This is an edited version of a post that was originally published on Respectfully Connected
My son has every right to say no to me, and when he does I respect that.
There are times when I will ask him why he has said no. Often I’ll find out that I haven’t been clear in the way in my communication. That gives us the opportunity to work together to find a compromise that works for both of us. By respecting my son’s right to say no, he respects mine in the same way. He also asks me why I say no, and he listens to my reasons. Again, this gives us the opportunity to reach a compromise. Sometimes, a compromise is not possible. When that happens, one of us has to simply accept that the other person has said no.
I’ve had people tell me that by doing this I’m allowing my son to control me. I realise that some people who read this may think similarly. I’m not allowing my son to control me by respecting his right to say no. More importantly, I’m not trying to control my son by respecting his right to say no.
Is there any other type of personal relationship where it is acceptable for one person in the relationship to control the other person? I can’t think of one so I wonder why it seems acceptable in parent-child relationships. How can children develop an understanding of consent when their ability to consent is denied when they are young? I would far rather that my son grows up in a respectful relationship where everyone receives the same level of respect than for him to grow up in a relationship where a power imbalance is the norm.
I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to respect the no. Sometimes, it is really difficult because I just want to get the thing done without having to explain all the reasons. It can be even more difficult when you consider that my son says no a lot. I don’t believe that he’s saying no because he’s stubborn, oppositional, defiant, or trying to be manipulative, which are all things that have actually been said or written about him by other people.
He says no because the world is not set up for his needs and his comfort zone is small. As his parent, it’s not up to me to shove him outside of his comfort zone and force him to just deal with it. It’s up to me to invite him to play on the edges of his comfort zone so that gradually his comfort zone increases in size. If he says no to the invitation, then it’s my responsibility to respect that.