Lesson 8: Learning to Say “No”

artistic writing of the word "no"

Name(s) of student(s):

Age and grade level:

Goal from IEP connected to lesson:

Objective from IEP connected to lesson:

Purpose of lesson: To recognize when to say “no”.

Materials needed: Word document


“Imagine you have a very busy week at school. In addition to four final exams, one group project, and two writing assignments, you have chores at home and two after-school band practices. You feel stressed. Your neighbor asks if she can hire you to care for her three animals while she is on a last-minute vacation for the week. You’d need to feed the animals and walk the dogs before school, after school, and before bedtime. You feel guilty for wanting to say ‘no.’ What should you do?”

Discussion: Saying Yes

“You are always saying ‘yes’ to something. You may say ‘no’ to pet sitting for the neighbor, but doing so means that you are (hopefully!) saying ‘yes’ to schoolwork and studying, more time to relax, and completing chores.

“Ask yourself:

  • What are the things I want to say ‘yes’ to?
  • What are my goals and values?
  • In order to say ‘yes’ to my personal goals, what do I need to say ‘no’ to?

Exercise: Goals and Values

Each student should establish and record personal goals and values.

Discussion: How Can I Say “No”?

“Saying ‘no’ can be an emotionally-charged task because you likely want to avoid hurting feelings or acting selfish. Keep in mind that you are only responsible for saying ‘no’ respectfully—you are not responsible for, nor can you control, others’ reactions.

“When saying ‘no’, you don’t owe an explanation. A simple ‘I will have to decline’ will do, though it is often gracious to add ‘thank you for asking’ or an encouraging word, coupled with directing the individual to a helpful resource.

Example 1: If you are asked to steal money for a friend, you can say, ‘I’m sorry you’re in this predicament. I don’t feel comfortable stealing, but I saw the local grocery store is hiring.’

Example 2: If you are asked to edit a research paper for a friend, and it’s not a good time to do so, you can say, ‘Thanks for thinking of me to edit your paper; I’m flattered. I have a lot going on this week with school, so I will, unfortunately, have to decline. You may want to contact the writing center on campus; I’ve heard they edit papers for free.’”

Exercise: Practice Saying “No”

Ask the students to pair off and role-play questions with one another, giving each other opportunities to decline requests.

Discussion: Benefits of Saying “No”

“There are many benefits to a willingness to say ‘no,’ such as:

  • You won’t grow resentful of the requests of others.
  • Others can trust that when you say ‘yes’ to something, it’s because you are willing and able to help and will therefore be reliable and follow through.
  • You will have more time and energy to focus on your personal goals, commitments, and values and to accomplish them well.
  • Most people will respect you for establishing boundaries.
  • You will be less stressed.

“Can you think of additional benefits to learning to say ‘no’?”


“Today, we learned the benefits and importance of saying ‘no.’ We say ‘no’ to say ‘yes’ to what we want to accomplish and to the things we value.”

Progress notes, data collection, comments, and modifications: