Of course it’s annoying to hear a “no” when you ask your son to clean his room or your daughter to turn off the TV and get ready for bed. But despite the battle of wills that sometimes occurs, the ability to say no and mean it is a valuable life skill. As children grow older they will be tested in numerous ways, and certainly as adults we encounter many situations where we need to have the capacity and confidence to say no. April is child abuse prevention month, so it’s the perfect time to examine the importance of teaching children refusal skills.
Learning to say no has valuable repercussions in many facets of our children’s lives:
- For protection: When you think about learning to say no, the first thing that may come to mind is your child’s personal safety. We need to teach kids to say no if their wellbeing or security is threatened in any way. In the case of attempted physical or sexual abuse, repeatedly saying, “No!”’ coupled with protective actions such as kicking, screaming, yelling for help, etc. is vitally important. Children need to know it is never permissible for someone to touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, and saying no is their first defense.
- To maintain identity: We are asked to do many things in life, some good, some not so good. Some activities may interest us, some may not. By teaching children to say no it allows them to regulate their own actions, define personal preferences and adhere to their own opinions.
- To develop a positive self-image. The ability to respectfully and confidently stand up for oneself contributes to good self-esteem. Saying no is also an assertive tool that helps to develop strength and independence
There are many things you can do to help your child as he or she learns to say no:
- Be open to their opinions. If our children can express their differing opinions to us in courteous ways and we give them positive feedback, it teaches them how to share their thoughts with confidence and respect.
- Demonstrate non-verbal communication skills. Model good non-verbal communication skills such as maintaining eye contact and using appropriate body language that matches the spoken language.
- Explain that a simple no may not always be sufficient. Teach your child about providing an explanation when they say no. For example, “No, I’m not going to the game after school because I have a big test tomorrow and I need to study.”
- Let them know that sometimes repetition is necessary. When it comes to peer pressure, saying no once will not always do the trick. Children who are willing to say no a number of times and in a number of ways send the message that they will stand firm in their decisions.
- Explain that saying no is not the same as rejection. Turning down a request is not the same as rejecting a person. Reassure your child that conflicting interests and differences of opinion are a part of human relationships.
By teaching your children to say no and mean it, they will be able to face life with confidence, independence and self-worth.
Join RAACE by becoming a RAACE Fan and/or subscribing to our monthly newsletter and inviting those within your child's circle of trust to join in the fight against and prevention of child sexual abuse! Visit RAACE.org today or call 1.800.755.KIDS.