimes it resolves as you get older, and other times not much changes. One thing will change though- and that’s your ability, as you get older, to look after yourself and depend on them less for both physical and emotional needs.

      Take care of yourself, and hang in there. It does get better.

    • skylar

      I dealt with this very same situation with my parents as a teenager, and even now that I’ve turned 25. I have, however, come to the realization that majority of the time it comes from a good place and a desire to push me to do/achieve more in life, but while that does not necessarily change my opinion, if as the CHILD in this story, I can take a moment to think about why the PARENT wants me to do something it allows me to be able to voice my opinion more respectfully instead of simply causing an argument. Of course, I had to learn this myself by going against my parents and later finding out that they had been right all along and I probably should have listened in those certain situations. I learned that it does not help to try and fight fire with fire, and that mostly ended up with me simply going along with what my parents said knowing that I was most likely still going to do what I wanted anyways, because arguing only made things worse. Just remember that they occasionally may know what they are talking about and try to think about why it is they may want you to do something and it may help make it easier for you to deal with.

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  • Adriana

    I’m not a parent but I love this. In my family, everyone thinks that females are submissive to the males and I hate that. Also, my parents have obvious favoritism towards my brothers because they’re sporty and social wherease I’m geeky and anti-social. Whenever they tell me something that’s very unfair, I’d start talking back and they would never tolerate it. Then, I might get smacked or my stuff taken away. (I once got my AC taken away during summer and I live in Southern California). I talk back because I want to be heard. I don’t want to be submissive nor passive. This might be because I’m an introvert and sometimes gets picked on at school. I also feel the need to give them attitude because my
    behavior when my brothers do something. For example they don’t even have a 2.0 GPA, yet they get higher allowances, and get treated better. I have to maintain a 4.0 GPA and once I get a B, they’d threaten me and shame me.

  • Mark

    It was always fine for the parents to say no, but if I said no, I would regret it for days.

  • Reagan

    This is a very insightful post and I agree with your points. I’m almost 18 and have been raised only by my mother who never accepted “no” as a response and there would be serious repercussions if it was said. Once, when I was thirteen, I did muster up the courage to say “No” to one of her demeaning, insensitive demands and I was kicked out of the house, in the cold of night! I have gotten myself into sticky situations because often I feel inclined to say “yes”. I guess I still feel that I have to be passive in order to keep everyone happy, but I’m working on it each day. Thanks for the post!

  • sehnse

    this article is a great help for me. I have been looking for an assurance that what I did was right. I have been an obedient daughter to my parents for 34 yrs. I never talked back to my mom. ( we weren’t allowed though) My mom used to tell me what to do and i just said yes and yes because i didnt wanna hurt her feelings. But one day she wanted me to do something which totally contradicted to my feelings and principle. I felt like — id rather die than to obey her so I said a resounding NO with a loud cry ( I wont be able to say no if I didnt cry) From then on my mother wouldn’t talk to me and she disowned me for 7 yrs now. ( she didnt even attend my wedding). I always feel guilty of not obeying her but a part of me is saying that i did the right thing. it’s my life anyway. Was I so wrong? I tried reaching out and apologizing but she would never forgive me. Should I continue suffering from this guilt or just wait for the time to heal her wounds.

    • Tc

      You did the right thing. Her loss and yours, but only so much you can do if you want to “be true to you”.

  • Bec

    I wish my mom would read this. It annoys me that none of my siblings are forming their own opinions and are turning into clones of my mom because they agree with everything she says. I’m not allowed an opinion on gay rights,appearance,ideas,hobbies,etc. I see lots of other parents who do this as well,and it’s unsettling to realize that if every parents ends up like this our generation is screwed. :
    Most kids I know are just like their parents,and are often punished for trying to change that. I used to get in trouble for not liking the same foods as my mom. I had a friend who got in trouble for picking out boy toys instead of girl toys. I had another friend who got in trouble for not wanting to wear pink. And,when I got older,I got in HUGE trouble for proving my mom wrong on stuff. I got grounded for that all the time,and sometimes got stuff taken away. Sorry for how long that was,I just cannot stand how so many parents get infuriated or disturbed by their children not being like them.

  • Aekta Mahtani

    Fabulous!! loved every word of it… it is so true!! 🙂

  • Jessica

    I’ve forwarded it onto my husband as well to read. 🙂 I worked with some members of our local college in the child development lab whom gave me some great advice for my toddler:

    “The sooner you can have a child making a choice, the sooner he can make a ‘good’ choice. The simple act of choosing between the blue coat or the red coat will transcend into their teenage years and when someone asks if they want to do drugs they will have had a life long habit of thinking and making choices”

    That’s not to say they wont say yes to the question, but at the very least, they will have the skills and the habit of thinking it through and making the choice for themselves.

    Thank you again for your post, my son is 1 and is learning the world around him has a lot of ‘no’s for his safety. This is a beautiful reminder that it doesn’t have to always be ‘no’ just because I have gotten into the habit of it, and that I grew up hearing it and feeling it, its important that he communicates to me how he feels so we can find a common ground.

    We are not his dictator, we are his parents and that means it’s up to us to get him ready for the big world outside our home when the day shall inevitably come.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Jessica, this is so well said. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Hope

    This is giving me a little bit of hope in my little opinionated and talkative 11 year old. I’m glad I’m allowing him his voice in a sense.

    • drkellyflanagan

      I’m glad it’s giving you hope! In my experience, they’ll find a way to express themselves anyway. Better by talking to you then acting out with friends or elsewhere, right?

  • A Teenager

    I am a teenager and I thank you for speaking out like this. When I was growing up, talking back once only irritated my parents, but they also refused to listen to me as I spoke. As I continued pushing, trying to make them understand, I’d only ever receive a slap across the face, the hand, or the threat of being disciplined. That was when I was younger. Now, as a teenager, when I find myself struggling, I keep it to myself – or when I truly feel I need help, I speak with my friends. Why should I speak with my parents and expect them to listen when they have never done so before? Once my mother discovered one of my troubles – she asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me?” What was I supposed to say? I did respond, however, telling her, “I didn’t want to. I couldn’t want to; I’ve never had the chance to speak before.” My father demanded to know what I was doing with my life and why I wouldn’t speak to him much anymore. My response? “I can’t trust you anymore.”
    Hopefully your letter will change something within parents in our society so that, when children are growing up and learning to say “No!”, they won’t go through the same experiences I have and they won’t lose all trust and all ability to speak plainly with their parents. And hopefully, our society will be better for it.
    Sincerely,
    I thank you,
    A Teenager

