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When You Must Say No


When You Must say, “No.”

Stay Connected with a Question.

Developed by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka Ed.D.

The three-foot tall, 18-inch-thick stone wall protected walkers on the trail from the precipitous drop to the river on the other side. Despite the danger, three-year-old Norah demanded to walk on top of the wall. For mom, this was clearly a safety issue and a definite, “no!”

Yet, for a moment she hesitated. They were in public. She knew the moment she refused her tenacious daughter’s request; Norah’s wrath would erupt in screams so piercing every eye within six blocks would be turned on them. Mom breathed in deeply to center herself.

Then remembering our earlier conversation that it is possible to enforce a limit AND still stay connected she dropped down eye-level to Norah and asked, “What about walking on the wall is important to you?”

Feeling heard changes everything. Norah did not get to walk on that wall, nor did mom ever say the sure-fire trigger word, “no.” Instead, mom’s pause before reacting, and choice to seek understanding with a simple question kept them working together. Which is why moments later, Norah took mom’s hand as they headed across the park to a low wall where Norah could balance safely.

Taking time to listen does not mean you agree or will do what your child is asking. Listening helps you understand the problem, allows your child to feel listened to and keeps you working as a team.

Next time there is a safety issue, even though you know you will NOT allow your child to do this thing remember you can still take a moment to ask... What about ... is important to you?

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