Monday, June 4, 2012

When My Children Say "No" to Me

When my two year old twin boys say no to me, two things happen.

They don't get punished.  They do get practice.

You see, I want my children to say "NO" to me.  Why?  Because the way I see it, there are two vital things being learned and practiced.

First, they are learning the fine art of negotiating.

"Gus, will you come here please?"
"I need to change your diaper."
"No, I playing."
"Ok, you can play while I count to five and then you can come here."
"10, mama!"
"Sure, I will count to ten before your diaper change."

Of course, it's not always this easy.  And often I have to rephrase an accidental question into a statement.  Really, if I don't want an answer I shouldn't ask a question!  So "Do you want to eat dinner?" has to become "It's time to eat dinner."

Second, when my boys tell me "NO" they are practicing standing up to an authority figure.  I do not want blindly compliant children.  I want them to be able to refuse an older child or an adult who is asking them to do something that is inappropriate or makes them uncomfortable.  If they learn at age two that they are allowed and encouraged to say no, then it is my fervent hope that they will have the strength of conviction to say no when they are out in the wider world.

To be clear, I do not allow my boys to walk all over me, or to rule the roost.  There are boundaries and limits that are in place for the benefit of everyone in our household.  But if someone in our family disagrees with something, it will be heard and discussed.

Saying "No" is powerful.  Being able to say "No" without fear of punishment is empowering.


  1. My son has recently started saying no to everything--even things I know he wants! I love the benefits you give for giving them the chance to say no.

    1. Thanks, Amy. I had a chance to really think about it after I saw a friend of mine pop her son in time-out simply because he said no to her. This is what I came up with :-)

  2. I love this post, and it is something I have been struggling with with my 4.5yo. My husband and I just had a long talk after reading this together - hopefully I'll find time to write about it :)

    1. I look forward to reading your thoughts about it, Dionna! Yours is an opinion I value highly. Thank you for reading.