  • Struggling

    Hi, I’m a 21 year old student. I came across this article just as I was googling “how to prove my parents wrong.” I’m in a very difficult and painful situation I’m not sure if you can understand or help me.
    Basically I am from a South Indian Catholic family settled in Australia. But despite being born and brought up outside of India, my parents have probably brought us up more stricter than parents in India would bring their kids up. I’ve always been a compliant child rather than a strong willed child especially when it came to my parents. I’ve always been the well behaved role model child of the family because I’ve never talked back to my parents. I’ve always done as they asked, well mannered, studied well, got good grades etc. Throughout my childhood and even teenage years I’ve never really had a problem with this because I wanted my parent’s and everyones approval, and above all I was happy with “doing the right thing”. One thing that is strictly prohibited in our house (which is probably in most Indian households) is boyfriends. So I’ve never had a boyfriend but this also never really bothered me because I wanted to study and become a doctor. And when it came to marriage etc. I was content with the idea of my parents and I finding someone together. (So sort of half arranged, half love)

    However when I started University, I don’t know how it happened but I ended up madly falling in love with a guy that Ive known since i was a child. As a teenager I’ve always had a massive crush on this guy but I never acted on it for the obvious reasons I mentioned above. However little did I know that this same guy also had feelings for me. Anyway he confessed his feelings to me and I didn’t know what to do. My brain kept telling me your parents will never agree, what are you doing, you can’t go ahead with this. But my heart really wanted to give this a shot, get to know him because deep inside I knew he was someone i wanted to make a part of my life, whether that was a big part or small part. Slowly he became my best friend, my companion, my love, one of the most important people in my life and I could imagine the rest of my life with him. But the catch with this, which I forgot to mention before and is probably the most important information of all is that he is Hindu and Srilankan, so I knew from day one that this was going to cause issues in my house. However I always knew my parents really liked this boy. We’ve been family friends and I’ve always heard them say good things about him (And my dad NEVER says good things about boys especially in front of us).

    Anyway we hit a point where i felt like I should tell my parents about my feelings and just be honest with them. So I did. They reacted terribly, probably worse than I expected. It was a huge drama in the house and i really don’t want to explain the details because no one will ever finish reading this today. Anyway they made me promise i will never talk to him again and that I will end this completely. I was devastated. I tried to explain to them because all i wanted was to have a discussion, for them to listen to what i had to say. But they didn’t want to. They pretended like they did, that I could tell them anything but how can I when they just shut me down and emotionally black mail me when I try to explain my feelings. I honestly felt for the first time in my life that it was unfair that I couldn’t say what I want because it was something my parents didn’t want.
    I feel like I don’t have a say in my life and that I am obliged to listen to what my parents want. I know they want the best for me but isn’t it only fair if they hear what I have to say.

    There is a lot more to this story but I’m not very good at explaining so there is plenty of gaps, but I just wanted to say after reading this article I’m starting to feel like its not wrong to stand up to your parents if you feel its not what you want. But it is just so difficult when for the last 20 years of my life I’ve been compliant rather than strong willed.

    • noonday

      I was in the same situation as you. I felt that my parents AND relatives wouldn’t like the guy I liked (my mother’s Christian). They also wouldn’t like MY life choices either. I became devastated and felt like I didn’t want to live anymore, because I didn’t have say in the relationship, even a say in ANYTHING! But a voice told me, well you can denounce Christian it! And I did and I felt more free to make my own choices, and EVEN MOVED OUT OF MY MOM’S HOUSE, because she invalidated me for so long. I may be living in my aunt’s house now, but she’s living in my dad’s house to help clean up old stuff because my grandmother died last year, so I’m alone in my aunt’s place. I’m still being pestered by mom, but at least I have say in MY own life.

  • Vanessa

    I so wish I’d been able to say no as a child! I also wish I’d taught my children better by allowing them to at no.

  • Star-Seed Indigo Indigo

    I’ve always thought this way….not sure if it has to do with being the millennial generation …even though i feel it plays a big role eventhough babyboomers (some)may not agree with this post….im also an empath therefore this helps on soo many levels….

  • Luke

    Brilliant. You need to treat your children like human beings, albeit very young, naive and sometimes very irresponsible human beings. But, you don’t want to treat your children like dogs, barking orders at them, refusing to let them have a voice. A parent should want their child to develop independent thinking skills and inspire personal autonomy. Show them trust. Inspire them to be their own person, not a slave or a doormat. BUT, maintain boundaries, help them understand to understand that certain attitudes and responses won’t help get what they want in life. Tell them that you need to feel like you can trust them to do this right or do that right, to take care of themselves. And most of all, parents need to learn to have patience with their kids, guide them to better understand what they want, because their small brains are growing constantly. As a parent, you have to help them lay the groundwork. It’s hard work, but that’s the job.

  • Emily

    Now if I could just get my parents to read this without getting angry or upset would be great… I don’t say no often at all, but when I do, I have good reason and I don’t yell. If I did yell that would just get me grounded or worse. When I do say no, I don’t say it in a mean way, I say why I don’t agree. I’m not one of those typical type of teenagers that disobey their parents all the time and get all emotional, but whenever I don’t agree with something they say, they freak out and act as if I am that kind of teenager. I have tried talking to them about it and it just makes them more upset, which is why I’ve given up on trying to talk to them. I’m at the point where I’ve realized that I will never reach their expectations and will never be good enough and I guess I’m okay with that. In two years I will be out of highschool and will be going to college. I’ll still want to see them on a regular basis because after all I do love them. I just wish that them and I could have a better relationship. The kind of relationship where we can talk about things and listen and understand each other. The kind of relationship where they listen to what I have to say and take my opinion into account without throwing me under the bus. This is actually probably really stupid of me to be posting this on some artical about parenting. I just wanted to get that out. I don’t expect anyone to reply to me or anything. I don’t need anyone too. My purpose was to simply get my emotions out to help calm me down, and it did. Even though I’m not happy with circumstances, I’m okay.

  • nandarani

    See, this is exactly what I was trying to explain to my dad last night. I’m 17 years old and still there was no way for him to understand what he was telling me to do. There was no reason as to why I should do it. At least no SANE reason. I left the argument with his only stable reason: because I told you to. No, actually, further into the argument, he changed his reason to: because its called respect. But how am I respecting anyone by doing such a thing? I’m not respecting myself if I do something I dont want to do. Its not affecting him or anyone else if I don’t do it. I could see right through this. I had to sadly compare the situation to blacks and whites and how the blacks didnt read simply because the white told them not to and didnt ever have a SANE reason as to why the blacks shouldn’t read. All I got back from him was that it was an absurd comparison. If its not affecting him or anyone else, then why make a huge deal about it? He had “too much” authority over me, so sadly, I did what he told me to do. But I made it clear that I didn’t do it out of respect or just because he told me to. I did it because he wouldn’t stop insisting. I stayed to my point while he was trying to rattle with it. He told me to search up the word respect, which I thought was ridiculous, I know full well what the definition is. He was the one not respecting me. Why should he be higher power? Why not tell me to do things that actually have reason? Thats respect. I felt stupid that I did what he had told me to do. I felt dumb and empowered. But he would never understand this psychological problem. Not because he has his reasons not to understand, but because he simply doesn’t WANT to understand. He cant see beyond his beliefs. Maybe because he was raised up controlled like this. He had told me he never, not once, raised his voice to his mother, I told him throughout my argument, that I was glad I had a voice and that I’m at least trying to put sense into the situation and that I’m not just a robot doing things just because I’m being told to or out of respect in which doesn’t make sense in any way. I’m glad I found this, because this proves my point and I have a helping source that helped me not lose that significant self respect. There’s a line. Why cant many parents not see it? This doesn’t just go for parents. This is also a world-wide problem. It happens with the rich and the poor, with countries, bigger and smaller. Obviously speaking on a bigger-scale. I think we can learn if we dont be-little anyone and have full understanding of eachother. I think that’s respect. I almost fell for his reason: because its called respect. But I stay stable with my definition of respect. Thank you, it was wonderful, everything I’ve read is exactly my views. I’m glad I have a clear understanding and ill empower the word “no” the right way when I have children myself. Thank you

