Find the Yes!

11 Jan Find the Yes!


By Shelly Macdonald, Parent Educator and Coach

Find the Yes!

  • No, you are not having ice cream for breakfast!
  • Stop playing that video game right now or there’ll be no more screen time until you’ve completed…college!
  • I don’t want to hear another word about it. The answer is NO.
  • What if there was an alternative to saying, “no” all the time without giving in to our child?
  • Is it possible to hold the limit while still acknowledging our child’s desire?
  • The good news is there is a way and it is possible.

This is what I call, Find the YES.

First of all, this is not permissive parenting. I’m not suggesting we say “yes” to everything our child desires. I’m not suggesting we agree to things we’re ambivalent about or even say yes to perfectly reasonable requests when we’re really not up for it — that can build resentment which never goes well.

This is about finding the yes while also holding the limit.

For example:

  • Today isn’t an ice cream day… you will get to have ice cream at Zoe’s party on Saturday.”
  • Sofas are not for jumping… you can put one of the cushions on the floor and jump.
  • How about we add that toy to your birthday wish list?
  • Aunt Edna’s porcelain doll collection isn’t for touching, but we can enjoy them with our eyes.

Some children are automatically set off when they hear the word “no” and it becomes difficult to continue a rational conversation. Finding the YES can help them keep listening and hang in there longer even when it’s not the news they want to hear.

I wish we had more time to play right now. How about we set aside 30 minutes to play this game together tomorrow after school?

Then let your child observe you put it in your calendar so you’re sure to keep the appointment. This builds trust and helps her tolerate her disappointment in the moment. Obviously, it’s important to make promises you will keep or the trust goes out the window along with your child’s cooperation.

There are many ways to Find the YES.

One mom shared that her 6-yr-old son really wanted a dog, but she was adamantly opposed to having a pet. She found the YES by allowing him to talk about all the things he loved about dogs, read books and learn about various dog breeds, visit the local pet store and even buy dog accessories! They often talked about what kind of dog he would choose one day when he was a grown-up with his own place. She was also open to exploring how he could foster relationships with their dog-owning neighbors. So far, this approach has satisfied her son. He believes she is on his side even though she has been crystal clear that a dog will not be joining their family.

Bedtime stalling with requests for snacks? Try setting a time when the ‘kitchen is closed’ and then reassure her that she can have a nice big breakfast in the morning.

Recently, my daughter was upset because we ran out of time to watch a movie on the weekend. Although I was frustrated with her for not understanding that kids need to sleep sometimes (rather unreasonable of me, I know!), I managed to talk about how much I look forward to watching lots of movies with her when school is on break. She was still upset (and probably quite tired), but she was also able to shift gears more easily and accept the movie would happen another time.

In my experience, Finding the YES allows me to stay more calm and confident while I reassure my children that there’s almost always a way to satisfy our longings. It may not be as we initially imagine, but sometimes the desire is really about being heard and less about the ‘thing’.

Over time and with practice, our children will be able to design their own YES while also maintaining healthy boundaries.

Oh, and don’t forget to Find the YES for yourself now and again, too! Children are not for yelling at or berating — but you can take a break, call a friend, make yourself some tea, go for a run, book a massage… even the smallest yes can be quite liberating!


JOIN US FOR A FREE WORKSHOP: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen So Kids Will Talk  RSVP

Parent Educator and Coach, Shelly MacDonald will address: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen So Kids Will Talk

JAN 19, THURS, 1/19, 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM RSVP

Shelly is a Parent Educator and Coach who helps parents create a family life they truly love! She has worked directly with children and families in various capacities for over 20 years. Shelly currently teaches parenting workshops in NYC and coaches parents all over the world via phone/internet.