As parents, Mandy and I feel that one of the most important gifts we can give our children is the gift of discipline. Perhaps contrary to prevailing beliefs, we do not feel that it is our job to give our children everything that they ask for. Discipline and self-control mean having the willpower to tell yourself “No”, and this means that we–as a means of teaching–end up telling our children “No” on a regular basis.
“No, you cannot each that candy before dinner.” “No, you cannot stay up until Midnight watching that movie.” “No, you cannot quit the team that you have committed to.” These comments, and all of their similar variances, are common utterances by any parent. And the stakes of the “Nos” only increase with age. “No, you cannot date that boy/girl.” “No, you cannot drink alcohol until you are older.” “No, you cannot make that choice on your own.”
I was reminded last night, however, of the power of saying “Yes” by my six year-old son, Seth.
I have always been a very active participant in my children’s bedtime routines. I enjoy reading to them, singing songs with them, and praying over them before they close their eyes. Some nights these routines are long and drawn-out because we have extra time. Other nights they are short and to the point because we have returned home after a late night of activities. Some nights, however, the routines are shortened because Mandy and I simply do not have much energy left and need the kids to go bed.
Last night could have been one such night. It had been a long weekend of being indoors because of an inordinate amount of rain (which wiped out a weekend of baseball) and we were all going a bit stir-crazy. After reading Seth and Ethan two books while sitting on the floor with them Seth asked me if I would “Superman” him in to bed (a process whereby they “fly” in my arms with their hands held out in front of their bodies and then I drop them on to their bed). I told him, “No”.
Seth, to his credit, did not complain. He did not whine. He simply looked at me with big eyes, accepted my answer, and hopped up in to bed. In that flash of time, however, I saw a glimpse of a future where I would be wishing Seth would ask me to “Superman” him in to bed but he no longer asks. His childish wishes and tendencies having been replaced by a blooming maturity that foreshadows the man he will become.
So, after singing a song with both them, I told Seth and Ethan to stand up because I was going to “Superman” them in to bed. Eyes returned to their large state but this time were joined by ear-to-ear smiles and giggles as they took a trip around the room in my arms. Changing one word did not radically change any of our days.
Or perhaps it did.
In a world filled with necessary “Nos”, it was a poignant reminder of the power of saying, “Yes”. Two little boys (and one father) were able to share a sweet, fun moment that will become part of the tie that binds them together forever. There is value in teaching our children when to say, “No”. But there is also unbelievable power in showing them what it means to say, “Yes”.