Saying no: why my wife is right

Sometimes I don’t even know why or how it happens, but the word just roles off the tongue like a delicious beer.

It’s a fakids-no-means-nomiliar cadence that goes a little something like this: a little voice asks for something, anything. I hear it and without even taking moment to properly assess, I respond.

It’s careless and I can do better.

With a 4ish and 2-ish year old, it’s very easy to find yourself constantly saying no. Just on repeat. No. No. No. No. You aren’t even creative. Just, NO. “Dada, can I…”. NO! It’s a word we all remember so well from your childhood; the one that made you rage and send you into fits hysteria. It seemed unreasonable, so unfair.

Yet, there you are playing the same role. Saying the same things as your parents.

So why we do we do it?

We’re tired. They misbehave. They grab stuff (so much stuff grabbing). So, it’s just common and part of the dialogue to effortlessly say no. My sense is that it almost becomes a game for the kids. They do something. Wait, I say no. Move on.

My wife pointed it out to me the other day, and while I resisted, you know what – she’s right.

She challenged me to think first. And, maybe try and steer the conversation a different way. As a former journalist and now PR professional, it’s a skill I have as I coach folks to do it all the time.


So, for example, dialogue can go a little something like this.

One night: “Dada, can I watch another show”.

Easy answer, no.

Instead, say: I really liked the show you just watched, what was your favourite part, maybe tomorrow night we can watch it again. ”


“Dada, can we have macaroni and cheese tonight?”

Easy answer, no.

Instead: “Tonight we’re going to make chicken, what kind of sauce do you want with it?”

Now, some may say it’s important to acknowledge their questions. That’s true, but my new strategy doesn’t devolve into getting into a debate with my four-year-old. It’s pointless. And, what I am noticing is that if I steer them away way more often than not they move on and drop it.

But, you’re saying to yourself, my kid is smart. He/she will come back to it, they won’t just move on. That’s fine, keep trying and then eventually you drop the hammer, acknowledge their q.

“I know this is what you want, but, I’m sorry, the answer is no”.

You save the no for strategic occasions, not just a repetitive loop.

Unlike this mom, I find it is still very important to say no. Kids need to learn this disappointment and that they can’t get everything they want. But, the no will have a deeper, more meaningful impact if it’s not played on loop constantly ringing in their little mushy brains.

No? Disagree? Maybe I’m wrong. Let me kNOw.

Helpful links:

Terry Fox: Can the fundraising in schools continue?

Kid 1 comes home, hands me a crumpled green sheet and says: “I need money, dada, and then we can have more recess.”

What? Why?

“It’s for Terry Fox. Do you know who he is? He is a guy who got sick and ran across the whole country. Like, the WHOLE thing. Then he died. So, now we need a new Terry Fox.”

Well, marks for grasping the story, sort of, so quickly. I was happy. Yes, he’s a Canadian legend who has reached a higher status than founding Prime Ministers are afforded in the public education curriculum. And, now his remarkable story is one I can talk about with my daughter.

(For readers outside Canada who don’t know – GASP!!! – Terry Fox; read here and here and watch here. If there is one Canadian icon to know, or person to talk about with a Canadian you bump into, likely in a bar somewhere, it’s this guy.)

Like most Canadians, I have been raising money for the Terry Fox Foundation for years –  decades actually. My parents too. It’s why the Terry Fox Foundation to date has raised over $700 million for cancer research. Annually, The Foundation is responsible for supporting close to $20 million in discovery based research each year in Canada – a huge sum of money in this country.

By all accounts, the funds have  had a very real and measurable impact.

But (…here is the but).

There are thousands of charities, all (ok, most) doing important, worthwhile work which has a real impact on people’s lives. Yet, since the 80s the Terry Fox Foundation has managed to leverage what might be every single student in the public school system as a source of fundraising.


Can it continue? Will the Terry Fox Run just continue to live on in our schools as our next generation has less and less of a connection to the story. Or, will one day, one principal or school official decide to move on?

Can any other charity anywhere in Canada – even North America – make anything close to the same claim? It would seem every student in the public system is somehow involved in helping fund-raise for this charity.

