Telling a child no is a controversial topic.
On one side of the debate, there have been entire books published about why we shouldn’t tell our children no. The reasonings repeated most tither from, “It just teaches them to say ‘no’ back to you,” to reasoning like, “They don’t understand when they are young–it just hurts their feelings” and “If you have to tell them ‘no’ it’s because you haven’t been an attentive enough parent to prevent the situation.” Lastly, “they will learn what to do and what not to do in due time.”
On the other side of the debate, telling a child no leads to an earlier standard of obedience as well as–let’s face it–it could save their life one day.
Which side of the debate are you on?
Research shows (and mommies will tell you) that when a babe first starts teething around 6 months of age–and consequently biting during breastfeeding (or a bottle)–a babe understands mom’s reaction.
If she jumps in shock, and then gives a gentle giggle to convey to babe that she’s okay; then babe begins to gather that she’s done something mom thinks is fun.
On the other hand, mom’s who are consistently saying no with gentle technique are generally able to get their babe’s to stop biting. In other words, at this gentle age a child can learn to understand “no”–far before the years of learning to say it back.
What we get out of this is that from young ages, children are able to understand “no” when taught correctly. (Obviously yelling, or taking breast/bottle away from a hungry babe is not correctly teaching no but just confusing and hurtful.)
The conclusion is that children understand no from early ages. However, it is too early in the debate to toss out the view that telling a child no simply just “hurts their feelings.” Sometimes it does.
Rapidly disappearing is the generation that was always told no. As adults, they are highly functional and able to obtain what they need (and sometimes desire) by themselves. Their feelings aren’t hurt when someone else doesn’t come along and get them what they need or want. They know they need to be responsible for themselves.
I grew up in a home where I was told (with love) “no” very often. I could not have what I wanted all the time. I could not go where I wanted all the time. I could not wear whatever I wanted anytime I wanted. The result as a young adult was that my feelings just weren’t hurt because things didn’t go my way.
My parents did a wonderful service to me by teaching me I couldn’t have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I learned to be content with God’s blessings and not pity myself over trivial things.
And then something happened. Near 30 years of age, I met a man who treated me like royalty. I have been spoiled ever since then. These days, my husband rarely tells me no. But when he does, boy, wow, yeah…it can hurt my feelings no matter how gentle it comes. I can completely see how a child who is never told no would feel when it does happen.
Yes, it hurts. But it can be a good hurt–meaning it’s for one’s own good to be told no occasionally.
How many times did Jesus tell His disciples “no”? It wasn’t because He couldn’t provide. It was for their good.
How many times does God tell us “no”? Rest assured, it is for our own good.
On the other hand, being told no in an unhealthy manner, can be inappropriate.
There are definitely times when parents (across the board) have told their children no for selfish reasons. Perhaps Johnny is going through a growth spurt and asks his mother for a snack and she doesn’t want to get off the phone or computer and passively states, “Not now Johnny, dinner is in a few hours.” Perhaps little Johnny really is having hunger pains and needs food. Haven’t we all been here? Isn’t this a place where none of us want to be?
Other times when we should say no, we don’t. Times when other people might be in earshot and we are worried more about the judgement they may have on us as parents rather than what really isn’t best for our children. Don’t think so? How about in church? Or at the grocery store? Hmm…. How about times when it’s just easier to say yes than no?
No doubt, telling someone we love such as our children no, can be a hard thing to do. But so often, it is also the most loving thing to do.
Where do you draw the line in telling your children no, and letting them sort it out themselves? Which side of the debate are you on? (Inappropriate comments and those attacking another commenter will not be published. Please, let us be kind to one another.)