18 years ago I was a sophomore in college and went to Birmingham, Alabama to visit some friends, they were older than me, had young kids already and were recruiting me to work with their ministry. One sunny day during my trip I went to a playground with my friend’s wife and their only child. I don’t remember his name but I do remember that the boy was wild. She and I sat in a park together, watching her son play, he approached us with a look of embarrassment. He had ripped his jeans at the knee, from one seem to the other. They were already quite worn at the knee so it’s no surprise he had ripped them. His mother turned her attention to her son, who was embarrassed but not afraid. His mother reached her hands inside the hole and ripped the bottom half of that jean leg completely off. He smiled at the sight of his mother ripping his jeans and at the freedom his new 1/2 jean shorts afforded him. Then…she grabbed the other leg and ripped it at the knee. Then she ripped the other side from the knee down. His smile was as big as his face. He had freedom and he got to see his mom destroy and rebuild his jeans in less than a minute. She patted his bottom and sent him to go play some more.
My parenting philosophy is to say “Yes” as much as possible.
1. It’s more fun to say yes
There’s a freedom in saying Yes to something. Jim Carrey was in a movie called Yes Man where he had to say yes to everything. He went from this jerk that had total control over his life to someone who experienced new things, expanded his world, and learned more; because he said yes. Saying NO makes sense. It’s a form of control, keeping out danger, keeping out what we don’t know, keeping us free from situations that may lead us to a destination we’re not interested in. But a lot of No’s are because of fear. Fear drives most of our actions. Fear is our filter for most of our actions. When we say yes by default, we have more fun. It’s mysterious sure, but a mystery is fun. And don’t our kids ask us things because they want us to say yes? What percentage of your questions are you looking for a no? Kids aren’t rhetorical. They don’t say things like, “I shouldn’t do that should I?” The answer to that question is NO; you shouldn’t do that. Kids don’t ask questions like that. Kids want to hear YES,
2. Yes is risky, and that’s a more interesting way to live.
Control is boring. Routine has it’s pros for sure but if you knew how you life was going to play out every day then wouldn’t you get bored.? Ever seen the movie Groundhog day with Bill Murray? The guy constructs his day because has to keep reliving it. You know what he does? He says yes to things he would have never done. He learns new things. He helps people that he would have never helped. He learns that life is more about others than himself. In other words, he says no to himself and yes to the world around him. Who benefits? Everyone of course. Everyone benefits when we say yes more. Yes is so much more fun than no. STORY – Where this can go wrong is when the yes costs too much. I got engaged to the wrong person because I considered the idea of getting engaged and didn’t take it seriously enough. I said yes to the idea in my head too quickly. But that was a BIG yes and a big mistake. Outside of major life decisions like who you marry, saying Yes usually won’t do you irreparable harm. Again, the worst thing we can do is say NO by default. Why? Why? Why do we lean towards no? It’s because we’re closed off to new things. What if you weren’t? What if you were open? What would you experience that you would never experience otherwise? The answer, A LOT!
3. Yes means it might work, or it might not work, but they’ll find out.
Failure is a teacher just like success is a teacher. As parents, we most often say No to something because we think it won’t’ work. What if even if we knew it wasn’t going to work, we said yes anyway. If your kid wants to walk across the highway, then say no. They don’t need to learn that lesson the hard way. But if our kids aren’t going to hurt themselves, or even if they’re not going to hurt themselves that badly, why not just say yes? Most of this goes back to simply defaulting to yes instead of no. When we try to protect kids from failure, we don’t teach them how to deal with reality. The reality is that those who win take risks and risks mean you can lose, and you can win. You can get hurt, lose money, look stupid, embarrass yourself, lots of uncomfortable things. They will learn when that happens. I would submit that they’ll learn even more when things don’t work. Pain is the tattoo of memories. It never leaves you. Yes doesn’t mean it will work but it does mean they’ll learn if it works. And you might be wrong. We say no because we want to keep them from experiencing failure but if we say yes then it might work. Don’t assume you know more because you’re older and wiser. Our kids are capable of more than we let them experience.
