Moms who can't say no

Sometimes, Myron Friesen says, parents need to say no to their kids no matter their age. Many times, he says, it's moms who have to learn to put their foot down.

Liz Harder / Harder Stock

As soon as I thought of the title for this article, I felt the title itself could bring a little tension. Being a parent is not easy. Ideally, parents can work together making decisions; however, there are also times when you are at a crossroads and you have to make a decision on your own. At that moment, you have to decide if you’re going to do what’s right for your children or what’s popular with them. Now, that also means you may feel the short-term repercussions from an unhappy child, and on some occasions their reaction can even confirm your decision.

I’ve witnessed some dads have a hard time when they are at that crossroad. I hear about that in appointments when the guy's wife says, “Oh, he can never say no to that child.” I understand that to be very true in some situations, but it seems like most dads eventually can say where the “buck stops.”

So, let’s talk about moms. Usually, not always, they would rather not be the lone family decision maker. Especially when those tough decisions show up again late in life after a husband has passed away. This leaves the widow as the lone decision-maker, peace-maker, and disciplinarian all at once, and that is tough.

So where might a mom need to have courage to say no later in life? I will give you some examples:

I’ve seen situations where the farming heir is getting a good deal on rent and then they suggest the rent should be even less. So they’re paying $275/acre rent to their neighbors and they’re paying $175/acre to their mom, and now they want it for $100. On top of that they want mom to buy a new corn dryer at age 75? Should mom have the courage to say no in that situation?


What about when one of the children constantly wants to know all of mom’s financials and wants to meddle around with everything, even though Mom is perfectly capable of handling this herself. Should Mom be able to say no in that situation?

How about the child who is not involved in the farming operation who wants to get copies of all the legal documents and have conversations with mom’s attorney and accountant regarding mom’s planning “just to make sure everything is done right.” Should mom have the courage to say no in that situation?

Then there is one of the children who wants mom to lend them some money so they can add onto their house. Should mom say no in that situation?

Sometimes moms have challenging decisions to make in real-life situations like these. I should be clear that not all moms have a problem saying no. One time I was in an appointment and I asked the mom how she would handle this type of thing. Without hesitation she went off on a minute-long tangent, laced with cussing, about how things would be handled if she was dealing with her kids at that point. Whoa! Needless to say, I know her kids would never cross her path. In fact, even I was scared.

Every situation is different, but usually the more you have planned ahead of time while you are thinking clearly and married, the better. Having the courage to say no is a good thing if it’s the right thing to do. Now I’m not suggesting being stubborn and that everything has to be no, because some situations mentioned might make sense. Other times, even when your children are 50 or 60 years old, you have to tell them no. Maybe it would be easier for mom to say no later if dad would say yes to more planning now.

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or

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