The Toxicity Of “No!”

It’s something I find myself saying to my children a lot:


However, I don’t think it’s completely frivalous. There are times when this word is warranted. But, as I take a close look at the frequency of it’s use, I think it can be toxic at times.

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Truthfully, this is a delicate and difficult balance to maintain.
I don’t want my children to consume too big of a snack that little room for our actual dinner is left, so, “No, you just had a snack, dinner will be in an hour.”
However, I don’t want them to feel as though food is off-limits or their growing bodies (that get hungry a lot) cannot have food when they need it.
We don’t permit our children to get out of their beds or come out of their rooms before 7 am, so, “No, it’s too early to be up buddy. You need to go back to bed.”
However, it’s 6:45am and it is a chance for me to snuggle my little guy exclusively before the rest of the family is up.
We just cleaned up the entire house in preparation for soon-arriving guests, so, “No, you cannot build a fort in the living room or do a craft in the kitchen!”
However, I don’t want to stifle my children’s creativity, nor do I want my home to seem cold and more like a museum than the place where they live and grow .

Like I said- delicate and difficult!

My daughter looked at me the other day and simply said, “Dad, I need to ask you something, and you’re probably going to say no, but….
She’s right. I probably would. In fact, I think I did! It suddenly begged the question in me- Has the word ‘No’ become more toxic or productive in me? In other words, do I use the word ‘No’ so much, for so many different situations, that it no longer moves my children in healthy directions, but rather pushes them to negative resistance?

Sadly, I feel it’s the latter.

As I spend time thinking through my household and my role as a father, I’ve come to a few conclusions about the use of ‘No’-

1- There is a balance between healthy use, and unhealthy use, and I need to find it!

I need to weigh what is unhealthy and requires use of the word, (ie- Riding their bikes in the street where cars could run them over is NOT healthy) and what is healthy and does not require use of the word, (ie- As much as I may not like it, we can clean up a craft or some toys on the floor afterward).

2- I need to replace the word ‘No’ with directives that move my children in a more positive direction.

Instead of ‘No’, perhaps ‘Not now,’ or ‘We really need to wait on this,’ or ‘Here’s a better way.’ All in all, I recognize that ‘No’ carries a finality with it. Using words or directives with a more positive feel could allow my children to see the situation differently.

3- I need to recognize when using ‘No’ becomes toxic and choose a different approach.

When I hear my daughter say something like, “You’re probably going to say no,” maybe it’s time to check myself and choose a different approach or response (as mentioned in #2). That’s when I know I’m overusing it and it’s lost its fluidity.

This is not rocket science and some of you may look at my conclusions as though they are too simple or not fleshed out enough. That’s okay, really, it is! I’m only a parenting expert by painful experience, not by education or degree! You may have better conclusions and I definitely invite you to comment with those freely. I wrote this post as more of a discussion starter than anything, mostly because I question this so frequently, and want to hear other perspectives.

Question- How do you feel about the word ‘No?’ Has its use become toxic for you? How can its use become more productive? Comment now!

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