As a mother of two, I often feel like my most used words include “stop,” “don’t do that,” and “no.” You can likely relate whether you have one or multiple children, though it’s also important to say yes. We all have the best intentions to let our kids live their childhoods to the fullest. But it’s also our job to ensure they do what’s right, follow directions, and keep themselves safe. To do that, we often have no choice but to overuse the word “no.”
What if we made more of an effort to say yes? When it comes down to it, is it really that big of a big deal if your two-year-old jumps on the couch? Will it ruin the day if you let them jump in rain puddles? Not only can saying yes make your children happier, but it can also make you happier as a parent. This can lead to an unbreakable bond between you and your child.
Why It’s Important to Say Yes
According to Dr. Alice Boyes’ blog for Psychology Today, there is an entire phenomenon known as “yes parenting.”1 There’s a simple idea that characterizes this parenting style: always try to say yes. While parenting styles are a personal choice, saying “yes” can help you and your children in various ways.
Boyes says one of the biggest reasons to say “yes” is that it instills the importance of the word “no.” If we constantly tell our children no to every question or request they have, the word loses its importance. Saying yes allows a child to understand the meaning of the word no; because of this, they are more likely to listen when they hear it.
Encourage Them to Ask for What They Need
It is also essential for children to be able to ask for what they want and what they need, especially as they get older. Children have fewer opportunities to express their feelings as they go to school. If they expect to be met with a no when they ask for something, they are less likely to ask for those things. Saying no can also stunt creativity. Yes, it may be a pain to let your children use paint but watching them explore with colors and different mediums of art is worth the messy clean-up. (Tip: put a tarp down or an extra-large piece of paper for easy clean-up and dress kids in bathing suits to be hosed down afterward.)
The positives of saying yes aren’t limited to just children. A parent who makes a concerted effort to say yes creates a more carefree and often happier parent. Trying not to say no will become freeing. It can even open doorways into positive parenting that you may not have experienced before. Letting your child hear the word yes will create an environment where they feel confident, allowing you to feel more confident.
How to Say “Yes” More Often
Saying yes may seem like a great idea, but implementing it is where things get tricky. A published study from the National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends a few methods.2 Instead of simply telling your kid yes all the time without precautions, there are ways to make the transition to yes—and avoiding saying no—smoother for you both.
Strategies for Not Saying No
You can try using a strategy, like a distraction. This works well with younger kids, but older kids take well to it, too. If a child is doing something you want them to stop, give them an alternative. For example, if they take toys from a friend, ask them to show you the new dance move they learned. If they are running indoors, ask them to show you how well they can skip or how they think a turtle walks. Your specific choice of words in this situation depends on your child. It also depends on how they react to requests, but the overall strategy can go a long way in avoiding the word “no.”
Another great way to say yes more is to give choices. It can be hard to get a child to do something. If they ask for one more cookie at dinnertime, instead of saying no, say, “We can’t have more cookies. Do you want an apple or a banana?” If they ask to stay at the park longer, ask if they want to listen to their favorite song in the car. Offering a choice rather than saying no can ensure your child listens. It can also ensure they do what they need to and still feel like they are making the decision independently.
Saying “yes” can be challenging. I know. I cringe anytime my child has a paintbrush in her hand. But it can go such a long way in your child’s development and the relationship you share with them. So, the next time your child asks you something, consider telling them “yes” and see how powerful it can be.