Can you guess which?
No, you cannot climb into the freezer, honey.
No, you can’t float a boat in the toilet.
No, sweetie, we don’t draw on walls.
Sometimes my Nos aren’t quite as sweet, either:
No! Get down from there!
No! I better never see you do that again.
I’m all for positive parenting, but as the work-at-home mother of three home-from-school kiddos, sometimes things get hectic. Sometimes my children test me, and like any parent, sometimes I say no.
As parents we’re often conflicted about that little word. We’re told that No means no, and When I say no you better listen, and that children raised without limits won’t succeed in life. But we’re also sent the message that we should build our children up, give them meaningful experiences, and let them explore without boundaries.
I can understand both perspectives. I believe that limits are a part of life and that we should raise children to respect them. I also believe, though, that part of the magic of childhood is the ability to try things out, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and learn from natural consequences (assuming the situation is not a potentially dangerous one).
No is a powerful word for having so few letters. Using it so often waters it down, and the experts encourage parents to strike a balance and use meaningful alternatives. Not only that, but if I’m really honest, there are times I say No just because saying Yes would be harder.
Not right now, honey, I’m on the phone.
We can’t paint today, sweetie. It’ll make a big mess.
Saying No has become my automatic response, like a pre-programmed recording or some kind of Robo Mom. And of course it’s appropriate to say no to certain things, but I could do so in a way that still allows her to learn about the world around her (even though she can’t play in the toilet, I could suggest she play, for instance, in the sink).
Meanwhile, my little girl is growing up fast. This time next year, she’ll be about to enter her last year of preschool. This time next year, will she even want to sit in my lap? This time next year, another year of motherhood will have passed.
So for now I’m saying yes.
Yes you can play in the sprinkler.
Yes I will read it to you one more time.
I know that childhood is gone in a heartbeat, so for now I’m saying yes.
What will you say Yes to today?
Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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