7 Reasons Saying ‘No’ to Your Kids Is a Good Thing

7 Reasons Saying ‘No’ to Your Kids Is a Good Thing

Experts weigh in on how saying ‘no’ can be beneficial to your kids.

By: Judy Koutsky

Many parents don’t like saying “no” to their children. They feel like they're being the mean parent. But here, experts explain why saying “no” is so beneficial.

1. Prepares them for disappointment. Saying “no” teaches kids that disappointment happens and they can handle it. “Teach your child to accept ‘no’ at a young age by not giving in to everything,” says Carrie Krawiec, LMFT and family therapist. “Kids are often so protected from disappointment (every student winning an award or games with no losers) that when they are disappointed (not making the team or a breakup), it’s so devastating they may become very depressed. Kids need to learn that they can get through disappointment, that these challenges will help them grow and make them stronger.”

2. Puts clear boundaries in place. Saying “no” can actually help children with their emotional growth. “When children have clear boundaries of what is allowed and what isn't, it helps to make their environment predictable and it can actually lower their anxiety,” says Andrea Stephenson, PhD, a clinical psychologist. “Of course, children will test these boundaries, but primarily to make sure the boundaries are still in place and the world is working the way they expect.”

3. Sets limits. “I tell parents to think of children as a little ball and to think of themselves as a container for that ball,” says Stephenson. “If there are no restrictions on the ball, it bounces all over the place, causing damage to itself and others. As parents, our job is not to stop the ball's movement, but to reduce it so that it can still move but in a controlled manner.” Saying “no” helps set much-needed limits for your child.

4. Provides consistency. “Saying ‘no’ without frustration and anger, and following through with what you say lets a child know that you care about them and that you want them to be safe,” says Rebecca Kieffer, MSW, a child and family therapist. The key is to be consistent, so the child knows what to expect.


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5. Makes kids feel safer. “Children like structure and limit-setting by parents and typically respond better to parents that can provide consistency and that can hold them accountable for their actions,” says Kieffer. Kids need structure and guidance, and it’s up to parents to give it to them. When you say no, you’re reinforcing that you love and nurture your child. You care enough to not back down (remember, it’s much easier to say “yes”). Sometimes saying “no” is simply about safety (you can’t talk to strangers online, you can’t cross the street against traffic). Children will learn that a firm “no” is about protecting them from harm.

6. Creates teachable moments. “Saying ‘no’ provides teachable moments. It allows your child to learn that they cannot always have what they want,” says Kieffer. Think of it as an opportunity to explain why you are saying “no” and what type of behavior the child needs to exhibit next time in order to hear a “yes.”

7. Builds respect. Kids need to learn that whining and complaining do not turn a “no” into a “yes.” Instead, kids learn to accept when an adult denies their request and realize bargaining is not an option. “Saying ‘no’ teaches children to respect their parents and other adults,” says Kieffer.

How do you say “no” to your child?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/coloroftime

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