Kim Hudson: Lessons and strength in learning to say ‘no’

Our words can be pretty powerful can’t they? Giving a compliment can make someone’s day. Rude or mean comments can break someone’s spirit. We can totally change how someone will react or respond to us simply by the choice of words we use.

Some words though have a tendency to lose their power. Profanity, for example, is so overused that using or hearing a four letter word has just become part of our everyday vocabulary. For people who use profanity often, the words have lost their impact.

The word that worries me the most though, the one I fear is losing its impact more and more, is the word “no.”
Such a simple two letter word that is very clear in its meaning. Or is it? We all know what no means. We learn it early in life. We use it every day – probably multiple times a day. And yet it has become one of those words that is truly losing its power.

For many, no doesn’t mean no anymore. No means maybe, or not right now. We are tested with our no’s by our children on a regular basis. From the time they are able to scoot around by themselves we are telling them no. When a child crawls to an outlet and tries to touch it we tell them no and move them away.

We want our no to mean no. But when a child asks for a toy or candy at the grocery store why does our no become a yes? And when our no becomes a yes, especially on a regular basis, how can we expect our children to learn that no really does mean no.

I know that sounds simple or silly even. But we’ve all been there. Your child asks for something and you say no. What happens next could be anyone’s guess but many times a child will push the proverbial buttons to get that no changed to a yes. Maybe a tantrum ensues. Sometimes yelling and screaming is all it takes.

Other times repetition does the trick. Can’t you just imagine how their little minds are working? They must be thinking – how many times will I have to ask before mom changes her mind. And sometimes, after the third, fifth or 10th ask, mom definitely does change her mind. And before you know it, that no has turned into a definite yes.

What I have come to realize though is just how important it is for our no to mean no – especially when our children are young. Because when our little ones don’t learn that no means no, they turn into teenagers and adults who don’t understand the meaning of no.

I have a teenage son and a preteen daughter and now more than ever I want them to understand that no means no. I want my daughter to know that her no is powerful. That she can say no and expect others to listen. She can say no to friends and future boyfriends. She can feel good about knowing the crystal clear definition of no.

I want my son to feel the same. I want his no to mean no. And I want him to understand that when someone tells him no there should be zero doubt in his mind what they mean.

I don’t want this just for my kids. I want it for all of us. Saying no can be easy, but meaning it – and sticking to it – that can be so hard.

But my kiddos and your kiddos will not learn the powerful strength of no unless we teach them and model for them. Our no has to mean no for them to understand.

Telling our kids no can be hard. We want them to have everything. And sometimes we are just too tired to fight the battle. But I believe with all my heart that the battle is worth fighting. The word No should not lose its power. Our girls and boys will grow into men and women who have to learn and respect that no means no. We are the ones who will teach them.

Contact Kim Hudson at


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