“NO!” Blocks Creativity, how about “What else?”

Posted By on November 25, 2012

“No” may be one of the very first words we learn to say as children. We know exactly what we don’t want. We learn to say “no” when someone is hurting us or someone else. “No” can be handy in such instances that give boundaries, but it is sorely overused. I remember my parents and teachers saying “no” to me all the time. I remember saying “no” to my children, my brother and sometimes my husband.

It can be effective but it has a side effect. “No” left on it’s own hinders creativity, imagination, progress and growth. I’ve learned that boundaries are healthy and so is creativity. So, I do something called “What else?”

When my children ask me if they can do or buy something, I say, “What else could happen?”

Example: My 11 year old just starting getting into Magic Cards. Some of the pictures are a little gorey. When my eight and five year old ask me if they could have cards too, my knee jerk reaction was “NO”. What I said was, “I don’t believe Magic cards are appropriate for you right now. I wonder what else could you do?”

What they came up with was spending hours cutting, drawing and creating Cards of their own they thought would be mom approved.

Example: Last Summer, my children realized that though we don’t own a TV, we could get any programing on the internet. They came pestering me to watch a program almost every day. My reaction was to say, “No, of course not, that would rot your brain.” What I said was, “Why don’t you make your own program?”

And they did … even dad got into it. With development, production and editing, they spent the Summer (with road trips and camping intermingled in between) working together to create the following movies.

Example 3: When my children argued about whether to go to the library or the pool, their argument ended with my eleven year old saying, “could we just go to the library and then to the pool?” Everyone cheers because everyone gets what they want. It’s not about one or the other, it’s about what else could meet our needs more harmoniously?

When “what else?” entered our lives, we got to enjoy more connection, creativity and fun.

About The Author

I am a Chinese-American mother of three boys, parenting with the traditions worth keeping from the East and West. I continue to learn new ways of raising a family and myself.


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