My Teenage Daughter Says “No!” to Everything. What Should I Do with It?

Why does a teen need this and how to teach him/her to negotiate and think.
Ekaterina Sivanova | 26 September 2020

My daughter has an opinion on everything. She disagrees with everything. Yesterday, regarding some passage from a textbook, she said: “So, I don’t agree, let me think with what.” “Do you want me to braid your hair?” – “No!” “Maybe you’ll do homework on Russian first?” – “No!” “Maybe you should go for a walk?” – “NO!”


Ekaterina Sivanova

There are two people on the other side of the screen: a mother and her daughter. The mother is about forty, she is incredibly good-looking: intelligent eyes, stylish hairstyle, and a bright blouse. Her daughter covers her face with her hair that sticks out from under the hood of a shapeless sweatshirt, she looks at the sketchbook in front of her and endlessly draws signs unknown to anyone but her.

We are talking about the quality of communication in the family, about the interaction of those who live in the same house.

A young girl looks up at me and says: “I don’t want to talk with them (my family). What is there to talk about? I’m not interested…”

I see how hard it is for a mother of a reserved teenager, how she beats against the wall of her daughter’s crushing words: “no, I don’t want to, no, I will not” in her attempts to bring back the cheerful, joyful girl who was there just a year ago.

I know how she feels now so well. I was there, within this constant “no” only recently.

But first I was inside my stage of refusal thirty years ago. And, of course, you have to start with yourself.

What was my teenage stage in relation with protest? It was nonexistent in my family. It was useless to protest with my dad. Unrealistic really. I could try it with my mom, but it was not really effective either. First, from our kitchen we smoothly moved to my school, where my mother was my teacher. Secondly, from early childhood I was taught that “you cannot argue with your mother.” All my timid attempts to defend my opinion and argue crushingly fell apart.

But there was the school! There was the Komsomol [Young Communist League -Tr], the beginning of perestroika, the struggle for democracy in the relationship between a teacher and a student (this is the end of the 1980s). Rallies of various political parties took place in the city. I also attended them. Well, and, of course, there were books. The favorite reading of that time was “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin and “1984” by George Orwell.

The period of my adolescence was wasted in terms of my personal boundaries and ability to defend my opinions when dealing with people older than me. Later it backfired in my adult life, and I had to learn to say “No” under the strict guidance of psychologists for a lot of money.

Why adults rarely say no

Let’s start from the beginning. Why does a person need a teenage crisis?

This age is not only about the fact that there is rapid growth and puberty. It is about very serious changes in the perception of the surrounding world. It is about the formation of the skill to live among people without losing your self.

Answers to the questions “Who am I?” and “Who am I with?” Is the essence of the adolescent crisis.

Remember, we talked with you that if you do not go through the crisis in full at the right time, then one day you will have to go through everything at once?

I see a lot of men and women who answer these questions somewhere around forty. As a result of their answers, families collapse, friends are lost, and jobs change. And I would like to say this in a more optimistic tone, but in order to find your true self at forty, you have to do something with what you have built up to that time. You cannot deal with it without sacrifices…

That is why it is very important to answer the questions “Who am I?” and “Who am I with?” from the age of 13 to 18 (up to 21 is also possible). Certainly, later there will be a transformation of these responses, there will be new challenges in life, but the foundation will remain the foundation. It is formed in adolescence.

The ability to say “No” is the most important skill that we learn from the adolescent crisis.

With the help of saying “No”, a person learns to define his/her own personal boundaries and feel others’.

It’s time to ask you, dear readers, if you know how to say “No”? Do you know your boundaries? Do you feel strangers’ boundaries? Are you ready to fight for your opinion to the end, as teenagers do?

I will say it over and over again: “Children are the reflection of their parents.” Before you powerlessly look at the ceiling, coming to your senses from this endless “no” from the lips of a suddenly matured child, look at how you live. Maybe it makes sense to learn something from your offspring?

“No. I do not want to. No, I won’t. I’m not interested in this” the words of my daughter unbalanced me until one day (I have not read about this anywhere, it was my own insight from those that happen when you are in complete despair and feel how your brain is working) I asked myself this question: “Why do I never say ‘no’ to anyone? When was the last time I spoke out loud about what I don’t want to do? Why can’t I leave a performance that I don’t like? Why don’t I stop reading the book that is annoying me from the first page?”

I remember how the answers to these questions stunned me.

I am trying to understand my daughter, but I have driven myself into a corner of absolute misunderstanding.

When I came to my senses a little, I decided to tell my daughter about what happened to me. We had a good laugh then…

Surprisingly, protest sentiments were gone.

Exercise “Yes”, “No”, “I’ll think about it”

Collaboration, honest relationships, and humor are the things that can help you achieve peace in your family. To be fair, I will say that this applies to all families without exception, but especially those families where the teenage crisis is raging.

Now my daughter is 18 years old. She is a 2nd year student at the Department of Psychology at the Moscow State University. In her free time, Masha works as a teacher at the School of Young Psychologists. Who studies there? That’s right: teenagers between the age of 13 and 17.

I asked my daughter to write down her thoughts about teenage protests (who better than the teenagers themselves can tell us what to do with them?), And this is what happened.

By the way, when we are talking about teenagers, nearly always one of their main features is mentioned: the denial of everything. Why are there so many no’s in teenage vocabulary? It seems to me that this can be compared to “proof by contradiction.” The teenager seeks his place in the world through denial. Saying what he/she doesn’t like or what he/she won’t do, they “cut off” they things that do not suit them. This is opposing themselves to the rest of the world. It is finding themselves.

If you say “NO” to everything that is established and accepted in society, you will need to look for something to say “YES” to as well.

If you say “no” to a school uniform, you are looking for your own style through the “war”. If you say “no” to the rules of the family, you are looking for the rules which you want to obey.

Being “not like everyone else” is in a sense interesting. New opportunities open, to some extent, for self-realization and the very search. I speak like a person who dyed her hair blue: in society this is often perceived as frivolity and rebellion. Therefore, when it turns out that I am a completely organized and diligent student, it has a greater effect than the same behavior from someone, whom the teacher can expect it from. Plus, it gives freedom in other aspects of visual expression: blue eye shadows, a bright shirt, anything is possible as long as it matches the hair color. Of course, unlike the group, there are also disadvantages – you may start to be bullied, and teachers may be too biased. I didn’t have such experience, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t.

Teens need to be free to say their no out loud, loudly and clearly. This is an integral part of growing up. Here it is like boiling water – you can cover the pan with a lid and this will slow down the boil-off, but at some point the liquid will go over the edge, and you will have to wash the stove. As with everything else, simple rules remain there – speak with your children, maintain a friendly and welcoming atmosphere at home, respect personal boundaries, and then the teenager will not channel his/her rebellion into self-destructive behavior. Believe me, bright hair or a thousand icons on a backpack is a completely natural and fearless expression of protest of a person in adolescence.

Well, at the end of this conversation about the “no” mood, I would like to suggest that you do this exercise: stand opposite each other with your teenager and say in turn: “Yes!”, Then: “No!”, And then: “I’ll think about it.” It can be repeated several times. Discuss with each other how you felt when these words were spoken.

Listen to each other, and let this exercise kick-start your conversation with each other about how you live.

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