The average toddler hears the word “no” a remarkable 400 times a day, according to experts. In turn, the word “no” is one of the most frequently uttered words in toddlerhood, especially in between 18 – 36 months of age. Saying “no” is regarded as a healthy and normal part of a child building his autonomy. It marks a crucial step in separation from the parent.

When someone oversteps your boundaries, they’re letting you know that what you want doesn’t matter. -Phil Good, musician

Children learn the power of “no” early. After that, many of them are shamed into silence by parents who fail to honor their rights to exercise reasonable boundaries. One of the things I admire most in the way my daughter and her husband parent my grandson is that they have taught him the value of a healthy “no”.  He is permitted autonomy to decide what feels good to him within the structure of acceptability they have modeled and transmitted.

As I have spent time with him and his friends and in public social places, I note his easy self-confidence. I can visibly see him exercise his sense of boundaries, holding and respecting in turn. It is amazing to me that at such an early age he demonstrates so much comfort with a healthy no – even to me, his grandmother.

Many of us were raised in environments in which we were not permitted to use the word “no”. Nor were we permitted to express our emotions or pain when we felt a violation. We were taught how to “take it” with unreasonable expectations that we should sacrifice our own wellness to allow the harmful conduct of others. In other words, we were taught to give up autonomy to subjugate ourselves without redress.

People fail to learn boundaries in two ways. The first is how I have already stated – that some children grow up without permission to exercise a healthy “no”. The second is the other side of the equation and is perhaps even more damaging. These are people who have never learned how to respect the “no” of others. When they additionally feel slighted when others enforce boundaries, this is when serious relational issues become evident.

I am grateful that my grandson already has one of the most significant lessons for living a healthy life under his belt at such a tender age. I have known people along all points of the spectrum, and the me of today guards the door of my life like St. Peter at the heavenly gates. I am cautious and maintain a “No Admittance” policy for some specific types of characters.

Everyone makes his choice about how they respond to the conditions of early learning. We either develop ourselves into the healthiest versions of ourselves or repeat the cycle endlessly in our relationships and through family lines. The road to personal redemption is difficult, and the greatest challenge is moving past the feeling that “no” is unacceptable.

The people who are incapable of respecting your autonomy and standards for wellness are not worthy of your concern.  You cannot fix them – they must do that for themselves. Just say “NO!” Practice it in a mirror. Shout it from the mountaintops. Insist upon your own standards and develop a personal sanctuary that honors your life. THIS is your BIRTHRIGHT!

Childhood shame is a destructive, soul-killing, deadly condition. If you relate to anything in this writing, let me be the first to encourage you to become your own self-confident powerhouse of “no”. No, no, no, no, no and OH HELL NO and NOT ONLY NO BUT HELL NO.

I extend my best to you in all of your personal growth pursuits and as you nurture the sanctuary of your life.