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The Power of The Parent No

April 26, 2018


When talking to a parent the other day, we explored the power of No when it comes to parenting.

No is easy. It limits possibility. It contains energy. No is sticking with what is known and comfortable. No is safer. It stops what's happening in its tracks.

Yes explodes energy. Yes takes you out of your comfort zone. Yes moves you into something new.

Yes is always scarier. When you say Yes, you loosen your inner rules. You say, "Ok life, what else do you have for me?"

Television producer Shonda Rhimes (Greys Anatomy, Scandal, etc) wrote Year of Yes, a book about her year of saying Yes. She wanted to know what it would be like to say Yes to all the things that scared her for one year. (Full disclosure - I haven't read her book but watched her Ted Talk).
For me, when thinking about whether I was and still am more of a No parent than a Yes parent, I would have to say I said No right away to most things, then moved over to Yes, after I figured out what I was dealing with. No gave me the inner space I needed.

No is a great buffer to decision making. It's clean and clear and gives you time under pressure to sort out what you think and feel. That's a good thing. As long as No is not keeping you from connection.

There's nothing wrong with a good solid No as long as it's not an angry No, a frustrated No. If it is, it means it's time to look inward at what's really going on. Where is this No coming from? What's really going on?

Shonda Rhimes used No as a way to avoid connection, to protect herself from things that scared her. She knew No made her life smaller. The more she said No, the less she was willing to say Yes. And the opposite is also true. She found the more she said Yes, the less she needed to say No.

It's a good experiment.

If you are a No parent more than a Yes parent, experiment with what it feels like to say Yes more than you say No.

We need to say No to our children. No works beautifully when it's a clean and clear No. It get's mucked up when we say No with emotion, from fear and anger.

"No, I'm not taking you to the store," is clean and clear.

"No, stop bugging me about going to the store," is emotional. This No pushes your child away.

How about, "Yes, I see you want to go to the store, but No, I can't take you today."

Saying Yes more than No builds connection. 

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