Many of you probably saw the movie starring Jim Carrey called Yes Man. While it was a hilarious movie about a guy who decides to say yes to everything and it gets him into some precarious situations, the message gave me reason to pause and ask myself – Why do I say No so often?
So many times we say no to our kids out of fear. Fear that they’ll get hurt or that they’ll take up what we believe to be bad habits. Fear that they’ll make us look irresponsible, not in charge or wishy-washy. Fear that they’ll turn out “bad” if we say Yes.
There’s also fear that they’ll get sick, hurt, fooled, discredited, be spoiled, rude or become unproductive members of society. But the bottom line is that most of our no’s originate out of a perceived problem that might come about at some future point. A fear of what “might” happen.
I’ve learned to pause before I say no and in doing this I have learned so much about myself. Why am I saying no? I’ve asked myself. What is the REAL reason I’m saying no. Can I change my No to a Yes?
My son, Cameron, wears shorts constantly. I mean, when it’s 20 degrees outside, he wears shorts and short sleeves. And not only does he wear shorts, he will only wear a certain TYPE of shorts and they MUST be black.
He wants to wear them to formal events. To Christmas dinners at Grandparent’s house. Outside on a cold day. To birthday parties. Everywhere. I used to say No. I used to force him to change into something I thought was more appropriate.
He called me out on this one day. “Mom, you say NO because you’re embarrassed by my shorts. You think I’m suppose to look and act like everyone else. This is about YOU not about ME,” he said. ” You’re making me dress up because it makes YOU look good.”
At first I felt mad. How DARE this child question my motives.
But before reacting, I took in what he said. Could that 9 year old boy standing there be RIGHT?
I broke out laughing. He was so right! I saw him as an extension of myself. I saw him as a reflection of me as a mother. I was using him as a pawn to make myself look good.
This was a big revelation for me. He saw it clear as day, but I had never seen how I used my children to make myself look presentable, respectable and like the good little mommy that had it all together.
After-all, I was raised in a drill sergeant manner. I did what I was told when I was a child, lest my butt be met with the belt.
Of course, I told Cameron he was absolutely right! I did want to look good in the eyes of relatives and friends. I wanted them to think that we were not all THAT weird (we were homeschooling after-all, which automatically put us in a “special” category with certain friends/relatives). I wanted us to look NORMAL.
We came to an agreement. On certain occasions, I would ASK not TELL him to change clothes. I would give him some notice so that it wouldn’t be sprung on him suddenly. I told him that if he chose to dress up, I realized he was doing this as a favor to me. If he chose not to, well, I would observe my discomfort and try to disconnect my self-worth from how he was dressed.
So a lot of the time he would accommodate me. When he saw that I understood this was about ME not HIM it became less of an issue. He would change, knowing that he was doing something loving for me.
When he chose not to change clothes, I got to practice letting go.
As parents, it is so important to question why we say no and ask ourselves what would happen if that No turned into a big YES. What would happen if I said Yes in this situation rather than no?
When we get to the bottom of why we want to say no, we get to examine that. No longer is it an automatic response but something we are being mindful about. In the example above, for instance, I was afraid I would be perceived as a bad mom.
But as I examined that fear, I realized how ludicrous it was. I have such a great relationship with my kids. We talk about everything. They are always heard. They are always valued.
If someone chooses to perceive that I’m a bad parent because my son is wearing shorts to a formal event or out in the cold, that’s their business. My business is to create an environment in which my kids and I have mutual respect for one another and to perhaps bring along a pair of warm pants in case he decides to change. If I wanted to wear something in particular and my husband told me to march into our room and change, it would create discord between us. Taking into account Cameron’s wishes for the clothing he wears hurts no one. But my making demands on him hurts the relationship and takes away his right to choose what works best for him.
Our kids can be our greatest teachers in life. The things that bring joy to them are the things we get the opportunity to say Yes to. Our kids can show us our own road blocks if we are willing to examine our fears.
In our house, we have evolved to a point where the kids don’t have to ask if they can do, eat or play such and such very often. We have learned that as long as what they want doesn’t infringe on someone else’s privacy, space or property there is no reason to say no. And YES, there are times they have gotten a tummy ache from eating too much junk. There are times they didn’t get enough sleep because they stayed up too late on the computer. These are not earth shattering events. These have all been opportunities for them to learn about themselves and what works and what doesn’t work in their own individual lives. I am here to pick them up when they fall and to help when they’ve made a decision that didn’t work for them. I’m here to listen and discover how they might choose differently next time. I get to hear about what they’ve learned about themselves. I get to be their partner in life, rather than their dictator.
My role in their life is not to say Yes or No. I don’t have to be the big-know-it all in their lives. I get to encourage them to live in such a way that brings joy, passion and fun to their days. They get to take risks. They get to make mistakes. They are encouraged to say YES to life, to follow what’s in their heart, to listen to their internal voice that always knows the way. They are not discouraged from taking chances and “failing”, because a true winner has failed many times.
Jim Carrey met with many foibles by saying Yes to everything. But he ended up discovering what made him come alive. Can we do this in real life? Can we give this gift to our kids? I say YES. Yes we can.