A boy asked his mother for another piece of cake. “No,” she answered. “You have already had three pieces.” The boy asked again, “Please, Mom, just one more piece — I promise, just one more.” Again his mother said no. The boy did not give up: “C’mon, just one more piece of cake — please, please!” Finally, the mother relented, “Ok, one last piece, but that’s it!” The boy smiled and said, “Honestly, Mom, you have no self-control.”

In an age of excess, our children need to learn “no.” Often when children have not learned to say “no,” it is because they have never heard it from us. Melville wrote that Hawthorne said, “No! In thunder.” In other words, “no” when others say “yes,” “no” when “yes” is the easy answer, ready to risk the conflict and anger that “no” might bring. At times decency and integrity depend upon being able to say “no.” Our children have friends; they need parents. They have stuff; they need soul. They have wealth; they need wisdom. They have attitude; they need self-respect. They embody entitlement; they must treasure honor.

Surrounded by “yes” we must also teach “no.”

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.