How the option to say “no” could save your child’s life

STF AdminChildren, Culture

“Oh! Ummmm….yes, that’s ok….thank you so much for asking. I never thought of that,” the young mom stared at the other mom a little perplexed and thoughtfully sat back down.

What was this all about? Well, it was quite simple. While I was sitting in Chapters reading a unnecessarily tall pile of books to my 2-year-old, a couple of 4-year-old boys next to us were playing with a train set, under the watchful eyes of their respective mothers.

As one mom crouched with her phone trying to get the perfect adorable photo of her son playing, she looked at the other mom and said, “I was going to post this on Instagram; is it alright that your son is in the background?”

The other mom looked shocked, and then, after giving her spluttering permission, sat down; you could watch the wheels turn in her head. Worrying about the effect our social media has on other people is something we rarely do.

What the first mom did was acknowledge that no matter how cute her son looked, and how many likes she would get for posting the classic “boy with wooden train set” photo, she was not responsible for everyone in the photo and they should have the option to decline having their photos posted online.

My first thought was just how polite it was. Then I saw the second mom clearly thinking about her own use of social media and how it affected her kids and other peoples’ kids. I thought of what a wonderful teaching moment that was for both those boys.

The simple interaction taught 3 important lessons:

1) Our actions affect other people.

Both kids learned from that interaction that we should stop and think about how are actions, and social media presence, affects others; we are not completely autonomous creatures and we need to consider those around us.

2) Doing the right thing is more important than getting “likes”.

In today’s culture, where likes and comments are social currency, we can forget what really matters. However, in this instance, the mom who asked permission demonstrated that her online popularity came, at most, second to the real people that she was interacting with.

3) We are allowed to say “no”.

The most important lesson both kids learned was that “no” is an option. Recently a story went viral after a dad shared how his 7-year-old daughter was pressured through a social media app to send naked photos of herself. Thankfully, his daughter not only knew enough to say “no”, but went and told her parents.

Sadly, many children (and older kids, teenagers, and young adults even) don’t know how to say “no”. The pressure to receive approval is a really strong impulse and many of us can grow up without real confidence that saying “no” is an option. By clearly respecting someone else’s right to say “no”, this mom showed that it truly was an option, and provided a clear teaching opportunity for each kid and their mother later.

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