50.9 F
Sunday, January 29, 2023
HomeFamilyParenting AdviceDon't Be Too Quick To Say No—Good Parenting

Don’t Be Too Quick To Say No—Good Parenting

Before you say, “No,” ask yourself, “Why not?”

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My three-year-old daughter is a happy, curious child full of interesting ideas. What bugs me is when adults (grandparents or parents of her friends) interrupt her creative play to tell her she shouldn’t do something. I’m not talking about holding the cat by its tail. She’ll take small blocks into the kitchen and pretend to cook them in a pot she’s pulled off a low shelf. She found a marble under the couch at her grandparents’ house and took it to the top of the stairs to watch it roll and bounce its way down. Eating with her can be interesting – let’s just say she’s an experimental combiner of ingredients.

Watch and Wonder

Dear WaW,

I’m with you on supporting a child’s imagination, curiosity, and self-expression. The behaviors you’ve described cause no harm. Try to reassure the constrainers by pointing out the developing skills, expanding knowledge, self-awareness, and pure joy your daughter gains through her play. Taking some well-reasoned risks is definitely worth it.

By asking three questions one can quickly judge whether a child’s behavior should be redirected:

Will this harm anyone?
Look for obvious risks for physical safety and the threat of germs. If warranted stay close, for example when she wants to practice her pirouettes on the kitchen stepladder. Proper clothing keeps us safer, such as rubber-soled shoes or bare feet for dancing on a smooth floor. Make quick substitutions as needed, for example trade stuffed animals for the wooden blocks and matchbox cars she wants to toss across the room into the laundry basket. Climbing, jumping, spinning, running, dancing, and throwing are all excellent pursuits under safe conditions.
Practice good handwashing before eating, at least most of the time, but otherwise relax about her touching (and tasting) “dirty” things. Many bacteria are actually quite beneficial, capable of aiding digestion, or increasing calmness, or teaching the immune system how to recognize and get rid of the germs that can cause illness.

Will this cost more (in money or time) than we can afford?
Invest in lots of free and low-cost play materials to eliminate any concern about “wasting” something of value. Here are some materials with limitless possibilities: empty boxes, cardboard tubes, paper bags, junk mail . . . and that’s just indoors. Outdoor play materials for creativity and experimentation include: grass, acorns, leaves, sticks, stones, sand, dirt, feathers, shadows, echoes, clouds, . . . If your child is using something that was paid for, monitor her play just enough to prevent damage and disappearance. Those cork coasters could serve for many experiments – buoyancy in the bathtub, the force of gravity when stacked with other small objects, roll-ability across different surfaces, and (outside!) aerodynamics.
Time is a valuable commodity as well. An adult has responsibilities that require time – to work, to take care of family members’ needs, to drive from here to there, etc. Time for child’s play is also precious. A child needs ample time to learn about her world and the impact she can have on it. For example, a three-year-old should have plenty of time to practice using scissors to develop eye-hand control and fine motor muscles. This activity may require a bit of your time to find an old magazine, assist with trimming to make a collage on cardboard, and to sweep the bits into a pile for the recycling bin. Messy play is affordably supported when you count this time twice – as yours and as hers – and factor in ample time for cleanup. In a couple of years she will be asking for “alone time” for art, when her fine motor skills and her willingness to do her own cleanups catch up with her natural enthusiasm for self-expression.

Will this bother anyone else?
Your home, your rules, but when you’re out visiting, help your daughter be respectful of other people’s comfort. Remind your daughter of a few do’s and don’ts when you’re on your way to someone else’s home – indoor voices, ask before touching – and keep your visits short. If it has frequently happened that grandparents or others in your social circle feel compelled to obstruct your daughter’s play, then have more visits at your home than theirs.
Try to have most of the settings in which you and your daughter find yourselves conducive to the nature of children. Waiting rooms should have children’s books and quiet playthings that are easy to sanitize, or just bring your own. Grocery stores that want to have happy customers of all ages provide a free piece of fruit for a child to munch on while her adult is shopping. I have seen pencils, blank pads, and stair steps to occupy a child when her parent has business to conduct with a bank teller.
Public spaces that are expressly designed for children – parks, playgrounds, and children’s museums – are ideal meet-up places for being loud, energetic, messy, creative and otherwise generally free of (restrictive adults’) constraints.

Whether or not you are able to enlighten the nay-sayers about the wonders of childhood, please continue to nurture and enjoy your child’s healthy appetite for risk-taking and creative thinking.

Dr. Debbie

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.


- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Tips From our Sponsors

Stay Connected


Most Read