No. No. NO. NO-OH. I said, "NO!"
The toddler precariously sways back and forth as his attention is drawn to the colorful collection of turtles that his mother keeps so lovingly arranged on the shelves near the front door. His mother glances sideways, her eyes leaving her work. The first no is just a small warning earning her a mischievous I love you, Mommy look. She continues to watch him over the top of her computer with a tug of impatience. Turtle, he exclaims as his hand flies out to indicate his precious discovery. Overreacting, she jumps up from the table knocking over the glass of water that had been within arms length, and reminds him more forecefully, No. The commotion caused by the banging of the table and the glass distract the young boy for a moment, long enough for Mom to survey the mess. At least the computer was not in the path of the water, but her annoyance level has definitely gone up. As Mommy goes to get a paper towel to pick up the spill, she looks at her little cherub and wags her finger at the turtles as she looks him in the eyes saying, No-oh. Of course, the inevitable happens. Just as she arrives to the kitchen counter, she hears the unmistakable sound of breaking ceramic. She rolls her eyes, takes a deep breath, scurries back to the living room and raising her voice exclaims, "I said, NO!"
This was me 8 and half years ago. The funny part is that many of the adults around me continued for many years to proclaim me a wonderful mother because my children knew how to "behave." I am convinced that I was doing the best I could at the moment, but I have continued learning ad studying. I have begun to change my defintion of "behave" to incorporate curiosity, autonomy, questioning, and finding solutions. As you can imagine, that often leads to children who "misbehave" all over the place. They touch things in the grocery store, they make mixtures and messes to find new smells, they question adults reasoning, and they take apart and put things together reaching conclusions that may not be correct in an adult's eyes. They waste time and never move quite fast enough for the adults in their life, but they are wise. They understand that it is okay to have an opinion and support it, to ask for a reason when asked to do something they may not agree with, to make a mess as long as it is cleaned up, and to demand equal treatment.
I am entering into the realm of "misbehavior" and propose that our current definition of behavior ("to have or bear oneself in a particular way, comport"- Online Etymology Dictionary) needs to be debated upon in the hopes that this word can hold a meaning that encompasses both the emotional intelligence and intrinsic curiosity of our children as pointed out by Jerome Bruner and John D. Mayer. As uncomfortable as it is for the mothers and fathers who were raised with strict rules as to the proper way to behave to allow the children of the new generation to explore their potential and to grow under supreme self confidence, we must make the effort. Yes leads to openness. Yes leads to possibilities. Yes leads to joy. Whereas, no leads only to limitations, closedmindedness, and boredom.
In the end, the question remains, and what would happen if we said, "YES!"?