Dr Joyce Willard Teal

Are You Raising One of the Next Generation of Hoodlums: Meaning What you Say

Sad african american boy covering his face and sitting at window in living room

“Just Say No” sounds good in theory.  But it implies that saying no is as easy as saying yes, and for most of us, it just isn’t. In practice, saying no usually requires an explanation and saying yes doesn’t. Just saying no makes for an awkward moment, which makes it an unhelpful suggestion to kids (and people pleasers) who often care about avoiding awkwardness even more than they care about their own well-being.

Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to work out what is so grey about keeping our kids safe. If you were to go to work with some of us for a day and see where one joint or one drink can take a teenager with promise,  I believe you would be able to say no more easily. It only takes one bad decision made in the wrong place at the wrong time – one knockout punch, one unknown drug, one drink too many, one night of unprotected sex, one “Don’t worry about me I can look after myself Mom and Dad,” – and lights out. It’s all over. A life is forever altered!

Parents: learn to actually take pride in saying a big, fat, “NO” sometimes. You aren’t being mean or kill-joy. You aren’t depriving your kids! Think about it: Is there anything they don’t have that they really need?

The word no has become unacceptable in many teenagers’ vocabulary. We say it, they hear it and then they reject it, as though no is not a viable option.

I find that many adults actually feel guilty for introducing a limitation to their teenager’s world, especially if it isolates them from the rest of their peer group.

Make no mistake about it: normal isn’t necessarily okay! Just because everyone else is doing something isn’t a good enough reason to put your child’s life in danger. There are times when I’m horrified at what average families allow their teenagers to do. I’ve seen families allow their 14 year old teen and her friends to drink alcohol at home, despite the endless research about the negative effects on the developing brain. I’ve seen parents allow their teen daughter’s boyfriend to spend the night in her bedroom with her. Many parents turn a blind eye to the sexual activity their teenagers are bragging about online.

I’m sure parents know when they should  say no, but for some reason they are finding it difficult to get the word out. I’d like parents to muster up the courage to say NO, without the guilt. A loud and proud, I’m-your-parent kind of NO that oozes a sense of responsibility and embracing love.

Parents: Remind your teen that NO is a healthy word; that it is just as viable as yes, and that no is to be respected, no matter from whom it comes. NO means NO! ACCEPT AND RESPECT IT!

Picture of Joyce W. Teal

Joyce W. Teal

Dr. Teal began writing professionally in 1995 and has had several award-winning poems published. Her first book, It’s O.K. To Be Different, was written for boys and girls between the ages of nine and fifteen, but has universal appeal, has since been published in a New Millennium Edition. It is currently being read by children as well as adults.