Moving towards ‘yes’
Sorry, that was a joke. (The song)
Honestly, have you ever counted the number of times you use the word ‘no’ with your kids? 3,607 and it isn’t even noon yet, right? Partly, you are running the labyrinth of obstacles that can maim/harm/impair your child (sure, this is less true as they age and become a little more self-aware, but this is our job as parents regardless of their age: keep them safe from harm. And, frankly, it seems to get complicated again as they hit the tween/teen years.). No, you can’t touch the knife. No, you can’t play ball in the kitchen. No, you can’t jump on the trampoline with your baby sister. No, you can’t color on the table. No, you can’t read that war book. No, you can’t watch that program. No, you can’t play video games. No no no until you just want them to STOP asking for the love of all things holy and just sit down and be quiet for 5 minutes already. Been there, right?
You can accomplish the very same thing - keeping them safe from harm, and quasi-controlling what they do and don’t touch/play with - and you can do so with the word ‘yes’.
Yes, you can jump on the trampoline; your sister and I will watch you do your new trick.
Yes, you can help me in the kitchen. How about you use this spoon and bowl, and you can help be my master mixer?
Yes, you can watch that program, right after we clean up these toys and books. How fast can you do it? I’ll time you! Ready, set, go!
Yes, you can read. How about this new National Geo kids magazine? You can tell me about the amazing stories they have in there.
Yes, you can play a game. How about we get your brothers and play Twister?
Yes, you can play ball. Let’s go in the backyard and see how many times we can kick it back and forth without missing?
Yes, you can color. Would you like to use this tablet or the easel?
See? Wasn’t that magic?
Why change the words if the effect is the same? In part because a negative frame of mind is a heavy thing to drag around, and also because you want to help your kiddos to maintain their open-minded anything-is-possible frame of mind. They can’t do that if they keep getting ‘no’ thrown in their face. Kids have a magical outlook on life; for them it is all about what ALL they can do. As we get older, as we age, and as we learn life lessons, we start seeing limitations and probabilities. We start seeing disappointment, and what if-ing ourselves into not even trying. Where is the fun in that? We see a trip as a mistake or a fail; kids see a trip and potential fall as a possibility to check out a crack in the sidewalk they may not have noticed otherwise. That’s what seeing the world as a big YES is like.
Saying yes is a treat for you, too.
It doesn’t mean spoiling your kids and letting them walk all over you. Being a yes parent means knowing that your ample time with your kids is slowly dwindling, in part because they are growing up and are itching to be with their peers, and in part because their school and sport obligations start taking a lot more time and not requiring your assistance any longer. It’s also important to know that they remember the nos and yeses; it’s important to them that they can count more yeses (especially for your sanities sake, yeses on the things that didn’t really matter to you, but totally mattered to them). Finding your own joy in the things that matter to
Sometimes, still, a No is necessary. Crossing the street, running around in parking lots, walking in crowded shopping malls, ... use your No. Make it mean something. Don't dilute it with arguing about all of the little stuff. If you say no less often, it will have a greater impact.
Save your No for when it is important. The little stuff? Those can be yeses, and the more you say yes to your kids, the more they will respect what you say and listen. Not because you are more permissive, but because you are respecting their need to try and discover. Clearly, you GET them. Saying yes means that you are acknowledging their need to do and discover ... on your own terms.