  • J

    Why can’t MY family be like that…

  • Mohamad Brainiac Al As

    I wish this is followed by every parent.

  • Jason

    Honestly, your opinion really means a lot to me.As a fourteen year old living in a third world country, I talk back most of the time to my parents and it always ends up being “How dare you talk to your parents like that! You think you know better than us?! We thought you know what the word “respect” means!!” But I could not help it.I wanted to talk back because I believe what’s right and I can’t afford to live in dictatorship-ruled family.I want to let them know that I can’t just stop talking back to you because I don’t want someone to manipulate my life and always hold a grudge against them all the time.I want to let them know that even their child can look through their mistakes.Before reading this, I was thinking of giving up of talking back to my parents because they just won’t listen to me, and now i’m going to have hatred against them throughout my life.But since I’ve read this, I realize that even parents can understand what their children means and also believe all your opinions about what might happen to us if we don’t have the right to talk back to our parents, and believe it or not, I’ve taught of the same thing.A million thanks to you!! now i’m all revved up again and I will do my best to deliver all my correct opinions when I had the chance to quarrel wit my parents.

  • Tommy

    I am an early adolescent, age 13, and I do my research on almost anything that is debatable. In school and outside of school I am always able to win a side of an argument using research to corraborate and the fundamentals of phsycology to know whether my opponent is lying in form of opinion or telling the truth as to what happened in actuality. Though I have this capability or talent in debating, it is impossible to win over my parents. Whether its proving them wrong with basic documented facts to law, they always tell me,” I don’t care.” Obviously when one states,” I don’t care” they mean they don’t have time to put up with my argument and just want to get their way of things. This lights a burning fire of anger which causes me to talk back to my parents. I believe that parents and children should receive and equivalent amount of No’s and Yes’s from each other. On the contrary, my parents are strongly against a single no from me and only Yes’s. I only receive No’s from my parents. I definitely have to will to say No when it is worth saying and have my own personal boundaries as to my own limits as to what extent actions can go up to,but I am infuriated with the lack of respect I recieve form my parents. I wonder if there is any possible way to convince my parents in any situation whether its convincing to allow me to join a club or to attend an event other than researching and using facts against my parents.

  • Jo

    What if you were brought up in an abusive household? I couldn’t say no without fearing for my life.

    And now in my adulthood, I can’t stand up to many people. What can I do?

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  • Alison

    Wow! This was really good for me to read as I often feel that if my boys defy me that I’m losing my parental control – the truth is that I need to! For their sake and actually mine too! so they can learn how to respect and listen to others like I need to with them. Its so true that they learn what they see/experience at home first and I want my boys to know that what they think and feel matter so that they become confident strong young men, able to say no if they don’t feel comfortable with something. I didn’t grow up with this understanding, you certainly didn’t mess with my parents on authority and your post has given me hope that things are going to be better for my boys. Thank you for speaking up for those of us who grew up without a voice because in so doing, I can speak out now and say that my boys experience will be different, for the better! x

  • sophielou

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Pranav

    Give them a wack up their jack or give them a boot up their jute.

  • Amr

    Every parent should read this blog. I have ruined my life by putting my parents love before me. Never learned to say no to them or to the world, followed a career of their choice as well, beat up by this world, misused, made a fool out of. Just by the cause that I couldn’t bare my parents loving someone else before me. Didn’t want to break their heart by the word “No” tried level best to be the best son so that they would be proud of me, practised it so much that I bought this out to the real world and made my life a maze where I try to keep everyone happy.

    This is the best blog I have ever read. It goes deep into the matter keeping it well compared to the reality.

    Touch base with your inner child to realize what true parenting is.

  • Optimistic Milly

    This post is fantastic- pretty much confirmed everything I’ve been thinking about for the last few months. I feel as though my father is the type of parent who always demands respects and never allows me to say no. As as result I am constantly feeling like I’ve lost the authorial right in my own life … I get so irrationally angry sometimes that I feel like crying uncontrollably , but I have to bottle it up and carry on. You don’t know how much it means to me to know that someone out there understands. I know that when I have children I will never be like my father. I will definitely be open to allowing a little rebellion and and an explanation for the choices I make for my child because more than anyone … I know first hand the emotionally stunting and psychologically damaging impact that strict parenting can have on a child…. I know how horrible it is to feel as though your voice is insignificant and to feel as though you are not respected

  • Overwhelmed

    I’m literally encumbered with thousands of orders from my parents and the only thing I’m afraid of is their continuous threat of slacking me off. So, yeah, I now have to do what they say, carry out their work, etc. I have been threatened for about 30 times(once they did throw me out) when I raised my voice. Seems fictional unless I tell you I live in India. Now my ‘needs and requirements’ are termed ‘demands’. The only reason I haven’t given up is Dr. House. I try to learn anything I can with my limited internet connection. I just want to be independent. This post made me smile but unfortunately my parents aren’t that considerate. I’m currently working on Android apps since that would give me much required revenue to live peacefully, though not efficiently after 2 years. I’m helpless. But I’m lucky to have my best friend (I got only 1 buddy) who lends me a shoulder whenever I’m gloomy. Now that I know what I’m capable of, I beg to see the day when I’ll leave my parents and send them a lofty check for taking CARE of me. And I forgot to tell you- they are ruthless hypocrites. Thank you.

  • Jimmybobjosh

    This is terrible. It saysin the bible you should honor your mother and father. Is that not a good enough reason to honor your parents? So the created of the universe and the one who will save you if you love him tells you to honor your parents and what do you say? I’m ok with my kids not respecting me.He tells us this to give us a feeling of what trusting is, so we can trust him. Love the lord and respect your parents!

