Friday, May 27, 2011

Do We Need to Teach our Kids "No"?

Our 18 month old let us know he wanted to go for a bike ride this evening. There was still plenty of time before bed, the weather was descent, and there was really no compelling reason not to go for a little spin around the block on my bike, with my little guy in front on his bike seat.

However, I felt compelled to say no --and nearly did-- because gosh darnit it wasn't part of the plan this evening, and, well, he's just going to have to learn that he can't get everything he wants.

I paused, reconsidered, and ended up going for a lovely slow bike ride with him, enjoying the gardens in the neighbourhood before heading in for a bath. The leisurely ride gave me time to think about why I had felt compelled to say no to a reasonable, and completely doable request.

The question really is, do I need to create learning opportunities to teach my son that he can't get everything he wants? Do I need to say no to tonight's bike ride because it will prepare him for the night I have to say no?

In one word? No.

There are plenty of times for him to experience no without me contriving situations. I'll say "no" to biking when it's raining. He'll hear "no" to running onto the street. And he'll expect "no" if he pulls the cat's tail (though I often leave this up to the cat to express!). If he is going to have a lot of natural and authentic opportunities to learn that there are times things won't go completely his way, I certainly don't have to make our evening difficult and upsetting by turning him down just to "teach" him. My son is learning all the time. I certainly don't need to add artificial learning just to prove a point.

The best part of all this was that I was the one who learned something.

1 comment:

WebMaster said...

Nice post! I feel the same way.

I don't like saying "no" soley for teaching that he can't get everything he wants.
Especially since Nate is at the age where he asks why ("especially" only in the sense that he can verbalize he's not understanding why he is being told no, rather than that younger kids aren't also confused by the arbitrary "No")... If he asks "why" to being told "no" and I were to answer that it is because "he can't get everything he wants", that doesn't really make sense to him (and it wouldn't make sense to me if I were told that! I would be insulted!). And it doesn't help him to understand the world. He can understand not biking because it's raining, your not feeling well, he's not feeling well, etc. etc. And then, he can start to make decisions about when is appropriate to ask in the first place!

"No" because you can't get everything you want because is arbitrary, it doesn't help him to understand, to make decisions, or problem-solve... i.e. oh, the answer is no because you are too tired... maybe I can ask daddy, or "no" because it wasn't part of our plan and this activity is something we need to plan ahead for? well, then maybe I can keep my helmet and shoes in a place I can get dressed quickly, or maybe I need to ask sooner; before dinner instead of after. Or no because he needs to take a bath and there isn't time before bedtime, or you've got to tidy the kitchen, or whatever.... If the "why" makes sense then he can begin to make judgements, extrapolations, and take action... i.e. maybe I can help with tidying so that maybe there will be time, etc, etc. (Then again, sometimes he helps with the kitchen and there is still not time, but sometimes that's how it works.)

It also reduces the amount of tears... wouldn't you cry if you were told you weren't going to get something you wanted because you can't get everything you want?? You'd feel confused, and helpless to make things better, and it's no different with a child.