If you have a child between 1-7 years, probably three in five words you use is: NO!
"DON'T grab it". "You CAN"T eat cookies before dinner". "Do NOT throw trash on the floor". "DON"T play football in the house". "You can NOT watch TV at night". "You CAN'T play iPad midweek". "Do NOT eat so fast!". "'DON'T take that, that is your grandmother's". "Do NOT paint the table" ... NO NO NO ...
I understand, we are parents, we must set limits. In fact putting clear and precise limits is one of the biggest benefits (although at the moment it doesn't seem like it) you can give your children. However for them, it can be very frustrating to hear so many No, no, no's.
Children are natural and spontaneous beings, still have no sense of time or our busy schedules, they are fully alive in the present. Nor they have clear pre-conceptions of what should or should not be done. And for that (among other things) we are here to help them form a healthy judgement of what is best for them and for those around.
However being too strict can be counterproductive. Discouraging our children and affecting their self-esteem, making them feel that whatever they want to do is a sure 'NO'. That everything they think, or any idea they come up with is wrong and they should not do it.
For us as parents many things are obvious. But remember children are much more sensitive and are just forming their personality, understanding the world and forming their judgment. We must be firm and set limits, but not taking with it their self-esteem and creativity!
I would like to share with you a formula that a good friend told me and I am now practicing with my son. It is super simple and can be summarized in one sentence:
"For every NO, there should be three YES"
Here's an example:
Juanito is a 3 year old, he is playing in the garden and suddenly sees a shovel in the ground. He smiles and starts to grab dirt and tucking it inside (he might be thinking: "What a great idea! I will build a house of dirt, inside so that rain will not destroy it"). Five minutes later, mom comes and immediately without asking takes the shovel from Juan's hands saying: "NO juan! you should NOT do this!"maybe followed by: "You are NOT a nice kid! How can you put dirt inside our house ?! Go to your room!".
Juan goes to his room, feeling sad. He does not understand why his mother is so upset. Surely it is because his ideas are bad and he's a bad boy.
This scene repeated several times can result in an insecure, fearful and limited child.
Hence the importance of being aware and using the formula of the "Three YES".
In the example we were using would work as follows:
Juanito makes the mess in the house. Mom arrives and seeing the mess (obviously wants to scream) , but she calms herself down, understanding that the child is not trying to hurt anyone, he is just playing. Then patiently she says: "WOW! ? Juanito what is it you are doing?!". Excited Juanito tries to explain his idea, Mom takes the shovel and say: "OK Juan, that sounds great, but please let's NOT (here's the NO) put dirt inside the house, this is where we live and we want this clean and nice. But ... (here come the the three YES) YES you can play with the shovel in the garden and YES! great idea we can even grab a few seeds and plant them. YES! Great idea, you were building a castle, lets do it but outside in the garden. "
See? So simple! For every NO you say to your children, immediately after you propose three activities that have a YES in them. It would be great if we as parents remembered children are experimenting and expressing themselves, we need to be more patient.