Hope For Tomorrow Counseling

Yes to Parenting

Yes to Parenting

Amanda Kirk, MS

Do you know what a 2-year old’s favorite word is? Of course, you do. It’s “no”. 

Do you know what many parents’ favorite word is? This one may be a little harder to guess, but I bet it will make sense – it also seems to be “no”. 

Not much changes, huh? Why do you think that is? 

Just the other day, my child asked me to do something and, without even thinking, I said, “No, we’re not going to do that right now”. Then I stopped. Why did I say no? The request was simple and inconsequential to our day, like “Can I get the mail?” or “Can I color a picture?” or “Can I turn on some music?” Was it really necessary for me to say no to that little request?

I wonder if we feel like that’s some kind of parental obligation to teach our kids limits. Or perhaps an effort to help them learn to deal with disappointment. Are we testing their willpower and compliance? Are we just too exhausted and overwhelmed to invite something else onto their (and our) plates? Or maybe we say “no” because that’s“just what parents do”?  

Hear me loud and clear – saying “No” as a parent is important. Providing boundaries and limits to our kids provides them with safety, consistency, teaches self-discipline and respect for authority – there are plenty of times we need to say no as a part of good parenting. I’m just wondering if we need to say it that much

Our words hold meaning… until they don’t. 

When all we say is “no”, our kids are not likely to distinguish between the “no, you can’t have a snack before dinner” and “no, you can’t go to that person’s house” (who I either don’t know or know to be a negative influence) – it will all just sound like “no”, even though the latter is a much more important “no” for them to hear. 

But when we have put intentional effort into saying “yes” when we can, we earn the right to be heard for the “why’s” behind our “no” – which is an essential part of teaching our children those values listed above, like self-discipline, respect, good decision making, and more. 

If our kids are used to us saying “yes” when we can and it’s appropriate to do so, our “no’s” will be so much more impactful. But how do we do that well? Here are some suggestions to get you – and me – started: 

  • Notice all the times you say no to your children. And how many times you say yes.
  • Then ask yourself, “why?” Was it a legitimate no? Did I say it by default? Am I just too tired/stressed/exhausted to say yes to anything, even a relatively small request? 
  • As you notice your patterns, start practicing saying yes more. Run each request through a mental filter – is it safe, is it doable in the time and circumstance we are in, is there a way to make it work for them and everyone else impacted? 
  • If it makes it through that checklist, try a yes – see what happens! I bet you’ll find, as I often do, that it was either not a big deal to say yes after all, or it actually was quite lovely for both you and your child! 

Want to take it a step further? 

  • Proactively look for opportunities to say yes to your kids! 
    • Suggest a fun activity together. Surprise them with a pre-dinner snack usually reserved for special occasions. Invite them to help you cook a simple meal or complete some other task, even though you know it will take three times as long. 
    • Think of something they’ve been asking to do that makes it all the way through your mental filter and change your no to a yes! 
  • Make sure your “yes” sounds like a “yes”! 
    • Now this one sounds tricky! If you intend to allow your child to do something, but not until after something else happens, you may be tempted to say “no” when you actually mean “yes – soon!” 
    • For example, let’s say your child asks to play outside. You are okay with that, but first, they need to clean up their room. Rather than saying, “No, you have to clean up your toys first”, you might try, “After you put your cars back in the bin, you can go outside!” You basically said the same thing, but one is so much more positive (and specific – a topic for another time, perhaps). 
    • If your goal is to say “yes” as often as possible, be aware of times you make your “yes” actually sound like a “no” and work on improving your communication. 

Oh, and by the way, just in case you’re wondering when I noticed I had said “no” to my own child the other day, I turned back around and said, “you know what, I’m actually going to say yes to that. Sure, go ahead!” One brightened expression and happy hug later, I was reminded again – I want to be a “yes” kind of parent as much as I possibly can. Will you join me?

I hope you’ll say yes!

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