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The Power Of No – Santa Maria College

‘No’ is one of the tiniest words in the English language, but it carries a lot of power for a word so small. No, is a toddler’s most commonly used word; however, it seems to disappear from our vocabulary as adults.

The ability to say no is the power to do what matters, protect priorities and values and keep ourselves and others safe.

As a parent of teenagers, saying no is one of our greatest challenges. Risk-taking is a normal part of teenagers’ development, and our use of the word no can be a guiding light.

When did you last say no?

When was the last time you said no to your daughter? Was it when she asked…….

  • Can I have a mobile phone?
  • Can I go to Joel’s party?
  • Can I buy this skirt? (super short)
  • Can I have Macca’s?
  • Can I have Tik Tok?
  • Can I go to the Harry Styles concert?
  • Can you drive me to……

If the choice exists between denying a teenager what they want and dealing with a meltdown or saying yes, we often take the easier path. Even if no is what we really should have said. When was the last time you said yes when you should have said no? 

I am sure you may well have experienced the constant badgering from your teens, begging and pleading, or how they cleverly set up one parent against another. Or maybe it is the cold shoulder experience and being accused of being the only parent who says no. We want to be liked by our teenagers, but we also need to remember we are parents, not their friends, and our role is to keep them safe and try and guide them on the correct path. No matter what they say in the heat of the moment, they will still love you.

From a teenager’s perspective, no may mean they are missing out on exciting opportunities. At this age, they want to be liked and be able to do things the rest of their friends want to do.

There is also the FOMO (fear of missing out), which is a teenager’s greatest dread. They may feel it will change another person’s perspective of them if they are not able to conform. They want to please their friends, and parents may be the blockers. They feel they won’t be perceived as a team player. At this age, they want to be liked and be able to do things the rest of their friends want to do.

Is it that saying no will cause conflict with another person, and we want to avoid this discomfort? We are people pleasers at heart. We don’t want to disappoint others.

Why do we need to say no?

Adolescence is when young people work out where they fit in the world. It is also a time when they are more likely to take risks. As they gain independence, they begin pushing the boundaries we have in place for their safety and wellbeing.

No is a very valuable word when combined with learning about life. When you take the time to explain your thoughts and insight into your feelings or reasoning, you equip your teenager with the rationale for making good decisions. They may not want to listen at the time but will understand at a later time.

Saying no to your teen is very important to help deepen and reinforce your family values, boundaries and expectations. Parents need to set limits to keep them as safe as possible. How they react to these limits varies enormously. Remember that you only have boundaries and expectations because you love them. Make this clear and walk away. Young people need role models who make informed decisions and hold firm based on their values and what is important to them. No is an essential word throughout our lives, and our children learn from us.

We need our girls to be able to say no

We want them to feel strong enough to say:

  • No to friends who gossip
  • No to inappropriate social media posts
  • No to peer pressure in relation to the wearing of inappropriate fashion or the consumption of alcohol or drugs
  • No to any uncomfortable situation they find themselves in

Girls need to be encouraged to say no and to have a voice. We need to be role models as parents, educators, and friends, and we need to stand tall and be brave. As young women, saying no is one of the most powerful things they can learn. Saying no leads to more balanced lives, develops self-respect and gains respect from others. Without the capacity to say no, a young person can be very vulnerable.

7 Tips on how to say NO to teenagers

  1. Trust your intuition. Your job is to protect her and keep her safe. Make your decision and stick with it.
  2. Be considered. Give yourself a moment to pause and assess the situation before responding. Seek further information and advice if needed.
  3. Teenagers are hard-wired for drama. When you react to drama, you lose your power and your clarity.
  4. Be honest. Giving the why of no can be important for adolescents; share how you feel.
  5. Suggest an alternative option that reduces the risk that may be acceptable. Embrace opportunities that allow her to extend herself a little that doesn’t compromise safety or your values and beliefs.
  6. While challenging, be open to changing your no to a yes. Take time to listen carefully to requests. As your teenager matures and learns to make good decisions, they need to be able to negotiate and work with you for a compromise.
  7. Sometimes your teenager may want you to say no because this could be an easier option and someone else to hold responsible for the decision.

Being a parent is one of the most challenging jobs in the world; I know I am a parent of two teenagers. It is hard to say no, and much easier to give in. If your teen daughter is unhappy with you occasionally, you are not ruining her life; you are protecting this special person you love dearly.

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