I just needed a few more minutes so to keep her occupied, I asked her to keep herself busy by writing whatever she wanted on the board behind my desk. After a few minutes she remarked, “Huh, there’s a lot of NOs papa”, as she pointed to the list she almost completed.
I turned around and noticed that she had written the rules she learned from a poster hung up in her 1st grade class at school. It’s a list of the rules kids are supposed to follow: No running, no pushing, no talking, no hitting, etc. A little spelling mistake aside, they’re pretty good…basic stuff.
But it got me thinking about rules we teach ourselves and eventually to our children. Not about behavior in school but about life.
What I was taught growing up was that if you do THIS, then you’ll get THAT. Pretty logical and reasonable. But in so many circumstances today, I feel like that’s not true anymore. You work hard but you can still be laid off. You get a big customer but you can lose that customer because of something totally out of your control. Two entrepreneurs can start the exact same business and do pretty much the same things but one might succeed while the other one fails. Life is so complex and unpredictable these days that you just cannot count on the same results you expected in the past.
So, as I thought about this, I realized that I needed to teach my daughter some new rules. Instead of NO, I need to be using YES to prepare her for the real world where she will need to know how to embrace the chaos. To help her move from what she CANNOT do….to what she CAN do. So as an experiment, I came up with my set of new ‘rules’ for my 6-year-old daughter to go side by side with her NO set of rules:
1. YES, Do ask really tough questions in class. Because questions lead us to understand complex things.
2. YES, ask for more than 10 minutes of homework. Because learning should never stop.
3. YES, I will learn to be speak another language. Because communicating with a global workforce will come in handy.
4. YES, I will learn to fail and be ok with not succeeding all the time. Because great success comes by learning from failure.
5. YES, I will raise my hand for new assignments. Because you can’t survive in a new world without getting out of the house.
6. YES, I will try something I’m afraid to try. Because the real world can be uncomfortable and we need to get used to it.
7. YES, I CAN do anything but I have to work hard at it – really hard. Because life doesn’t hand you “A”s as easily as 1st grade teachers do.
8. YES, I will stop whining (ok, ok…this is my wish list for her). Because life is good and we have to be grateful for what we DO have not what we DON’T have.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to instill these principles in my daughter as she progresses through life. But what I am sure about is that for me to do right by her, I need to try. And to begin, move her default from NO to YES.