FATHERHOOD: The Value of a Stern “No.”

“No” is one of the most common, yet least used words in the English language today. This may be a symptom of the over-sensitive culture we live in, where we have this idea that simply saying “no” to someone else does unrepairable damage to that person’s feelings. This is an absolute myth.

A good stern “No!” is the cornerstone of discipline. Discipline has also become a  naughty word because the meaning of the word itself has changed to one that is synonymous with punishment. In truth, good discipline is a habit that helps a person or child avoid punishment. Discipline can be viewed as the act of keeping a person/child traveling down a road on towards a specific goal. In parenting, the goal at the end of that road is (or should be) primarily, the child’s safety, and secondly their success. The curbs of the road symbolize the child’s parental expectations. The child is traveling on this road at high speed as parents play the role of the disciplinary navigator. If the child veers too far to the right or left, flirting with the curbs of expectation, the parent must navigate that child back to the center of the road and headed towards their goals rather than let them physically harm themselves now or do potential harm to themselves in the future.

“No” is not a punishment. It is a single syllable disciplinary tool that can aid a person/child to actually avoid punishment. The “no” moment is that moment when a person/child is on the verge of making contact or crossing the boundaries of expectations. It is the disciplinary navigator’s responsibility to ensure that the child remains on the road. To allow a person or child to live without known expectations or boundaries is not responsible parenting.

Many parents today wrestle with believing they will be seen as the “bad guy” if they are forced to say “no,” or discipline their children, but it is the children that have grown up with no expectations which have been harmed the most. Many enter adulthood believing their parents didn’t care enough about them to set boundaries.

Many people don’t like to tell their kids or other people “no” because they hate hearing the word itself. To them, it might be heard as a personal rejection, even though the “no” they heard was never meant to be taken personally at all. It was just the sign they might have been approaching a boundary and the “no” they heard kept them clear of crossing that boundary.

Many of those people who are afraid to say  “no” have personal fears of rejection that they place on others. The idea of making another person feel rejection creates enough fear to hold them back from setting their own boundaries by simply saying “no.”

Children need boundaries. If discipline begins early in a child’s life, they test the boundaries early and eventually find themselves steering clear of them, having a premonition of a situation where they might hear “no” before it occurs and steer clear of the word altogether. If a child does not receive discipline, boundaries, or hear the word “no” until they are a teenager, be advised they will test the boundaries as a teenager instead of a toddler.

There is not only power in a good stern “no,” there is love in it.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 KJV