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Choosing to say ‘yes’ over ‘no’ to help children grow

Embracing a ‘yes’ mindset as a parent involves creating an environment where children feel supported, encouraged to explore, and empowered to learn from successes and setbacks.

NEWS 27 June 2024

When we are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of young people, it can be all too easy to veer on the side of caution and say ‘no’. ‘No, you can’t’. ‘No, you shouldn’t. ‘No, I don’t think so’. Choosing to take this road may provide parents with peace of mind, knowing children are safe from potential harm or failure.

However, it is worth recognising the value in encouragement and being open to a ‘yes’ mindset. Saying ‘yes’ and giving young people the opportunity to explore, to learn, to fall short and keep trying can offer all kinds of positive impacts on their wellbeing. From learning that it is okay to make mistakes, to recognising when a situation comes with genuine risks, ‘yes’ can be the gateway to great growth.

Understanding why we want to say ‘no’

Every parent wants to see their child succeed and thrive. They might feel compelled to say ‘no’ out of concerns for their child’s safety, fear of failure, or even a preference to stay in control over their child’s experiences to reduce any potential risks. Not only that, our own experiences and setbacks can influence how likely we are to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to experiences that come with a degree of risk.

These are valid reasons that often come from a place of love and protection but can ultimately have negative impacts of a young person’s growth.

“All parents want only success for their child. But the reality is that from failing or not succeeding, comes a huge resilience that can be applied to so many things”

Moving away from a 'no' mindset

Failure is an inevitable part of life, learning and growth. When children face setbacks—whether in academics, sports, or social situations—they’re also faced with the opportunity to build their resilience, develop problem-solving skills, and learn more about persevering through tough times. In doing so, they are likely to be more empowered to bounce back stronger and more determined to succeed. Failure also helps young people realise that setbacks and shortcomings are not permanent. They are stepping stones on the road towards eventual success.

It might seem challenging to move from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ mindset, especially if you are naturally inclined to want to take extra care to avoid falling short, or your children doing the same. The first step is often looking inward and reflecting on why our first instinct is to say ‘no’. Consider for yourself the potential benefits of saying ‘yes’, then apply this to your child’s life.

As Neringa Smith, Haileybury’s Director of Counselling Services says, “Parents might start with their own self-reflection and whether their responses tend to be ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’. Reflect on why they may be responding in this way; is it because they are worried about their child experiencing a failure? Or are there other reasons?” To continue to break this habit, aim to foster open communication with your child to understand their perspectives and motivations better. By actively listening and engaging parents can create an environment where children feel heard, understood, and supported. While you as a parent feel more comfortable to say ‘yes’ to new experiences instead.

Connecting through shared failures

We have all experienced failure at some point in our lives. It is a part of being human. If your child is experiencing negative emotions around your own failures and shortcomings, it’s important to try and provide support and reassurance. By fostering a supportive environment where mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities, we can help children develop a growth mindset and resilience in the face of adversity.

One of the most powerful ways we can do this as adults in the lives of children is by sharing personal stories of failures or mistakes and how we as adults overcame these setbacks. These conversations provide a platform to connect with your children and strengthen your bond as you both navigate the fears around shortcomings.

“Parents sharing their own experiences can be a powerful way of connecting with their child and role modelling how you manage setbacks. Sharing your own experiences of failure and how you overcame these shows children that you also make mistakes, that it’s okay to do so and which strategies have worked for you”

It is important to remember that children build resilience by working through setbacks and if parents try to fix everything, children miss valuable opportunities. Sometimes, the only way for children to learn and grow is to experience setbacks themselves. “As parents we have to allow our children to sit with the ‘uncomfortable’ and work through this, to enable them to move on and try again”, says Diane. “Give your child the space they need to learn from mistakes or when things didn’t go as planned”.

Encouraging children to say ‘yes’ to life outside their comfort zones

You might find your child resisting activities they don’t feel comfortable or confident with, even when you’ve embraced a ‘yes’ mindset as a parent. So how can we encourage young people to overcome that apprehension and uncertainty and say ‘yes’ to new experiences?

Offering gradual exposure and providing gentle support and encouragement are ideal first steps. Focus on the process rather than the outcome, celebrating your child’s efforts and progress along the way. Make sure that the activities they are taking part in are age-appropriate and adequately challenging. Give your child a say in the activity and its difficulty, so that they feel like they have some control and are setting the pace for their shift towards more of a ‘yes’ mindset.

From there, you will have set the foundation to support your child as they face challenges and new experiences, along with potential setbacks too. You can acknowledge the bravery it takes to take those steps and provide a safe space to gradually build confidence as resilience. Neringa suggests “providing a non-judgemental approach, allowing the child to lead the discussion around what went well and what didn’t and what they learnt from the experience”.

Haileybury offers children of all ages many opportunities to say ‘yes’ to activities and experiences outside their comfort zone – including school productions, sporting activities, music ensembles, pipes and drums and the Duke of Edinburgh. Our Experiential Learning program also involves school camps from Year 3 – Year 9. As Diane says, “these are fabulous opportunities for students to try new things, build resilience, learn about the importance of working as a team. Also being away from home and having to manage without mum and dad.”

A positive approach from parents

Embracing a ‘yes’ mindset as a parent involves creating an environment where children feel supported, encouraged to explore, and empowered to learn from both successes and setbacks. By saying ‘yes’ more often, parents not only enrich their children’s experiences but also nurture their resilience and confidence in navigating life’s challenges. This positive approach fosters a strong foundation for growth, self-discovery, and mutual understanding within the parent-child relationship.