How to Teach Your Teenager to Say ‘No’

How to Teach Your Teenager to Say ‘No’

3 October 2014

From family pressures and work commitments to relationship issues, it can be hard to say no. Over the past month we have talked about the importance of drawing your boundaries. From the practical “5 Ways To Say No” to a look at how our family of origin affects us in, “How Does Our Childhood Affect Our Ability To Say No?” we have explored about why so many of us struggle to utter the word “No.” Today we conclude our series by offering some insight in how to speak to your teenager about drawing boundaries. The adolescent years are filled with peer pressure and opportunities your young person may be unsure how to navigate. Here are some practical tips you can offer them as they learn how to say no.

When it comes to

Alcohol and drugs (when ALL your friends are doing it)

If the weight of peer pressure is heavy, make a point of letting at least one other friend know that you do not do drugs or alcohol, and ask them to support you should you need the back up. Anticipating the situation will allow you to feel prepared and more confident. You might like to write down all the reasons why you choose to say no and read them to a trusted friend. Practice in front of the mirror: Say quite firmly and deliberately, “No thanks, tonight I would really like to have …….” Notice how you feel as you say this.

When it comes to

Sex (when you’re NOT ready but your partner is)

Your body is your own and ultimately no one else has the right or authority to demand or take sex without your permission. It can feel awkward or even scary to say ‘no,’ however doing this is your way of saying that you value and respect yourself. It is okay to say, “I’m not ready to have sex.” You do not have to apologise or feel guilty for a decision that is rightfully yours to make. You might like to reflect upon the fears you have around the consequences of saying no. Rejection and guilt are powerful because they are feelings experienced in your body. Recognise these feelings as they have the power to manipulate your integrity. If your partner is not ‘cool’ with your response, recognise that this is their issue, not yours.

When it comes to

Buying something totally ridiculous and expensive

Be firm with yourself. Remind yourself that the feeling of happiness you get from this initial purchase will disappear very quickly. This litmus test: Leave the item on the shelf, and give yourself a day or more to decide how much you really want and/or need the item. I have used this strategy numerous times and have discovered that I will forget about the item. If a friend is putting pressure on you to buy, a gentle but also firm and honest response like, “It is lovely however I have a budget, so I’ll give this a miss.”

When it comes to

Breaking up

I am not sure that there is ever an easy way to let someone down gently, because their feelings have been invested in the relationship just as yours have. However, being kind but honest and upfront is important to ensure that there is no miscommunication.

When it comes to


Is there an easier way to say “no” to that extra class/social event/internship you just don’t have time for without feeling SUPER-guilty? “I’m sorry. I can’t do this right now” is a very valid and respectful response. If you are further pursued, reply that it doesn’t fit with your schedule, and change the subject. Many of us find it difficult to say no when we are put on the spot, so practice saying, “Let me go away and think about it and I will let you know.” This ensures that you are not pressured into saying ‘yes’ when you mean to say ‘no’ and you can prepare yourself beforehand. Remember that each time you say yes to someone or something else, you say no to you and your priorities.

When they won’t take no for an answer?

If someone won’t take no for an answer and you have repeated this, you have the choice of walking away from that relationship or possibly garnering additional support from another trusted friend to reinforce your ‘no’. Remember that another person’s unwillingness to accept your no does not make it invalid.

What are the benefits of learning to stand your ground and say no?

Every time you find the courage to say no it is like exercising a muscle that needs stretching and strengthening. It feels difficult and painful because your ‘no’ muscle is under-developed. You just need to give it time to get stronger so that it is easier to say and it will in time, providing that you practice. Over time you will

  • Feel stronger and more grounded.
  • Identify who you are, what you want and what makes you happy.
  • Be more confident to express your own opinions and be your own
  • Have more time to say ‘yes’ to the things that really make you happy
  • Reduce stress
  • Have more energy

Being able to identify your needs and be an advocate for your own needs is absolutely essential to your health and wellbeing as you age. Where a person fails to learn this skill in younger years, self- confidence disappears, unhappiness and feelings of stress and anxiety increases and the physical body becomes unwell in response.

Learning to say no is a life skill not to be minimised. Taking the time to start practicing it today is an investment not just for the present but also for your future health.

Do you struggle to say no? Maybe your teenager needs support as they figure out how to draw their own boundaries? Then here’s what you need to do; contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

This article was originally published on

Share this article

Like us on Facebook

Get in touch with Colleen