When my daughters were infants I read some silly stat that said a child hears 100 no’s an hour. (I’m not sure of the actual stat so I made that up — you know… I don’t have time to go look up the real stat because I have to get into my office early to finish off the projects I still have to complete by noon today because I forgot to say, No that’s not doable in that timeframe, when a new project appeared on my desk. 🙂 )
I’m never going to say No to my child, I declared. (And yes, there is a pattern here.)
I proceeded to replace No with a more rational, kinder approach. (I write that smiling and shaking my head in bemusement at my own folly).
The fact is, there were times when No was the appropriate response.
Like when my youngest daughter asked if we could get a pet — in this case, an Elephant Giraffe. Goat. After three Nos I settled for Yes on the dog. (I think she outsmarted me on that one but in the end, we all won because the dog we got filled our lives with love and laughter.)
Learning to say No is an important lesson for every child.
Say no to drugs. Abuse. Bullying. Fighting. Lying. Cheating. To inappropriate/nonconsensual sex. Those are all vital lessons we must all learn early to live whole-heartedly and well.
Hearing No. Learning to deal with the No’s of life is also important.
When I was a child and my mother told me No, I inevitably went to my father. He was a much easier mark.
What they didn’t realize is the non-value of that lesson was, if you don’t like the No, go find someone you know will say yes.
Too often, in changing who I asked, I missed the lesson my mother was trying to teach me. That my needs are important, but they can’t come at the expense of other’s not getting their needs met too.
My father, not seeing the big picture of our family dynamics (he was away a lot) didn’t get that often, my requests were to fulfill on my own selfish needs, stated without thought of how it would impact my sisters, brother or the family as a whole.
That lesson I had to learn later in life. Because, no matter what I want, if it impacts someone else’s life in a way that hurts or harms them, it is not a good choice, for anyone.
Often, learning these important lessons as adults is harder than if we’d started to embrace their meaning as children. Like learning another language, the older we get, the brain is not quite so flexible and willing in its capacity to learn new things.
Sometimes, when I look at what is going on in our world today, I wonder if part of the problem is, there are a whole bunch of people out there who did not learn as children the value and importance of knowing that getting what they want does not mean others can’t or don’t get what they want. Or that they matter too.
That compromise is not a win/lose scenario. Compromise only works when it’s a win/win.
That getting everything you want does not give you everything you need to live a prosperous and fulfilling life.
The lessons of childhood are important one’s to remember and employ as adults. The playground bully who continues to be the boardroom tyrant is not leading. He or she is just behaving like a child. A child who has never learned that to get ahead does not mean having it your way, no matter the cost. It means finding a way that makes the best possible at no cost to others.