say yes when you can

say yes to small kids requestsIn a return to our roots and what we’re all about – seeing opportunity and implementing small shifts in mindset that really enhance the way we engage with our kids – today we share one of our favorite ideas from our book we both return to again and again.

Say “yes” when you can. 
By this we mean look for—and be open to—more chances to say “yes.” This powerhouse tactic can do three things: smooth the bumps, affirm your child, and help you emphasize the boundaries that are most meaningful.

It can be dismaying how frequently, in the face of parenting exhaustion and stress, our knee-jerk response to children’s desires is “no.” When tensions rise, we try to call upon the little mantra, “Can I say yes here?” It often finesses the way forward. “May I have another cookie?” “Can I drink out of one of those cups?” These straightforward requests can sometimes be indulged to get over a hump or reward a patient child. Most of us are nagged by the fear that this kind of indulgence might lead to bad habits or spoiled kids. Remind yourself that there don’t need to be hard and fast rules: on some days it might be okay to have the extra cookie, and on others not. Likewise, for some families some options are a possibility, and for others not. “Yes, you may have another cookie” (because you were really cooperative while we were running errands, and I appreciate it), or maybe it’s “not now” because dinner is almost ready. “Yes, you may drink out of that cup” (but only water). “Yes, but –“ can sometimes work wonders. Hooray! You are still in charge!

There are also opportunities to say “yes” to requests that are often brushed aside because we are in a rush. These are chances to affirm your child—to show them that you take them seriously. While it might seem silly to us to “take the ramp instead of the stairs,” if your kid noticed the option and asked, then it’s likely important to him. Be open to those seemingly silly requests—they are great opportunities to let your child feel appreciated with very little effort on your part. Riding the escalator at the mall one more time will add three minutes to your day but will show your son that what he cares about is important to you. Rather than thinking of it as an indulgence, consider it an affirmation.

“Saying ‘yes’ when you can” also means loosening up your parenting style. We’ve found these small shifts to “yes” actually serve to set apart the truly important boundaries (about respect for others, health, and safety) that we establish for our families rather than creating a situation that leans toward pint-sized anarchy and indulgence. Like the rest of us, children respond to rules when there are fewer of them. When the frequent little “no’s” drop away, the bigger “no’s” become clearer and better heard. Children are then more apt to pay attention to those boundaries that really matter. But when those principles aren’t in question, we say give that extra cookie, ride the escalator again, and, more generally, “Say yes when you can.” -n&t

One Response to say yes when you can

  1. Love this! That has been our policy for a long time, so much so that one of the teachers said that our son brags about the fact that his parents always say yes. She didn’t mean it as a compliment, but I took it as one. That doesn’t mean that there is no control or that the kids actually get everything they ask for, but it looks like this:
    “Can I watch TV?”
    “Sure! The weekend will be here before you know it, so think about what you might like to watch then.”
    Or
    “Can we run a restaurant?”
    “That sounds like fun! What would the menu be?”

    Though, as an adult, this doesn’t feel like a direct answer to their request, more often than not, it is totally satisfying to the kids.

    It is so great to get some affirmation – thank you!

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