By nature, people like be right. We like to be correct. It makes us feel smarter. Kids are people. They like to be right too. Referring back FEAR as addressed in Secret #2, if a kid is afraid to look or sound dumb or un-cool if he or she does something incorrectly, how likely do you think that child is to participate in class, join a club or sport, or try new things?
That leads us to Parenting Secret #3 to Empower Kids: No means Yes.
No means yes is about framing the choices your kids have so that either one is correct or a positive outcome. Has your child ever said something like the following statement to you? “I know what you’re going to say so I’m not even going to ask.” If so, in return you should say, “Well, either way you’re going to be right then. So, if you ask and I do say no then that means you were smart enough to think ahead and know what the answer was. And if my answer is yes, then you get to do what it is you really want to do anyway. So… either way you wind up winning, you come out ahead!” What this means is that with our kids, and even ourselves really, we need them to frame our questions so that no means yes. Either way, we’ve created a successful outcome.
This empowerment secret is also useful in the classroom. Many of the teachers I work with use the story of Thomas Edison to demonstrate this to their students. Legend has it that Thomas Edison was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter about his many incredible inventions. The reporter began asking questions focusing on the numerous failed experiments while working on inventing the electric light bulb. According to Edison’s own journals, there were over 2,000 experiments that did NOT produce a viable light bulb. The reporter asked how Edison could keep going after failing so many times. Edison’s reply was a perfect example of “no means yes.” He said, “I didn’t fail over 2,000 times. I succeeded in eliminating over 2,000 possibilities. I was not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
Each of The 10 Parenting Secrets to Empower Kids are helpful and important it its own right. Like building materials at a construction site that make a tall skyscraper, the 10 Secrets combine to build an identity and belief system that reaches for new heights. However, this secret has added importance in that it connects several other secrets with each other. It serves to spread the weight across the entire system. It keeps them thinking positively when circumstances might normally dictate otherwise.
When practiced on a regular basis with kids, “no means yes” teaches kids to use the same strategy for themselves. Now, not only will they ask more questions, but they will also begin coming up with their own creative solutions. And that is when the magic happens. By turning no into yes we give our kids the ability to examine the choices that are presented to them and weigh the outcomes. Ultimately, by understanding the outcome in advance, your kids are able to plan their actions with more forethought - thereby, making better choices.
How can you start to employ “no means yes” with your kids and just as importantly with yourself?