For anyone who has spent even just one second working with charities/Not-for-Profits, you know one thing – they are hyper competitive and there is massive battle for your dollars. Think every time you’re at the grocery story or any store these days and you are asked: “would you like to donate to $2 to …..”. Ya, that was a business deal and said charity has a massive advantage over others. In the US, Point-of-Purchase charity asks is an almost $2 billion marketplace.

Other charities must be chomping at the bit, sitting back in boardrooms, basements and kitchen tables asking: “how can we get into the schools?”. You can’t. It would be impossible. That’s why it’s even more incredible that, it seems, the Terry Fox Foundation has managed to wrestle down a complete monopoly on this type of fundraising and engage kids, in my daughter’s case as young as 4ish?

For me, the Terry Fox legacy is a very moving, inspiring story. And, after just a bit of research it seems the efforts over the decades have had a tremendous impact. If it gets my kids interested in charities, giving back and encourages them to get out and run/walk (in Terry’s honour), then great, I’m in. Besides, nobody would ever agree on which cause/charity to support anyhow.

One does wonder in this day and age if it the legacy can live on.

But, for now, I was happy to give her a few bucks for her  first official Terry Fox Run (and buy a t-shirt). Besides, did this dad really have a choice?





Lockdown: words from my four’ish year old


“Dada, today, we practiced lockdown,” my four’ish year-old says while rubbing her stuffed bunny’s ears between her fingers sitting in her car seat. “We have to hide in the cubby area if a bad guy comes.”

She also told me about riding bikes, and the dress-up area in her classroom.

How did I react?

“What happens when you’re in the cubby area,” was all I could muster up.

“You can climb under the cubby if you want. You know, the place where we put on our shoes.”

My emotions were swirling. Fear. Anger. Surprise. And, sadly, comfort – at least she has a bit of head start and knows where to go.


There is absolutely no way us 30-somethings had to “practice” these lock-downs as kids. In a world where mass-shootings in North America are not a surprise, but a matter of when, school boards from coast-to-coast have implemented lockdown policies. I guess it’s better be ready. Nobody would ever want four-year-olds practicing lock-downs – it’s a reality.

For my high-school teacher wife, lockdown prep has been common place for a while, but it now extends into kindergarten too – thanks Newtown.

I obviously understand the logic. Better to be prepared and for staff to know what to do. It’s the thought of this occurring that breaks my heart. Where would she go? Would she be scared? Would she be smart? Would she try and escape? Would she cry?

I didn’t engage further. I figured there is now way hammering home a point my kid can’t possibly appreciate the magnitude of would be of any value to her. So, that night, after I read her a story I asked: “does everyone hide in the cubby area if a bad guy comes?”

“Yes, and we’re not allowed to talk.”

I told her I loved her.


defiant-kidsAfter a particularly frustrating day, where we battled with Kid 1 all day, at night I asked her, “how can I be a better dada?” You see, I want to re-enforce my efforts to “keep the conversation going”, and ensure we have “healthy dialogue”. That’s what you’re supposed to do, they say. And, it’s what I try to do all the time.

Well, the response I got:

“I guess you could die and I could go live with bubby (grandma) and Papa”

Nice, right? She’s four-and-a-half.

I didn’t really react, just said thank you, nodded my head and moved on to reading Hansel and Gretel (a post about how messed up that book is coming later). There would be no princess stickers tonight.

I’m tired of holding the door closed, as she freaks out in her room. I’m tired of constantly saying no, or feeling like all I do is discipline her. I’ve learned how to manage her moods and developing emotions, and I am constantly giving positive re-enforcement when she does “good things” and listens.

It’s tough. Parenting is hard. It’s wonderfully rewarding, but a major challenge. And, I know it only continues to get more complicated and challenging.

The holding the door closed for time-outs has worked, so has removing her from the situation.

(googling “dealing with defiant kids” yields all kinds of wild stuff”)

We’re at a point where we are debating actually locking the door, because she knows we are standing there holding it – giving her an audience she clearly craves. While we don’t want to go there, it’s a threat – just a threat – she seems to respond to.

So, we haven’t actually locked the door…yet.

Great defiant kids images:

03252014_article     angrygirl       pchild

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