Yes, Saying 'No' Can Be Necessary
Q: I am frazzled! I am a member of the PTO at my daughter’s school as well as a parent volunteer in her classroom, plus I’ve been asked to spearhead fundraising for my son’s school band and I am a Sunday School teacher for 5th- and 6th-graders at our church (in addition to another three or four volunteer positions I currently hold, along with a part-time job). I feel like I have almost nothing left for my kids or my husband, but it just feels wrong if I even think of saying “no” when I’m asked to volunteer or help. What can I do?
A: You probably have a fairly good idea of what you need to do. As uncomfortable as it may feel at first, you need to make a realistic assessment of your time and energy, prioritize the opportunities you are presented with, decide which ones are best to accept, and then say “no” to the rest. “No” represents potential freedoms necessary to genuinely love others.
This is a vital life skill to exercise not only for your own sake, but also for the sake of your family. If you’re not careful you may end up handing your “just say yes” predisposition to your children, and that can put them at risk down the road.
I found out a lot about this compliance mentality from my own personal experience. Growing up, I learned that saying “yes” resulted in feelings of love and affirmation, so, like a hummingbird drawn to sugar water, I kept coming back for more. Like most people, though, my “yes’s” were sometimes given out of guilt rather than sincerity, and I eventually came to resent certain commitments I had made. I’ve discovered since then that I’m not alone.
For most people who have trouble saying “no,” the affirmation we get when we say “yes” is a powerful attraction. In the same way, we can end up operating on the assumption that if we disappoint others by saying “no,” we might lose their love.
Habitually giving in to what other’s want from you can put you in uncomfortable situations. The results you’ve noted are stress, overextension and exhaustion. For your kids, though, the inability to say “no” can lead to even worse consequences.
Without the confidence to say “no” to others, your children will have a much harder time withstanding peer pressure, which in later years may make them vulnerable to drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex. On the other hand, when your children see you modeling the appropriate use of “yes “ and “no,” it can help them develop the confident self-assertiveness to refuse temptations offered by their peers. They will feel in control of their lives and not live in a way that takes responsibility for others’ emotions. Your kids will be able to say “yes” or “no” out of love and sincerity, not out of fear.
In the end, saying “no” truly isn’t bad. “No” serves as a valuable personal and moral boundary line. It marks out what you can and cannot do, what you should and should not do. And it’s an important skill your children need to see you model.
So, while it may feel unpleasant at first, be an example of balancing your “yes’s” and “no’s.” You’ll gain control of your own life, and have more opportunity for peace, love, and genuine connection.
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