I don’t know if there’s ever been a survey about the one word that parents from around the world use the most, but I know there’s no need for any such survey. The word is “No,” and no, there’s no arguing that.
We say “no” all the time, every time. “No” is like a default reaction that comes out each time our kids open their mouth. It doesn’t even matter what they’re asking for, or even if they’re asking for something, the answer is “No.”
Frankly, if you ask me, I don’t think it’s entirely the parents’ fault. Kids are pretty dumb, and they ask some pretty daft things. My son asks if he can jump down from the top stair, he often wants to touch the cup of hot tea to make sure we’re not lying to him about it being hot, there are times when he wants to run behind a car, but we’re pretty sure we’re not raising a cute puppy, so we have to tell him no. We don’t want him to hurt himself, after all. Parents are a concerned lot, we can’t help but be. We’re responsible for these small human beings that don’t even seem human. They’re cute little monsters who have no idea what they’re doing most of the times. They’re just having fun, and as parents, we can’t help but spoil it a little bit by saying no.
But this is where we need to control ourselves a bit. I’m not saying I let my son jump down from the top stair or run behind a car, but I did let him touch a cup of warm tea to make him understand about heat. Now he knows that he shouldn’t be touching things randomly in the kitchen. Of course, this is just one example, but I’m sure you get my point.
There’s nothing wrong with a kid picking up a stone and throwing it at a tree, we don’t need to say no to that. So what if your kid picks up a show-piece at your relative’s house where you’re visiting? Don’t tell him or her to not do that. Let him, or her, pick something up and look at it. And if he or she breaks it, there’s an upside to that as well – you won’t get called over to revisit those relatives.
Saying no to most of the things that our kids ask for or want to do just kills their curiosity. Children need to explore; they’re curious beings who’re seeing and experiencing most things for the first time. They’re not born knowing what a handful of sand feels like, they don’t know that nothing will happen to a tree if a stone is thrown at it, they’ve no clue that daddy’s laptop will break if the lid is shut down with a bang. I’ve said no to the last example, but I don’t see a need to say no to things like the first two.
If they don’t explore, they don’t learn. If they don’t experience, they don’t understand. So why say no when we know it’s not going to cause them harm? Let them fool around a little bit, let them break a couple of harmless things, let them have a little fun. All I’m saying is, we parents need to say no to saying no all the time.
I wrote this story for my son’s school magazine.