I can remember when my children were young that I would periodically make an intentional effort to check how many times a day I was saying the word no to them. I was often surprised. I encourage any parent to do the same. You might be too!
We want our children to be positive people – who come up with original spontaneous ideas – who make plans and know what they want in life. Yet, often, our children’s frequent suggestions and requests are responded to with a hearty dose of noes and accompanying negativity.
So what should we do when our child asks for that cookie right before dinner or wants to finger paint when company is expected any moment? Well, usually, we don’t want appetites ruined or a huge mess at an inconvenient time. So our first response might certainly be a definitive ” no”.
I suggest, we say instead, “Yes, sure, choose a cookie to put on the table to have after dinner.”
“Finger Painting? That would be fun. Let’s put a sticky note on the fridge to remind us to do that tomorrow.”
Saying no by saying yes!
Some very persistent children may still protest – but most will be encouraged enough by the lovely, positive sound of “yes, sure, good idea” ringing in their ears, along with the recognition that they had a good idea and the assurance that they will get to act upon it.
Okay, fine, you say – a cookie is one thing. What about asking for an expensive toy or to stay up all night or to send their baby brother back wherever he came from? Well, let’s see – can we be as creative as we hope our children will become?
How about saying “Wouldn’t that be something, to have a remote-controlled dump truck? Let’s think about putting that on your wish list.”
“Stay up all night? You think you would love that? What a fun idea. When you get older, you probably will try that someday.”
“You feel like sending your baby brother back? I know it’s hard being the big sister and having to share Mommy and Daddy all the time. Let’s plan to do something while she naps.”
I can hear some parents groaning even as I type. I know, I know – who has the time to be so patient or spend the time to be so positive? And don’t kids just have to hear and understand the word no?
Absolutely. I’m not suggesting eliminating the word no from your vocabulary. I’m suggesting we take a look at how many times we say no – a bit too automatically and a bit too often and the message our children are receiving.
And, consider this. We all know how much kids repeat everything they hear. So think how thrilled you’ll be when you’re hearing less noes back from your child and more “Sure, Mom! Good idea!”.