When I wore a younger man’s clothes a woman by the name of Nancy Reagan either coined the phrase or passed it along-either way-she said ‘just say NO’. Now the context of this message was about taking drugs and her advice was to just say ‘no’. At the time I thought she was a bit naive to think that this little word would be enough to turn the tide regarding drug use especially by our kids. I still feel that there is much more to that problem then we are willing to identify. However, if this advice were supplied to parents today, be they single moms or dads or grandparents, it would be far more appropriate and valuable.
Many parents, teachers and care givers have lost the desire to utter that very powerful and very definitive word. I’m told that it is, indeed, a complete sentence unto itself. We have, instead, decided to not say ‘no’ to our children for fear of causing unpleasantness, a fight or strong disagreement, ultimatums, temper tantrums, damage to their fragile egos or worse yet to their self-esteem. Not to mention that they would not like us any more thus damaging our relationship with them in some way. I don’t really believe that any of that would happen and for us to be held ‘hostage’ by any of those thoughts and feelings can prevent us from being the parents or care givers we are supposed to be.
Most kids really do feel more safe and secure knowing that there are boundaries and ‘rules for living’. At the same time they are really quite happy living their lives with little or no expectations to deal with. I see it in schools where junior becomes a behavioral problem-the parents are brought in to discuss the matter and it ends up with junior being exonerated and the teacher held responsible for what has transpired. Junior leaves the meeting feeling that he is virtually untouchable and the teacher is held responsible by the parents refusal to take responsibility for not enforcing or expecting that junior will act reasonably. This outcome transfers itself to what is happening in our communities and our homes mostly because that little tiny two letter word has been all but forgotten.
By using the ‘N’ word we help determine and articulate what is and what is not OK in the home and the community we live in. It helps to establish the boundaries for acceptable behaviour and that there are consequences to be experienced if junior chooses not to be compliant. ‘NO’ you can’t drive up and down the streets at 90 miles an hour just because you feel like it. ‘NO’ you can’t bring your buddies home and use our home as a club house where anything goes including the illegal use of alcohol, smoking dope, having sex with your girlfriend or anything else that would not be ‘OK’ outside the home. ‘NO’ you can’t stay out all night and do whatever you want. ‘NO’ you can’t stay home when you need to be in school. ‘NO’ you can’t do whatever you want to someone just because you want to. ‘NO’ means ‘NO’ and that’s it. I stated in a previous article that we cannot be our children’s friend and this is part of the reason why. We need to be parents who can say ‘NO’ when it needs to be said. We teach them nothing about growing up and being mature and responsible for their actions if we are constantly not establishing and consistently maintaining the boundaries and helping them understand what appropriate means. About their fragile self esteem–how can we ever prepare them for the disappointments they will experience in the real world? The real world really doesn’t give two hoots about what they can and cannot handle. It is up to us to prepare them for the day when someone else says ‘NO’ to them.
If we are going to resurrect this tiny little word that has such power to influence we also need to be able to help our kids understand why we have said ‘NO’. It is not enough to say it. The learning comes from our explanation of WHY we said it. The other point to be made here is that if you state clearly why you have said ‘NO’ and junior goes ahead anyway how prepared are you to mete out some kind of response to his decision to disregard your wishes? If you are not prepared to carry through with what you stated as the consequences to his decision then all this is useless. He will openly challenge everything you try to do or say if he doesn’t like it because he knows you won’t follow through with anything anyway. All that has happened, then, is you have reinforced his distorted sense of entitlement rather than helping him understand your values and your knowledge of the world they will soon move into.
That’s the way I see it anyway, Jim
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NEXT WEEK’S ARTICLE WILL BE ABOUT HOW WE REWARD MEDIOCRITY IN OUR KIDS AND HOW IT HARMS THEM
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