The Toxicity Of “No!”

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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It's something I find myself saying to my children a lot:


However, I don’t think it’s completely frivalous. There are times when this word is warranted. But, as I take a close look at the frequency of it’s use, I think it can be toxic at times.

Truthfully, this is a delicate and difficult balance to maintain.
I don’t want my children to consume too big of a snack that little room for our actual dinner is left, so, “No, you just had a snack, dinner will be in an hour.”
However, I don’t want them to feel as though food is off-limits or their growing bodies (that get hungry a lot) cannot have food when they need it.
We don’t permit our children to get out of their beds or come out of their rooms before 7 am, so, “No, it’s too early to be up buddy. You need to go back to bed.”
However, it’s 6:45am and it is a chance for me to snuggle my little guy exclusively before the rest of the family is up.
We just cleaned up the entire house in preparation for soon-arriving guests, so, “No, you cannot build a fort in the living room or do a craft in the kitchen!”
However, I don’t want to stifle my children’s creativity, nor do I want my home to seem cold and more like a museum than the place where they live and grow .

Like I said- delicate and difficult!

My daughter looked at me the other day and simply said, “Dad, I need to ask you something, and you’re probably going to say no, but….
She’s right. I probably would. In fact, I think I did! It suddenly begged the question in me- Has the word ‘No’ become more toxic or productive in me? In other words, do I use the word ‘No’ so much, for so many different situations, that it no longer moves my children in healthy directions, but rather pushes them to negative resistance?

Sadly, I feel it’s the latter.

As I spend time thinking through my household and my role as a father, I’ve come to a few conclusions about the use of ‘No’-

1- There is a balance between healthy use, and unhealthy use, and I need to find it!

I need to weigh what is unhealthy and requires use of the word, (ie- Riding their bikes in the street where cars could run them over is NOT healthy) and what is healthy and does not require use of the word, (ie- As much as I may not like it, we can clean up a craft or some toys on the floor afterward).

2- I need to replace the word ‘No’ with directives that move my children in a more positive direction.

Instead of ‘No’, perhaps ‘Not now,’ or ‘We really need to wait on this,’ or ‘Here’s a better way.’ All in all, I recognize that ‘No’ carries a finality with it. Using words or directives with a more positive feel could allow my children to see the situation differently.

3- I need to recognize when using ‘No’ becomes toxic and choose a different approach.

When I hear my daughter say something like, “You’re probably going to say no,” maybe it’s time to check myself and choose a different approach or response (as mentioned in #2). That’s when I know I’m overusing it and it’s lost its fluidity.

This is not rocket science and some of you may look at my conclusions as though they are too simple or not fleshed out enough. That’s okay, really, it is! I’m only a parenting expert by painful experience, not by education or degree! You may have better conclusions and I definitely invite you to comment with those freely. I wrote this post as more of a discussion starter than anything, mostly because I question this so frequently, and want to hear other perspectives.

Question- How do you feel about the word ‘No?’ Has its use become toxic for you? How can its use become more productive? Comment now!

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.