8 Reasons Every Parent Should Fall in Love with No

image rebellious teen via TalkTherapyBiz.com

*This is a repost of a popular vintage article. It’s one of my favorites about being a parent, and a psychotherapist to teens and their (anxious) parents. Enjoy!*

“Don’t you find it hard to say no to your child?” asked a woman at the park, during a brief conversation.

“Hell, no.” I replied.

“Oh…um, alright, I’ll see you later…nice meeting you,” she stammered.

I tend to be cut-and-dried like that, which alienates at times.

I also tend not to tell perfectly nice strangers that I primarily make my living from parents who do not do no.  In some perverse way I am grateful as their missteps made me a better parent (not that I don’t stumble, trip, and facepalm on occasion).

Why do parents struggle with No?


It’s not exactly a tongue-twister.

It’s fairly universal.

There are no shades of gray.

It’s direct.

Maybe that’s why.

Be that as it may…

8 Reasons to fall in love with No!


1. No is nice

As in nice when children are well-behaved, respectful, and responsible.  And nice when they exhibit good sportsmanship, are able to share, and say please and thank you.

2. No ensures boundary setting

Incorporating no in your vernacular early on means defining acceptable and unacceptable treatment from others.  Tight boundaries encourages personal growth through self-awareness.

3. No increases frustration tolerance

Life is hard, problems are inevitable, and no one is immune. The earlier learned, the better. Experiencing and tolerating frustration teaches problem-solving and coping skills.

4. No wards off entitlement

Bratty children are just not cute.  No matter how photogenic little Ethan and Emma—when they tantrum, we all want to run for the hills.

Unless you plan on sustaining and subsidizing a perfect world for your child forever (which is selfish, dysfunctional, and impossible), you may want to reconsider the tech toys, designer duds, and elite educational institutions which cannot be traded for an IRA when you’re 65, stressed out, and strapped.

(Speaking of institutions and worse case scenarios—there are other institutions that may step in…God. Forbid.).

5. No encourages creativity

When my child bullied another child at school (horrors—I was heartsick), all his toys were placed in the garage for an extended period.  We ended up making new toys from recycled cereal boxes, empty milk cartons, and random items found in sofa cushions.  He still asks when we’ll do that again…

6. No teaches discipline

A hallmark of all things worthwhile, hard work and sacrifice are the counterparts to lazy, self-indulgent, and unfulfilled.  Although sleeping till noon and comfortable, most parent-subsidized 30-50 somethings are not satisfied in life, even if the bank account adds up differently.

7. No buys liability insurance against Juvie-Johnny, Preggers-Patricia, and Meth-addicted-Manny

*That is all*

8. No means your child will not be referred to me at 16 due to an expulsion order for “8-12 weeks of mandatory counseling focusing on decision making, life skills, and substance abuse.”

Lastly, no does not mean you’re mean.  All kids experience out of control emotions that feel really scary, and the best medicine is a parent/adult who provides emotional safety in the form of boundary setting.  Please spend your time, and emotional and physical energies ensuring that no is not as alien as, well, an alien.

Kids have one shot at childhood. And it’s never too late to get to know no.  In the long run your children will appreciate you for suspending comfort, habit, and ease.



And you?

What’s your take on No?

Easy? Hard?

Please leave your valued feedback below.

If you liked this material, I’d be grateful if you could share to Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you!

Yours in No-ness,



About Linda Esposito

Hi there! I'm an Anxiety Saboteur and the creator of the soon-to-be retired TalkTherapyBiz.com. If you want to join me on Wired for Happy click this link to subscribe for details.

13 Responses to "8 Reasons Every Parent Should Fall in Love with No"

  1. BensonNo Gravatar says:

    When I hear no I think of my folks yelling at us growing up. Not that I don’t agree that teens need to be reminded of your steps above every other hour, but when you hear it on instant rewind 24/7 it gives rise to rebellion.

    It’s the tone, stupid!

    • Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

      Yes–tone is so important. I think many confuse the word and its association to “meanness” or withholding a privilege, affection, material possession, etc.

  2. Carrie AnnNo Gravatar says:

    Four is great! I can’t tell you how many friends with young children buy iPads for their toddlers. What’s the expectation for Kindergarten? What happened to earning privileges?

    Thanks for this.

    • Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

      I love #4 too! No need to think the world owes you anything. And you’re really doing your teens a disservice to give them everything under the sun. This includes the habit of talking back and of general disrespect to adults and others in authority positions.

  3. jo CaseyNo Gravatar says:

    This is really interesting – I wonder if the need to be liked or to distance ourselves from our own parents that means we struggle with saying no to our children. Or perhaps we just need to grow up and own being the parent! I love the way you’re always so straight to the point Linda – great discussion points as always.

  4. Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

    The need to be liked is a huge factor. I often see this in clients where their own parents raised them in a overly strict and emotionally unavailable household. Thanks for the nice words, Jo!

  5. RebeccaNo Gravatar says:

    Remember your teen will hate you when you say the word no! but be reassured that you are being a responsible parent when you take control and not let your teen rule the roost.

  6. Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

    Great point, Rebecca. The good news is when they get more accustomed to hearing no, they’ll resist the urge to argue, bargain, and tantrum.

  7. SusAN GIURLEONo Gravatar says:

    No is about safety. When we don’t set limits, we don’t keep our children safe. Kids are not considered adults until 18 for a reason. They are ready to make big decisions on their own. When we don’t say no we leave them parenting themselves and that never turns out well.

  8. Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

    Great point about the safety aspect Susan. We can’t expect teens to act in a rational manner when they’re lack of life experience, frame of reference, and hormonal issues dictate otherwise.

    Thanks for your honest, expert opinion.

  9. HarryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Linda, I think ‘No’ is a very helpful word for all of us. Those who don’t learn how to utilize a no, will laways find themselves surrounded by trouble because of things they did to please others. As a parent I think ‘no’ should always be used with children to demarcate their boundaries.

  10. Judy CharlotteNo Gravatar says:

    My mom knows how to say NO and stand by it. We can’t change her decision if she already said NO.

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