4. Yes builds confidence.
You know why your kids ask for stuff? Because they want it? Should they always get it? No. But let’s find out why they asked before we fire off another NO. Your kid wanted something. That’s why they asked. How would you feel if every time you asked your spouse something they said yes? Seriously, how awesome would that be? If my wife said yes every time, I asked her something we’d have like 15 kids. Pay attention today. Imagine if every time you asked your boss or your neighbor or anyone who could say no, but instead, they said yes. Imagine how good that would feel. Imagine if every time you voted for a politician they won. Imagine if every time you chose the toppings on the pizza as a family, they chose your toppings. Imagine if every time you suggested a movie to your spouse they said yes. Imagine how awesome that would feel. When we say no to our kids, and say it often enough that they stop asking at all, that damages them in a unique way. It teaches them to stop reaching for what might not work. It teaches them to be very safe, too safe I think. It cages them. I’m good with boundaries. Parents need to establish boundaries but saying yes builds confidence in our kids in such a way that they can go on an adventure and learn a lesson and come back to tell us about it instead of us just shooting down the idea altogether.
5. They’ll ask more if you say yes. They’ll ask less if you say no.
My parents were a good measure of yes and no. When I was 17, I asked to leave for a month to work at a camp in Minnesota, for free. They said yes not because they knew what I was going to do, but because they trusted me. They trusted me, and I trusted they’d say yes because the communication lines were open. Jerry and Betsy had a track record of being available and open. I couldn’t fault them for being close-minded. They weren’t. They weren’t no parents. When I wanted to try out for a play, they said yes. When I wanted to run for student council, they said yes. I didn’t have to hide a lot from my parents because frankly I wasn’t a bad kid. My parents were available more than they were unavailable. They were more approachable than unapproachable. I have no clue what the future will look like fo my kids, but it’s going to be very different than my childhood. I want them to be in the habit of bringing their thoughts, concerns, victories, worries, defeats, confusion, to me. If you’re consistently rejecting your kid’s request, then they’re just going to stop asking. That doesn’t’ mean they’re going to stop doing things; they’re just going to stop including you in the conversation. The scariest scenario I can think of is one where I’m not part of my kids’ decision making. Did you know that your kids are going to ask for advice? They might google it, ask Siri, ask their friends, but they can ask you too. Why would you continue to ask someone for input if a vast majority of the time they said no? Again, will they experience failure, disappointment, and the occasional broken heart if you say yes more than no? yes. Will they continue to come to you if you say yes more than no? I believe they will. I would. You would, and as different as we think kids are than us, they have free will, just like us. They have egos, just like us, they have opinions, just like us. They have hearts, just like us. They have dreams, just like us. Iw ant to be part of those decisions, opinions, hearts, and dreams. Saying yes more than no will keep the communication lines open.
6. Yes creates possibility.
Two years ago we moved 970 miles to a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. My wife had lived a vast majority of her life in the town where she was born. We built our life in that town, but we moved in part because we wanted our kids to know about the possibility. When you know you can live anywhere there are a lot more possibilities. My kids had all been on a plane at a far younger age than I had. That is possibility. A few months ago I found myself with a ticket voucher that I had to use in the next 72 hours. The only flight that was free with my voucher was one to Puerto Rico. I took the flight because I wanted to go and because I wanted my kids to believe in possibility. You want your kids to believe in possibility; I know you do. So say yes more than no. My friend Hugh Weber, back in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a possibility addict. He’s always thinking about possibility so I thought I’d end today’s episode by talking with Hugh for a few minutes about the word possibility. About what it means to him as a creative, as a father, and as a South Dakotan. So here’s my short chat with Hugh on the idea of possibility.
Milbank, SD – http://www.milbanksd.com/
PearlForAmerica – https://www.instagram.com/pearlforamerica
Ross Perot – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Perot
Lisa Gongdon – https://www.instagram.com/p/BF9kYV5uxIf/
Sioux Falls, SD – http://visitsiouxfalls.com/
Bubble Parade – First one – http://www.argusleader.com/videos/entertainment/arts/2014/05/23/9495701/ 2nd Parade – http://www.argusleader.com/picture-gallery/news/local/2014/05/23/bubble-parade/9500913/
7…what do you think saying Yes does for kids?
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