Just Say Yes: The Power of Positive Parenting
Learn the power of positive parenting and enjoy a better family relationship.
Not Always No
Do you feel like you’re constantly saying no to everything? That your parenting style may be creating a negative family environment?
By working towards being consistently positive and saying yes more often with your children, you can become a “yes mom” and create a more harmonious household—without letting the kids walk all over you!
Becoming a yes mom means thinking about options before automatically saying no to a child’s request. Parents can purposefully make a change in their speech habits, according to Mimi Doe, author of 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting. “If you use negative words—catch yourself. Count how many times you say don’t to your children. One study estimates that the average child hears the word no or don’t over 148,000 times while growing up, compared with just a few thousand yes messages,” she says.
Doe adds that negative words can push the spirit out of any situation. “Of course we need to use firm words at times and alert our child to emergencies and dangers, but the habitual no’s begin to eat away at a child’s spirit. Moms (and dads) should say yes as much as possible, without compromising your limits. We often snap a no out of habit,” she says.
Jeanie Ruban, mother of two, says she tries hard not to always say no to her kids. “It’s not easy. I usually give choices and that makes them feel empowered. Around the house, I try not to say no too often when asked to play a board game or read a book. However, often times, the children haven’t cleaned up their previous mess and just want to move on,” Ruban says.
She adds that instead of saying, “No, we can’t play Candy Land until your room is cleaned up,” she has turned it around, instead saying, “Yes, we can play Candy Land just as soon as your room is cleaned.”
“I know being a yes mom is better for me and better for my kids. That is why I chose to stay home to be with them, to spend time with them, to have fun, play games, and read to them,” Ruban adds.
Sometimes, being a yes mom means letting other things go temporarily. “Often times when I am trying to clean the house, Sabrina will propose that we blow bubbles or do a puppet show for her baby brother . . . and she needs my help. How can I say no to that? They are so little for such a short time that I feel I need to savor every moment of fun,” explains Ruban.
Devising a rewards system can help parents avoid the no trap. “Without a positive plan in place that encourages your child’s desire to please you, many well-intentioned parents easily fall into negative ways of interacting with their kids,” says Virginia Shiller, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Rewards for Kids!
Parents can develop a plan that focuses on situations where they generally get into conflict. “If you’re often battling with your child, telling them ‘No, you can’t watch TV now,’ a plan where they get a specific number of tokens, stickers, or other countable objects that can be exchanged for watching a show can eliminate the parental no’s.” Adding a reward at the end of the day or week for cooperating with the plan (a board game after dinner, a special trip to the park on Saturday) will likely make the plan more appealing,” she explains.
For example, conflict often arises at the grocery store, where children want candy. “Decide on a plan for good behavior before you enter the store, describe to your children the behavior you want to see, and then promise a small reward of your choosing. This way you can avoid buying the candy bar you don’t think your daughter should have, and your children can earn a reward by acting maturely,” Dr. Shiller says.
She points out that parents need to figure out what behavior is reasonable to expect from children (i.e., how many TV shows a day, or will you allow a few protests/whines if overall your child’s behavior improves?) and come up with a reward. Then, devise a chart, token container, or other system to keep track of progress. “In my experience, the effort is well worth the rewards for parents and children of having a more harmonious relationship,” she adds.
Saying yes more often can be a lot of work, but it is worth it even though it might not always seem like it. In the book The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, Fred Rogers wrote that, “I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said yes, when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly only helpful to someone else.”
According to Christine Louise Hohlbaum, mother of two and author of SAHM I Am: Tales of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Europe, kids can enjoy a positive atmosphere with limits so the parents aren’t run ragged.
“Being more positive with kids is a wonderful goal for which we must all strive. It lets them know they are loved, safe, and wanted,” she says, noting that this attitude can be phased in along with the normal routines and rules.
While on vacation, Hohlbaum and her husband wanted to make it a “yes week,” but they quickly noticed their young children struggled with the sudden permissiveness. “They did not really want us to say yes to ice cream at 9 AM even if they thought they did in the very moment they asked. They felt lost, and without boundaries we noticed how uncomfortable they felt. My son acted up, my daughter became cranky and we realized the ‘week of yes’ meant saying yes to loving discipline, even on vacation,” says Hohlbaum, who lives in Paunzhausen, Germany.
She has tips on saying yes while keeping the limits clear: Give a timeframe. For example, when your child asks for something and it can’t be done or given immediately, offer a time and then a frame of reference. Set a timer if the child doesn’t know how to tell time.
- Ask your child the consequence of your saying yes. If a child asks for chocolate shortly after sunrise, ask him, “How will you feel when your tummy eats chocolate first thing?” Everything can be a learning experience, according to Hohlbaum.
- Ask for help. Ask you child to “help get a yes” by cleaning up a room first, for example.
- Remember down time. Your household can be more harmonious when everyone gets what they need, such as adults who sometimes need downtime. Institute a daily quiet time of about 30 minutes. Children can be taught to play quietly, sleep, read, or color without interruption during this time.
- Do the “yes, yes, yes” exercise. Gather your children into a circle, scoop up positive energy, and shower yourselves with it as you continuously exclaim “yes!” The positive energy that is created is undeniable! “And we usually end up laughing,” says Hohlbaum.
Hohlbaum adds that sometimes parents must say no. “Children don’t need to know every single reason for your actions. That’s an endless game which you, the parent, will lose. There need to be boundaries, even ones that are not explained,” she concludes.
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