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Teaching How to Say No

This week’s Supreme Court hearings and media coverage have highlighted the ambivalence still resident in our culture about the importance of being heard when someone says, “No.” Discussions about believability and credibility and reputation have produced more frustration than anything. Few would argue that the accuser’s allegations aren’t serious. One would hope that the days of speaking out and being ignored are long over.

I ran across an interesting insight while reviewing some Love and Logic principles this past week. Dr. Charles Fay was discussing the importance of parents saying “no” to their children. He stated that saying “no” teaches our children how to say no to their peers someday. It stopped me in my tracks. I had never considered that always allowing my children to do whatever they asked was harmful to them when it comes to peer pressure or sexual pressure. Is it possible that permissive parenting contributes to the problems we see being debated as much as a macho or patriarchy culture?

I believe this issue is not gender specific. Both boys and girls need to learn how to say “no” and be heard. Let me explain.

We all agree that a girl should never be pushed past her comfort zone into more affection or advances than she desires. In the past, this was believed to place all the pressure on females, allowing young men to go as far as their partner would allow. There was little question as to how far the males would go if there were no restraints. All the pressure resided on one side.

As the father of two girls, I always believed that was not fair. I wanted my daughters to date boys who shared the restraint I tried to teach them. The culture showed them that anytime two people were alone together for very long and they enjoyed one another’s company, the natural progression of things was to take the other person’s clothes off and slip into bed or the back seat. It was essential that both sons and daughters learn this was not the case.

Sexual pressure can come from the partner who wants more physical activity than you do at the moment. It also comes from a sex-crazed culture that uses sex to sell everything from toothpaste to hamburgers to soft drinks. Learning to say “no” keeps our child or young adult from being pushed and prodded to do things they aren’t ready to do.

Maybe the most important way we need to teach our children to say “no” has more to do with self-control, however. Teaching our children that every appetite they experience has consequences helps them control their weight (eating), their emotions (like anger) and their sexual curiosity. It may be the most dangerous person in the room isn’t the one they went out on a date with at all. A person who cannot say no to himself or herself will be in trouble anyway.

Start early and teach well. Obviously, a lot is at stake on this issue.

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