“The ‘no’ is a soul-crusher, because life is ‘yes.’ Life is affirming. Life is always saying, ‘yes’”– Dr. Shefali Tsabary, during an episode of “Oprah’s Lifeclass” aired on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network
The Huffington Post ran an article (and video), “How to Say No To Your Child Without Actually Saying ‘No’” on the 29th of September 2014, a few days later I saw this article when a friend shared it on Facebook. Her posting quickly garnered a multitude of comments both in support of and against the article’s message. Regardless of people’s stand-point most seemed to take issue with the phases “crushing a child’s spirit” and “soul-crushing” with multiple (sarcastic) comments on the over-exaggeration.
The comments and the article got me thinking about “soul-crushing” because I have been known to say ‘no’ from time to time very firmly (and mean it!). Am I crushing my children? This thought lasted all of a minute. The fact of the matter is, saying ‘no’ too often or not enough is only a drop in the bucket of things I may do wrong as a parent. The good news is, it isn’t just one thing that I do that is going to screw up my children, it’s going to be a multitude of things. Yep, there are many, many things I have done and will do throughout my children’s lives that have the potential to be soul-crushing and f-up my kids. I will become frustrated, yell, and occasionally throw my own little tantrums. I have been known to say, “I am so mad right now I can’t even look at you – go to your room” and I’ve really, really meant it. I will rationalize and explain some things to my children, but sometimes, “because I said so,” is all the answer they are going to get. I drop f-bombs occasionally, and this weekend I laughed when my almost 8 yo son said, “shit!” while playing family game night UNO before I corrected his language. So the fact of the matter is, how I say or do not say ‘no’ to my children when they ask to stay up late or watch an inappropriate movie, is just one of many things in life that I do potentially “crushing their souls.” For the record, I don’t actually believe their souls are crushed.
I believe, luckily for me and for every other flawed, trying-really-hard-to-be-a-good-parent out there, that children are resilient and forgiving. Children are also very aware. My boys see me trying to be a good parent. They hear me saying, “I’m not perfect but I’m trying to raise you to be better than me.” They might not understand the message yet, but they hear it and know that there is a method to my madness even if I don’t take the time to explain it in each moment. They hear me and understand that we don’t repeat all of the words momma might say when she is upset. They hear that the most important thing is to keep trying and practice makes better. And if their souls are crushed, they also hear me saying, “I love you” and “I will love you no matter what, always and forever” and that goes a long way in repairing whatever crush marks might exist.