For a lot of parents, the word ‘no’ is almost a gut reaction.
“Can we get ice cream?” “No.”
“Can I stay up a little later? “No.”
“Can we put on the ‘Moana’ soundtrack for the 40th time today?” “NO!”
It makes total sense. Kids and teenagers are constantly pushing boundaries, testing limits, and asking for things (some reasonable and some not).
Usually, as a parent, you have to shut it down.
One mom recently shared a powerful story about why — though it comes easy to us — we shouldn’t always say no without thinking things through.
Rachel Ann Carpenter posted on Facebook sharing the story of her then-9-year-old daughter Nevaeh … who wanted to dye her hair pink.
“I initially said no because I know how judgmental people can be when it comes to children with colored hair,” Carpenter writes in a Facebook message. “I also figured since she was only 9 she had her whole life to change her hair if she wanted!”
So she said it. ‘No.’
But then, Nevaeh had a terrible accident.
“A few days later at a camp they were doing a demonstration involving fire and something went wrong and it caught her on fire. She had horrible burns over 70% of her body. This time last year we were in the hospital with her not knowing if she was going to live or not.”
Nevaeh was lucky to survive the fire. And a year later, she asked again if she could dye her hair.
This time, her mom gave an emphatic “Yes!”
“Just because someone is young does not mean they are promised time,” Carpenter says. “I was so glad she was still here to ask me. It is just hair, hair color will fade. Something so easy as colored hair made her extremely happy.”
The story highlights a tough question for parents: Are you drawing real, important boundaries with your kids? Or just saying “no” out of fear or habit?
It’s our job to protect our children from danger or grave mistakes that may severely impact their life, but we can’t protect them against every scraped knee from running too fast on the playground — nor should we.
Most experts agree that taking risks, exploring, experimenting with identity, and making mistakes are all important parts of growing up. Psychologist Randy Cale tells “Psychologies” parents should aim to only step in when safety is a serious concern or when the consequences of a behavior won’t be immediately apparent to them (like eating ice cream for dinner every single night).
And beyond all the child psychology, sometimes it’s just more fun to say “yes.”
“It is so important to let your children live a little,” Carpenter says. “As adults it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a child and how easy it is to make them happy.”