Sometimes I’m in agreement with children that they need to have access to information: like knowing why they aren’t allowed to do or have something, why they may be disciplined, what your reasoning is behind the decisions that you make (particularly if it affects them) and why it is that you’re saying no.

I also think that sometimes it just needs to be no.

I know that it’s important that children have some ideas around your thinking but, and particularly where it’s a troublesome issue or perhaps a younger, less resilient child, we don’t necessarily want to give them to all of the information about what’s going on in your world. Perhaps the reasons for the decisions that are made for them are upsetting for them to hear, or inappropriate to bring to their attention. But mainly the reason is this, ultimately, they probably can’t do anything about it anyway!

What you might end up with is a situation where you have an ongoing negotiation with them about why they can’t have, do or say what it is that they want to have, do or say. And this can sometimes go on for months! It’s important that you do not get yourself worn down and put both of you into a negative atmosphere by giving them too much information about what’s going on. You must still have the right to be able to say no and not justify your reasons why.

Now there is a reason why this is important – and that is because children who have a strong discipline and structure around them feel more loved. It has been proven that children who have a good framework around them, with parents and professionals in their lives who are not afraid to say no, feel more loved and secure in their lives. It might feel as if you get some initial resistance to it but at an unconscious level, they may begin to get more of a message that they’re really loved and supported in their world. This is the reason why I want you to begin to have a little bit more conviction in saying no!

‘No, we’re not going there today now’.
‘No, you can’t have that actually’.
‘No, you’re not going to be staying up too late tonight’

You’re going do and say those things without over-explaining, without letting them start to negotiate with you, and without them going into a state of analysis which goes on and on and on, forever. Instead we’re going to say no at times because we can and because it’s the right thing to do. Children do not always need to have deep and detailed explanations about why it is that they can’t have what they want. Children often just need to know that the answer is no.

You want to maintain that authority by being able to say no and have it not be questioned. And as
we’ve mentioned before, children can be persistent. If this is a behaviour that you want to change in your young people, then first you’ll need to make changes in your parenting or in your interactions with young people. And it’s not necessarily going to be a smooth transition from the old you to the new you. If they’re used to the old you giving them the time of day to listen to their
perspective and their point of view about what they’re saying, then suddenly changing that habit is going to perhaps push up against the normality that they are used to. You’re perhaps going to see a little bit of kickback from that in the early stages, but it is worth persevering. Persevering will let them know that actually you are the authority in that relationship and that they don’t have to
know the reasons that underpin every single decision that you make.

Another good reason for doing this, as well as for your own authority, is because sometimes children get overloaded with the amount of adult information that they have available to them. If they know all of the reasons why you make the decisions that you make then they are being exposed to too much information about how the complex adult world works far too soon. There’s a lot of information that they don’t need to know just yet. It can serve them really well to spend their childhood being children and for you to create that separation between childhood and adulthood for them by saying ‘actually my reasons are my own and I don’t need to share those with you’.

I’m encouraging parents and professionals to give out stronger no messages! Set those boundaries and do it from a place of love. Give those young people the unconscious knowledge that actually they are secure in their lives and that they need not take on all of that negotiation with you, or the concerns about what your reasons may have come from at an age which is too young for them to have to worry about them.

By Gemma Bailey

The original version of this article was written by Gemma Bailey, director
It was republished and rebuilt with additional content by NLP4KIDS PRACTITIONER IAN DAVIES