The power of saying yes to kids

10 December 2018

The power of saying yes to kids

  • Positive Parenting
by Michael Grose

Saying no is part of the deal when you’re a parent.

With some age groups, (yes, two year olds and fourteen year olds, I’m talking about you) it can seem as if no is on automatic recording. It’s exhausting, not to mention personally disappointing to continually refuse a child’s requests.

Before you had kids you probably swore that you would not be that person who always says no! But no is okay, as long as you say yes as well.

No is born of good intentions (you want kids to stay safe so ‘No you can’t stay out late’ is reasonable in the right circumstances.)

No is born of teaching kids to fit in (‘You can’t lock yourself in your bedroom when we have family and friends around.’)

No is born from strength (I said no to your request yesterday, it’s no today, and it will be no tomorrow) but can be worn down by continuous pestering.

There is a power to saying yes.

Being a parent places you in a position of power. It’s easy to use that power to say no. It’s harder, but more effective in the long run to seek a balance between no and yes, and in doing so, develop greater autonomy in kids.

Yes gives your nos some legitimacy. If you never say yes, then no becomes tiring for kids to hear.

Yes can develop many wonderful qualities in kids and promote real autonomy as long as yes is used wisely. Here’s how.

“Yes, when –” develops responsibility

A sense of personal responsibility is a wonderful character trait to develop in children and young people. A simple way of promoting responsibility is to add a condition to your yes. Adding ‘when’ teaches kids that good things in life generally come with a condition attached.

Yes, you can stay out until after dark when you show me you can behave responsibly when you are with your friends.

Yes, you can play with your toys when you pack up the last lot you got out

“Yes, if –” promotes good decision-making

Independent kids are able to make their own decisions and also wear the consequences of their choices. Encourage them them to make their own decisions with the word “if” judiciously added to a yes to their request.

Yes, you can go out to play if you think you can be home on time.

Yes, you can have that toy if you are willing to pay for it.

Note: You need to make sure kids wear the consequences of a poor choice if this strategy is to be effective.

“Yes, and –” promotes a benefit mindset

In this current era of high consumption it can be challenging developing a sense of generosity in kids. At Parenting Ideas we encourage parents as much as possible to develop a benefit mindset from an early age so that kids think in terms of how can they contribute to the wellbeing of others. Adding an ‘and’ to your yes helps to teach kids to think ‘we’ not ‘me’.

Yes, you can go to your friend’s house and you can drop your little brother off at his mate’s house along the way.

Yes, you can have some cake and you can cut a piece for your mum as well.

Use your parenting power wisely

Being a parent places you in a position of power. It’s easy to use that power to say no. It’s harder, but more effective in the long run to seek a balance between no and yes, and in doing so, develop greater autonomy in kids.

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Michael Grose

Michael Grose, founder of Parenting Ideas, is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s the author of 12 books for parents including Spoonfed Generation and the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It. His latest release Anxious Kids, was co-authored with Dr Jodi Richardson.