The Three-Letter Word I’m Saying to My Son More

image source: thinkstock
image source: thinkstock

There’s no shortage of parenting advice being thrown at us on a daily basis. From books, blogs, and playgroups to friends and family — the constant input and options can be overwhelming. If I followed every piece of advice I’d ever heard since finding out I was pregnant, I’d be in a world of confusion and a giant ball of stress. While plenty of the advice I’ve heard when it comes to parenting makes complete sense and is actually helpful, there’s plenty that’s not. Even when you toss the useless advice aside, there are still so many options and strategies to choose from. Over the past three years, I’ve tried to sort through as much of it as I can and pull out the pieces that work for our family and whatever current situation we’re dealing with. There’s one piece of advice I’ve been hearing from the beginning that I absolutely love in theory but just can’t seem to master. It sounds easy, but I fail at it a hundred times a day:

Saying “no.”

Anything from saying, “No, you can’t have a lollipop for breakfast,” to “Don’t touch the stove,” to “Stop throwing blocks at the TV” all count as a form of “no.” I completely understand that that’s a lot of “nos” coming at a tiny mind, but struggling to find the words otherwise — especially in the heat of the moment — has been nearly impossible. I try my hardest, but sometimes I forget. Other times I stumble on the words, and still other times I just can’t seem to come up with a way to rephrase the negative into a positive. That doesn’t stop me from trying, but I certainly fail more than I succeed. If my kid grows up talking in weird, stilted, backwards sentences, it’ll probably be traced back to my ill-fated attempts to provide positive messaging throughout his formative years.

While I try to come up with as many ways to not say no as possible, I’ve recently decided on a new strategy:

Just say “yes” more.

The “yeses” have to outweigh the “nos” eventually, right? I blindly joined a parenting group on Facebook recently and thought it was sort of odd when I started seeing seemingly random statuses popping up in my newsfeed with things like: “Yes, you can blow bubbles in your milk” and “Yes, we can stop to watch the airplanes fly over the bridge.” It seemed weird, arbitrary, and an odd thing to share without any prompting or introduction. Then I realized that was the whole point of the group: to share the ways you were giving in to your children’s wants and needs in a positive manner, allowing them to hear “yes” more often when it came to things that didn’t really matter otherwise. (Like saying, “Yes, you can crack the eggs into the pancake batter even though shell will go everywhere.”)

Sure, there are plenty of things you have to say “no” to. You’re not going to give your kid ice cream every single time they ask and you’re not going to let them stay up past bedtime every single night of the week to watch a movie. But the tiny, almost irrelevant things we say “no” to throughout most of every day — those are the things we can start saying “yes” to. Who cares if it makes a mess, makes you a little bit late, or wasn’t part of your plan for the day? Kids are only little once and they learn and soak up the most amazing things from the most ordinary of experiences. Perhaps saying “yes” more will help me start to say “no” less. Or hopefully at the very least, hearing “yes” more will over shine all the times I forget not to say “no.”

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