  • Anronio

    I partially and respectfully disagree with you. Yes, kids need to voice their opinions out. Yes, they need to learn how to say ‘no’. But they also need to learn we live in a society where there are rules and where you cannot just do anything and everything you damn please. So, perhaps I am a terrible father, but if I ask my children to pick up their toys, brush their teeth, take a shower, do their homework and be respectful towards their siblings and me, and they say ‘NO’, there will have to be a consequence, and I may take away their computer/TV privileges or their favorite toy. Learning how to say ‘no’ is very important, I do agree with you. But it is even more important KNOWING when to say it. The word ‘no’ carries a lot of power within. And with great power comes great responsibility. There is no excuse for disrespsecting your parents. Period.

  • disarmlily1979

    As a person who finds it incredibly difficult to say ‘no,’ I really appreciated this post.
    My mother will not back down on conning me to go to church. She just manipulates me into saying ‘yes’ and then I’m sitting in church hating myself for not having a back bone or respecting myself as a grown woman with my own beliefs. I have stood my ground before and she just will not stop. ‘Oh, well I want you to meet my friends!’ I’ve told her before, I can meet your friends on more level ground. I don’t want to meet them on ‘their turf.’ I don’t want nor need to be ‘saved.’
    I think exercising my right to say ‘no’ will be good for me.

  • Interesting article – am I the only one who reads it and wonders if you apologized to your son to using his brand new toys without asking his permission?

  • Esme

    I’m a nineteenth year old female struggling with speaking up around my parents and this totally spoke to me. Totally incredible and very important for everyone to realize no matter how old.

  • Katie

    Hello, my name is Katie, I am 14 years old. I love your article and wish my parents read this when I was younger. I have found myself in the backseat of my life. I want to say “no” to my parents and other people at school but I can’t. If I do, then they will yell at me and make me feel horrible, and have no power over my life. Honestly I don’t feel like I even have a life. My life is what they want it to be, and when I make a decision they make it for me, I don’t even have a chance to try, but somedays they say I am a big girl and I can make my own decisions, but I don’t know how. I am afraid I might make the wrong choice, or that they will be upset with what I choose. I feel like I am spineless, and I am ashamed.

    Does anyone have any advice on how to say ‘no’? It feels like a word everyone besides me can use….

  • Sunny L Roberts III

    Spoiled Rotten is a great rhyming children’s book about Sibling Rivalry for ages 3-8

  • Sheila L Roberts

    Another great book to read is-Spoiled Rotten is a great rhyming children’s book about Sibling Rivalry for ages 3-8

  • trying to heal

    I think that this article made a point that needs to be made to everyone as something to give serious thought to before even considering having children. I was raised exactly like the person who says ‘I wouldn’t dare say ‘no’ to my parents’ – and I will add, either of them. My parents felt like my brother, sister and I were their children – essentially their ‘property’, and because of that, they could say or do anything that they wanted to us. Additionally, my brother was more ‘privileged’ because a penis and testicles hung between his legs – my sister was catered to because the was the youngest – ‘the baby’; which left me – the consummate middle child. My parents felt like they could do and say whatever they wanted to me, and they did exactly that. I endured every type of abuse by each of my family members in some form or another. I probably sound bitter – at 50 years old, I am finally realizing that I have every right to. I am finally trying to heal myself, I finally trying to heal me. The other night I saw a cable television show entitled ‘A Day in Auschwitz’. I understand that my one life cannot compare to the millions lost during the atrocities of the Holocaust. But to know from the moment you become aware of yourself as a person, from your very first memory (for me it was at 3 years old) that you were not wanted by anyone in your family, to be told exactly that, and to have your life’s story be of trying make that situation right, when all you did to make it wrong was be born into it; just as those lives and souls were destroyed – my life and my soul was destroyed. The concentration camps were hell – my life has been hell. I’m trying to climb out of hell.

  • Madison Evangelia Traina

    This was an incredible article and I really enjoyed reading it. I have a very hard time saying “No,” it wasn’t the way I was raised, and a lot of my struggles arise from my inability to have boundaries with others.
    My family was in a religious Christian cult for the first 14 years of my life and I feel like all I’m doing is unraveling the damage that that environment caused me and my family. My ability to set boundaries has gotten better over the years, my parents and I have talked about it (and they want me to say “No” to things more often) but I really feel like I’m struggling.
    Like right now, I’m currently dating a guy I met at my college, but I’m not romantically interested in him (I haven’t really dated before) and it makes me uncomfortable that he is involved in a religious environment similar to the one I had left, so naturally I expressed this to my parents. But they are continually telling me that because he’s nice, has a good job, bright future, and is an introvert like me, that I should continue to date him. They are always asking me if we’ve talked and if not, why? I told them I just wasn’t “feeling it” and they said that I want drama in a relationship and that’s why I want to break things off.
    I’ve talked to others about this as well. My siblings say, “you can do better,” and even my boss said, “you’re on the quiet side, you need someone to even you out. You just don’t seem that into it.” I know what I want to do, but I don’t really feel like I have the emotional support to do so. How can I talk to them about this if they aren’t listening to me?

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  • Bree

    This article makes me want to finally get up the guts for real and just rant at my parents for the way they raised me. I was adopted when I was 4 and yes, my parents are terrific people, but I absoulte hate the way they raised me. I’m about to be 24 this coming month and am not allowed to drink, to hang out with friends whenever I want to (I have a 10 o’clock curfue), or drive. I am allowed to date however. Due to my biological parents doing cocaine and god-knows-what else during my bio-mom’s pregnancy, I expiered 3 times during birth, had delayed motor skills and walking and have extreme problems today of executive function and short-term memory that I will have forever. Finally after almost two full years of therapy due to stuff with bio bio-family (a whole nother story there!) and due to my frustarations of my bio mom deciding to abondon me for a second time years later, when we were finally able to meet, I was so angry one day at my dad about something – cant remember what – and wrote to his work email a looooong rant about my feelings- curse words and all. After I hit the ‘send’ button, I sat there and re-read it and wished I could take it back in an instant. I was so terrified of my father’s response. He wrote back about 45 minutes later and you know his response? He told me was proud of me. He told me that he had read the entire thing, all my anger, my frustrations, all the feelings that I had kept bottled up inside of me, that I had finally let free for once, and althoug he wasn’t proud of the language I had used, he was proud that I had at last for once stood up to him and not just rolled over, that he had been trying to get me to do that for years. Of course, I cried reading it. I haven’t been able to stand up to him again since and it makes me feel like such a failure to myself personally. I know what I want to say to him and my mom. At my Confirmation Retreat a few yearas ago, he and my mom wrote me a letter full of what I feel was a bunch of bull shit, and my dad ended it with, “We’re so proud of you and only want you to be happy and to be the best person you can be. Much, much love!”- I roll my eyes when I read that but I want nothing more now than to remind them of that, to wave that in front of thier faces, and go, “SEE? You see what you wrote here? You told me you want nothing more for me than to be happy- GUESS F WHAT? IM NOT!” – not in that way but that’s how I damn well feel. I also want to tell that that if they have a problem with all the issues I have, my memory or maturity or whatever else to get on the phone with my birthmom and talk to her cause it’s the choices SHE MADE that caused me to have all the problems I have today and will have tomorrow and will have forever. Also, it bugs the crap out of me too because I was living on my own for about a year in my own apartment, that my therapist and I were able to convince my parents that I needed at this time in my life, Lord knows, mom and dad didn’t want me living on my own yet- it was last year, 22 years old!- and would go hang out with my friends at thier apartments for a snall intimate dinner gathering or something like that around 9:30 or so and they would tell me that it wasn’t ok! The same friends came to pick me up to hang out again once I moved back home, I left a freakin note for them! and they decided to blow up my cellphone the next morning with, “Where are you?” I told them damn well where I was and they responded with, “This is not ok!” WTF?! I came home a few hours later and I didn’t hear the end of it for quite sometime. The first thing when I walked through the door was my dad greeting me saying, “What were you thinking? Your mom and I are not okay with this.” ^$(*&^!!! I really wish I had the courage to learn to defend myself in debates or problems against my parents for real and permanatly, but I just dont- at least now yet. I’m trying though. I’m trying and praying and hoping and wishing that someday, thing’s change. I’m not holding my breath though. Thanks again for your blog post. Meant a whole lot. X

