Around the time that your child began talking or walking, did you notice that a key component of your vocabulary was the word "no"? “No, don’t touch that!” “No, I am on the phone!” “No! Stop grabbing things.” “No cookies before dinner!” Saying "no" gets old as you begin to feel like the barrier between your child and his desires while you repeatedly deny him what he wants. Saying "no" has some other down sides as well. It really doesn’t give your child usable information, and it sets up your relationship as adversarial rather than cooperative. Imagine your relationship with someone who repeatedly said "no" to your requests. How to resolve this? Begin saying “yes”!
As adults, we have friends or family we may be saying "no" to as well. It could be a request from your spouse, a friend, a colleague, or your own mother. The impact is the same. All of the keys to having a loving relationship with your child apply to having more cooperative, connected relationships with the adults in your life.
This doesn’t mean you become a doormat saying “yes” to every request your child or another adult makes. It means you set healthy limits and find the “yes” in your “no”. You then give the other person usable information while modeling cooperation rather than setting up power struggles.
If your child asks for a cookie before dinner, find the “yes” by acknowledging him and then following with a limit or a choice. You might say, “Wow, a cookie would be delicious. After dinner, would you like a peanut butter cookie or a chocolate chip cookie?” You have side-stepped the power struggle and acknowledged his desire. If a friend asks you to go out to a movie and you already have something scheduled, you might say, "Wow, that sounds fun, and I would love to see that movie with you. I have something on the calendar. Are you open to going another time?"
If your child grabs a toy from another child, rather than saying, “No, we don’t grab!” practice saying something like, “I see you really want to play with that toy. Jane is playing with it now. Do you want to play with it when she is finished or pick another toy?” There are many lessons in that positive response, and both you and your child will be on the same team.
If your child touches things in the store or picks up breakable or unsafe objects at home, reduce the “drama” and big energetic charge by calmly saying, “You must like that necklace, vase, toy, fill in the blank [while you gently retrieve it and put it back]. That is something we look at.” It helps to “prepare your environment”, as Maria Montessori advised, by having fragile or unsafe objects up high enough where young hands cannot reach them. In the store, let him know that those bright, shiny things do not belong to you and request that he use his eyes for looking rather than his hands for touching.
Practice saying “yes” with others. If your spouse says, “Let’s go on a camping trip to Montana” and camping is not your cup of tea, respond with something like, “I love your idea of a trip! Let’s talk about all the places we could stay and visit!” That opens the conversation and is the beginning of an exciting adventure. Notice how different the feelings and results of the reply “No, I hate camping” would have been, totally shutting your spouse down and ending the discussion.
The results you experience from saying “yes” will be a more cooperative relationships with others, fewer power struggles, and a warmer feeling in your heart. Say “yes” to yes!