Do you remember hearing the word NO as a kid? My parents were pretty traditional and a bit on the strict side. So, I remember hearing the word "NO" a lot!
Can I go to my friends house? Can I walk to the ice cream store? Can I go to the football game? Can I spend the night at my cousins house? The answer was always NO. I didn't have the words back then to describe how I felt. But now looking back I can say that I felt stifled, trapped, stuck. Mostly, I felt that they didn't trust me to be responsible or make good decisions.
I recently read an article by Andrew Newberg, M.D. that reveals an interesting finding about the brain. He discovered(with the use of an MRI) that "the word NO actually releases dozens of stress producing hormones and neurotransmitters that interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication." No wonder I felt terrible! And it wasn't because I wasn't getting my way. There's an actual physiological response to the word NO and as it turns out to negative words or thoughts in general.
The more I thought about this concept, the more I realized that we say NO to our kids in lots of ways. Not just by using the word NO but in several ways that might surprise you. To discuss this I will share with you...The Back to School Parenting Practice to Avoid #3: Saying NO-To Feelings, Creativity, and Identity
More than using the words no, can't, don't, and stop to communicate a NO, we say NO to our kids by shutting down three common ways they express themselves.
NO to Feelings:
1. Not allowing them to express their true emotions. For some reason, we as parents have a really hard time hearing negative talk from our kids, especially when it has to do with other members of the family. For example, “I hate grandma!” or ‘I hate my sister!” or how about "I hate you!" And the most common response is "Don’t say that!" or "Don’t you ever talk that way about…”
What we’re effectively doing is saying NO to their feelings. When we react, we cease to be a safe place where their feelings can be heard and validated. Worse yet, it can close them off for fear of admonishment or punishment. Instead of saying No to their feelings, I want to encourage you to ask questions, be curious. Genuine curiosity has no judgment. Be brave and ask them-“What do you hate about your sister?” And then listen. More often than not, it's not that they really "hate" anyone. They just needed a safe place to talk about what was bothering them. By listening and making it okay to express ALL feelings, you will build trust and a deeper connection with your child.
NO to Creativity:
2. Not allowing them to try things in a way that works for them. This is especially true when it comes to homework. We have pre-set ideas and expectations on how homework “should” be done, but remember our kids think outside of the box, have excess energy, and need to find ways to stay interested. When we say no to their ideas, we are saying NO to their creativity. So, next time your child wants to do his homework hanging upside down from his bed-let him try. If he wants to do his homework listening to music-let him try. If he needs frequent breaks to burn the excess energy-say yes!
No to Identity:
3. Not allowing them to explore their own identity. I see a lot of parents argue with their kids about their clothing, their choice of music, sports or, extracurricular activities- basically things involving their likes and dislikes. I know that allowing our kids to “explore” their identity makes us uncomfortable. We wonder if saying yes more often will lead our kids to become indulgent, disrespectful, and out of control. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we allow our kids a little more “yes” room and trust them to experiment so that they can learn and grow, it actually helps them to become more confident in making decisions, in trusting their gut, and in trusting you to have their best interest in mind.
So this week, pay attention to the ways you say “NO” to your kids. When tempted to say NO, pause, slow down, and ask yourself, “how can I turn this into a YES?” Look for ways to say Yes!- To their Feelings, their Creativity, and their Identity!