When Responding “No” Or “Yes”

The word “no” carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say “yes.” – Joyce Maynard … 

As a parent, every day I wake up I am presented with the day’s own unique challenges and opportunities. Sometimes I get a child whining or throwing a fit; other times it is, “I wet the bed,” or “I cannot find my clothes,” or “I am hungry.” And because I know their potential–that they are more than capable of managing the situation in a more mature manner–I tend to hold high expectations of them and seldom afford them the sympathy and understanding that they deserve when they have their minor lapses. Instead, I find myself allowing their stress and frustrations to pour into my own life–wondering why they cannot act their age, becoming short, doling out chores, or taking away privileges. But once I start sweating the little stuff, it all too often leads me to say “no” to nearly everything that is being asked.

Many times when I say “no” to my children, I am not really being fair with them. Times in which they want to do something that disturbs my time or requires a little effort on my part; times when their laughter, yelling, and play is filling the air and interrupting my thoughts, and I ask them to act more their age. But children need approval in their lives; they need to have the support and encouragement of their parents to contrast the disapproval when it comes. In this way, they can truly understand the importance of the lessons that are being taught. It has been shown that children of parents that are far too controlling and strict, often end up desperately seeking approval from anywhere they can get it. The results of this are generally the opposite of what we are looking for. Such children tend to slip out of control, especially during the teen years when they begin realizing, “Hey, my parent is treating me completely unfairly.”

Of course, the message that Joyce is trying to impart does not only apply to parents. Any relationship that involves authority over another individual or group, offers us the opportunity to create deep and lasting relationships that are healthy for everyone and conducive towards positive growth. But we must be willing to cultivate that balance; we must willing to say, “Yes, you can help me around the house,” or “Yes, you can help me change the baby’s diaper,” or “Yes, you can try to do it in your own way or however you see fit.” For mistakes will happen; and the best way for us to allow others to learn, grow, and develop from them, is to ease their fears of making mistakes and never being good enough.

Perhaps the biggest mistake we make as parents, is trying to control our children so that they might avoid making what we fear are mistakes. By not allowing them such opportunities, we limit their ability to grow and develop, which in turn diminishes their sense of responsibility, and lessens their ability to be independent and to contribute to the world in ways that only they might be able to–their unique gifts often lie unused, undeveloped, and may never be known. Yet by encouraging them, and allowing them to express themselves and do things on their own terms, when we actually do need to say “no” for a very important reason, it becomes easy to do so, as they know that we respect their individuality and are therefore more willing to listen to us and to seek our approval. And now when we ask for control, that control is the exception rather than the rule–they will respect the importance of something that would force us to deny it for a certain cause.

When responding to others with a “no” or “yes,” take a moment to reflect on why you might be responding in such a way.

Questions to consider:

Why are so many people afraid to allow kids or people who work for them certain freedoms in what they do?

Think back on your own life and the people who have influenced you. Upon whom do you look back more fondly–those who ruled with an iron fist, or those who allowed you to grow in your own ways?

When we do not allow others to do things in their own special ways, are we really allowing them to grow and develop their own knowledge?

For further thought:

“The best compliment to children or friends is the feeling you give them that they have been set free to make their own inquiries, to come to conclusions that are right for them, whether or not they coincide with your own.” – Alistair Cooke

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