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  • anonymous

    My parents refuse to listen to anything I say. Even something as simple as pausing a movie, they won’t let me do it, and treat me like a child. I’m already 14. The worst part is that they give me lectures about “being independent” and “learning how to take care of myself” and they get mad at me if I do something wrong. But they won’t let me do anything simple!

  • Ashley

    Yes, yes, yes…..a thousand times yes. I wish every parent who posts endlessly about “kids today being so disrespectful and bratty” would read this & finally understand. Saying no isn’t disrespectful, it’s empowering. For every reason you listed here. I must have this conversation daily with myself, and my children. I tell them that they can say anything to me, that I want them to say anything to me. Tell me no, and tell me why. Remind me that I need to listen because they’re people with important ideas and I may be mom, but I’m busy & I get distracted & don’t always respond or react thoughtfully. Sometimes they do say no in a disrespectful way, and we have that conversation once they’re calm. Sometimes I have to say no to their requests or demands. But overall, I embrace their no’s (and admittedly cringe…it’s tough to hold yourself in check in the face of outright defiance long enough to get behind the scenes) because my whole life, I gave my power away to everyone else….I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to say no.

  • Amy Eberhart

    What a interesting view point! I just automatically reacted to my kids saying “No” to me the same way my parents did which was “Don’t you say no to me, go to your room” like No was the ultimate defiance. My husband a I were just talking last night about how we need to read a parenting book or something to help with this new stage. Two boys 8 and 6 very different kids. My oldest is very dramatic and makes a huge ridiculous scene if he’s asked to do anything from help feed the dog to homework. “My life is so hard I have to do everything” then throws himself on the floor kinda scene. So ridiculous, I don’t know how to respond. He really has no responsibilities other than the usual hang your backpack up & get your shoes on. We explain the importance of homework, choirs and why we need to help as a family. That didn’t work so we did the reward/removal of privileges route. Didn’t last mostly if I’m being honest…I hate being the bad guy!! I feel like such a bad mom when I have to hand out punishments or take something away. The face with tears coming down I can’t handle it so I always give them a “second chance” I think it’s me and my inability to follow through with punishment. They are both really, really good kids so I feel bad for getting mad a them for not picking up their room when I tell them or completing little choirs around the house. Literally the only time we have conflict in our house with them is when we ask them to do something. So I am constantly thinking maybe I should just do it all to avoid such a scene in our house! I grew up with women who did everything around the house. Traditional midwest homes. Kids doing choirs is a new thing to even me. So, I don’t know how I feel about it yet. That’s why I don’t follow through with anything because I’m not sure if it’s right, and I’m really laid back. I know what your thinking kids need responsibilities. But at what age? And is it so bad if they don’t do choirs?

    • Jillian Addison

      Can I recommend the website Aha! Parenting. It sounds like it might be a good fit for you – for example, not using punishments or rewards (that then might not be followed through on) but setting clear limits and ensuring that they are complied with because you have a good relationship with your children. There are also pages on the blog specifically about chores, etc. http://www.ahaparenting.com/blog/5_Ways_to_Get_Kids_to_Help_Around_the_House

      Personally, I hate using the word ‘chore’ for the jobs we do around the house – particularly when we discuss them with children! How many of us would get excited (or even just willing) at the suggestion that we do something that has such a negative word for it….Come and do this ‘boring thing’ with me this weekend; anyone want to eat this ‘bland’ cake; would you like to buy this ‘ugly’ dress? In our house, we all have jobs that need to be done and things that we all like to do. The things that we like to do sometimes need jobs doing so that we can do them – we need to tidy up the playroom so that we can find the toys we want to play with and have space to play them. We need to wash our clothes so that we have clothes ready to wear when we go out to play/school/work, etc. We have to wash the dishes so that we can have clean plates to eat snacks/dinner, etc. I don’t pretend that the jobs are ‘fun’ but I’m also not going to say straight off the bat that these things are boring and a ‘chore’.

      Good luck, I hope you find a great way to get your kids helping out a little more that fits your family. Just remember, your future daughters-in-law will thank you from the bottom of their hearts if you teach them now how to help at home (and you’ll probably be more likely to get to see the grandchildren as a result ; ) )

  • Christy

    All very true. I was raised by authoritarian parents. I was NEVER allowed to talk back. NEVER question what you are told and above all NEVER argue with your parents. To do so would result in consequences, usually being grounded for a long time. And so when I had kids and they started to find their voice I had a very hard time not responding like my parents did. Luckily, my husband was raised by parents that believed that stating your opinion or speaking up for yourself was not an act of defiance but just part of growing up. He called me on it and I was able to adapt/change my parenting style.

  • Brutus Balan

    Talking back to a parent is NOT OK. Talking back is rebellion and child not having knowledge or experience is not one to decide right and wrong. Children must be encouraged to ask reasons for certain rules but in the end even if there cannot be given one the child shd obey unconditionally to the parent. That is the rule number one. Psycho-logists are stupid in most cases for they must know even in the animal world the young are kept in line and in their place. A child may not be fettered with his/her own preferences and all that and giving them that freedom does not make them wise in all their decision. When a child reasons with a parent then a parent need to be fair and give in if the reasons are valid but still it is the parent who may need to veto in some cases with the child. Never lose that position as a parent. learnong to say NO to wrong is what need to be nurtured but not to a parent. It is alright to ask, “Why not dad/mom?” but not a ‘NO!”.

