This is Why and When Your Kids Need to Hear You Say “No”!
I am rushing through the grocery store with two cranky kids in tow. They are tired, and hungry and miss sitting quietly on the floor playing with DUPLO. Instead, we are flying down the bread aisle in a desperate search for the only honey wheat bread their older brother will eat.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a familiar face approach. Dang it! There is nowhere to hide! The bread aisle is also the wine aisle; of course, that is where she is headed. (No judgment passed, I stocked up at Costco yesterday.)
The kids’ whining has hit all-time high decibels when I am forced to acknowledge her presence right in front of my cart. Apparently, her merlot is on sale across from my honey wheat bread.
Her voice is as sugar-sweet as my kids’ objections are annoying. “Tove, I am SO glad I ran into you here!” (It was more “me ramming my cart into you, as I was trying to get away,” I think to myself.)
“Are you free this Friday? You did such a FABULOUS job on our project benefitting (insert a pointless cause, only a limited number of people care about). We could REEEAAALLLY use your help this Friday. Is 11 am a good time for us to meet?”
(This post was originally published in June 2016. It was updated in July 2022.)
Suddenly, I have a moment of clarity and I think to myself: If it’s not “HELL YEAH” then it’s “HELL NO!” and “NO” is a complete sentence. It is time for my kids to hear me say “NO” to someone other than them – they deserve it!
I give her my brightest and most sincere smile, and I hear myself, loud and clear, say “NO, I am not available.” Suddenly, the whining from the shopping cart stops – the kids’ silence is deafening.
The boys turn and look at me, I am not sure if they understand the magnitude of what they just witnessed – but I have a feeling they “get it!” I just said “NO” – to someone other than my family – because my family deserves my attention, not someone else’s cause.
I quietly wish her a continued great day and push the awkwardly large green race-car-shaped shopping cart towards the cash registers. I am restraining myself from skipping down the aisles and giving “high fives” to my sweet little cherubs in the cart.
The kids have miraculously stopped arguing and whining. They are sitting content and happy in the cart, perhaps they can tell that I am rushing a little less and my tone has softened considerably.
Say “No” to The Right People!
My husband’s words echo in the back of my head. I think back on our conversation at the kitchen sink the night before. There is something about cleaning up after dinner that brings out the real and raw conversations.
He had smiled at me, with a coy twinkle in his eyes. I knew whatever he was about to say would be said with love, although the words stung. “Control your inner Oprah, please. You simply can’t save the world – at least not all at once.”
My husband is my biggest fan and supporter. He is also a great truth-sayer and “bring me back to reality” guy. Every word out of his mouth was accurate, painfully so.
The thing is, he will sit back and watch me load my calendar with events, meetings, “save the horned owl” parades, and “save the monarch butterfly” symposiums. Until my calendar is bursting at the seams and my stress-level hits new highs, then he steps in and saves me from myself – and my charitable ways.
Do you ever find your to-do list full of things that benefit everyone but you or your family? We are quick to willingly take on one cause after another, at the expense of our family life. Instead of baking cookies with our kids, we host bake sales benefitting everyone but our family.
I don’t know about you, but when I am over-extended I tend to say “NO” to all the wrong people.
- I snap at the kids when they are tired of running errands with me, although none of the things I am doing benefit our family.
- I yell at dinner time because I am rushing out to a meeting and I need to know that they ate well.
- I turn down invitations to play with DUPLO because I accepted yet another invitation to do a fundraiser benefitting the Florida manatee – or another random cause that is near and dear to someone’s heart.
What is wrong with me, when did my priorities get so turned around?
Yes, it is important for our kids to learn about charitable giving and selfless acts of kindness, but not at the expense of spending quality time with the people who matter in our lives right here and right now.
Saying “No” Matters
I have over the past year said “NO” and turned down more invitations than I ever have in my entire life – and it felt good. Every single “NO” meant that I had more time and more energy to say “YES” to my family.
You should try it… say “NO” to the people and causes in your peripheral vision. It is the people right in front of you who need your “YES” the most.
There WILL come a day when you have more time, energy and resources to get involved in the outside world – again, but for today… tending to our own “garden” is exactly what our family needs. It is what our family deserves.
We get home from the grocery store with countless bags of strange vegetables I plan to use in a recipe I found on Pinterest and two loaves of honey wheat bread. There is a sense of calm and tranquility hanging over our house tonight. The kids know that I don’t have any meetings. Their bedtime will be “business as usual” – with maddening requests for water, cheese sticks, and extra kisses.
My kids heard me say “NO” to someone other than them today…The importance of that is immeasurable. I look forward to filling my available time with lots of “YES” answers directed at the little beings who need me more than the horned owl or monarch butterfly ever did.
When was the last time you said “NO” to someone other than your family?
As you embrace saying “No”, you will naturally learn how to “live in the now” – how to “be where you are“!