I recently read that the average child hears the word “no” roughly 40,000 times by the age of five.That’s 40,000 “No’s” before they even start the first grade. On the contrary, the average child only hears “yes” 5,000 times by the exact same age. That’s eight times as many no’s to yes’s. Now understandably the average 5 year old is probably full of mischief and thus needs to be told “No!” Yet I just wonder what affect all the “no’s” have on the child as they grow older.
Don’t do that! Don’t touch that! Don’t say that! Don’t talk to strangers! Don’t cross the street! No… No…. No…
Emilie’s only seven months old and I can already recount the number of times I’ve told her “no.” Don’t scratch my face Emilie. Don’t spit your milk out Emilie. Don’t hit yourself with your toy Emilie. Don’t look at the TV Emilie. No… No… No….
Yet the energy it requires to affirm her with “yes’s” is harder to come by. But I’m seeing how significantly more important it is to affirm with positive reinforcement.
Now I’m sure there are some seasoned parents out there who are looking at this newbie and saying “this young father has no idea what he’s talking about!”… And you’re probably right, I don’t. But just indulge me for a minute. I’m not suggesting that telling your children “no” is a bad thing. As a parent, my motto is similar to that of the police… “To protect and serve.” And part of protecting is setting clear boundaries and reinforcing those boundaries with consequences.
I’m only suggesting that while I establish boundaries with “no’s” I must be just as intentional to affirm her with “yes’s” For example: when I say, “Emilie don’t spit your food out,” I need to immediately follow it up with “Emilie food is meant for your tummy. When you spit it out your tummy gets lonely cause there’s no food down there for it to play with. Lets give your tummy something to play with.”
Now granted, the later is much more time intensive and I could save so much energy by just saying, “Don’t spit your food out.” However, I think something is lost when we lead our children through life by telling them “no.”
Compounding over time, these “no’s” dim our children’s vision to the endless possibilities life presents. They then view life through the lens of what they can’t do, suffocating the creative genius God has placed within them. On some level the average adult struggles with self-defeating thoughts. “I’m not smart enough… I’m not cute enough…” And I just believe that the roots of these thoughts may be found in the 40,000 no’s we were told growing up.
Simply put, I don’t think Holly and I will be able to drastically change the 40,000 “No’s” Emilie will hear. We’re her parents and we must set boundaries. But we can change the number of “Yes’s” she hears. So for every “no” may it be followed by a “yes.” And may this impact her view of life and ulitmately change how she views herself.