No is an okay answer

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I did say NO to my Mom, and not just during the reflex-NO period of toddlerhood.

I certainly cannot recall her ever reassuring me with:

“And I want you to know that NO is an okay answer.”

Our children and partners matter to us. If we’re thriving there is a mutual generosity that is active. With that comes a willingness to speak the love language of service.

When we’re blessed to have beings in our lives who are WILLING, I believe it is incredibly generous to let them know – through our responses and sometimes using explicit words – it is okay to say NO.

With my now-adult kids, I used to ask most of the time:

“Would you like to…?”

And in those words – different from “I need you to…” – I was indicating that NO was totally cool with me, even if I would be disappointed or need to find support elsewhere.

It’s my own parental intention to continue to make this explicit, to differentiate between the (hopefully rare) times when I must exert parental authority and the far more common times when we’re finding our Win-Win and Yes-Yes, where if NO is not okay… then they are really not free to choose.

How do you differentiate for your kids between commands and requests?

Words of Wisdom Matter. I’d love to hear yours. :heart_decoration: :peace_symbol:


I was never reassured that NO is an okay answer either. It wasn’t until I joined ThrivingNow that I realized the importance of knowing that being able to say NO makes my YES more authentic and meaningful.


As I consider this ‘no’ business what comes to mind is that there is no one size fits all universal ‘no’. ‘No’ takes on different meanings and has a different ‘emotional weight’ within different contexts…as does everything. ‘No’ can mean “I just don’t feel like doing that”… or ‘no’ can mean “If I were to do that it would be a complete violation of my deepest values”…and ‘no’ can mean everything in between those extremes.

Is it wrong, as a parent, to insist that something reasonable and even perhaps previously agreed upon like a chore for example be done regardless if the child is, in that moment, feeling a strong sense of ‘no’? It seems to me that in a situation like that there is a great lesson for that child to learn which is something like ‘sometimes what we feel about something is not the most important thing in the world…I can’t always get what I want (or don’t want) simply because I’m 'having feelings’. And of course that lesson doesn’t have to be yelled at the child…it can be done with compassion and acceptance without accepting the child’s ‘no’ as the ultimate authority in the matter. I think there’s a way of not accepting ‘no’ (if the context calls for it) in a way that doesn’t insult a child’s (or anyone’s) sense of integrity and authority. There’s a maturity to that on both sides of that emotional equation.

Here’s my concern: if a child has complete control to shape her/his environment and the activities in it by saying ‘no’ (and the child’s caregivers only ever accommodate that ‘no’) then all you are doing is raising a tyrant. The message is 'your feelings are the most important thing in the universe and take precedence over all other aspects of the totality of what is happening in this moment’.

We can see all around us today what happens when feelings alone are granted supremacy (over facts/evidence etc.) and are allowed to direct the behaviours of others. ‘This situation makes me have uncomfortable feelings therefore everything around me (but not me) has to change’. It’s disastrous! A world filled with petty tyrants…and some not so petty.

As a parent of pre-adult children I was very accepting of ‘no’ as an expression of my children’s emotional agency. I was not particularly demanding and I was never comfortable with exerting some sort of ‘my agenda is more important than your feelings’ sort of authority. But, like all things, there is a healthy balance to be sought and that’s what I was attempting to express. So yes…‘no’ is an okay answer but it doesn’t mean it has to be accepted as the final authority within a particular context. :slight_smile:


I’m clear (and I think my seed message was) that allowing as much agency as possible isn’t the same as giving a child ALL the agency to say no.

“Stop. Do THIS now.”
“I need you to do this… now / within the next 10 minutes.”

I’m not interested in raising a tyrant. As you started off, NO has different meanings and energy. I want them by the time they are adults to understand the range, as well as situations where saying NO to a command can be life threatening.


I wasn’t intending that my comments were directed specifically at what you wrote Rick. I wasn’t challenging what you wrote and I’m sorry if I came off that way. I feel I know you and your heart well enough to understand that you are completely aware of the things I mentioned. I have no concern that you are busy raising tyrants… :slight_smile:
What you wrote activated in me some thoughts in general around the topic of ‘feelings’ and I brought some things to the discussion that are perhaps outside of the focus of what you were writing about because I’ve been considering some of those things for a while now. I’m sorry if I came off as ranting… :slight_smile:


Thanks. And no, didn’t come across that way. I appreciate exploring this.

After I wrote my reply I realized how much I hated being told what to do AS A QUESTION.

Would you go empty the trash?

