Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No Means No

When our daughter Alison was in 4th grade, we took her and her cousin Kara to Destin, Florida, for spring break.

We visited the local zoo and aquarium and loaded up on t-shirts and sweatshirts to bring home as souvenirs. (I confess to still wearing one of the sweatshirts to this day, 20 years later.)

I also remember buying a small sign with a magnet on the back that I immediately placed on the refrigerator as soon as we got home.

It was just for Alison:

What part of the word NO do you not understand?

Most of the time our daughter was an absolute delight, but there were times when she just didn’t want to take “No” for an answer.

Instead, if we initially told her she could not do something, she argued, cajoled, begged, or used some other form of relentless pleading to try and get us to change our minds.

It was exhausting.

She continued to use these tactics even when she saw that we were not going to back down from our decision. She seemed perpetually hopeful that one of these times we would break down.

So this little sign served an important purpose: It saved me words. 

If we happened to be in the kitchen when she started pleading her case for a specific request, I merely pointed to the sign and smiled after the initial No.

The duration and frequency of her persuasion efforts dropped dramatically.

Many years later, I was sitting in an audience listening to Mary Ellen Tribby, founder and CEO of WorkingMomsOnly.com. She was talking about making time for what’s important to you, because no one else will do it for you. In fact, others will want to claim valuable hours or days of your time for their purposes.

She advised us to remember:

“NO is a complete sentence.”

When you turn down a request, do you typically feel the need to offer a rationale or explanation for your decision?

Sometimes it’s needed, but often you’re trying to make your case and you leave the door open for the other person to convince you to do what you don’t want to do.

Whether you’re dealing with your child or another adult, remember that it’s OK to “Just say no.”

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” - Josh Billings, American humorist (1818-1885)


  1. I am of two minds on this. I understand the need for the word "NO", but there is also the need to learn how to be persistent. And in fact, I am starting to believe that when it comes to my kids, I am trying to minimize the use of "No", as they start to develop potentially artificially constructs about what is and what isn't permissible in life.

    Learning to be relentless has its value as well.

  2. You make some very good points, Josh. While you don't want your kids to develop limited thinking by hearing "No" too often, it is important for them to know there are things that are non-negotiable. Part of parenting is learning discernment so you know when it's appropriate to take which approach.

    And I agree there are times to be relentless!

    I just see too many situations where parents give in to kids after telling them no multiple times first. The kids have learned that if they keep pushing, they'll get their way. Not good.


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