  • Brutus

    You have deleted my comment. Have said ‘NO!’ to me then? 🙂 You asked if others agree with your article? Couldn’t you practice what you preach by telling me why? Here it is again but you may delete it again:

    Talking back to a parent is NOT OK. Talking back is rebellion and a child not having knowledge or experience is not one to decide right and wrong. Children must be encouraged to ask reasons for certain rules but in the end even if there cannot be given one the child shd obey unconditionally to the parent. That is the rule number one.

    Psychologists are stupid in most cases for they must know even in the animal world the young are kept in line and in their place. A child may be allowed with his/her own preferences and giving them that freedom does not make them wise in all their decision. When a child reasons with a parent then a parent need to be fair and give in if the reasons are valid but still it is the parent who may need to veto in some cases with the child. Never lose that position as a parent. Learning to say NO to wrong is what need to be nurtured but not to a loving caring parent. It is alright to ask, “Why not dad/mom?” but not a ‘NO!”. Filial piety must be nurtured along with a rational mind.

    • Jillian Addison

      Why? Why should “filial piety” be nurtured? Because it makes us feel powerful as a parent? A parent should be respected by a child and a child should be respected a parent, because both are human beings and neither is more important than the other. A parent earns respect just as they earn respect in the other fields of their life.

      In fact, you agree with the premise, as per this quote: “When a child reasons with a parent then a parent needs to be fair and give in if the reasons are valid….” What you are saying is essentially the same as the original article: “So, on an early autumn morning, I can come down on him, or I can bend down to him. Some days the “parent” in me wins. And I think that’s alright. Sometimes our kids need a parent who won’t bend. But on this particular
      day I bend, because I figure anyone who looks like his dog just died may have a little more to say. And what does my “obstinate” son have to say? “Dad, they’re mine and I get to decide if she can play with them.” As he picks out several of his new action figures to return to his sister.”

      And as for not saying ‘no’ to a loving caring parent – if you can’t say no to the person who loves you unconditionally and more than anyone else ever will, who can you say no to? We can encourage our children to use the word ‘no’ respectfully and perhaps not to use that particular word but rather a more subtle phrasing, but let’s remember that our children are still learning. We’re all still learning. And we need to allow our children a little grace for the fact that are still children and maybe ‘no!’ is just the best they can manage linguistically right now.

  • Jess Heron

    My 2 year old daughter must say “no” to me a hundred times a day. It always frustrates me. I handle it by ‘showing her who’s boss’ – raised voice, counting down 3,2,1 until she does as she’s told, or else the naughty step. But this article has opened my eyes. I want her to have the confidence to say no. At any time, and place and to anyone! For the exact reasons you have suggested. I feel I can handle minor stubborn incidents much better now for the both of us. Thank you

  • MomMomOnTheGo

    Awesome article. I love it and it explains exactly what I am always saying and thinking.
    Thanks from MomMomOnTheGo
    http://mommomonthego.com

  • Tabitha Evans

    great article. things we easily don’t know, and some of us forget.

  • Ian

    Until he is 16 and you tell him to be home at 11 and he tells you no and stays out all night. Or he tells his teacher no he’s not doing an assignment and gets an F. Or tells his boss no he isn’t coming to work and gets fired. Or tells a cop no he’s not putting his hands up and he gets shot. Nothing like teaching a kid to disrespect authority. Teaching kids they can just do whatever they want as a way to empower themselves is not smart.

  • Barbara

    I think a more important lesson would be to be careful what we as parents request. Children can be taught to say “no” to other people without disrespecting their parents. Of course, we shouldn’t squash them either when that issue arises, it can be discussed same as any other discipline. My degree is in Psychology too. Imagine if it was a serious issue and you had taught your young child that responding with “no” is ok.

  • Patti

    I think this is a great article…..children need to express how they feel even if you don’t agree you are allowing them to have a voice. I know if my grandsons tell me no, I ask them why they said no and allow them to explain their reasoning behind the no. Sometimes as adults we forget there are other views and opinions that we need to hear.

  • Laura Guthrie

    Hi Christi, I am a sister of yours in Christ. Thanks for sharing your view. I too would respectfully counter what you say in your posts, and also the way you say it. Yes, we need to learn to teach children not to be selfish, but when the Bible tells us to love our neighbours it shows plenty of examples, e.g. the Samaritan giving the Jew back his dignity. If a person can give a stranger from a politically enemy lineage/location dignity, can we not find a way of parenting that affords the same dignity for our own children? That a child can die either with or without dignity shows they do indeed have an intrinsic dignity to be respected and brought out. If we don’t afford them dignity, we are contradicting God’s values as shown in the story of the Good Samaritan. What with our youngest (and therefore morally unaccountable) children being automatically God’s children, as Jesus so explicitly states, if we are Christians by belief, and/or by following Christian teachings in what we do and value, this logically makes them our neighbours, as we too are his children – all who come to God through Christ are given the right to become His children. In Exodus, God tells people to treat their slaves (a word employed in that context to denote someone who, in their place, role and rights, sounds to me far more like what we would think of now as a sort of unpaid au pair or work experience placement, offering subserviant domestic services in return for shelter, food, water, clothes etc. – no social security system then) with respect, even within the constraints of rules and discipline. Also to respect others’ property by not coveting, not stealing, respecting the terms of a loan, paying appropriately for damage to others’ property etc. If dead property is due that much respect, how much more respect are our children due? Just because they are children does not make their motives inherently selfish, or God would not love children as much as he does. God tells husbands and wives to treat each other with understanding, and also makes it clear in Galatians that there should not be ‘one rule for one and another for another’ in the way the Holy Spirit instructs early Christians about how and how not to behave towards uncircumcised and circumcised people they encountered. Don’t children count as ‘another’ too in this respect, being subject to the same values and expectations as adults? Also ‘let the little children come to me’ and ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God’. Both these verses are explicit in giving people appropriate autonomy and opportunities to make personal choices – and this giving carries an inherent risk that even God himself did not attempt to eliminate when entrusting Eden to Adam and Eve with only one rule to follow. Since God will do nothing but the most loving and right thing for His children, respecting this risk and opening up this autonomy and opportunity must be the most loving and right thing for us to do to His children too – i.e. our children. Some people brought the children to Jesus, but when the disciples were embarrassed wanted the people to take the children away Jesus told them to let the children come to him. He doesn’t tell the people to let the parents bring their children to him – he gives the children their autonomy to come themselves, which is implicit in the fact that he makes the children themselves agents within that instruction. So we see here, an expected system of guiding boundaries enforced by God for all his children that a) gives them dignity, b) gives them autonomy, c) gives them understanding, and d) gives them respect. Parents are agents for children’s learning within this system. Yes, there are real spiritual consequences for behaviour rebellious and destructive to God’s rules, will and values, and yes, children are expected to honour their parents (note: ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? These are my brothers and my mother’ – Jesus in the temple when told his mother and brother are outside and want to see him), but far more, there is a deep call to teach the understanding that we all do wrong, even when we don’t understand – and that coming to Christ in true belief and repentence will lead to forgiveness, but also (if truly felt and sought) a transformation of values and associated actions to line up with those of God. The forgiveness offered os the source of life, joy, encouragement, generosity, hope, freedom, gentleness, mercy and patience, all of which must therefore be prioritised in raising children who are able to come to love God and respect His boundaries. If we don’t prioritise these as Jesus did, we are either rebelling or making a lie out of what He promised us in His death and resurrection. I think being able to understand and exercise the power of a sincere and personal ‘no’ versus the power of a sincere and personal ‘yes’ is a crucial learning ingredient for this purpose. It enables the teaching of what each choice really feels like on a personal rather than a purely didactic/theoretical level, and in doing so, it informs the decisions we make and the values we come to hold dear, offering us the chance of a clearer understanding and deeper revelation of God’s spirit. Not everyone will take that chance or be able to understand it if they do take it – as you and I and many others know. That’s out-with anyone else’s control, including God’s because it’s primarily to do with free will, thoughts and feelings, rather than primarily words and deeds (although they will probably reflect those in the end). Also, remember that when the pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus for a sign to prove that he was the Messiah, he had to give them a powerful and personal no, too, for reasons they didn’t understand but did judge, in incorrect terms, and in the harshest way possible. Therefore I feel being free to exercise and feel the power of a personal ‘no’ – whether sinful or part of God’s will, must play an important, though still appropriately streamlined, part of prudent and loving (Christian) parenting, for the child’s sake. With love, Laura xox

