Why are we scared to say “No” to our children?

I started watching Working Mom on Netflix during the first episode one of the topics discussed at the weekly baby meet up group was saying “no” to your child. They were all told (jokingly) that they shouldn’t say no to the child.

Do I really have to ask, should we say no to our children?

This is the thing though, I see so many parents scared to say no to their little bundles of joy and I often wonder why? When did saying no to our children become a bad thing?

I grew up in a “NO” house, my parents used the words so often I always almost forgot that there was another option. I was the oldest of 3 girls and if one of us wanted to do something or get something, it was often a “NO” . This was down to the fact as sisters we were pretty petty, if one got something the rest of us would be why am I not getting something (you know what I mean) and to put a stop to it all, my parents would just say no. This resulted in me getting a job early on in my teens so I could get all things I wanted without asking my parents. Looking back, maybe this was my parents plan all along – don’t buy them anything and they will go to work!Ha!

We have to say no, don’t we? Saying no to your child helps them learn especially if it’s something that’s dangerous or not in their best interest. As parents we are constantly on the lookout for the harmful situations that could be dangerous to our babies and forever having to decide what is right or wrong for them. If we say no, we can prevent many awful things happening but also we need to find a balance so that our children can learn their own limitations.


Picture the scene, its one you may have seen a few times or even experienced. You’re at the shops and then you see it, down the toy aisle, you see a 4 year old having a tantrum epic proportions. You can see mum, looking hot, pink, flustered and helpless trying to explain that brightly coloured, over priced piece of plastic shit is not on the shopping list. As the shoppers look on, mum starts to panic that other shoppers are judging her parenting skills. The mummy guilt is strong, do you give in for a bit of peace or do you stand your ground and ride that tantrum out, in front of all the watching eyes? You see her becoming more powerless to her own child.

I remember I was scared of my parents, yes I still could push their buttons but they always pushed me back, harder. Today it seems like we, as parents are scared of disappointing our children. Its seems the tables have well and truly turned, children being seen and not heard has evolved to waiting on their every want, not just their needs. We have become so uncomfortable about setting the boundaries and rules that we have forgotten that as the parents, we are the boss. Gosh, I am so guilty of this, with my constant on edge fear that I will unknowing ruin my children’s life. I too have often given in to the demands so not to feel the dreaded “mum guilt”.


This is well meaning of course as we are more aware of the impact of childhood in later years, we aim to be more “here” for our children, more attentive than the generations before us but have we gone too far in correcting it? We have turned it to a real fear that by saying no/disappointing/hurting their feelings we will damage them.

Children have more power than they have ever had before, with that we have found that, us parents have become anxious around parental authority. “No” has somehow become negotiable, children are learning that they can stamp their feet and get their own way because mummy doesn’t want to experience the emotional guilt of modern pressures.

I am guilty of this, not wanting to change plans or give in so not to disappoint my children. My anxieties allow me to be manipulated by my children as the many guilt’s that motherhood has brought are overwhelming enough without feeling your child hates you…and you have ruined their life…forever! I feel doing this though I am reinforcing the negative behaviour that fuels these anxieties of mine. If I give in at every little tantrum then my child will throw one every time I can’t do want they want, it’s a circle of guilt on top of more guilt.

It’s easy to forget that my children are stronger than I think, more resilient than I think and are not fragile object that will be damaged by me saying no or changing plans. They will not have to have hours of therapy because I said no to having sweets or a toy that they don’t really want, in fact I am teaching them that they aren’t the most important thing in the world and that sometimes others need are more important than our own.


When we correct negative behaviour we are teaching our children, not punishing them. We can set expectations and limits on real life, let us understand our children’s feelings but let them also understand ours. There are many reasons why a child may not be getting what they want that day but if we openly talk and explain to our children the reason why, they will start to understand that somethings do just have to be that way. I do believe this can lead to more open relationships in later life. Empathy for others needs and to understanding their own.

Of course as parent we can only try our bests and do what we think is right for our own children, that’s our right as parents. Its takes a lot to get to grips with the fact you can’t always be your child’s favourite person, we forget that even though we want to be our child’s friend, we are their parent first and we are there to guide them in any way we can.

We may hurt their feelings but it truly comes from a place of love.