As a substitute teacher, one of the best pieces of advice I've received is to not fear the word "no." That means, when a class of 30 kids starts asking me for special favors, extra trips to the water fountain, permission to read under one's desk, or any number of odd or unnecessary requests, the answer is "no."
In the past, being a flexible and fairly laid-back person, I would have likely said "yes" to everything. Guess where that got me? Kids who were not focused on their work, but more focused on finding ways to trick the substitute into letting them have special privileges. Ergo, the "no" rule. And it's made life much easier.
As a mom, I've also been more of a "yes" woman than a "no" gal. But I've realized lately that perhaps I need to bring out the "no" a bit more often. Here's why:
My kids get an awful lot -- From sports to Scouts to ice cream runs to treats at Target, my kids don't want for very much. Again, chalk it up to my laid-back personality, but it didn't occur to me that saying "yes" to lots of little wants was becoming more commonplace than the exception. I needed to be more conscious of my "yes" tendency, instead of just automatically approving small, but frequent, requests right and left. I'm not interested in raising spoiled children who expect their every wish will be granted.
The 'no' is not received well -- You know you've been saying "yes" too much when the "no" goes over like a burp in church. I've seen this happen lately with my 8-year-old son. He burst into tears this morning and sulked in his room when I told him no, he couldn't buy school lunch today, as there is no money in his lunch account. His reaction made me quickly realize he had been getting his way far too often, to the point where he was just expecting the "yes." Time to bring out the "no."
I've found myself qualifying the 'no' -- I have the tendency to over-explain myself. Instead of saying "no, you can't go to the park," it becomes "no, you can't go to the park, because it's late and we need to go to swim practice in 15 minutes and you're not even ready." At its most effective, a "no" is a "no," without all the reasons why you made that decision. Some might say that a "no" is best used when the giver can explain why she is saying it. However, I've found that just opens the door to rebuttal, desperate pleadings, and attorney-like reasonings. Keep your no simple, or else you will be engaged in an endless battle of wills.
If your "no" has lost its power, or been completely absent from your vocabulary, it's probably time to start using it again, with confidence. Life isn't always going to be a "yes" for your kids; let them hear the word "no" plenty now, and they'll be the better for it.