It’s OK to say no

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2019

By Nathan Rice

We had only been awake for one hour, but two out of the three middle schoolers in my care were already upset with me. Their behavior was good, but I had to say no to several of their requests. It seemed like I had to shoot down every one of their ideas.

My streak continued as we went outside. All three were soon upset with me because I had to stop them from engaging in their chosen activity. When I told them to stop they excitedly made their case of why everything would be OK. They assured me they would be fine, and that they could easily outrun and outmaneuver any danger their newly found game presented.


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I knew that they were just trying to have fun, and I did not doubt that they were fully convinced that it was safe. I didn’t yield in my decision, however, because I knew that poking a live hornets’ nest and attempting to outrun its angry residents was not a wise idea.

Those raising children or working with them must learn how to say no and to ensure that children know who is in charge. There are some adults, and even some parents, who make themselves nothing more than friends with the children in their care. They rarely tell their children no, and when they do, it comes across as advice from a friend instead of as an order from an adult.

This is not what children need. Children of all ages need adults in their lives, such as parents, pastors and teachers who are willing to tell them no, even when the kids don’t like that response.

Children aren’t just little adults. They haven’t fully matured, and they need loving adults with developed minds to train them, guide them, direct them and protect them. This means adults will have to say no on many, many occasions.

Saying no doesn’t mean you have to be the grumpy, old grown-up who doesn’t allow children to act their age. It’s OK to let kids be kids. It’s not OK to allow them to grow up without loving guidance, discipline and direction.

Children won’t always like it when an adult says no, but it is often what is needed. Many times, saying no is the most loving thing you can do.

The middle-schoolers with me might not have seen the danger in poking a hornets’ nest, but I knew the problems it could create. It would have not only been irresponsible of me to allow them to continue but also uncaring and unloving. Part of my job is to protect them from dangers that they cannot yet see. This often involves saying no.

Saying no doesn’t mean that we never say yes. We don’t have to act like military drill sergeants. There should be many times when we can say, “Yes, you may.” Our goal must never be to be a military overlord figure. Rather, it should be to train children in the way they should go, preparing them for the future while keeping them safe in the present.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at