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Saying No So You Can Be the Best

Sanjeev Bajwa

Easily one of the hardest things about parenting is saying “no” to your child. Whether it’s to that toy at the checkout counter (those suckers always get us with their colorful, eye-level-for-kids display!) or that dessert because lil one has not finished her vegetables. 

But how do you say no when you are trying to encourage development at the same time?

Our venture into the online e-commerce world was precipitated by our desire to show our oldest daughter that her skills and interests are valued (see our story at https://art-princess.com/pages/about-us.) But we also have to make sure what we are showcasing is also the best because, let’s face it, we want our children to be their best. 

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, the pressure to be the best can be overwhelming. The school systems produce stellar students. Seemingly everyone has a nice, fast car or a super dope house.

Everyone has a house cleaner. We don’t. In fact, our girls vacuum our house. We embarked on this endeavor in 2019. So not a lot of empirical data yet, but I can report on what we have learned from this endeavor. The initial reason for giving this chore to the children was because I just did not have the time or energy to do it - 3 elementary-aged children, cooking fresh dinners, packing lunches, cleaning the bathrooms, doing the dishes, and the laundry. Or boy that never-ending stream of laundry. And the activities. All in different areas while juggling urban traffic. The point is something had to give.

The vacuuming gave. 

Coaxing the girls to do the vacuum has not been easy. To the contrary, it has been a struggle. Because, as a child you want to cut corners. To be fair, as adults, we also want to cut corners so we can get to the fun stuff. Anyway,the first couple of weeks, we’d find ourselves going over the same room the kids had “vacuumed.”

But here’s the thing, as the kids see what we do and we take the time to show them where they missed spots, we ended up seeing less missed spots. So much so that this past week’s cleaning, we did not have to “touch up” any room at all.

The girls love the art presented on this page (see https://art-princess.com/pages/featured-artist-manpreet-k.) My cousin spent years developing and nurturing her skill until she reached this point - where her art, in all its whimsical, eclectic, sweet glory, speaks to you.

 Children have this tendency to draw something and present it to you, fully expecting an enthusiastic “Great job!” and the obligatory hanging of the drawing on the fridge or corkboard. But we’ve realized our girls are starting to understand that not everything they present us with is ready to be placed on art-princess.com.

Yesterday, my middle one told me she was drawing a flower. I responded that’s great.

She then asked “Can we put it on Art Princess when it’s ready?” 

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

She replied, “It’s not ready yet. I have to add more petals and fill it in more so that it can really look good on the website.”

Call me a proud parent, but I thought this was pretty astute of a 7-year old. But I digress.
The bigger question is how was it that a 7-year old could surmise that what she had drawn was not enough, that it needed more color, more depth, just more so that it is ready to be included on a website dedicated to showcasing art in its best form?

 I think its because she observes – not a new or radical idea that our children learn by using their five senses to experience, comprehend and maneuver their way in this world.

It is also because we have said “no” to her and her sisters in the past. We have told them “Ok, good job” followed with words of encouragement and suggestions on how to improve something. Have our improvement suggestions been taken well? Of course not. It is innate in human nature to believe that what you produce is the best. Being told that something you have prepared/created/made needs to be revised or changed, even if presented as constructive criticism, is often met with resistance, especially in the elementary-age crowd.

 But, we as parents, cannot stray far from that goal – that we want our children to be their best, and that can only come with feedback and hard work.

For us, we are using this website as a medium to teach via demonstration what you need to do and why you need to do it to be the best. Don’t assume what you present the first-go-around is enough. Always strive to improve yourself.

And that is a lesson that can only be learned after you fail. After you are told “no.”


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