Monday, September 14, 2009

No! No! No!

            “No! No! No!”
            It’s amazing to me how much I hear these words in relation to kids. Everywhere I go, I hear this. Friends’ houses. Playgrounds. The beach.
            If it’s not a straightforward one-word “No” with babies, it’s a variation for older kids. At the beach I watched this family of four walking past. The boy, who was probably around eight or nine, lifted a used tampon he’d found on the beach to his dad and said, so all of us could hear, “Dad, what is this?”
            Michelle and I looked at each other and grinned. I concocted in my mind what I would give as a response. How do you explain in as innocuous a way as possible to a nine-year-old boy, what a woman’s hygienic item is? I awaited to hear the father’s response.
            “Drop that!” he scolded his son. “Don’t touch anything.”
            I was shocked. This? This was his solution to a significant learning opportunity?! The boy lowered his head as he dropped the tampon and kept walking. Then, he went over to explore some seaweed.
            “What do they teach you in school?!” the father scolded. “Don’t touch that! Come over here!”
            The boy begrudgingly went to his father’s side, and most certainly piled up heaps of resentment, as I’m certain I would have. What a pity!
            I hear this kind of negative, limiting language everywhere, even among friends. We took Celia to a one-year birthday party (the second of many, I’m sure), and one young woman there took a liking to Celia. I smiled as I watched them interact. She was quite shy, not speaking with anyone else at the party, and when Celia came up to her, she smiled sheepishly. Celia instantly took a liking to her and started crawling up onto her lap.
            I continued to smile. I love seeing people light up when my daughter gets a hold of them.
            But then, an interesting thing happened. Celia reached up for her glasses. At that point, I heard somewhere around a dozen “No”s from her. All with a smile, and all done nicely, but still, they were most certainly negative language.
            And did it stop Celia from taking off her glasses? Of course not! In fact, Celia took them off twice in the whole process, which of course gave me even more course to smile. But when Celia finally tired of the little game and moved on, I simply shook my head. This young woman could have had such a fun game of it, teaching Celia how to play with her without touching her glasses, and instead she basically just told Celia what was off-limits. That was it. No fun. No positives. Just the negatives.
            It’s unbelievable to me how much negativity most children must grow up with. It’s somehow human nature, I think, to want to tell our kids not to do certain things. Of course, we need to set their boundaries, and I do this daily with Celia. But I try my best to use positive language wherever possible.
            We created “Tay-Tay” to say to her when something’s off limits (which is not only a better alternative to “No,” but I often smile when I say it). I also try to say things like, “This is not for baby. Let’s play over here instead with this!”
            When I say stuff like that, she has all sorts of positive options while at the same time learning an important boundary. I’d say it’s pretty effective! And frankly, I’d like to reserve “No” for the serious stuff. Sharp things. Hot things. Dangerous things. Let’s face it, when Daddy says “No,” we want to make sure Baby will listen.
            So let’s stop throwing the word around thoughtlessly and start using “Tay-Tay!” Why not? We’ll look goofy, but hey, our kids will love us for it down the road, and let’s face it, anyone who gets down to the kids’ level and parents well looks kind of goofy to me. We could even make it a new movement: Goofy Parents of Happy Children. If someone starts it, count me in!

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