As a mom I say NO. A lot. It’s part of the job.
NO keeps my kids safe. NO separates right from wrong. NO keeps me sane. NO helps me mold rambunctious kids into polite adults.
But lately I’ve been experimenting with something.
It hit me that many times I said NO out of habit. Reflex. I say NO without even considering saying YES.
When my kids were tiny, NO was imperative. NO, don’t stick your fork in the light socket. NO, don’t run into the street. NO, don’t put that in your mouth.
But now that my kids are getting older, they know most of these things. Now that they are six and eight, I can slowly begin to give them a longer leash. I can trust them to start making decisions on their own, even if they get it wrong sometimes.
Now that they are getting older, my first reflex should no longer be NO.
So I’ve started experimenting with something. When they ask me if they can do something, I ask myself silently in my head, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I say YES?” I’m finding that where I might normally say NO out of habit, or let’s be honest, laziness (The floors will get messy! Their clothes will get dirty!), I am saying YES.
And they are blossoming because of it.
In the past month since I have been doing this experiment, I have watched my kids become braver, more creative, and more curious. I have seen more of a mess in my kitchen, more dirt on their hands, and more sparkle in their eyes.
To be sure, I still say NO often. NO you can’t watch TV. NO you can’t hit your sister. NO you can’t eat candy for breakfast.
But YES is tumbling out of my mouth more often and we are all benefiting from it. I’m learning to trust my kids, and I love watching what they come up with when given a little freedom. And they are learning to think and create and yes, mess up, on their own.
The other day, they asked me if we could ride our bikes to the post office. My first reflex was to say NO, driving would be easier and faster. But then I paused…and said YES. And you know what? We had a great time. After riding to the post office, we stopped to get a smoothie and found a park we had never been to before. What could have been a quick and boring errand turned out to be what the kids will remember as a great day.
And that is worth saying YES for.