The Importance of Saying 'No' When Needed


In the movie Eddie, Whoopie Goldberg plays a rabid New York Knicks fan who, through a series of improbable circumstances, ends up becoming the team’s coach. Early in the movie, there is a scene where Whoopie is coaching a team of school kids. After the game, one boy’s mother approaches Whoopie and angrily demands to know why her son sat on the bench for the entire game. Whoopie’s character responds by saying that the boy had gotten a “D” in English.

Mother: “What’s that got to do with him playing ball?”

Whoopie: “A lot. But your first question should’ve been, ‘Why’d he get the “D” in English?’”

Later, the struggling Knicks team is revitalized when Whoopie benches its star player, a ballhogging egomaniac, in favor of an older player who knows what it means to work as a team.

The moral of the story is: Sometimes you just gotta say “no.”

Kids need to have limits. Young athletes, especially, need to know that their athletic abilities do not exempt them from living by the rules - family rules, school rules, societal rules. When you set limits for children, you are in effect doing two things:

You are helping them to feel secure and loved.

You are helping them to develop a sense of responsibility.

Of course, saying “no” to our children is not always easy. Following through on that “no” can be even harder. My experience as a father, a coach and a family counselor has taught me that successful discipline involves:

• Clear communication. As much as possible, kids should know ahead of time what their limits
are. That helps to prevent such arguments as, “That’s not fair!” and “Next time I’ll do it right!”

• Respect. When you treat your child with respect, even when he has done something wrong, it is
more likely that he will respect you enough to try to do something right.

• Kindness. Discipline should be kind - and firm. It replaces punishments and rewards with natural
and logical consequences. In fact, I don’t like to use the word “punishment” at all. “Punishment”
denotes something that is arbitrarily bestowed upon a child, whereas “consequence” is something
that occurs because of the child’s own actions. Consequences can be both positive and negative.

Too often, we abuse our kids through punishment, insult them through bribery, or interfere with their learning and development by protecting them from the consequences of their actions. In other words, we care more about their athletic growth than we do their personal growth.

But I believe that by setting appropriate limits for our kids and not being afraid to say “no,” we give them the support they need when they encounter experiences that they are not yet prepared to handle. In addition, we help to make them better athletes. Just as in the movie, Eddie, it’s not always enough to be a hot-shot athlete with superior physical skills. In the long run, character counts. Discipline, respect and kindness are as much a part of being a winner as is the ability to throw or catch a ball.

So just say “no.” It will make your “yes’s” count a whole lot more.

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