My daughter (4 years old) always offers me the best insight to relationships, horses and life.
We were in a store recently, and my daughter was trying on hats. There was another little girl there too – she was just barely toddling around, I guess somewhere between a ‘baby’ and a ‘toddler’. The little girl went over to pick up the hat my daughter had placed on the chair to try on.
Before I had a chance to say a word, the mother of the little one said to my daughter, “You just tell her NO – that is MY hat”.
My 4 year old daughter responded without hesitation and said, “She does not understand that.”
The mother seems a bit taken back and after a brief pause she replied, “Well, you are right.”
I was blown away by my daughter’s ability to process the situation AND to respond so smoothly and quickly, in such a profound and honest way.
The fact is – she was exactly right. That tiny toddler did not understand the word NO yet, so to bark NO at her would not make any sense to her at all.
How many times is a child’s first word NO? It is one of the first things they tend to say and I wonder why? Well, that is simple – they hear us say it the most! How else would they learn it?
You may be thinking – that is how she’ll learn what “NO” means. She must learn that she cannot do certain things. (I am sure MANY feel this way – it is how many are raised)
Well, it may be quite common to give an order and then expect the one being ordered to figure out the meaning of that order later, but this is where I feel we can and should do things a different way.
Imagine you have no understanding of the human language at all. (say you are a baby or a horse) You have this new person with you that goes everywhere you go. There are new things to look at, to touch, to explore. As you see a new thing, you are filled with curiosity and this innate drive to follow that curious nature and explore these things. It is a wonderfully overwhelming feeling that comes from deep inside of you. It has nothing to do with your outside world. It has everything to do with your inside world expanding outward.
Now, imagine if this new person that is always with you was to make some odd, scary, sharp sound every time you started to feel this way, every time you started to touch something new. (This would also be the same time that wonderful feeling of curiosity filled you up) You do not know what the sound means at first, but you do not like it and you always hear it when you are wanting to explore new things, you always hear it when you are feeling your curiosity grow. It is a harsh, scary sound and you really want to avoid hearing it. So what can you do in order to make it stop? … From your limited perspective, the only thing that would work is to not look, not touch, not explore, and most of all … not FEEL the wonderful feeling of curiosity that is tugged at you from inside. … Dull all of that out, so that you do not hear that harsh sound… because those are the things that trigger that harsh sound. At some point you realize that harsh sound is carried on this thing called a word and that word is apparently spelled with a “N” then an “O”.
Woohoo! You have learned what NO means! You are growing up, you should be so proud of yourself for becoming so good at following orders and fitting in and doing what everyone else does. YIPPEEE! This is great right? …
Well, I am sure you already guessed I would say NO to that! – NO I do not think this is good at all … Not when you look at what it really happening to the hard wiring in your brain when it comes to how you feel you should handle new thoughts, new experiences, new creativity.
Many of us have grown up this way. Many of us train our horses this way. Many of us raise our children this way. Many of us interact with others this way. … Many of us interact with our Selves this way.
NO, do not touch that, you might break it. NO, do not paint there, it might get too messy. NO, do not play over there, you may get too dirty. No, do not think that, you’ll never be able to do it. NO, do not pull on me I am your boss, I get to boss you around … the list of NO is infinite – only surpassed by the amount of creativity it is suffocating.
Now, I know plenty of people will read this and think – well what if my child is about to touch the stove or be in danger. I MUST say NO then. … and I would say yes, if your child is in danger, do whatever you can to keep them safe, do use that tone that means stop – no matter what word it is carried with. The child will be much more likely to notice that warning tone and actually respond if they only hear it when they truly need to – rather than every time they go to try something new. Better yet, attempt to prevent that situation from happening in the first place – even though we all know things still happen. Life is going to happen. Mistakes will be made, boo boos will appear and most of the time, we still survive. It is not just about survival, but what we do with that survival that becomes the foot-print we leave in this world.
So what about the kid wanting to play with my daughter’s hat? Well, instead of a complete stranger (my daughter) telling the little kid a hasty NO – why not trade her for another hat that she can explore? That drive to learn, to grow, to use our imagination and explore life. THAT is so important – it is possibly the most important innate quality we have (and we are ALL born with it) This innate drive causes us to discover new things, to change the world for the better, to be the light that others can follow because we can actually see our own light.
Emotions lead us in all we do. Emotion causes actions. If we desire to guide actions in others (horses or humans) we must first guide their emotions. We should also recognize that when we become fixated on correcting an action, we are always manipulating an underlying emotion at the same time. That same emotion that leads the kid to explore my daughter’s hat could lead her to discover a cure for some disease when she grows up. The emotion guides. That emotion must be protected and nurtured.
I am still amazed, proud and just blown away at my 4 year old daughter’s ability to recognize this with such grace … and then to so smoothly relay it back to this stranger with such confidence.
“She does not understand that yet”
We will all grow to understand our world through our own lens. No matter the lens your parents put in your glasses – YOU have the ability to select your own lens to see life through. It is not easy when we have paths hard wired in our brains to NOT feel, NOT explore, NOT be curious, NOT be who we are destined to be. However, YOU are the only one that decides what glasses to put on each day. Try a pair of clear ones for a change and look at the world through new eyes.
Ignore that voice that says, “NO, don’t think that thought, you can never do that”
If the hat you wish to explore is not yours, try another one – but by all means, do NOT stop exploring.
Your heart never says “NO” to your desire to dream and to grow.