Respecting Your Child’s “No”

Respecting Your Child’s “No”


In this blog, I am going to talk about a little girl named Sarah. She is not a real person, just someone I made up to illustrate a point. I am going to walk you through Sarah’s life and show why it is so important to listen to our children, especially our little girls, when they tell us ‘no’.

Age 7 : Sarah is spending time with her siblings and her grandparents. She has spent most of the time attempting to keep her distance from her grandmother and would spontaneously interact with her grandfather. During the time Sarah spent with them, the grandmother tried to bribe (I will give you a piece of gum) and manipulate (I will take you to the water fountain) Sarah into showing the grandmother some form of affection. Each time the grandmother asked for a hug or a kiss, Sarah said ‘no’. When it was time for Sarah and her siblings to leave, the grandmother once again asked Sarah for a hug or a kiss. Again, Sarah refused, but this time the grandmother grabbed her and forced a hug and a kiss onto Sarah.

Maybe you are reading this thinking, “It was just a hug from her grandmother,” or “What’s wrong with that?” The grandmother in this instance certainly did not feel there was anything wrong with her actions.

Age 15 : Sarah does not like to be hugged by anyone she does not initiate the hug with. Her father often wants to hold her hand or touch her arm. She has repeatedly told her father that she does not want to be touched, but he continues to because this is how he wants to show her that he loves her and cares about her.

Age 20 : Sarah is in college and went to a party with her friends. She has not been drinking or doing any form of drugs. A same-aged male shows interest toward her and asks her if she wants to go somewhere quiet to get a cup of coffee so they can talk. She agrees, but does the responsible thing of telling her friends where she is going and assures them that she will have her cell phone with her at all times. What Sarah doesn’t know is that the man has no intention of talking, and when she said ‘no’, he raped her. She did not report the assault. Sarah has been taught by the adults in her life that saying ‘no’ to a physical touch does not matter. Her wants do not matter. Her thoughts do not matter.

Age 30 : Sarah ends up marrying a man who turns out to be abusive toward her and their children. She knows that her wants and words mean nothing, so she allows him to continue this abuse. The state comes and takes her children. During the foster care process, Sarah is mandated by the courts to attend therapy. The therapist learns about Sarah’s history and is able to help Sarah see that the adults in her early life did not respect her ‘no’ so now she feels like her ‘no’ means nothing. The therapist validates 7 year old, 15 year old, and 20 year old’s ‘no’. The therapist is able to help Sarah gain her own strength so that she can become a healthy role model for her children.

I know this scenario is written about a girl, but your son’s ‘no’ is just as important as your daughter’s. Does this mean that they should be allowed to tell you ‘no’ when they don’t want to do their chores? Absolutely not. But they should NEVER be forced to allow someone they do not want to touch their body. They have this right to say ‘no’ and have it not only heard but respected by those who are supposed to take care of them.

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