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.”