Pages Navigation Menu


Preventing Child Abuse

Preventing Child Abuse

Teaching adults; its okay if a child says ‘NO’ to you

As adults we like to think that we play our part in fighting or preventing child abuse. We claim to teach our children to say NO whenever needed. The uncanny question though is why wouldn’t a child say no? Why do they have to be taught it?

Are we perhaps looking at the topic from the wrong angle?

In my opinion, there is a general issue with adults who for some anomalous reason seem to take it personally, often becoming offended and even feeling snubbed when a child projects a level of discomfort around them.

Having worked with quite a number of children over the years, I’ve observed it again and again. A child would be referred for therapy by a school, for the reason that the child makes a general point of avoiding communication with a particular teacher. They do not answer when they are spoken to. The teacher has essentially taken offence to the child not responding to them and has even taken the situation on as an indication that s/he (the teacher) is not good enough. After all, an adult who makes it their life mission to work with children wishes to also have the experience that they are ‘good with kids’

Hereupon, to fix this, the child’s parents are told that the child suffers from a form of ‘selective mutism’ and requires therapy. Therapists will often do all they can, utilizing different techniques to help ‘relieve’ those symptoms. This type of thing happens not only with teachers, it happens with family relatives and family friends. In many cases the child would be admonished by a parent for not being ‘respectful’. In my opinion, this sort of reaction ought to be strongly discouraged.

It should be obvious that a child being uncomfortable around an adult does not signify anything necessarily bad about the adult, in the same way it does not mean so when adults feel awkward around other adults. A child ought to be given every right to NOT feel comfortable with ‘ANYONE’. Of course, children are not as good as adults in making pretense small talk and then walking away!  Perhaps that should be a strategy which adults should consider teaching kids.

To summarize;

An adult should not have a right to insist that a child ‘look at them’ when they are spoken to merely so that they can ‘feel’ good about the interaction. Ultimately this type of popular attitude only tells children that we as adults do not respect children. We tell children that it’s okay to say no but are we telling it to adults too?

A child may respectfully say NO to you.


The point of this article is to bring out the importance of respect and trust in children. It is not intended as an opinion about teachers, therapists or selective mutism.



  1. I think you raise a good point, Menachem. There’s often a similar attitude projected towards children when adults insist that a child “Say you’re sorry.” Parents (and teachers) mean well with this, but what if the child ISN’T sorry? It’s the same thing when a child may not feel like looking an adult in the eye. It works out a lot better if we explore what the child actually wants, and how the child is feeling. Usually a child, (just like an adult), when shown that their feelings and wants can be included in the conversation, can discover for themselves they are sorry, if they’ve indeed done something to hurt another person.
    I think one thing that happens is that we parents/teachers can get into either-or thinking. Parents tend to either think “I can’t allow my child to say no to me” OR “I must let my child’s wants rule the situation.” When healthy parenting is a lot more nuanced than that. It’s possible to respect a child’s wants, etc., and also remember that it’s our job as caretakers to set boundaries, when it comes to someone’s safety, and other needs of the situation. It’s possible to do both at the same time.

    • Thank you for your added bit of quality insight Connirae…very true indeed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *