"Over the weekend, I was talking on Facebook about an incident where a friend offered me food. I said no, and she immediately responded with, “Oh, why not? Come on, just take one.” -Jim C. HinesDo you have a story about some time when you said no and someone didn't take it seriously, and kept bugging you about it?
How did you feel at the time?
How did you start feeling about that person? About yourself?
Do we teach people that they have the right to take care of themselves?
Do we teach that it’s okay to set boundaries?
Do we teach people to respect them?
Our culture says saying 'no' is rude/selfish/bad.
We grow up learning that “No” is rude. It’s more important to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. It’s important to be polite and accommodating. Setting boundaries and prioritizing our own comfort and safety is selfish. We push these lessons even harder on women, expecting them to be caretakers, putting everyone else’s needs above their own.
Our culture treats someone saying 'no' as a challenge to overcome
You have the right to set your own boundaries, to say no and to have that be respected.
It’s something my culture is really bad at. We treat “No” as a challenge, a hurdle to be overcome through pressure, alcohol, emotional manipulation, even physical force.
When someone sets a boundary, your job is to respect that.
When someone sets a boundary, your job is to respect that. You might not understand. You might feel hurt. You might be pissed off.
It doesn’t matter.
Your confusion, your hurt feelings, the fact that you don’t like someone telling you no, none of that gives you the right to violate someone else’s boundaries.
You have the right to set boundaries.
You have the right to have those boundaries respected.
• Not “You have the right to say no as long as you’re nice enough.”
• Not “You have the right to say no but I’m gonna try to change your mind.”
• Not “You have the right to say no unless I think you’re wrong.”
• Not “You have the right to say no once you can give me a satisfactory explanation as to why you’re saying no.”
When someone says no, the correct response is “Okay.” If you don’t understand, that’s fine. You don’t have to understand. Maybe the other person will be willing to explain. Maybe not. But they don’t owe you an explanation.
You have the right to say no, period. And if someone can’t accept that, then the hell with them. The problem isn’t you.
Should boundaries set by children or parents?
"I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won't make you do it," I told [my four year old daughter] recently.
"I don't have to?" she asked, cuddling up to me at bedtime, confirming the facts to be sure.
No, she doesn't have to. And just to be clear, there is no passive-aggressive, conditional, manipulative nonsense behind my statement. I mean what I say. She doesn't have to hug or kiss anyone just because I say so, not even me. I will not override my own child's currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch.
I figure her body is actually hers, not mine.
It doesn't belong to her parents, preschool teacher, dance teacher or soccer coach. While she must treat people with respect, she doesn't have to offer physical affection to please them. And the earlier she learns ownership of herself and responsibility for her body, the better for her.
Important to teach children their bodies are their own.
"When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend's feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them," said Irene van der Zande.
Forcing children to touch people when they don't want to leaves them vulnerable to sexual abusers, most of whom are people known to the children they abuse, according to Ursula Wagner. ... None of the child victims of sexual abuse or assault she's counseled was attacked by strangers, she said.
Is it different?
Would you want your daughter to have sex with her boyfriend simply to make him happy? Parents who justify ordering their children to kiss grandma might say, "It's different."
No, it's not, according to author Jennifer Lehr, who blogs about her parenting style. Ordering children to kiss or hug an adult they don't want to touch teaches them to use their body to please you or someone else in authority or, really, anyone.
"The message a child gets is that not only is another person's emotional state their responsibility but that they must also sacrifice their own bodies to buoy another's ego or satisfy their desire for love or affection," said Lehr.
Women are expected to be more accessible to others, with or without their permission
I read this on the internet somewhere, (but cannot find the link now, alas!)
A parent reported that when she told people her child was a girl they touched her child, picked the child up or hugged the child, (regardless if the child said no!) far more often than when she told them it was a boy.
Respecting boundaries creates more work
Refusing to order her to hand out hugs or kisses on demand means there's more work to keep the relationships going and keep feelings from being hurt. Most of our extended family live far away, so it's my job to teach my kiddo about people she doesn't see on a daily basis.
We make sure to keep in contact with calls and Skype and presents. In advance of loved ones' visits, which usually means an all-day plane ride, I talk a lot about how we're related to our guests, what they mean to me and what we're going to do when they arrive. I give them plenty of opportunity to interact with her so she can learn to trust them.
I explain to relatives who want to know why we're letting her decide who she touches. And when she does hug them, the joy is palpable. Not from obligation or a direct order from Mom.
Teaching respect for others' feelings
"At 4 years old, my son decided he didn't want to hug his 94-year-old grandma when we visited with her at the nursing home. She said it was OK and nodded in understanding, but we couldn't help but see in her eyes that it hurt her feelings. When it came time to tuck our son in that night, my husband and I decided against hugging and kissing him. Why? Because he needed to learn compassion ... the impact of his actions on others. We wanted for him to understand how grandma felt when he didn't want to hug her. I can now say 'remember how it felt?' and he understands. Part of my job as a parent is to teach him what he needs to know to grow into a good, kind, caring, compassionate person."
Lots of people had strong negative and positive reactions to the CNN article, you can see some of them here.