"Do not tell me no!" These are words we know all too well as parents. They often creep up in the daily conversations we have with our children. For years, we try to help them understand that being obedient is what good children do, and saying "no" to a request is never an option for them. But, what if this kind of teaching puts our children in danger and causes them to feel uncomfortable saying "no" in a situation where that is exactly what they should be saying? Here are four ways we can teach children to say "no" when they feel something is wrong.
1. Allow your child the freedom to be heard
In our home, respect for parents is important. However, if one of our children is not happy with a decision, a rule we have enforced, or a request we have made, he has the freedom to come to us in a calm, civilized manner, and discuss his concerns. Together, we will talk things over, try to understand her view, then make allowances where we can. If we feel firm about our decision, we explain our point of view and invite our child to try to understand why we do the things we do. On most occasions, we have come to a mutual understanding, and our relationship with that child has been strengthened. With this open channel of communication, children feel that it is OK for them to disagree with an adult. When something arises outside of the family that they are uncomfortable with, not only will they be more comfortable with saying "no" to an adult, but because they have an open channel of communication with you, you can bet they will be telling you about it.
2. Tell them it's OK to say "no."
If you want your child to know it's OK to say "no," then tell him so. Sometimes, we send our kids mixed signals. We tell them that they can't say "no" to us, and sometimes punish them when they do, then turn around and expect that they will say "no" to others. If you want your children to be comfortable saying "no," don't punish them for saying it. Teach them that saying "no" is OK, then explain when those proper times would be. The word "no" is a powerful word for children to have in their bag of artillery. It helps them fight against any number of potential dangers and filth that can cross their path each day causing harm far into their adult life. They need that word in their vocabulary. They need to know it is OK, even vital that they use it, especially when they feel something is wrong.
3. Role-play possible situations with your child
There are all kinds of situations where the word "no" would be important for your child to use. Come up with some scenarios and role-play with your child. Oftentimes, when kids are put in a tough situation, they are like a deer caught in the headlights. They are paralyzed and can't think of what they should do or say. If they have already been through a similar role-play in the safety of their own home, they will remember that experience. This will enable them to know what to do to get out of the difficult situation. Make sure when you role-play that your child is confident and loud when he says the word "no." Teach him to say it like he means it.
4. Teach them to trust their instincts
Everyone is born with the ability to be warned of danger when it comes. Teach your children to trust their instincts. If all of the sudden, he gets the feeling that he needs to get out of a house, or leave a party, or run from an approaching adult teach him to trust his own feelings. Teach her to say "no" to a friend who wants her to see his bedroom, or a teacher who wants to drive her home. Your children will be warned every time danger comes. Teach them how to recognize and follow those promptings. Teach them that in times when those warnings come, they should say "no" very firmly and without hesitation. Then, get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
Although we often hate it when our children tell us "no," it is important that, rather than punishing them for saying it, we make sure they keep it in their vocabulary. We want them to be comfortable using it when they are in difficult situations. Their ability to say "no" when they feel something is wrong could mean the difference between living a good life, or a broken life of lost hopes and dreams. It may be the difference between them coming home to you at all.
When I was in second grade, the news broadcast stories of a white van that was kidnapping children. One day, on my way home from school, a white van approached me. The man inside told me to come to him. If I did, he would give me one of the biggest lollipops I had ever seen. I told him "no." Then, I ran as fast as I could back to the school grounds where I told my teacher what had happened. She called the police. The man was later found and imprisoned. The word "no" saved my life that day. Don't ever remove it from your children's vocabulary. You never know, one day it just might save their life, too. With just two letters, it is one of the most powerful words in the English language.