Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On saying "Yes" instead of "No"

I wrote this post about why I began practicing saying "Yes" to children's ideas instead of saying "No."

People often lament that kids these days only want to be involved in multimedia and nobody is creative.  I think if we would pay more attention to the grandiose ideas that children have and get out of their way when they attempt them, then we would have a generation of creative people who have ideas and follow through on them.

Here are some issues that I encounter when trying to say "Yes" instead of "Are you nuts?!" "No":

cleaning up mess

  • I have to be careful with this one.  Sometimes an idea is going to make a mess and I'm too emotionally fragile to have that much mess.  So then I try to give a specific time when they can.  And I try to follow through on that.  But sometimes the answer is just "I'm not up for it."
  • I try to train them to clean up after themselves as much as possible.  I want to imbue them with the idea that part of the activity is the cleanup. e.g. "clean as you go" when cooking, or you're not finished with the easy bake oven until all of the batter is cleaned off the table and the pans are rinsed.  Painting means water is spilled out, brushes are rinsed, and the cloth is folded up.  Using duct tape or the stapler means it is put back.  
  • When they are young, I clean up with them and give directions as they clean up.  When they are older, I expect the majority of cleanup to be done without me (though they always have a right to request my help cleaning up).  I use "Love and Logic" techniques if things are not cleaned up.  If the paint is left on the porch or I have to gather children and supervise a cleanup, then that affects how I feel the next time they ask.  
  • I read up and implement techniques to make cleanup more manageable for myself. If I'm not overwhelmed and if I know how to give clear guidelines and expectations for their clean ups, then we can do more things.  Decluttering, organizing, and learning to clean up an area in 20 minutes are valuable skills that make me more able to say "yes" when they want to do something.

destruction of property
I like to say yes, but I want to teach them to respect other people's property and to respect the concept of not breaking things that other people might find useful.  Using Love and Logic techniques, when they break something serious or beloved, they have to save up and pay for it.
That aside, when I discovered that the DS was eventually broken and they asked if they could smash it and take it apart, I said yes.  They spent a half hour doing so (with a hammer), investigated the inside, used the parts to try to build other things, and, of course, cleaned up all the pieces when they were finished.
When they asked to take apart a broken bike so that they could build a rocketship, I thought it was unlikely that they would be able to make a working rocketship, but I said yes.  As of this writing, they have not made a working rocketship.

appropriate public social behavior

  • This was probably something I struggled with the most in the beginning.  It helps if you can access the rebellious part of your personality that might actually enjoy going against society.  But mostly it's pretty uncomfortable.  
  • It's a strong value in our home to be respectful of other people's property and, to some degree, people's sensitivities.  I am absolutely firm that they must have appropriate boundaries regarding other people's property.  The question of other people's discomfort is a more complex issue.  ("Can I eat what I picked out of my nose?" "Um..It's not poison but some people will probably feel uncomfortable if you do." "So that's a yes?" "Um, I guess so." "Hey, Jack, did you know you can eat your booger?")
  • A lot of requests trigger my own discomfort. To work on this, I went through a process: 
    • If I want to say no, then I ask myself why.  
    • Then I ask what about it makes me feel uncomfortable.  
    • Then I try to evaluate whether that feeling is reason enough to prevent this exploration of the world or this experience 

  • I found that I frequently preferred to get over my discomfort and give them this opportunity.  Thinking about the long term benefits of being able to explore things or being able to follow through on ideas compared to what message I am teaching them by saying No gave me perspective.
What they want to do is impossible
I already discussed that.  So what if it's impossible?  What if it is actually possible and you are imposing your warped and restricted view of the word onto them?  If they won't destroy anything and they will (mostly) clean up after themselves why oh why are you sucking the fun out of everything and delivering the message that they should stop being creative and stop looking for interesting ways to interact with the world.  (I hope that wasn't too harsh.  That's just what I say to myself ;)

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