Refusal Skills: A Super Power at Any Age

Submitted by an anonymous Howard County community member.

I was watching my eldest granddaughter play alone at a recent birthday party. Her mother, my daughter, approached me and mentioned her concern about her daughter not having many close friends and choosing often to play alone. After chatting a bit about this and reassuring her that this particular grandchild will figure out what works best for her, my daughter mentioned one thing in particular, however, that makes her very proud….my granddaughter has no trouble telling others when and if she wants to join in. I explained to my daughter that this, learning to develop and use refusal skills, was something that is stressed often in the Guiding Good Choices® Parenting and Youth Life Skills classes at HCDrugFree  and the fact that my granddaughter is developing this skill at such an early age, (she’s eight),  will be her super power.

My daughter looked at me quizzically when I mentioned the phrase “refusal skills.” Even though she inherently understood what I was referring to, she hadn’t heard that exact phrase. Refusal skills are simply defined as the skills that a person needs to develop to resist peer pressure and avoid risky situations. In other words, strategies one would use to simply say NO to an uncomfortable situation. My granddaughter has developed these skills naturally and I hope she continues to strengthen them as she matures. That is not the case for many of us!  I told my daughter  that refusal skills were something that I had never been taught to develop and still, at my age, have trouble applying. My daughter felt the same way and often wishes that she had learned to say no more often and more easily.

Learning to use refusal skills requires practice. During the HCDF Guiding Good Choices and Youth Life Skills classes, participants are introduced to a variety of refusal skills strategies. Parents are given scenarios to practice with their children to guide them in making the right choice. Youths are provided with strategies to apply to situations that they know are dangerous or inappropriate, which are practiced with the class leaders. Some examples of refusal skills might include asking questions about an activity; explaining why one doesn’t feel comfortable participating; coming up with an alternative plan; or simply walking away.

I am proud of my daughter in that she recognizes this strength in her daughter and works very hard not to dissuade my granddaughter’s decisions, even if she thinks another decision might be better. Being a parent (and grandparent, sometimes)  is hard, but recognizing and nurturing independence and the strength to follow one’s beliefs is a lifelong gift that all grandparents and parents must help their children to develop. I am so proud of my daughter AND my granddaughter.

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