Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I never claim to be a great parent. For me, it is a journey of learning that helps me evolve both as a mother and as a person. One of the most valuable lessons that I have learnt is that we, as parents, are very generous with the word ‘no’ (and strangely a video I saw recently triggered this revelation).
Not so much with the time to explain to our children ‘why not’. When Kabir was much younger, I used to fear for his safety around the kitchen. He would come bounding in and in all his enthusiasm and energy, want to help with what I was doing, be it preparing dinner or baking, he wanted to be a part of it. Without giving it much thought, I would say no to him thinking that he will injure himself or would ruin hours of my hard work while I was baking. This went on for a while until he understood that the kitchen is a dangerous place for him and he shouldn’t enter it. Fast forward to a few years later, little did I realize that it would become a part of his subconscious and the one lesson that he would actually remember would be that the kitchen isn’t a place for him. I realize that now and think that maybe I could have handled the situation slightly differently. If only I had chosen to share the experience of baking or cooking with him in a separate controlled environment especially created for him in the kitchen; only if I had chosen to say yes instead of no he might be more interested in cooking and helping around the kitchen rather than it becoming a no-go zone for him.
The truth is that it isn’t just about this one incident. What we don’t realize is that the more we say no, the more we make our children dependent on us and the more we take away their freedom. ‘No’ means it is mummy or papa’s job and I am not supposed to do it. These stay with them even as they enter adulthood and sometimes even through life.
The other, more obvious aspect is of course, the lack of adventure and the spirit of discovery. When we say no we are diminishing the natural curiosity that is so inherent in a child that, over a period of time, the child starts denying their own curiosity on a natural level.
Having said that, I am not in any way saying that we should stop saying no entirely. Only that we are mindful and judicious about when we do. That we assess honestly if there is another way of showing by example what the consequences are or we are honest with ourselves and actually show the child how to take part in an activity for grownups (my kitchen example) – obviously with all precautions as a given. It was only when I finally started saying yes to Kabir in the kitchen and he thoroughly enjoyed that I realized that I had been unfair on him. And this simple gesture didn’t just have an impact on his attitude towards the kitchen but also, progressively, in other areas as well. He started helping me out when guests came, started taking more interest in the food and its ingredients, started talking more about food and the things that he likes.
As I said, I am no expert but I learn lessons whenever I can. And this is one that is to stay with me for life. I am joining the YesMom movement – you too can be a part of it here https://goo.gl/paCJzn