Sunday, August 05, 2007

Say Yes to No

Minnesota has launched a new campaign, "Say Yes To No," that encourages parents to be more active in setting limits on their children, particularly when it comes to consuming media - which are filled with "yes" messages. Why? The site link above notes that "The constant barrage of “yes” messages undermines crucial character traits for success, including self-reliance, respect, integrity and the ability to delay gratification." The campaign promotes Dr. David Walsh's new book, "No. Why Kids – of All Ages – Need to Hear it and Ways Parents Can Say It," as a way of addressing the "yes" syndrome in our culture.

I haven't yet read the book, but I love the concept. It immediately reminded me of a recent conversation. My friend - a company president and someone with tremendous means - told me that he was having diffculty getting across the concept of saving with his 5-year-old. I probed a bit and found that his real problem was that he was having a difficult time saying no to "small requests." These requests (toys, games, etc.) were adding up and he was feeling that his child was beginning to become one of those "entitled" types. The irony of this was staggering - the wealth he had amassed by embodying the traits above was enabling him to potentially deprive his son of those very important traits. I told him that he really needed to learn how to say "no." Sure, he can afford most anything his son would like, but perhaps it was time to use the phrase, "it's not in our budget." It's just one way to "say yes to no."


Raffy said...

While I've never been accused of being a trust fund baby, I can plead guilt for, on occasion, giving into my kids on things they seem to have a desperate desire for (my 3 year old will say 'Nah Dad, that's ok, I don't need that toy', oh, about once a year!). Growing up, I was an EXPERT at deferred gratification. Everything was 'not now, maybe later, when you grow up' and that was a cunning tactic on the part of my parents to get me thinking about something OTHER than the object of my temporary desire at that moment.

I do believe, strongly, that if you teach a child the value of work, and when I say value, I mean cold, hard cash as well as the satisfaction of accomplishment and the enhancement of confidence, that child will be addicted to the do-it-yourself, conservative financial perspective that is in the DNA of the most successful people in America, if not the world.

Knowing value is primary, it drives world markets and it drives the financial, social and intellectual decision-making of a child, something he or she will have great use for as an adult.

I may be an overzealous educator of financial concepts and principles when it comes to my boys, but it's something I didn't necessarily experience growing up (our financial guidance was summed up in the word "No!"), and it's something I want to give my children, as a gift they will use every minute of their lives. I don't always practice what I preach, but I hope that something useful and indelible will remain with my children when it comes to the concept of money and how it is a tool, rather than a goal, a means rather than an end, and a very important part of life, but not the definition of life.

I'll let you know how it turns out in about 20 years!

Rachel said...

This sounds like something that has been needed for quite some time. Our society is very "need" happy. Everything we lay our eyes on we think we have to have. I can't wait to get a copy of that book and see what Minnesota comes up with for further resources.

I admit, it is very difficult to not get things for your children when you can afford them. But, it only helps them develop stronger character. The biggest obstacle I run into is getting my husband to agree with me.

For example, my son's 4th birthday. My husband wanted to get both a dog and a "Jeep" power wheels car for my son. I argued that he should get one or the other for his birthday. Both would be great to give a 4 year old, but I didn't want my son to expect HUGE presents for every birthday. My husband is a giver and loves to surpise/overwhelm others with his gifts, so we had a few days of debates. Finally, we agreed that the we could get both, but we gave the dog as an Easter present to the family, and the Jeep as the birthday present (albeit they were only a few weeks apart). I thought that was a reasonable compromise, even if I didn't really get to save one of the expenses. The funny thing is, my son didn't really ask for either...maybe I need to work on Saying Yes to No with my hubby? :0)