March 4

The word "no" carries a lot
more meaning when spoken
by a parent who also knows
how to say "yes."

Joyce Maynard


Today's Meditation:

It's tempting to limit Joyce's words to parents, and they are very wise words indeed.  Over and over again, I deal with students whose parents are far too strict, far too controlling and domineering, and those poor kids end up desperately seeking approval from any source they can give it.  And the parents wonder why their control slips away during the teen years, when the kids are finally realizing, "Hey, my parent is treating me completely unfairly."

The types of relationships that develop from this type of behavior on the part of authority figures is rarely healthy.  A person who isn't willing to say, "Yes, you can figure out a new way to file these papers," or "Yes, you can arrange these products in the best way that you see fit" never allows another person to grow and develop, for they're always worried about mistakes.  Well, here's some news: mistakes will happen, and often the biggest mistake we make is in trying to to control others in order to avoid what we fear may be mistakes.

The kid who isn't allowed to do anything develops responsibility later than others, develops the ability to be independent slower than others, but what's worse is that they develop their ability to contribute to the world much more slowly than others.  When we're not allowed to use our gifts in our own ways, those gifts lie unused, undeveloped, even unknown.

If we do allow others to express themselves and experiment, then when we do need to say no for a very important reason, it's very easy to do so.  An observer in my classrooms would see kids that are allowed to do the work on their own terms, but when I need them to do something in a certain way, they're more than willing to do so, for that control is the exception rather than the rule, and they know that I respect their individuality, and they respect the importance of something that would force me to deny it for a certain cause.

The most effective units in the military are those who are allowed to be themselves when they're not in wartime situations or training, for they're more willing to follow orders when it becomes necessary for the unit to function as a unit.

Say "yes" sometimes.  It's good for everyone.

Questions to consider:

Why are so many people afraid to allow kids or people who work for them certain freedoms in what they do?

Think back on your own life and the people who have influenced you.  Upon whom do you look back more fondly--those who ruled with an iron fist, or those who allowed you to grow in your own ways?

When we don't allow others to do things in their own special ways, are we really allowing them to grow and develop their own knowledge?

For further thought:

The best compliment to children or friends is
the feeling you give them that they have been
set free to make their own inquiries, to come to
conclusions that are right for them, whether or
not they coincide with your own.

Alistair Cooke


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