Mindful Parent: When to Say Yes to Kids

HAVE YOU EVER SAT BACK AND WONDERED JUST HOW MANY TIMES YOU HAD TO SAY NO THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THE DAY? SOMETIMES IT SEEMS LIKE KIDS DO THINGS JUST TO GET A REACTION OUT OF YOU AS A PARENT, AND IT CAN GET TO THE POINT WHERE YOU FIND YOURSELF SAYING “NO” TO PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THEY ASK.

You’re not the only one! Most parents have found that one of the words they have to tell their children most is NO. Oftentimes, it comes from a place of fear or care — “No, you can’t eat every single lollipop in the house”, or “No, don’t jump off that playground”.

But how many times do we all as parents have to say “no” before it begins to affect the children in a negative way? Some studies, including a recent one from UCLA, estimate around 400 times. Yes, that’s not a typo. Saying no 400 times a day as a parent is actually much easier than you think.

So how can we change this? How can we become a yes parent? Believe it or not, it’s quite easy. Guiding your child through life can be done in a much more positive way that we might be used to. Yes parenting is incredibly beneficial to children and parents alike, and it is incredibly effective when it comes to developing different skills in children such as critical thinking, positive self-image, independence, and much more. Let’s take a look at some easy ways you can become a yes parent, shall we?

 

Instead of That, Try This

Being a yes parent doesn’t always mean saying the word yes. It also means guiding your child in the best way, without the use of words that have negative connotations such as “no”, “you can’t…” “don’t…” — you get the picture — and one of the best ways to change that is by using the “instead of that, try this” method. Here are some good examples below:

When your child asks you if he can have the 5th piece of candy today, instead of saying “no”, try saying “instead of eating that candy, let’s cut up this apple and have some together”.

When your child wants to show you how cool it is to jump off the highest point on the playground (risky!), instead of saying “don’t jump off of there!”, try saying “instead of jumping off the playground, why don’t you show me that trick you learned on the slide?”.

When your child gets the idea of cutting their own hair (if, of course, you know about it before it happens… Personal experience speaking here!) instead of saying “you can’t cut your own hair!” try saying “instead of cutting it yourself, let’s make an appointment at the salon and get you a makeover?”. If that’s not a possibility, suggesting giving a doll a makeover can also work.

 

Yes parenting isn’t always the quickest or simplest way to go about guiding your child, but it is definitely the most beneficial, as you are not only keeping them from things you don’t approve of, but you’re also giving them an alternative and not simply forbidding them from things.

One of the secrets to yes parenting is creativity on your part. Try to make sure you give your child a creative and equal alternative to what they want to do. This will help them begin to think about the different options they have available, and it will eventually guide them in the direction that suits them best. It will also give them opportunities to think critically for themselves, and they’ll soon begin to come up with alternatives by themselves too!

 

Sometimes, Saying Nothing Will Do

Kids center the majority of their time around having fun. Sometimes, this means doing things that are loud or repetitive, and sometimes even a bit rowdy. This is just what kids do! So while our initial reaction is usually along the lines of “don’t be so loud!” or “stop doing that!”, let’s take a second to think about what they’re doing and if it’s absolutely necessary to stop them.

 

When your kid gets a bit rowdy or loud as they’re playing and having fun, let them. They’re kids and they’re having fun, and really, a child’s laughter is the best sound on Earth — even though it is louder than you might want it to be sometimes.

 

If your child decides to make mud pies in the backyard, and you come out to find them covered in mud, let go of your initial reaction of “now you’ve gotten your clothes filthy!”, and simply watch them and let them continue having fun! At the end of the day, the clothes are washable, and they’ll likely grow out of them in a few months anyway.

 

This tip leaves a lot to your discretion as their parent, and it doesn’t mean let them do whatever they want. More than anything this aspect of being a yes parent is assessing the situation, and allowing them to be kids as much as possible. It doesn’t mean to be too lenient, it simply means to make sure that we’re allowing our kids to be kids without a negative reaction from us.

 

Focus On the Behavior You Want to See

If I tell you not to think of a nice big sweet juicy orange, that’s the first thing you’re going to think about. That’s just how our brains work, and we can’t help it. The same goes for our kids. The minute we start telling them all the things we don’t want them to do, that’s the first thing they’re going to start thinking about. It’s inevitable and it’s just how things go.

 

Our usage of language as parents has a huge effect on our kids’ behavior, whether or not we really notice it. That’s why instead of using language that involves telling them things they can’t do, try disguising it by focusing on things they can do. Here are some examples:

 

  • Change out “Don’t kick the ball inside!” for “Let’s go play ball outside. We can work on your passes together”.
  • Change out “No, you can’t have ice cream.” for “Why don’t we go make some frozen yogurt treats together? You can choose any fruit you’d like to put in them!”
  • Change out “Stop whining!” for “It seems like you’re having a hard time right now. Let’s talk about it and see if there’s anything that can make you feel better”.
  • Change out “You’ve ruined your shirt!” for “Since this shirt is stained now, we can use this shirt when we’re doing messy projects, that way you don’t stain the others”.

 

As you can see, yes parenting is all about how you approach the situations you find yourself into with your child. It’s not about letting them do whatever they want, and it’s not about letting them have everything they want all the time. Yes parenting consists of being mindful of the language you use, and of making sure you’re helping your children understand what’s acceptable and what’s not, without being destructive or critical of them.

 

It’s not always the quickest or the easiest way to go about things as a parent; but it’s definitely a way you can make the most out of the time you have with your kids! We all want our children to have the best childhood possible, and we all strive to be the best parents we possibly can. So when we have the opportunity to make something positive out of a hard situation, why not take it?

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