If I can’t say no, then just tell me! My dad used to give commands as questions but if we said no we would be told to do it. I’ve tried since I became a dad to not do that.

Thanks for adding to the exploration Glenn.

A friend of mine worked in what was essentially an academy for girls whose parents couldn’t control them. A common trait for many was they had never been told No! They could say No but they didn’t hear or have boundaries. It often took months to get past this… even someone needing an adult with them at all times within arms reach.

No. Getting clear and savvy with it seems core to emotional freedom and healthy we-spaces.


As always Rick you raise SO many thoughts worthy of exploration.

The ability to deal with my ‘no’ not being accepted by others is a very real aspect of life…‘calm and confident’ skills opportunity!

The many versions of ‘no’ that the universe offers me. (eg. I run a little movie in my mind of going to the store to get milk…In that movie I’m there and back in 5 minutes…the universe says ‘no’ by insisting that I have to deal with red lights, construction and someone paying with loose change in front of me. How easy is it to accept the idea that ‘no is an okay answer’ from the universe? LOL. Some days that’s a very difficult one for me!!

If no is an okay answer is my ‘no’ not being accepted okay as well? How calm and confident can I be with a ‘no’ to my ‘no’?


Me too, Norene. I am getting better but it still feels strange.

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Yeah, to me that isn’t a “no” from the Universe. That is you had a fantasy that lead to an expectation that was not experienced.

Fairytales are not just for kids.

Heck, I told myself a fairytale that the new shopping cart system “should” be able to do something that it, well, can’t. Is the universe saying no? It just hurts if I think that, and it feels unhelpful.

I get it. My inner child wants the pathway from imagination to manifestation to be clear and unobstructed. Realistically, there’s work and energy to manifest anything. I do believe there is a palpable intelligence that aligns behind ease and abundance, but just because it needs me to bring the activation energy and engagement is not, I don’t sense, it saying NO to me.

More like: Keep it up! We feel your Asking and it can be given! Perhaps that’s where someday, you ask “Alexa, we need milk” and five minutes later the drone has delivered it into Alexa’s hands (now a physical droid) and puts it into the fridge.


Thank you. I agree. After I wrote that it kinda stuck with me and I reconsidered it because something about it didn’t feel true and I came to the same conclusion you have. I can say that it’s easy for me to feel as if it’s the universe saying ‘no’ to me as it’s happening. But I realize that’s an interpretation that is both not true and not helpful. It’s reflexive for me to feel like that however and would be really useful to do some (lots!!) tapping on.

It hurts to think that the entirety of everything (the universe) could really be against me…even for a few moments while getting milk. If that were actually true that would REALLY SUCK because it sucks enough just feeling as if it were true. :slight_smile:

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I KNOW!!! So whacky. Sorta like when the 7-year-old takes a No – said kindly and with thoughtful reasoning – with a look like “Oh! The world is against me!”

I’m sometimes very fond of seeing a mirror of my inner 7-year-old playing out in front of me. And sometimes I wish we were wired differently. Guess that is part of the learning (reprogramming).


It’s my belief and my experience that all of our behaviours (thoughts, emotions, reactions…all of it) have a positive intention driving them regardless of how destructive or self-sabotaging/harming they may be. And more often then not the intention of those parts is some aspect of survival. That being said some behaviours cloak that positive intention so thoroughly that it’s an incredible mystery to see, at first glance, what could possibly be positive about it. For example, feeling/believing that the universe is against me. WTF!! LOL…and yet I have not a speck of doubt that within that belief there lies an attempt to fulfill a basic need…something positive.

I came to the realization some years ago that human psychology is fundamentally animal psychology. We are not complicated but we are complex. We have only a small number of basic needs (physical/psychological) that need to be met in order to be basically healthy, happy humans/mammals. That’s the uncomplicated part. It gets incredibly complex however because we try to get those few needs met in an inexhaustible number of ways. A squirrel engages in very few behaviours to feel safe. And that holds true of every squirrel anywhere on this planet. But humans have an almost infinite number of ways of attempting to create feelings of safety for themselves. Washing their hands 100 times a day for some people is the way to feel safe…and for others never washing their hands is the way. Some people only feel truly safe on a motorcycle going 200mph…and for others safety is never leaving their bed. It’s complex, not complicated…that’s how I regard it at least. What a world!!! :slight_smile:


I must say that being in the environment that I was in, I wasn’t given the ability to say “no”, and if I did. I’ll probably get the nagging and shame for speaking up. Now I have to unlearn those beliefs…