Sometimes, it takes the wisdom and jibber jabber of a three year old to highlight a flaw in your parenting. Take, for example, the following exchange that happened a couple days ago:
“Come here, No-no,” my middle daughter encourages to my crawling-curious-about-walking baby.
“What’d you call her?” I ask, thinking surely I had misheard her.
“‘No-no,’ because that’s what you always call her,” she explains with her usual bit of flair.
It took me about 24 hours to realize that I do (lovingly) say “no no no no” a lot, like when the baby is trying to roll over on the changing table (before I’ve completed the changing process) or when she is crawling toward an area where I don’t want her going. In fact, the more I started listening to myself, I realized that “no” is one of the more frequent words I say. Now, granted I have an inquisitive five year old, a stubborn three year old and an exploratory baby, but why is “no” at the top of my phrase list?
When my oldest was younger, I was very conscious of avoiding using the word “no” too often. I’d offer alternative actions and phrases that highlighted the positive, saving “no” for a serious offense or key moment. In fact, I spent the last nine years working for an organization that believes in and trains staff on “going with the yes.” Instead of saying “no, but…” staff learn the art of “yes, and…” It’s a training I’ve taught many times and a mantra I adopted and absorbed into all facets of my professional life.
Somehow, though, when it comes to reserving “no” for critical moments and “going with the yes” with my kids, I’ve fallen short. When inundated with seemingly endless questions, my default answer is just “no.” When they ask me “why” I realize that my knee jerk negativity is backed by little reason other than that was the word that came out. That’s not much of a reason at all.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids hear “yes” plenty of times, like when they want to listen to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” for the umpteenth time, play “I spy” literally every time we get in the car, or when they want to have five more minutes before bedtime. But still, “no” has become a fast and easy default, so much so that my kids now just call their baby sister “No-no” as a nickname. Oy.
I want to raise my kids to be flexible. To be positive. To be accommodating, compromising and adaptable. To be strong and determined, but not stubborn and closed off. To be powerful women, and to assert the power for good, not as a roadblock for those in their path. And that all starts with me. They need me to role model how to do these things. That might mean taking an extra few seconds to listen to question upon question… or the same question over and over again. And it might mean that I let them do something that my first instinct was to reject. But, it also means they will hear more positivity and have more room to explore.
So, for the next few days, I am instituting my own creation that I’ve dubbed the “Just Say Yes Challenge.” I am making an active choice to be more aware of the power behind yes – to let my kids explore with fewer roadblocks. To let them hear a positive option instead of a negative response. To have a reason behind saying no, aside from it being the easier answer. I know it won’t always come naturally and will take a concerted effort to “go with the yes.” But I also know that the results could be wonderful and that makes it all worth it in the end.
Who’s with me? Do you want to try the “Just Say Yes” challenge with your kids? Comment below or on my Finding Mom-me Facebook page to pledge your participation in the “Just Say Yes Challenge!”*
*I’ll update the Finding Mom-me Facebook page with updates on how the “Just Say Yes Challenge” is going, so if you aren’t already following the page, click here to do so!