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Why I give my child the gift of 'no'

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Yesterday my husband and I said NO.

NO, we don’t want to play dinosaurs.

NO, we don’t want to do play dough.

NO, we don’t want to sit in your bedroom floor.

NO, we don’t want to blow bubbles on the back porch.

NO, we don’t want to paint.

NO, we don’t want to read that book. Again.

NO, we don’t want to play catch.

NO, we still aren’t getting out the play dough.


We told our child that we didn’t want to play with her, and at first we felt a little bad. We justified with a list of all the things we had done so far that day. There was a twinge of guilt as we confessed our desire to simply sit and be still on a Sunday afternoon. A tiny voice whispered that we should just give in and go play. We felt a little annoyed at our daughter’s whiny reactions. We said NO anyway. She complained and whined and fussed. She was bored. And then, somewhere along the boring way, she figured it out.

She figured out that she can dribble the exercise ball 27 times without messing up.

She figured out that if she does a flip too close to the end table, it will hurt.

She figured out that she can growl exactly like little Simba.

She figured out how to run, lay, breathe, and fetch like the dogs.

She figured out that pouting alone in her room can turn into the discovery of long lost toys. We said NO. She resisted. She pouted. She got a little mouthy. We still said NO. She survived. Better than that, she figured it out.

This is a lesson I have to both learn for myself and teach my child often. I love my kid in the biggest way and give thanks for every opportunity to say yes and engage in her world, but it’s okay to say NO. And sometimes saying NO is a downright gift. The gift of boredom. The gift of playing alone. The gift of knowing that even when you ask nice, sometimes the answer is NO. The gift of figuring it out. ⠀

(Picture from this morning when I said YES.)

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