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Month: December 2016

The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The other night as I was putting my four year old to bed, and he started asking some questions about Santa. The one that I remember the most and which has no perfect answer was, “Dad, why doesn’t Santa get us all the presents that we ask for?”

This question could be replaced with many things my son asks for. “Dad, why didn’t you let me watch another TV show?”  or “Dad, why didn’t you let me have another cookie?” These represent the daily tension we currently have in our house with a four, almost five year old. He asks for things, and sometimes we say yes and sometimes we say no. And often when we say no, the drama, questions, and conflict come quickly. It is almost guaranteed to come when it involves snacks, treats, TV, or going to bed.

“Dad, can I have another cookie?”


“Dad, you are not my friend. I hate you. You can never play with me again!”

All for just a cookie?  Sheesh.  What’s gonna happen when I tell you can’t have a phone or car in a few years?

We teach our children to ask good questions and be willing to challenge the answers so they can be independent, thoughtful people. I love to foster my children’s questions and encourage them when they ask thoughtful ones. As they get older, I will encourage them to occasionally challenge authority in a respectful, and peaceful manner.

But then our children quickly turn these new found skills around on us when we tell them no! We are immediately being tested as they ask us questions that are skeptical of why we denied their request. Why cannot I not watch another show dad?  But mom said.. But so and so got…

Why does saying no as a parent have to be so hard?

Saying no is hard, but, it’s also powerful. It’s exhausting and it tests our patience and memory. It requires my wife and I to over-communicate so that we can be on the same page. And it requires resolve.  And did I say patience yet?

But in my heart and soul as a father, I relish at this opportunity. I want nothing more than the ability to shape my children’s character for the good. These are some of the best moments to do so, even though the emotional turmoil we feel in the moment tries to tell us otherwise.

The moments when we give them presents and say yes is not how we shape their character. It’s when we choose to say no and how we communicate it that will leave a bigger impact on their character. It allows us an opportunity to help them be grateful for what they do have. This test and challenge helps make me a better man by often testing my convictions and consistency.

These moments and conversations with us are the training grounds for real life. Sometime life isn’t fair, doesn’t make sense, yet we still get the short straw. Sometimes our children need to be told no without a rational explanation and learn just deal with it.

But saying no is hard. We don’t want them to be mad at us. We don’t want them to miss out on many wonderful experiences life has to offer. We want to be cool and like us as a friend.

This inner conflict can test our judgement and throw us into emotional turmoil. We need to acknowledge that we feel this way and we’re a bit afraid of making our child upset, especially in public. But we want to do the right thing which often requires us to stick to our guns and say no.

We will be tested, after a stressful day at work, when we’re tired and sick, or when we’re distracted with something else going on in life. This all the more reason to be present when we’re with our children.

We’ll also be persuaded. The puppy dog eyes and manners will come out in full force. Promises of chores and obedience will rain down like we’ve always dreamed and hoped of.

But sometimes we need to just say no. Often saying yes is easier, but that doesn’t mean we should.

Saying no is a habit or a muscle that requires practice and training. And it should get easier over time. Our children will learn where the regular boundaries are and if we’re consistent, they may not ask for the same thing over and over again.

We also need to stop negotiating all the time. When they are emotional about a situation, we will not be able to persuade them effectively to understand why we say no. We do not have to continually provide detailed explanations. Sometimes this is hard in the moment but we have to remind our children that they do not run the house.

Younger children will benefit by hearing us say no to certain things to older children. They may learn to not even ask for them or if they do, not put up a fight knowing it’s futile.

Currently my kids are asking for more cookies, more TV, more french fries, and to stay up later. Soon it will be sleepovers, staying up even later, and video games. Then it will become cell phones, graffic video games, and fancy clothes. Later it will be a car, no curfew, and money. I imagine that the conversations will get harder as they get older as their intelligence grows. This makes it all the more important to set the standard now on what no means.

So as we approach the holidays, ask yourself this question, is saying yes to every request our children ask really loving them after all, or is just easier in the short-term?

The Power of Saying No

The Power of Saying No

We face many obstacles in life. Some of them are because of over-abundance. We have too much to eat, too many activities, too many distractions, too much work. These become obstacles and we end up stressed, un-healthy, and unproductive. To overcome this obstacle in our lives we must learn to limit what we let into our lives. One of the best ways we can limit what comes into lives is to just say no.

We heard the mantra in the 80’s, just say no, but often we subtly have been encouraged to say yes to a lot of good things in our lives. We are expected to say yes to the extra project at work, even if we’re already busy and stressed out. We were told to clear our dinner plates, even if we weren’t hungry. We were told to do all of the extra-curricular activities we could so that we were well-rounded.

