The words of an older generation lamenting the children who will one day take their place ring with some truth. The problem with kids these days is that they need to learn the word ‘no.’ Of course, they are referring to an over-indulged generation that they feel gets everything it wants without working for anything.
My son has asked on more than one occasion for an iPod. He cites the fact that a boy in his kindergarten class has one. I cite the opinion that six year olds should not own electronics that cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. However, he now is on a quest to fill his savings jar thinking that if he earns $200, I will relent. I’m thinking that saving that much money will take a long time….
Nonetheless, I understand why he asks. More and more kids around him do seem to have fairly expensive gadgets, and, if I’m honest, he’s not faring too poorly, himself. Yet, lately, I’ve started contemplating that, perhaps, the problem isn’t that I tell him ‘yes’ but that too often he hears the word ‘no.’
I think of requests from him, requests from his sisters, simple requests really, and many times the answer is ‘no:’
Can we build a fort in Hannah Grace’s room and all sleep their tonight?
Can we have a makeover party?
I have my reasons. Sometimes, they’re valid–the kids misbehaved and, therefore, won’t get rewarded. Sometimes, my answers are a little more forced: They went to bed too late last night. Little girls shouldn’t wear make-up. Then I hear a little voice reminding me that it is summer–now’s the time to build forts. Little girls don’t have to leave the house with make-up on, but they can have a little fun with Mommy. I start to have a nagging feeling that I say ‘no’ a little too much because it’s just easier.
‘No’ doesn’t require planning. ‘No’ doesn’t keep me from the bills I want to pay or the myriad tasks I want to give my attention. ‘No’ doesn’t entail a massive clean-up.
But ‘no’ doesn’t reward discovery, create memories, or keep kids away from the T.V.
The other day, I read David Brooks’s article, “Honor Code,” in the The New York Times. Brooks argues that if Shakespeare’s character Henry V were in an American school, he would do poorly. He continues that today’s school punishes boys who are active and aggressive and adventurous compared to those who sit quietly in their desks, and these factors contribute to boys’ lagging performance compared to girls.
I would argue that there are many factors that would lead to a decline in educational performance and cannot simply be blamed on gender differences; likewise, not all girls fit the model of thoughtful, organized, attentive student. However, Brooks’s article did make me think about how I taught my former students and how I parent now.
I would argue that the thoughtful, organized, attentive student is easier to teach. Similarly, the orderly, obedient child is easier to raise. However, the adventurous student, curious child, the child who gets into trouble for dragging mud through the house or creating a culinary masterpiece all over the kitchen floor is the child whose mind is ready to absorb all the new information and discoveries that come his or her way.
I put a lot of pressure on myself as a parent, and I pray daily that I won’t fail my God or children. I try my best to teach good manners. I discipline my children when they break rules, and I monitor what they eat. All of these actions are important, but probably the easiest thing to do, getting down on the floor and playing, is the most essential.
God created children with curious little minds, and they learn through play. They create memories of the adventures they’ve had and journeys they’ve taken–assuming I haven’t thwarted all of this self-discovery by saying ‘no.’
Yesterday, I heard the hose running while I was in the kitchen. I stepped outside in the backyard where the kids were supposed to be playing, anticipating that I’d see them spraying each other in an attempt to cool off. However, I knew they didn’t have on their bathing suits and would be a mess, so I was already frustrated before I made my way through the back door.
They surprised me, though; instead of watering each other, they were watering a section of the garden that I never planted.
“We’re making a dam,” Caleb informed me.
“Yeah, we’re just like beavers!” Hannah Grace exclaimed.
Chloe mimicked her sister, and the three of them continued to flood the soil with water. My first instinct was to say ‘no;’ I could visualize the mud covering their ankles and shins. I saw the sloppy mess all over the kitchen floor and the work I’d have to do. Instead, I went inside and got a dirty towel. At least the area I carved out for a garden that I never planted would see some action.
We talked over some rules. They needed to ask before they turned on the hose so I could make sure I’d still have enough money to feed them next week; when they were finished, they needed to wipe off with the towel; and they needed to know the proper placement of the pine straw to stop the stream of water.
I was amazed that these little minds even somewhat knew the concept of a dam since, at their age, I would’ve thought they were just cursing (but then again, I never liked getting dirty). I was amazed that the three of them worked together without fighting. And I was amazed that I almost told them ‘no’ because I felt lazy.
Parenting is a tough job. From the time a baby is born, one can be bombarded with theories on eating, sleeping, and pooping. However, I’m starting to think that we made parenting harder than it needs to be. Perhaps God just wants us to let kids be kids.
Perhaps He just wants us to say ‘yes’ and let the kids play.
This morning I walked outside to see how the dam held up in the storm. It didn’t fare well–the neat wall of pine straw piled high to form a pool of water was strewn all over the muddy ground. Luckily, I know of some little beavers who can handle this mess….
Do you have trouble saying ‘yes’? If so, why do you say ‘no’ more than you should?