Today is Halloween. There are lots of excited kids everywhere, naturally. I happened to hear 4-year old child ask her mom today, “Mommy can I wear my costume tomorrow?”
The mother replied, “No honey – it’s Halloween today. Tomorrow it’s over.”
But the best part was what happened next. This little girl looks right up at her mother and said, “But Mommy, you said I could wear my costume whenever I want!”
Hmmm – good point isn’t it?
I think the mother agreed. Because she started to back pedal. She said, “Yes, I did say that. I meant you can wear your costume at home whenever you want. You can play dressup with it after Halloween is over”.
This cute little girl seemed happy enough with that answer. But it reminded me that parents often say “No!” without thinking about it at all. Often, saying no to your child is an attempt to force your view of the world on the child.
Why we say “no”
If you are going to say “no” to your child for something, it should be for a valid reason. Feeling that the child might look silly is NOT a valid reason.
Let’s say that this little girl really did want to wear her costume to school the day after Halloween. It was an angel costume, BTW. A cute white dress with a halo headband and some elastic strap-on wings. Would you have a problem letting your child go to school wearing that costume? Personally, I wouldn’t. That doesn’t mean I’d sit back and do nothing – but it would be my child’s decision to make. I wouldn’t rob her of the experience to learn from her own decisions.
I feel that most of the time parents will try to talk their child out of doing something like this. It is the parents limiting belief that gets in the way. The parent believes the child will look silly, or the parent worries that the teachers (and other parents) will think he or she has bad parenting judgment.
So that’s the “pain” that the parent is trying to avoid.
But let’s look at the learning experience that the child misses out on when the parent gets in the way. The child may wake up the next morning and decide they really don’t want to wear their costume anymore. This, alone, helps the child learn how to make decisions.
Or the child might go to school and be the only one wearing a Halloween costume. Classmates might think it’s cool – teaching your child that it can be fun to stand out from the crowd. Or classmates might tease this costume-loving child. All kids will eventually get teased about something, so I think we may as well train our kids NOW – when they are young.
If I were faced with this situation I’d encourage the child to make up her own mind on what to wear. And if she wanted to wear the costume I’d point out to her that some kids might say nasty things because she’s dressing different. I’d ask her how she would respond to a mean comment by a classmate. I’d do this as a coach, not as someone trying to convince the child to make a different decision. Coaching a child is about helping her understand the potential outcomes, and how she’ll deal with each one. It’s not about making decisions FOR your child and taking away the learning that comes from dealing with your own problems.
Perhaps most important – I want to encourage you to raise a child who is comfortable trying something new. If you discourage your kid from wearing a certain item of clothing at the age of 4, imagine how much damage you are doing to that kid’s long term potential for thinking outside of the box.
Pretty spooky thought (and fitting for Halloween).