Magic Words: Helping Teens Find (Cool) Ways of Saying ‘No’

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15 June 2014 by thaliakr

Yet again a post in this series is purely about pointing you to someone else’s cool post. Glennon Doyle Melton writes at Momastery about the difference between feeling like saying ‘no’ to someone or something and finding the words to actually say it.

Even harder for teenagers, in endless intense situations with friendship capital at stake in each conversation.

Glennon writes:

You know, Just Say No sounds good in theory.  But it implies that saying no is as easy as saying yes. It’s just not. In practice, saying no begs an explanation and saying yes doesn’t. Just Saying No makes for an awkward moment, which makes it an unhelpful suggestion to teens (and people pleasers like me) who often care about avoiding awkwardness even more than they care about their own well-being.

My friend and I talked about this fact: Yes, we spend hours talking to our kids about WHY to say No, but we don’t tell them HOW to say no. When they are put on the spot – they don’t have hours to explain their decisions to their peers. They have a split second. And while our teens and ‘tweens want to make the right decisions, they often want to avoid awkwardness even more. In the absence of a plan, they’ll likely default toyes. Just like we so often do. Maybe they’re not saying yes because they want to rebel – maybe they really do say yes because they don’t know what else to say. They need help knowing, preparing. That is where we come in.

[Read the whole post at Momastery.]

So she and her husband spent some time with their tween brainstorming great ways of buying time or saying no or keeping safe. Here’s what they came up with:

When you notice a lonely kid:Hey! Here’s a seat for you. Come join us.

When someone offers you a beer:No, thanks. I’m allergic to alcohol. Totally Blows. (Then go fill up a cup with water and nurse that all night to avoid 40 million more questions)

When someone offers you weed:My mom used to smoke pot when she was younger and now she can smell it from a mile away. She checks my clothes every night. Can’t do it, man. (That’s the one that won, but I liked: HEY! How about we put down these joints and go volunteer at the dog shelter! He liked the first one. Whatever, his show.)

When someone starts texting while driving:Hey, I just saw a movie about a kid who got killed because he was texting and driving. I don’t want you to get killed because I plan to ask you for many, many rides in the future. Pull over if you need to text – I’m not in a hurry.

You find yourself in a sexual situation you’d prefer not to be in: Hey, I like you too much for this to go down this way.

A kid is being teased by another kid in the hallwayHey. I don’t want anybody to get in trouble here. Why don’t you follow me out of here? I’ll walk you to class.

Someone is about to drink and drive: Don’t risk it, man. My dad’ll get us home- no questions asked. He’d rather pick us up here than in jail.

Isn’t that a great list? Check out the whole post for more helpful insights into why it’s so hard to say ‘no’ – both as an adult and as a teenager – and the full run-down on the conversation they had together.

What other magic words can you add to the list? How did your teenage years go in this department? What conversations have you had with young people lately about this kind of stuff? Keen to hear your thoughts, please!

This is part of an occasional series on the pearls of genius we parents sometimes manage to come up with. Mostly they’re someone else’s pearls :).

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One thought on “Magic Words: Helping Teens Find (Cool) Ways of Saying ‘No’

  1. Ha! I’m not sure I’d approach it quite like that – you can get back to me when I have teenagers. BUT this is very timely! I have been frustrated a lot lately by numerous people who have really made things difficult for me by not being able to say no. I have felt strongly about this topic for many years, and have reminded myself again that I want my kids to have this skill. I think perhaps we won’t start the teaching yet, at the moment they are *experts*!

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