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  • leefischer

    Love so much about this! I would add, that kids also learn to defend their boudaries, when parents stick up for them (and for themselves) against forces that are too great for them to go up against. It gives them the message that they are worth fighting for, and no matter how important that other person might be, they never have the right to just cross our children’s boundaries.

  • Lorrie Jones, MBSR

    I couldn’t agree more!! I love this post – and as I am writing a parenting guidebook, this information underlines my section on boundaries. The tenderness and kindness of “the psychologist” (as well as parent and human) comes through so beautifully. What fortunate children! Again, thank you for this wonderful post.

  • Andy Bell

    A very wise man once told me: ” You only have so long. Then they have to think about the question and the answer all by themselves. So let them try there own answers out with you at there side.” “No” is a very fine answer. But just like “yes”, it should have a reason. For me, looking back, I had about 12-13 years being ‘the question answerer”, for all intensive purposes. Now I watch them act and react in the world with reason and vision. Even if that vision is just of Friday night; it is planning, cause and effect, and consequence. Wonderful article. Yours sounds like a wonderful family. Cheers to all. May love and trust make all your kids decisions and answers be ones you and they can learn from.

  • Ana

    I agree with your psychology, but not your practical example. In the example given, you have crossed a boundary that your child needed to uphold. (You didn’t respect their belongings.) This is an appropriate time to say “no”. When you have told your child “stop, stay close to me” because you are walking in a busy parking lot, “no” could cost life or limb. Respect goes both ways, you can’t teach a child to be respected (and know how to say “no”) if they don’t also know how to respect others, and if you aren’t modeling respect for them. So I would say that when my son told me “no” in response to being told it was time to leave a friend’s house, it was not well received. When my child says “no” when I ask for a hug, I model respect and tell them they’re in charge of their body. If you were damaged by overly strict parenting and it changed your ability to effectively have boundaries, don’t let your kid be the next in line to railroad you. Sometimes “no” really isn’t okay.

    • Palesa Floret

      I think that’s the point

  • Alice

    This! And the fact that as kid, I was always telling parents that I needed to make mistakes while they were around, so I could know how to fix them when I grew up.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Veronica

    Love this post! I often ask for the reason she has said “no.” I try and give my 5yr old a reason for a “no” so if she says “no” I ask her why and often her logic is flawless and I cant argue with it because it makes sense, I often find myself in awe of her.

  • Vidhur Gupta

    I have a short fuse and i have my own set of frustrations. I tend to raise my voice ; however I really don’t like myself when I do that to my 8 yr old daughter. I have told her ( and thank goodness she follows it) that every time I shout at her, she needs to tell me to calm down , apologize and talk civilly 🙂 it works 🙂 I agree children too have a right to say “No” and every day I thank my fate that I have been blessed with a very loving and intelligent child and I definitely do not want her tender heart to be hurt by her mum or her dad ( although it is more difficult for him to do so but he is learning)

  • Jessica

    Interesting blog but I don’t think saying ‘no’ = talking back. Talking back to parents should not be encouraged. Children can be taught to speak up for themselves and say no in a respectful way.

    • k u u d e r e

      I just think that a lot of adults misinterpret children disagreeing or having a different opinion as “talking back.” I normally agree with discipline in regards to children “acting out” or being defiant simply to be defiant. I think that parents should ask “Why does this bother you?” if a kid’s upset about something rather than yelling at them to go to their rooms, etc.

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  • Drew Pierce

    Those of us 35+ were raised to respect our parents and to have those lines drawn between kids and adults. Those under 35 have largely been raised under this “empowerment” say no whenever you want do whateer you feel don’t let anyone stop your “expressiveness” and only say Yes to your parents when you feel like it. You can debate all day but the one thing we have are results. Last I checked of the 425 public shootings at schools and elsewhere have come from people under 25. From every Millenial I talk to in their teens and 20’s they are incredibly rude, curse and public and are idiots because their parents forced their teachers to change their grades no matter how ignorant they were, and these young people who forcible say “No!” to their parents like this author celebrates, can’t do their jobs and rarely qualify for jobs because they don’t actually know anything. Sorry you Millenials, proof is in the pudding, empowering kids to do whatever the F they want is not working.

    • Palesa Floret

      Umm okay! So why is it that those raised 35+ years ago were some of the worst cursing. Be careful with nostalgia and just looking through things from your own lens. I mean seriously how many generations have said that of other generations. Even Aristotle was saying the same things. If you go by this logic no generation has ever respected adults.

  • lorentjd

    This sounds like a recipe for creating un-empathetic narcissists: Everything is about “Me!”

  • Graeme Gunn

    Why would you demand he give them to you? They’re his. They belong to him. Don’t tell him to give you his lego, why would you do that? They belong to him. He’s not allowed to pick up his lego figures? Why? I need to know your train of thought. Calm down as a parent, and stop over-analyzing.

