I’ve been noticing an unfortunate trend in my life. I feel like I’m going 100 miles an hour every day just trying to keep up with my kids. Between high energy and powerful curiosity, protecting them from all the dangers of the world ends up taking most of my energy. I find it difficult to see beyond the present circumstances, at any given moment, to gain a better understanding of why they do what they do. It’s just so much easier to say no and save myself the trouble sometimes, but no isn’t the most sustainable solution I have in my repertoire by any means. Yet, I’ve been employing no even in situations that could have been salvaged with a little creativity. My kids deserve to be heard and respected, so my behavior needs a check. I write this as much for me as I do for you.
What’s wrong with no?
No leads to frustration, anger, and backlash. And, it’s not just because kids aren’t getting to do what they want. Children aren’t that petty. No is so difficult because it forces transitions that our kids may not be prepared to navigate. It’s not simply about the child not getting to do something. It’s about all the future plans and desires; the courage and the planning that came first. It’s the sudden, unexpected change of plans, and adults know very well how that feels. We make our own plans and, when those plans get derailed by life, it’s upsetting. We say things like, “Now my day is ruined!” because unwanted transitions leave us just as vulnerable as they do our kids. No isn’t just a statement. It’s a seemingly insurmountable barrier when the gatekeeper is a parent.
Finding the YES
The first step to finding the yes is recognizing why we say no. Once we know why, we can search for a workaround. Have we said no to something dangerous? Ok, what alternative activity can we say yes to? Have we said no to something that will cause us difficulty, such as kids wanting to play a messy game? Ah! This one will take some ingenuity. Can they play in the tub or outside? Have we said no because it’s too late or too early or too cold or too hot outside? Understandable. So, can the activity be delayed until a time when they’re in a place that won’t present such a challenge?
Yes cultivates cooperation, so lead with yes and work out the details with your child. Keep your child’s plans intact while negotiating alterations that will suit you both. And, if you must say no, empathize. Let your child know you recognize your part in why their plans aren’t going to work out after all.
I’d love to hear what happens in your family’s world when you trade no for yes in your everyday encounters.