I put the title of my post today in quotes because it’s something that was said to me, a phrase I heard years and years ago when I was a new teacher, but I think of it often, and I actually use it often as a parent, as well. Let me explain what I mean.
When I was a new teacher we lived out of state. There was a principal in our district who was known for his unique leadership style, and although not everyone agreed with everything he said or did, he was still known for his philosophies.
One of the first things he said during a meeting was when dealing with the students, “No is not an option.” As in, they were not allowed to say no to you. “That’s crazy,” I thought. “That could never work. Of course they’re going to say no. Who are we to tell them they can’t say no to us?” I was a new teacher, not yet a parent, and wouldn’t be for nearly four years, so my experience with kids was still limited at that time.
About two years later, I was at a family party in the summertime and my cousin’s little girl, who was about two years old, was out in the sandbox in the back yard. My cousin asked me to go out and get her and bring her in. I went out to see her, told her it was time to go in, and she told me that she didn’t want to go in. So, I went back and relayed the message to my cousin, to which she basically said to me, “No is not an option, go back and tell her she doesn’t have that choice and that it is time to get out of the sandbox and come in.” Hmmmm….there it was again. Out I went and relayed my cousin’s message to her daughter and up she came, out of the sandbox and into the house. It had worked and I had witnessed it with my own eyes.
Approximately two or three years later, we had our own daughter and then two more daughters in the years to follow. I cannot tell you how many times we have used that mantra in our house (and outside of our house, wherever we are) and how well it works, especially once our kids knew that we meant what we said and we would not back down. No was just never an option. They’re not allowed to say it in response to a directive from us, and if they do (and they have tried,) consequences for not listening do follow, whether it’s leaving somewhere immediately or taking away a privilege later on, depending on what we deem necessary at the time.
This came to me recently as I was shopping in a store, and heard an interaction behind me between a parent and a child where the child outright said no to their parent and was allowed to do so with no reprimand or reaction other than the proverbial throwing of the hands into the air by the parent and shaking of the head. I wanted to turn around (but I promise, I didn’t,) and say to the child, “You can’t say no to her. No is not an option.” And then, I wanted to turn around to the parent and whisper my secret to her as well, “You know, they can’t say no to you, it’s not allowed.”
So instead, I’m telling my secret to you. So often, people ask us why our kids are so well-behaved, and that, my friends, is one of the reasons, learned way back in 1996: No is just not an option.