  • Michelle Anderson

    I can totally relate to this. I know that I wasn’t allowed to disagree or say “No” when I felt I should. I know that I would get the bar of Ivory Soap or Dawn Dish soap in my mouth ( gagging and crying till you can catch your breath) and I was under the age of 4 years old!!!! This was Most DEFINITELY child abuse. But who would stand up for me, especially if no one knew about it. I couldn’t even imagine doing that to either of my beautiful Daughters!! NEVER!! NOT FOR ANY POSSIBLE REASON!!! I have many more abuse stories from my childhood and as an Adult, I have Still been the victim of abuse. I have had boyfriends disrespect me, cheat and beat me. It hasn’t changed..only the people doing it are different.

  • Angela Goudman

    This is why I teach my nursing students about giving “closed choices”. This allows the child to have autonomy to make a decision, but gives the parent boundaries over the choice.

  • Michele Parkinson

    I agree 100%, that they need to learn they can think for themselves, make their own decisions, learn rite and wrong, compromise an so on, my 6 yr old daughter doesn’t ‘tell’ me no she yells it or cries it or snaps at me, and my 2yr old is learning fast from her. I try an explain to her its ok to say no as long as she can explain her reasons calmly, this doesn always work an i do get stressed out with my 2yr old but it’s something we are all learning together, my 20yr old daughter who actually tagged me in yr post, she also has my temper but is teaching me patients an understanding in dealing with the 6yr old, my 24yr old son now has a step daughter and is a great role model. I can only hope i give my kids the rite tools to make their own way in this world an be proud of who they are an what they’re doing. I learn something from my kids everyday, I hope I can teach them just as much!

  • Dotty Hazell

    I dont agree. kids of today need discipline and every time they say No is more and more defiance.
    yes they must learn that if they are uncomfortable about something, then yes they say No.

    but this whole free range kid thing is a load of crock. this is why they cant build prisons fast enough, to house the ones who were not set boundaries and the meaning of the word no

    • k u u d e r e

      There’s a difference between respect and individuality. This piece had absolutely nothing to do with obedience. Rather, [they] more or less touched on the reasons to ask “Why?”

  • Janie

    My parents would handle it with the belt or in the corner by the grandfather clock where it was dusty and dark . We didn’t talk back to them ! If we fight back we would get it ! Hearing the snap of the belt coming down the hall .We fight with each other .My mother would even tell my brother to get me . This was really a great message for me to read . Guess at age 50 I should start saying No !

  • To Help or Not to Help

    Severely important. All of the most abused people I know personally including myself were not allowed to say no in any fashion and weren’t allowed to have most if not all emotions, depending on the parent. With one parent I was allowed to have no feelings at all, with the other parent I was only allowed to have fear, no other emotion was permitted.

    I’d also like to take this moment to school clueless people: Being kind to your children doesn’t ‘spoil’ them, the exact opposite is true. It’s the same as the false belief that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ The opposite is true, if I break your leg in the same place twice, it will be weaker than if it was never broken. If on the other hand I feed you minerals and good food, I’ll strengthen your leg bone.

    Teach a man to fish is bullcrap too. When someone is starving to death, first you have to GIVE them food, because they are too weak to get their own, to fish. And you can’t even give them solid food, you have to start with tea or something that won’t shock their system. Then after they’ve eaten and gotten some of their strength back, THEN, you can teach them to fish. Telling a starving man how to fish is abuse.

    The same is true of people who are starving for love. You can’t tell them how to live, first you have to actually directly help them, and give them some love and actual support, then teach them how to support themselves.

    The same is true for someone who is unemployed. Real help means giving someone a job, if you can’t directly give someone a job, you’re not helping, you’re likely just telling someone what to do. For example offering to help someone write their resume without them asking for it is both condescending and not really offering them anything real. If they haven’t asked you for that help, then they probably can do that part on their own. Real help would be telling them about a job opportunity, or best of all actually helping them land a job through reference or hiring them if you’re in the position to.

    If for real you don’t want to help anybody, that’s fine! Just don’t be dishonest about it. Like the child saying no. Just don’t offer anything. Not offering anything or saying no flat out, is better than a thousand actions of false help, because then you don’t waste your time, the person who needs help’s time, and you aren’t abusing someone in need.

  • Amber

    I was always the good girl from day one…If I ever say no, she would guilt trip me to the point she would make me feel bad where I end up caving. She has done this for so long and even at 22, she is still very much doing this to me. I love her so much…and she loves me, I couldn’t ask for a better mother…

    But I also understand that I am an only child… I understand I am all she has…I understand she has put a lot of effort in raising me and becoming who I am today… I understand she’s scared of the dangers in life that could be presented in front of me…

    I can’t be put in her shoes because I am not a mother but I do understand and take her feelings into account….

    However she uses this in her arguments every single time and becomes a crying mess when I try to ask for something that I know will help better myself in life. And when she starts to cry, my heart always gets heavy and I feel bad and hesitate about my own want in life. Is it that she is having a hard time letting me go and being overprotective? I’m still a college student learning how to adult in life but I felt like I have missed so many opportunities because I always take her feelings into account first and foremost.

    “we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die.” really hit me deep…

  • rena

    I was amazed that I agreed with the article by the timei got done reading it. I was a person and still am actually a person that has trouble with “no” in my life. I struggle with healthy boundaries and therfore h”ave had much more pain in my lifetime then i would have liked to have had. I guess that came from having a very controlling and abusive mother, but Iin her defense she also came from abuse so it’s just iniquity carried down. Luckily I have found an avenue to help me resolve some of these unhealthy boundary issues so I can live the second half of my life somewhat in a healthy environment for myself. Kudos to you for this article because it’s definitely not going to be on the popular side. Thank you.

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  • Lucy Moore

    I bet that for many of the clients you had whose parents allowed them to say no but were “wrecked by porous boundaries” there was another authority figure, or group of authority figures (i.e. teachers, babysitters, and yes, even therapists sometimes) who did not allow them to say no.

  • anon

    The mother shouldnt have let the girl play with his toys in the first place without asking him…and then tells the poor child to hand HIS new toys back to them. Of course he is going to say no….poor thing..

  • Heidi in WI

    Oh my gosh YES! 😉 and if you haven’t already, you might want to add “It’s ok not to share” on your book list 😉 http://www.heathershumaker.com/

  • Best EDM Everyday

    I agree completely. I live with pretty weathy parents. They use money as a means for control and I still always tell them to fuck off when they try to control me. For instense I cussed because I failed at a video game and my mom came in the room and asked me if I could not say those words. I told her no im not going to obey that. It was pretty empowering. Keep in mind im 22 and they are still trying to control me. I know i should be out of my parents house, but im trying.

  • PK421

    I was afraid of my mother, my brother not so much. I was submissive and wound up in all sorts of bad situations, abusive relationships, had a drinking problem, never had a healthy relationship; my brother, on the other hand, secure, has a stable relationship, etc. Rebellion in me was swiftly and harshly squashed. As an adult, I first said, “no” to my mother. It’s a huge event. Looking at my brother and me, I say this article is pretty spot on.

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