While sometimes this advice isn’t necessarily wrong, a ubiquitous habit of saying yes to all of those things can lead to being overwhelmed. Too much of a good thing can be bad.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We have limits, strengths, and weaknesses.  We literally can’t do and be it all.  As I’ve stated previously, we have so many options in this world now that we need to barriers to self-limit those choices. We need to regulate our lives and choices first and foremost by learning the power of saying no.

These endless options in life are truly amazing and many folks before would have dreamed to have them in their life. I love my freedom of choice, please don’t get me wrong. But these endless choices can be harmful if they are not managed properly.

Therefore, we need to learn the power of saying no to ourselves, others, and our children to help establish some healthy boundaries and really allow ourselves to flourish.

Saying No to Yourself

Learning to say not to yourself is a form of self-discipline. It’s a habit that needs to be exercised to form. Charles Duhigg has an excellent book, The Power of Habit, that discusses how habits can be formed and shaped.

Ourselves are often bigger obstacles than any external factors. Our ego, lack of discipline, and our emotions all contribute to our in-ability to say no.

We need to have healthy boundaries with many things in our lives that can easily be overabundant. This could include food, exercise, work, and sharing with others. All of those things are necessary but too much can be poisonous. This is where we need to learn to say no to ourselves develop some limits. Most of those are internal struggles we face everyday.

Saying No to Others

We have a strong tendency to want to make people happy. We desire to be accepted, welcomed, and part of the in-crowd. This can lead us to say yes more often than we should.

When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I used to play a decent amount of live music in the evenings and weekends while in college and as a young working professional. I used to get asked to fill in on gigs at bars or churches at the last minute when some other musician couldn’t perform. At first I used to love saying yes because it meant that I was wanted and desired. I was a go-to player with certain artists and it felt wonderful to be sought after. I also really enjoyed a lot of the music and performances.

But, it often wrecked me personally. It takes a lot of time and energy to learn an entire show’s worth of material on short notice. Therefore, when I said yes to these gigs, the rest of my personal life would feel the negative impact. I wouldn’t have as much focus and energy at my job. My diet and sleep would suffer, and my exercise would cease to exist until the show was over and I recovered. It would also take away precious time with my wife as night after night I would disappear in the basement to rehearse.

When I learned to see the actual sacrifice a new gig would require is when I learned the power of saying no to others. I have carried this powerful lesson over to many different areas of my life for the better.

Saying No to Your Children

We must learn to say no to our children. If we don’t, we won’t be preparing them for the real world when they’re teachers, friends, bosses, and clients start telling them no and they don’t know how to handle it.

We know without a doubt that an over-abundance of many things is not good for our children. Whether, it’s TV, sweets, junk food, staying up late, we need to set firm boundaries for them because they are not yet equipped to do it on their own. This is for their own good, though they don’t see it that way yet.

Young children learn very quickly how to be persuasive to get what they want. This includes temper tantrums, acting out, and calling you names. We are often tempted to give in and say yes just to get them to stop crying or screaming in the moment. This often is when they want to watch more TV, have another dessert, or buy a toy at the store. Consistently saying no and sticking to it is one of the more challenging tasks as a parent, but I have found that it is also the building blocks of establishing our authority and shaping their character. Let’s face it, life as an adult is often hard and full of not getting what we want. We have a duty to prepare our children to understand this reality.

So, in our life of abundance, where we have seemingly endless options, we need to set boundaries for ourselves, others, and our children.  And the best way to set boundaries and limits in our lives is to learn the power of saying no.

The Benefits of Limiting and Controlling Inputs in our Life

The Benefits of Limiting and Controlling Inputs in our Life

Where did my time and energy go? Now that I’m a father of two kids, free time and a surplus of energy have become rare commodities.

A few nights a week my wife and I will get on the couch or in bed to watch at most a 45 minute TV show on demand. I can’t even recall the last time I stayed awake for an entire movie. Many of my hobbies have been reduced or eliminated. Time and energy are now consumed in mass to keep up with the household chores, the demands from the day job, and in feeding and caring for the little ones.

This new reality has actually led me to have a much higher standard for inputs that I let into my life. Inputs can really be anything: food, people, jobs, activities, entertainment, and media.

Most of us have too many inputs into our life. Anything that we let into our lives is something that we need to manage and prioritize which consumes our time and energy. The noise of it all can be a tremendous distraction that drains us from creating and fulfilling our full potential.

