Sunday, January 30, 2011

The power of NO!

The word "NO!" is an awesome gift. My daughter is learning that she cannot get everything she wants. She will learn self control because we have to actively teach it to her and she will have the opportunity to practice practice practice!! They say that the health and wealth of a person can be determined, at least on a comparative basis, by the amount of self control they have as a 3 year old child.

My youngest daughter has a rare genetic metabolic disease. It is called Phenylketonuria ( PKU) and basically she is on a severely restricted diet for the rest of her life. She cannot eat meat, dairy or grains and only a small measured amount of some fruits and veggies. She will exist off of a specialized formula that she will be on for the rest of her life and we can fill her belly with specialty food products that we special order and are designed to be safe for her to eat. Saying "NO" all day long to the foods that her sisters eat is already a challenge and she's only just turned one.

Other mothers pity me and my situation, and while I admit that sometimes I also pity myself- I am thankful for the lessons I've learned because I've learned to be consistent with food and then consistency with everything else seems to follow suit.

We as parents *know* we should work on teaching self control to our children but really.... unless you are forced to do it because of circumstance it is often too easy just to let it be. Isn't that parenting in general? I think that most of us *know* theoretically what we need to teach our children but it often takes an unusual situation or experience for us to be consistent. I couldn't count how many times have I said " ok girls, time to clean up" and then walked away and not been surprised when 10 mins later they were still playing. I sigh and tell them again and sometimes again - and then when i'm actually ready for them to clean up i will stand in the doorway and they will happily clean their toys- as though they knew all along mamma wasn't really serious before. And I guess I wasn't!

I know some parenting theories say that we shouldn't use the word "no" because it is a negative experience for the child- but I believe in the power of the word NO. I believe that by teaching children boundaries and giving them limits and letting them feel these little disappointments of not being able to touch the remote control or color on the wall is really a great way to help them build character. Afterall they learn that they are OK even without the things that they long for and don't we all want to feel that way- secure in knowing that even if we don't get what we want it will still be OK?

I tend to think that large families sometimes have more balance because the children learn that they are part of something bigger than themselves from the very beginning. They learn compromise and patience and I wonder if the larger families also create that unique environment where parents MUST be more consistent - you can make carrots for your son who won't eat broccoli but you cannot reasonably make separate meals for all 6 kids! This philosophy was behind my Baby-Baby-Baby-Dog theory -

-when we create the environment (or in my case when it was thrust upon me!) where we need consistency to thrive - our children will too.

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