How do you say yes to your kids?
Do you make a genuine effort to give your kids a “yes” answer rather than a “no”?
When your child asks for candy before dinner do you simply say no and tell them to go on. Or do you say something like this, “Not right now, you can have a piece after you finish your dinner,” or “no, you’re not having candy right now, but how about a few sweet strawberries?”
Do you see the difference? No one wants to hear no if they don’t have to. In all three of the responses above, the child still didn’t get candy right when they wanted. They were either held off until dinner, left in limbo about it, or given an alternative. Yes, I agree….No means no. It does in my house too. I am trying though to make the change over from just shooting my kids down and saying no to giving them a reasonable alternative.
Think about it…when your BFF calls you up and wants to go the movies Friday you don’t just text her back with a simple no. You either tell her your busy and you’d love to reschedule or you invite her to dinner at your house instead or something like that. If we’re willing to do that with our BFF, why don’t we do it with our kids? I want to raise my children to be adults that seem friendly and willing to be flexible. That’s part of training our children to be adults. We’re modeling for them the art of compromise and negotiation.
Of course, before you get upset at me, there are definitely those times that the no has got to be a rigid no without any compromise or chance of a yes. Asking if you can go play in the street with a rocket launcher just doesn’t have room for compromise or a “how about later” response. By trying to say yes when I can or offering an alternative, it makes saying a flat out no a rare thing and a more powerful thing.
Please note that I am NOT advocating giving your kids everything they want or saying yes just because you’re afraid to say no. Say yes when you can, give an alternative when you can’t, and say no when you have to. This isn’t about giving in to your kids. With the candy example the child didn’t get the piece of candy right then…it wasn’t a yes answer. They were told after dinner or offered fruit. The reason for the no was either due to the fact that mom didn’t want the child eating candy or she didn’t want the child spoiling dinner.
Offering the alternatives didn’t compromise mom’s stance, it gave the child something they wanted (candy or food) while allowing the mom to stick to her guns about her convictions. That’s different than just saying yes and giving them what they want even when you don’t want to. And of course, there will be plenty of times that “no” needs to be said, so don’t worry about spoiling them. Your kids still need to hear no every now and then
This hasn’t been a huge problem for me. It’s taken a slight adjustment, but it’s been nice not getting onto my kids for asking why or listening to constant whining. My problem is how I say yes.
If I were to ask my husband to take out the trash and his response was, “I guess,” I’d be slightly annoyed. Why? Because to me, ‘I guess’ says that he’d rather not, but that he doesn’t seem to have an option. I don’t want to hear my husband or my kids say “I guess” to me so I should be careful not to say it to them. But you know what, my kids hear “I guess” more often than I’d like admit.
Another response my kids here frequently is “that’s fine”. Normally it sounds exasperated and it happens when I’m totally OK with what they’re doing, but they’re asking at an inconvenient time. Sometimes they hear it simply because I am OK with whatever they’re asking, but a simple “yes” doesn’t happen.
If I asked my husband if he liked my dress and he responded with, “it’s fine,” I’d probably think he was just forcing it or he didn’t care. I don’t want my kids to think I don’t care or think that it’s a strain for me to say yes to them. I surely don’t want them to think I don’t have time to give them a heartfelt yes or that I’m just saying yes because I don’t want to deal with them.
There are several more words and tones that can be used when saying “yes”. My goal is to really ask myself, “how do I want to hear ‘yes’?”
So how do you say “yes” to your kids?