saying no

June 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

ok–i dont get it.  why would you not tell your children no?  after reading all this advice about raising a ‘free child’ and ‘preserving my kids autonomy’–i decided to see what it would feel like to not say no to my kid.  no: no, stop, dont.  okay i dont get it.  why is it wrong to give your child verbal boundaries?

so i talk to a guy who lives in a co-op with a kid about aza’s age: he says that they only use ‘no’ for safety issues.  okay, but why?

supposedly if you use the word ‘no’ too often your child wont take the word seriously when you really mean it.  so i experimented with aza.  turns out when i am happy and smiley and saying: no.  she knows i am joking. and when i am serious, drop a little bass in the voice, she knows that she needs to back away and
look at me.  actually, her responses are not about what words i use: i could be saying elephant or umbrella, but the tone of my voice.  which makes sense since she repeats tones much more than individual letters. and communication is 70% nonverbal, 20%tone of voice, 10%actual content.  she understands me.

secondly, i think it is important that she recognizes that she has the right to say ‘no’ to people and the best way for me to model this is to say ‘no’ to her.
and for her to watch me saying no to others.  and laying down the verbal and physical boundaries.  and expecting others to respect them.

the funny thing about this i dont spend alot of time around: free or radical parents.  and so i was not really aware of this dont say no policy.  really.  and this weekend i got this funny vibe as i was around those of the ‘ free philosophy.  i couldnt figure it out.  until i realized after enough ‘raised eyebrows’ that i was telling my kid no.  actually i was laughing and running after her and saying no.  and i was saying it sternly at times.  and exhausted at times.  and mockingly at times.  i guess i am just not free or radical enough.

sometimes my kid runs up to something.  something that i have said no to a bunch of times.  and she points at it and says: nononononono

that is so funny to me.  she is so smart.  and she looks so proud when she says it.
but lets be honest.  i am not someone who believes as default: child-centered parenting.  i believe in a mama-centric universe.  i have some serious concerns that the baby-centered philosophy leads to a renewed marginilization and disempowerment of women and mothers, because if the needs of the child are in conflict with the needs of the mother, the mother has historically traditionally been expected to take the back seat in western culture.  especially if the child is a son.
my mother had a different philosophy when we were young.  we were not allowed to say the word: can’t.  yep.  to this day my brother and i grapple with self-conceptions that we can do anything we put our minds to and work hard for yet we never seem to be doing enough.

a friend said to me last night that her parents taught her that she was brilliant and amazing no matter what she did and now as an adult she struggles with the fact that (in the real world) she has to work hard to convince and show people that she is brilliant and amazing, people dont just see it.

and i read these blogs by antiracist parents who dont tell their young children of color about racism or slavery or other bad things that people do to people because they dont want to give their children an ‘inferiority’ complex and they want their children to see themselves as equal to everyone else.  hmmm…..
i guess adulthood is a rude awakening for all of us.

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