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Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought : The Right to Say “No”

Posted on March 22, 2013 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

This is “Right No. 8” in The Bill of Rights for Parents of Adult Children in Parents to the End. And it’s not really a right. It is an obligation.

Let me explain. When our children were little, we uttered that word frequently to keep them from touching hot stoves, running out into the street, or sticking their fingers into electrical outlets.  We did this to begin giving them lessons about safety in and outside of the home.

As people grow up and become more attuned to the conversational “dance” in relationships, it gets harder to say “no”. We worry about hurting feelings; we may not want to look bad in the eyes of others, so we sometimes take on tasks and activities about which we are at best lukewarm, cannot afford, or actually dislike.

In the realm of parenting, kids who have heard “no” growing up are better prepared to face the real world.  Thinking that life will always yield to their demands is a set-up for disappointment.  In addition, saying “yes” when you mean “no” sends a mixed message. Our children can usually tell when our heart is not in what we are doing. The inauthentic “yes” is confusing and can lead to erosion of trust.

Some women (and men) get so caught up in always saying “yes” to family and friends that they tell me in therapy they  have lost themselves. They don’t even know who they are anymore.  This isn’t a pleasant place to be.  There is great power in that simple two-letter word.  Not only did it help our young children by giving them boundaries and the security and that comes with limits, but it protects us as adults as well.  You will be stressed if you make payments on your child’s car or condo if you really cannot afford to, or babysit repeatedly if you’re feeling unappreciated.  Conversely, there is tremendous relief and energy savings in being honest with family and friends.

The ability to say “no” makes a heartfelt “yes” more likely. Respect  your emotional, physical and financial limitations; see what that does for you and others.

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