This week’s post is written by my wife, Shelly Lefkoe, who has been a Certified Lefkoe Method Facilitator for about 25 years. Although it was originally written for parents, her message is extremely valuable for all people. This is a really important post. Please read it.

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bigstock-The-words-Don-t-Take-No-for-an-043013We work so hard to teach our kids to take “no” for an answer. We get annoyed when they don’t listen and keep insisting on getting their way. We even say things like, “When I say ‘no,’ I mean ‘no’.”

We envy the parents of kids who are “well behaved” and do what they’re told. We secretly wish our kids would be like them.

What would our kids have to believe if they took “no” for an answer and obediently did as they were told all the time? “I’m powerless.” “What I want doesn’t matter.” “I have to listen to others and do what they say.” “It doesn’t pay to try.”

Imagine how these beliefs would manifest in your child’s life. When they grew up they probably would be people who never break the rules—who always do as they are told. Are those the kind of people who change the world?

Now I’m not suggesting that your children should disregard what you say but I am saying that maybe we are not serving our children well by teaching them to accept the first “no.”

Going for what you want

Our daughter Brittany was the kind of child who never took “no” for an answer. She was not easy to deal with. She would beg, plead, come up with reasons why she should have her way, cry, and threaten—not to mention use her body, will and determination.

Britt was about 18 months old and I was going to do a parenting talk in a church. She didn’t want to get dressed. Morty was out and I tried every trick and parenting tool in the book and nothing worked. I finally put her on the sofa, put one knee on each side of her, and put her diaper on, telling her the whole time how much I loved her and how I didn’t want to do this. When I finished I stood up and so did she. She looked me in the eye and pulled both tabs of the diaper and down it came!

What was I to do? So I said, “Well, it looks like you don’t want to get dressed so let’s just go. If you get cold let me know and I’ll put some clothes on you in the car.” Off we went. By the time we got to the church she agreed to put her clothes on.

That’s how it was with Britt. So when I said, “no,” to her, rarely did she reply, “Okay, mom, whatever you say.” To say that I had to get creative is an understatement.

Rather than say “no” to Brittany, Morty and I tried to play the “possibilities game” and let her have some say in what would or would not happen. Sometimes we’d say, “Now is not a good time, but maybe later.” Or, “It doesn’t feel safe to let you do that, but what else could you do instead?” rather than just saying “no.” And we always tried to give our reasons for saying “no.” And yes, sometimes it was still, “no.”

Brittany advocates for herself

Fast-forward 16 years. Brittany was a junior in high school and needed one more English course to graduate. She signed up for poetry but was told that the class was overfilled and that she would have to take composition instead. She had already taken a composition class at the local community college, so it didn’t make sense for her to take a high school level class.

Britt went to the teacher and asked to be admitted to the poetry class even though she had been told it was filled. She told Britt to take the composition class. “It will be an easy A,” she said. Britt was not convinced. “I don’t care about easy A’s and that class won’t look good on my transcript. But most importantly, I’ll be bored to tears,” she replied.

After the teacher said “no,” Britt went to the principal who said “no” as well. Finally she called the local Superintendent of Schools. He asked Brittany if she had any suggestions. Because the teacher of the poetry class refused to allow any more students into the class, Brittany suggested the school create an independent poetry class. She would be the only student. The teacher would give her an assignment and she would do it on her own and hand it in. The high school had never done anything like that, but after the Superintendent recommended Brittany’s suggestion, the principal finally agreed.

Brittany had never learned to take “no” for an answer.

Blake advocates for herself

Our daughter Blake went to the Mead School, a small private school in Westport, CT. Every year the middle school went on a ski trip with the teachers. Snowboarding was just becoming popular and Blake wanted to be able to snowboard instead of ski. We had been going to a nearby mountain every Friday night for a few seasons and Blake had become a very competent snowboarder.

One of the teachers told Blake that she would not be allowed to snowboard and would have to use skis because none of the teachers knew how to snowboard and couldn’t snowboard down the mountain with her. Blake thought that was silly because a teacher could just as easily ski next to her as snowboard. So she asked if she could present her argument at the teachers staff meeting on Friday to make her case. She went in with a signed note from us relieving the teachers and the school from any responsibility if Blake hurt herself. They acquiesced.

Blake had never learned to take “no” for an answer.

If you don’t take “no” for an answer, anything is possible

In both of these situations our kids learned that they could get creative and advocate for themselves. They had learned earlier in life that they were efficacious and could make things happen, but most importantly, they knew that they had power and control over their lives.

It is important to teach your kids that sometimes “no” may end up being “no” and they have to learn to accept that, but that it also is important to fight for what they want. You need to teach them to never give up. And even if they can’t do something right now because someone says “no,” it doesn’t mean that it can never happen or that everyone would say “no.” This might make parenting a little more difficult when your child is little and still lives at home, but doing this will have a profound, positive impact on your child when he/she becomes an adult.

The world is changed by people who don’t take “no” for an answer.

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