And now, more than ever before, we have so many options in life. For example, we have so many incredible options on what to eat. We have restaurants of all different ethnicities and price points. At the grocery store we have everything we want and it’s accessible pretty much all year round.

With the internet we have endless options on what to learn or on what we want to be entertained by. We pretty much have every TV show, movie, and sporting event on demand at our fingertips. Throw in social media, eBooks, and YouTube and we all could spend the rest of our lives consuming on-line media and barely scratch the surface of what’s out there.

Our attention and resources are constantly under attack from every angle in today’s society. “Don’t miss out on this life changing opportunity!”, “This is a one-time sale, come on in now”, and probably the most tantalizing new temptation is subliminal message of anything viral, “Click here to see what everyone else in the world has seen except you.” The rabbit hole has no bottom.

Therefore, we need to limit and control what we let into our body, mind, house, and life. We must be extremely selective of what we let in. The quantity of what we let in needs to be appropriate for what we can handle and we should only accept what is of the highest possible quality.


“We need to minimize our inputs so we can maximize our outputs.”  – Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning

Many of us, myself included, have fallen prey to the idea that the more we let into our life’s, the more we learn, the more we read, the more stuff we acquire, the better. But this is false. Everything we let in consumes us in some capacity.

Even that piece of furniture your friend was giving away that you don’t have a place for takes up your time and thoughts. You put in the basement and walk past it once a week thinking, where shall it go? Would it look good painted? Then once a month or so it needs to be dusted and then you start storing boxes on top of it. So every year, this piece of furniture consumes precious minutes of your thoughts and more minutes of your time to clean, yet it adds no value to your life. We do this with books, clothes, activities, and projects at work.

Therefore, we need to keep most stuff out of our lives. We need to be scrupulous at what we allow to consume our time and energy because anything that comes in is something that we’ll need to manage.

We need to learn to say no and get good at it. One of the most powerful things I’ve learned in the past few years at the office is how to selectively say no. Say not to the tasks I can delegate or are not best for my skills.

An example of this is cable TV.  My wife and I got rid of cable about 6 years and have not yet looked back.  About once a year there is a program I miss, and usually it’s some sporting event on ESPN.  But the benefits of not having that extra input in my life definitely outweighs the downside of missing a game or two here and there. I used to spend 15 minutes a week programming the DVR and at least 5 minutes more every time we sat down to watch TV scrolling through the endless options.


When we do choose to let something into our lives, it should be of the highest quality. The term garbage in, garbage out applies to our life. If we only consume and watch trash TV we have to acknowledge that it will influence us, even a little bit. If we only eat junk food, it’s going to negatively impact our health. If we only read sensational online news stories, it’s going to influence our perception on current affairs in an unbalanced perspective.

Then we need to the have the proper systems to manage what we do have in life. This year I started learning and adopting the incredible Getting Things Done system by David Allen. It has increased my capacity to achieve and reduced my stress at the same time.

And lastly we need to regularly prune. As Todd Henry puts it in his book The Accidental Creative, “Sometimes the biggest evil of great is good. We need to get rid of some good so that we can have more great.”


In addition to limiting and controlling inputs into our own lives, we also need to make sure we’re helping our children do the same. Many of us are conscious about the media content our young children watch on TV and the internet, but we need to help with the rest of their lives as well.

When they’re young, we have direct control over most things in their lives, what they eat, watch, the activities they’re in, and who they spend time with.  But as they grow older, our control diminishes and that is when our coaching and leadership become important.  We need to lead by example, and also give them actionable ways to help put practices in their life to limit and control inputs in their life.

I’ve been on the wrong side of this balance sheet many times in life. I let too many things into my life, have too many options, struggle to manage them, and my productivity and quality of creation has been dramatically suppressed because of it.

A recent example of this has been in how I have approached my eBook lending with my local library. I keep a digital list of books that I would like to read and then aim to have one or two checked out on my Kindle from the local library at a time. More often than not the books I want to read have a wait list. So I end up requesting 10 or 15 books hoping that I always have one or two to read. The reality is I often end up with 8 or 10 to read at a time, frantically switch between them hoping to read them all before the rental period expires.

Unfortunately I end up finishing none and have been distracted the whole time. If I would have just focused on say 2 or 3 at a time and committed to them, I would have probably read more books and retained more useful information from them all.

Go out and set some new standards for what you let into your life, develop or apply some systems to manage it, and don’t be afraid to get rid of anything that isn’t allowing you to flourish to your greatest potential. Help your children by limiting the inputs in their life so they can flourish as well.

Ask yourself in your self-evaluation, what are some things that are a distraction more than a benefit?  What are some ways you can prevent new distractions from entering your lives all together?