Teaching the Power of ‘No’

Teaching the Power of ‘No’

Two letters in the English language seem to be some of the most difficult for people to say to each other: No.

I have struggled with saying ‘no’, and my friends, family, and the teens I have worked with also struggle with saying ‘no’. Despite the struggle we have all experienced with saying ‘no’, we place high expectations on teenagers to be able to say it when they are being put under pressure in serious situations by their peers. Saying ‘no’ is such a powerful weapon and is a concept that we should be teaching teens through example. 

Why is saying ‘no’ so difficult, even for adults? Here are some reasons that lead to the internal struggle of verbalizing ‘no’. 

 

We are (kind of) brainwashed.

Since being a child, I have been taught that saying ‘no’ is rude. I should not refuse any food at a table even if I know I do not like it. I should not reject a friendship even if I do not enjoy that person. I should never reject a gift, no matter how horrible it is. Then, as a teenager I was told to say ‘no’ to boys, sex, drugs, alcohol, and any other ‘rebellious’ behavior. It felt like a sudden shift from never saying ‘no’ to being forced to say it in situations that are uncomfortable.

As adults, we need to focus on how hard it really is for teenagers to go from the expectation of never refusing anything to refusing those things that they may feel pressured into doing by their peers. Trusted adults should help teens understand when saying ‘no’ is acceptable and how to say it tactfully in those tough situations.

 

Saying ‘no’ once does not mean ‘no’ all the time.

As a teenager and young adult, I always worried that if I said ‘no’ to going out or spending time with friends, those people would never invite me out again, or I would be forgotten. This constant worry of being left out is a concept that can carry over into adulthood if it is not addressed early on. Teenageers have a need to be liked and accepted by their peers which can lead to difficulty navigating negative situations.

Adults should be models of what healthy friendships look like, which often includes saying ‘no’, even when everyone else may be saying ‘yes’. Helping teens understand how to build trust that someone will be there even when they say ‘no’ occasionally is an important aspect of learning how to develop their boundaries. Saying ‘no’ to hanging out is not the end all be all and can actually be really beneficial. Teens need to be reminded that saying ‘no’ does not need to include long excuses or reasons. If a person is truly a friend, they will still be there even when you sometimes say ‘no’.

 

How we can help teens learn the power of ‘no’?

Encourage teens to be assertive when the situation calls for it. This is a difficult concept (even for some adults), so it is crucial that we educate teens on how to be assertive without becoming aggressive. This can start with talking to teens about these topics:

Help teens understand their boundaries. What are they comfortable doing and what makes them uncomfortable?

Ask teens about their priorities or goals. Understanding how their decisions now can affect their futures can be a good incentive to learn to say ‘no’ when it matters.

Teens often have a role model that they admire. Ask them who are their role model is and why. Are they a role model for someone? I know several teens that have talked about how they need to be better because their younger sibling needs them. This can be a great incentive for a teen to learn how to say ‘no’ assertively in any situation.

 

Shelbie Fowler is currently a volunteer for Teen Life and has her Masters in Family Studies. She is passionate about being an advocate for family life education in order to grow families stronger.
4 Ways Our Teen Friends Teach Us Courage

4 Ways Our Teen Friends Teach Us Courage

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 In this episode of the Stay Calm, Don’t Panic! Podcast, Chris Robey and Sarah Brooks discuss how adults can learn valuable lessons about courage and inner strength from teenagers. Teens are uniquely equipped and positioned to make a difference in the world. It is easy for us as adults to press our own agendas on teenagers, but maybe it is time to learn something from them! Take a listen to this awesome conversation and walk away with some insight into the awesome lives of teenagers. 

In this episode, Sarah Brooks discusses teenagers’ ability to teach…

  1. Courage to explore and be uniquely you.
  2. Courage to make friends.
  3. Courage to change the world.
  4. Courage to tell the truth.
Ask yourself…
  • What can I learn from teen courage?
  • How can I be intentional about diversifying my own relationships?
Go ask a teen…
  • How do you show courage in your everyday life?
  • What do you think it would take for the world to look better?
Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Sarah Brooks is a blogger, mom of 3 boys and social media expert! She has spoken across the country at various groups, churches, and schools about social media (the good, the bad, and the confusing), most of which stemmed from a post she wrote called Parents: A Word About Instagram. As a Millenial herself, she is passionate about bridging the gap between parents and teens. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

Chris Robey is the Program Director for Teen Life. Earlier in his career while working as a youth minister, Chris earned a Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University to better equip his work with teenagers and families. Chris’ career and educational opportunities have exposed him to teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. Follow him on Twitter!

Karlie Duke started working as Teen Life’s Communications Director after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications with a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 5 years and is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

Have a question?
If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
A Few Words on Courage

A Few Words on Courage

The older I get, the more I think it’s all about courage. When we find new and creative ways to instill courage into the lives of our kids – they win.

And, I’m not really talking about “getting ahead”. I’m talking about the small things of life.

Tests.

Telling the truth.

Looking out for the little guy.

Trying something new.

Saying you are sorry.

And, meaning it.

Putting the work in.

Taking responsibility.

Showing up.

Leaving.

Failing.

Getting back up.

Trying again.

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Teenagers, of all the people in this world, are positioned well to live with courage. For the most part, people don’t depend on them for their livelihood, so they can explore, make mistakes, and pivot when necessary. Within the bounds of the law, the consequences for failing tend to be less than adults who have families and careers. Teenagers tend to see the world with more naive and hopeful eyes – issues that can be solved or addressed with just one good idea. While those who are older roll their eyes and pat on the head – teenagers seem to expect their actions to actually make a difference and change environments.

The adolescent years are the perfect space to live courageously and with meaning. Those who do gain experiences and tools to do so as adults with families and careers. They know what it means to try and fail, doing so with the protection and support of the loving adults in their lives.

That’s where you come in. When the teenager you love comes to you with a wild and crazy idea – help them figure it out. Support them. Ask good questions. Help them take it a step further.

What would things look like if we lived with a little more courage? What would it look like for the teenagers in your life to be more courageous?

I think we can all agree on that answer.

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.