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“Only do what your heart tells you” — Princess Diana

Only do what your heart tells you, or maybe what your gut tells you, or what your values tell you. Regardless, staying true to yourself sometimes requires saying no. This can be really hard to do, no matter your age.

“It takes courage to consider your own needs and priorities along with the needs of others. But it’s worth it. In the long run, the ability to say no is a little-known key to our kids’ happiness.” These are the last few lines of this quick (and important) read from Christine Carter about teaching kids to say no.

Carter makes a good point in her article by asking how can we expect our children to say no in high stakes situations like drugs and alcohol use when they haven’t practised how to say no on a smaller scale, like turning down a play date invitation.

We’re likely all a little guilty of saying yes to things in our personal and professional lives that we kind-of-sort-of don’t really want to do. Yes?

Sometimes it’s a social choice, and may come from a fear of letting someone down, or wanting to “protect our relationships” or even FOMO.

Professionally, our decision may be because, as this New York Times article points out: “We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way.”  However, saying no is essential so “you can say yes to opportunities that most reflect your values” and can “build free time in your schedule so there’s room for new, interesting opportunities you might otherwise overlook.”

This “Kid’s in the House” article goes into depth on some of the reasons why teaching kids to trust their intuition is important, and cautions against raising kids to be “people pleasers.”

Maybe we need to role model for our kids by saying no more often … to them. Psychology Today looks at how to say no to your kids.

Ben Nadel’s review of William Ury’s book, The Power of a Positive No: how to say no and still get to yes, gives a succinct outline of the three components to a positive no, which includes saying yes to self, no to other, and yes to the future.

“Saying yes to self” — when it includes empathy, honesty and reflection of values — is a phrase worth practising and passing along to our children.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Laurie Fraser,
Character Program Director
lfraser@ucc.on.ca