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The Gift of No

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Originally published in Renewal a Journal for Waldorf Education, Spring/Summer 2004

The word No suggests limits, control, rejection, and finality. It is hard to see how this most simple and powerful expression of the negative can be a gift- an expression of concern and favor, an offer of assistance. But for parents, saying No, when done judiciously and appropriately, is a gift that their children need and deserve. It enables them to grow into responsible, balanced adults.

Every child must learn to live with the limitations of life in the world. There are societal rules that must be observed, unsafe acts that should be avoided, types of behavior that cannot be tolerated, chores that must eventually be done. To be a mature and responsible human being means to accept and cope with the natural limits life brings.

The gift of No teaches children they cannot have everything they want when they want it. It says, "You must consider other people and your environment before you act." It implies that many decisions are not up to children and that sometimes children must do things they do not wish to do. No helps to keep children safe . And, most humbly, this gift gives children a realistic view of life by saying, "You are not in charge of, or the center of, the world."

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parenting; discipline