Flashback to a dozen years ago….my favorite son is 4 years old and we were running our usual Saturday errands and finishing out the long afternoon at Tar-Jay. We made it to the check out line. It was the home stretch. As we are waiting in line, my son notices the infamous rubber bouncy balls that are conveniently (rather brilliantly from a business perspective) placed at the exact level of his little eyes. Maybe he won’t notice this time, I think to myself. No such luck! “MOMMY….look!! Bouncy balls!!”
Oh great. Here we go.
“I see them.” (calm)
“Mommy can I have one….pleeeeeese?”(pleading)
“Nope. You already have a whole drawer full of them at home.” (justifying)
“But Mommy, this one is red, see? (reasoning)
“Uh-huh. I see.” (frustrated)
“Can I get it? Pleeeeese Mommy?”(begging)
“No. No bouncy balls today. Not red. Not blue. Not Yellow. No.” (channeling Dr. Seuss)
(How many paper towel rolls does this lady in front of me really need? Let’s go already!!)
“But I want the red bouncy ball!” (whining)
“I said NO!” (authoritatively loud)
“PLEEEEEEEESE!!! I WANT IT!!” (screaming)
Uh-oh. I know that look on his cute little face. T-5 until the Full Blown Meltdown at Target show. The audience is growing around us. They’re looking. They’re listening. They’re judging. It’s officially Show Time.
Sound familiar? Please let me know if you’ve ever had an experience saying “No” to a four year old (or 10 or 16 year old) and the child responds with “OK, Mom, you know best. I respect your decision. I’m so lucky to have you as my Mom. And btw your hair looks fabulous today.” Yeah, I didn’t think so. Nobody likes hearing NO! And think about how often are littles hear it on any given day!
NO you can’t have cake for breakfast.
NO you can’t use bananas as toothpaste.
NO you can’t wear your bathing suit to school.
NO you can’t go to the mall.
NO you can’t have ice cream.
NO you can’t watch that movie.
NO, I’m not raising your allowance.
NO you can’t go away for the weekend with your teen friends without an adult.
NO you can’t miss your first class at school.
NO….the list goes on and on, no?
If we accept that nobody likes hearing NO and we accept that children are somebody, then can anybody explain to me why everybody acts surprised and gets upset when their kids display and express their dislike of “NO”.
Ever wonder what it would be like if we said “YES” more often? Think about it…how does your child (hopefully) react when you do say yes?
Do they show gratitude and appreciation? YES.
Are they kind and respectful? YES.
More willing to cooperate and easier to get along with? YES.
Aren’t these exactly the things we want and hope for from our kids? YES! So let’s just say YES!!
Wait a minute….that would mean our kids would be spoiled brats who felt entitled and got whatever they wanted! That’s not what we’re going for here nor what I am suggesting. It’s more about how we say what we say- it’s about rearranging our words. For example, your 12 year old daughter’s room has reached the mess level of a disaster zone. You’ve tried closing her bedroom door in order to avoid seeing what gives you heart palpitations every time you walk by. But now, the door won’t even close. You’re at your limit of tolerance and her room absolutely just needs to be cleaned. She comes home from school on a Friday afternoon and asks you if she can go to the movies with her BFF. What?? The movies? How dare she? Why on Earth would this slob of a child think you would allow her to go the movies? Um…did I mention she’s 12? Remember, her priorities and yours are probably not the same.
Instead of the usual “NO! Absolutely NO! Your room is disgusting! You need to spend your evening cleaning that room! The answer is NO! “
What if you check your intention first? Pause for a moment. What do you want? For her to clean her room, right? If her room was clean, you wouldn’t have a problem with her going to the movies, right? So, what if you said something like this instead of NO:
“Oooh, the movies sound fun! YES! Of course you can go to the movies…as soon as your room is clean, the answer is absolutely YES. Would you like me to drive one way and another parent can drive the other way?”
You know that the way these two answers are received and how your daughter responds will be quite different. Now she may protest or grumble about cleaning her room, but that’s understandable. I still grumble about cleaning my room. And my room is still a disaster, but I digress. It’s ok that she isn’t thrilled with the idea of cleaning her room. She may even make promises like, “Come on Mom! Please can I just go to the movies and I promise I’ll clean my room tomorrow?”
One of the fundamental practices of parenting with Positive Discipline is that when we talk with our kids we are Kind and Firm at the same time. So your response could be something like this: “I know you don’t want to clean your room. You just want to go to the movies. And the thing is… you can go the movies! Cleaning your room is your ticket to go.”
Chances are you will need to practice this tool a few (hundred) times. The good news is there will be plenty of opportunities! Your kids will test you. It’s their job. Stay consistent. Be kind and firm at the same time and follow through. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Just Say Yes.
P.S- Ready to learn more Positive Discipline Tools? If you’re in Orange County, CA our next 6 week workshop series starts October 14th! Details here .
P.S2- Not local? No worries! Taking names for those interested in a 4 week Online Positive Discipline Workshop series coming soon! Please fill out the contact form and then stay tuned. Looking forward to virtually meeting you soon! [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’/][/contact-form]