I stopped at the pediatrician’s office on Thursday to pick up some routine medical forms for Nicholas. While I was waiting for the highly efficient receptionist to find the forms that were right in front of her face (I’m hoping the sarcasm is coming through), a middle aged mother with her ten year old daughter were on their way out from their appointment.
The daughter looked up to the harried-looking mother and said, “Mom, since I’m not really sick, can Melissa and Jasmine spend the night?”
The mother did that my-day-has-been-so-long-and-your-question-just-made-it-longer sigh that we all know, and said, “No. She cannot spend the night. We’ve had a very long day.” Then she paused, that mom pause that means a lesson is coming. “You know better than to ask tonight. Did you know the answer was going to be no?”
“Yes,” the daughter sheepishly replied.
“Well,” said the mother, “if you think the answer is going to be no, it’s probably better not to ask at all.”
Do you hear the movie sound track of screeching tires? Because I did.
Now, I know that mother was at the end of her rope. Hell, I’m pretty much there myself, right now. I know she didn’t mean it quite the way it sounded.
But is that really what we want to teach our kids? Don’t ask me for something if you don’t think you’ll get it?
Kids have to ask. Kids have to learn to ask. I did a post a while back about fear, and I meant every word. Teaching our children to be afraid of the word no — to avoid pursuing what they want — means kids will constantly doubt themselves. They will never persevere.
They will never face rejection, sure. But they’ll never face victory either.
Because they will never try.
There are plenty of things we should be teaching our children. Things that seem to be falling by the wayside. Like teaching girls to never, ever berate their husband or boyfriend in public. Like teaching boys to hold a door and offer to carry bags. Like teaching young women to respect themselves enough to say no, and teaching young men to defend themselves with more than just physical aggression.
There are plenty of things that need to be taught.
But teaching fear of the word no? That comes pretty instinctively.
Better to teach how to push through it.