No means no. Every mom has uttered these words through her teeth over the course of motherhood. When kids ask for the 137th time if they can have candy for dinner, or if they can watch those God-awful Youtubers and their annoying egg-opening videos, or if they can drink pond water. No means no. Stop asking. The answer will not change. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. No means no.
I am far from a helicopter mom. My kids fall down, bleed, break stuff (objects, not bones) and fail miserably at many things because I give them the freedom, space, and opportunity to do so. I say yes to many things, even if I know the result will not be what they are expecting.
I say yes to a lot, so that they understand the power of no.
I say yes to tree climbing and trampolines and playing in the rain. I say yes to eating food that just fell on the floor and doggie kisses and other gross stuff that won’t kill them. I say yes to a lot, so that they understand the power of no.
The No screamed as they chase a ball into the street stops them in their tracks, instead of being a word they hear 100 times a day. I pride myself on my flexibility and willingness to bend and shift my parenting, but no means no.
And just because my son has only been around for five years doesn’t mean his no is any less powerful than mine. Of course, my yes trumps his no when it comes to taking a bath and going to bed and refraining from drinking laundry detergent, but I am trying to teach him that when it comes to his body and his overall perceived comfort and safety, his no is enough.
I am trying to teach him that when it comes to his body and his overall perceived comfort and safety, his no is enough.
Physical touch is not my son’s love language. He’s not a cuddler or a kisser or a hugger; I think he gets that from me. But sometimes, he gets into this mood where he knows just what to say to make me reach over and tickle that little spot right on his hip bone. His laughter fills my heart, and I wrangle and wrestle to get my fingers to the bottoms of his feet or deep in the crevices of his armpits for a real howl.
But the moment, the millisecond I hear him say stop, it’s game over. Through the laughter and the smiles and the giggles, stop always means stop. There’s never a But you’re smiling so you must like it! or Stop laughing and then I’ll stop or You love this! from me. And even if immediately after I stop he pounces on me and asks for more, he knows stop will always mean stop.
No will always mean no. I don’t get to decide when he’s had enough or if he really means no. He says it and I stop, and I expect nothing less from him. If friends ask him on the playground to stop chasing them, he stops. It doesn’t matter if he felt like everyone was having fun. It stops.
When his little brother screeches for him to stop wrestling with him, the game ends. And if a no or stop goes ignored or disrespected, believe you me there will be consequences.
As a mom to future men, it’s essential for me to instill the idea of consent and respect in my boys now, without ever having to use those words.
As a mom to future men, it’s essential for me to instill the idea of consent and respect in my boys now, without ever having to use those words. My job, in this season, is to model and teach respect for boundaries in my growing boys.
My job is to raise men who hear no and see flashing red lights, not caution signs. My job is to instill confidence in my boys so they feel safe using their voices to speak up when they feel uncomfortable or scared, and respecting when others do the same.
Right now it’s tickling and wrestling, in 10-12 years it could be sexual experimentation (I don’t want to talk about it). But I’ll be damned if I don’t do my part right now to raise men that my best friend’s little girls can trust and respect!
How can we expect our kids to respect the boundaries of others if we don’t show them how? How can we expect them to take stop seriously if we ignore them when they say it? We can’t.
This isn’t to say my kid gets to say no to me when I ask him to brush his teeth or clean up where he completely missed the toilet. When it comes to safety, health and overall character building, what mom says goes.
But when it comes to his body and his personal space, his no is enough.★
Diana is an Orlando native, freelance writer, boymom and lover of all things carbs. She enjoys uninterrupted trips to the bathroom, browsing Target without kids, and date nights with her wife. She relates best to moms who live by the 5-second rule and probably give their kids too much screen time.