This past weekend, I read a great article in the NY Times, entitled, "To Raise Better Kids, Say No." The premise is simple: if you say NO more often, kids will be more creative in their play, more resourceful in their use of what they have, AND less focused on that "sense of deficiency that can never be fully satisfied." Conversely, when we say "yes" too often, we rob our children of the "opportunity to find solutions to adapting what they already have." Children who don't always get everything they want realize that in life they won't always "know something, have something, or be something," but they'll also realize, as my mother used to say, "when there's a will, there's a way." And that is the first step to fostering resourcefulness, adaptability, creativity, and innovation—all important life skills we want to cultivate in our children.
We know from our own kids that when they are little, they are endlessly resourceful. My almost three-year-old niece Lucy is always collecting things (berries, sticks, flowers), stealing boxes from her parents, and repurposing their pots and pans. To her, they can be anything—sometimes a pirate ship, sometimes her classroom (she likes to pretend to be teacher… it's really a trick for bossing us all around!), sometimes a flower hospital. But we watch that creativity and resourcefulness eek out of kids as they get older…and before we know it a box is just a box, a pot is only for cooking, and sticks lie untouched on the ground. Why? Well, we teach the creativity right out of them, partially by never forcing our kids to "make do" with what they have. For those of us who are fortunate enough to live in relative abundance, allowing our children to occasionally experience scarcity is really important. When we have lots of resources at our fingertips, we tend to treat those resources only as what they are on the surface, and we use them only in traditional ways (a box= just a box). A little scarcity now and then forces us to think more creatively about how to use what we have…in other words, it literally makes us think "outside the box :)"
So this summer, when your child is dying for the latest toy, can't live without the latest craze, or complains incessantly about being bored, sit back, put your feet up, and just say "No." Then watch the creativity and resourcefulness that comes as a result…once the temper tantrum is over :)
Head of Lower School