Sunday, 3 March 2013

Excitement v happiness and the importance of saying NO

Recently I showed my husband some of the TV I watched as a child (we come from different countries so we have totally different TV experiences) - programmes that I thought were exciting and my friends and I often role-played them together. Imagine my surprise when we watched and they did not seem so exciting - they were, in fact, rather slow. It made us realise how TV has changed. I remember my parents complaining as a child about music videos jumping from image to image - and then about TV series being like that (which made me think they were really OLD) - now I realise that TV is more like the music videos - its action action action all the time. I realise how used to it I have become when I experienced the "exciting" series of my childhood as suddenly slow...

Life was slower then...

It was easier for us to fill time because it did not have to be filled with quite as many things. What chance do children stand today when they experience everything at twice the speed - how do they feel fulfilled if they have to squeeze so much more into a day.

Yes, my children use wii, i-pad and DS - but we limit time - and during school holidays they are banned, that is when they have to devise other entertainment - the last two days the living room floor has ben converted into some kind of art factory and they have been producing creation after creation - using baking paper to trace from magazines and then their own creativity to design around that image...

But I digress...

Dennis Prager writes that "Excitement deprives children of happiness" (dennis-prager ) and while I don't agree with everything he writes I feel there is enough truth in his words to make us concerned.
I very much believe that a successful child is not mean a happy child, but rather a child that is able to express all their emotions, a child that is in control of their emotions so that they are able to fulfill their own potential. Maybe a child that is used to hearing the word no, and understanding the disappointment that goes with it, but able to carry on and enjoy life anyway...

Its OK as a parent and as a teacher to say no - in fact it should be a part of the job description. Recently I linked an article (not a pretty read) about the problems of sexting etc on school-aged children in a parenting forum (The Telegraph. Boys-will-ask-you-every-day-until-you-say-yes.), which lead to a very interesting discussion where one of the parents told us about a conversation she had with her then 15 year old son ten years ago...

"A while back (like 10 years ago) I was discussing with my then 15 year old son how important it is to respect girls and when they say NO it means NO. His reply has haunted me ever since. He said as a boy when a girl says no the boy actually hears MAYBE. I asked him why he thought that, and he said kids often hear their parents say no, and after a bit of nagging parents (mostly moms) give in and say OK. I stopped that behavior in myself right then and there. In our house NO means No and nagging automatically results in a big NO! I hope that this will help them all understand, and by being open with them and their friends about these matters maybe a change in teens mindsets will change and they too will start reacting to the nonsense going on in society today."

Thank you Sallyjane Thornton for allowing me to share this, I know it has had a lasting effect on you - and it will certainly have on me too. It made me feel that saying no as a parent, and meaning no, is so very important - and has maybe a bigger influence on our children than we ever imagined. Hopefully by sharing your experience it can support other parents to mean no when they say no, and to resist the urge to give in when children nag/whine.

no means no - no matter how cute you look, or how much you whine
I also wonder about what we allow our children to see ... I have worked with preschoolers who have seen Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings... my children have had to wait until they were old enough. Yes part of it is suitability, but then there is the other part - if they have watched all this when they are young, what do they have left? How will they get their kicks? If they become immune to the violence and the drama at such a young age how are films going to excite them when they are older?
I cheated a little with the Harry Potter films - they have seen them before they have reached the recommended age - but they have had to read or listen to me read the books aloud before they could see the film - so that we could talk through together what was happening (and yes I have read all the HP books aloud for my children!)

I questioned a mother once about her choice to allow her 4 year old to watch Star Wars - it was because all his friends watched it - so because 3-4 other four year olds watched the film he then got to watch it, so that he didn't feel left out.

My children don't get to watch Idol or any of those shows (which just about all their friends do) because I feel that the judges do not offer constructive criticism but seem to go for the jugular - I certainly do not want my children to learn how to say mean things about another person who has just tried their best... I want them to grow up to be supportive. None of my three children complain - I ask them every once in a while about how they feel about this ... I get positive feedback from them. Which makes me feel grateful that I have such wonderful children.

It all falls back to PLAY.

To be allowed to play at a natural pace. To be allowed to play with others. To be allowed to be bored. For parents to dare to say no when children want this that and the other - because I think wanting stuff is also part of childhood - its the parent's responsibility to understand when to say no.

Yes, I feel armed, thanks to Sallyjane, to say really say no when needed, and to understand that by doing so I am giving my children a better understanding of how to treat others with respect when they are older. I too have a son - I would never want him to misunderstand the word "no".

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