June 29, 2014

I recently came across a blog by Glennon Doyle Melton (author of Carry On Warrior, Thoughts on Life Unarmed) about how parents and public service announcements frequently remind our youth to “Just Say No,” but that we aren’t actually equipping them with the skills for how to say “no.”  Melton reminds us that even most adults have a hard time saying “no” and that it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.

Melton’s realization that this gap between wanting to say “no” and actually being able to say “no” can set teens up for failure. She says,

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.

Melton knew that her pre-teen son was headed for some high-pressure situations and that she needed to help prepare him with the skills and words to actually say no. So, she and her husband sat down with her son and brainstormed a list of potentially tough situations. Then, together they crafted scripts to help him be prepared to respond in a way that’s most truthful to his intentions. Melton suggests,

If we want teens to use their words – we’ve got to provide some words for them that they can keep in their back pocket and pull out at the right moment. Because we’ve taught them how to get along with others, but now we need to teach them how to get along with others while also taking care of themselves.

What a great way to encourage candor, especially for building confidence in tough conversations. Melton’s final list of challenges and responses is imaginative, comprehensive and, in some cases, humorous. Some examples:

– 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.

– 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.

When you consider the expectations we have for our teens, Melton’s recognition that just saying “no” isn’t easy is particularly profound. Simply put, we’re not setting them up for success if we aren’t also coaching them on how to say no and preparing them with candid and comfortable responses.

The same approach applies easily to adults who struggle to say no. Anticipate situations where you may be put on the spot and have a few authentic and accurate responses at the ready. With some preparation and practice, you will be more equipped to be true to yourself and honoring of others in each moment.

To read Melton’s full blog post, click here: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/06/11/conversation-save-teens-life-and-own/