Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said that, “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” I have to wonder if it’s actually the complete opposite for parenting.
Is it possible that the art of parenting is actually saying yes, not saying no? It is very easy to say no to our kids.
Lately I’d started to notice how quickly no had been rolling off my tongue. I think I’m bombarded with “may I have this” “can I do that” “can we go here” so often that it was becoming kind of an automatic response.
I got stopped in my tracks a few weeks ago when I read an article about instilling confidence in your kids and how you want them to attack the world with a ‘can do’ attitude. So much of how we act, what we say and how we respond to them shapes their little minds about what is possible in their lives.
I decided that going forward I’d really stop and listen to what was being asked of me before I answered. Was it a reasonable request? Is it a real request or an excuse not to do something else? Are there any really valid reasons to say no?
Once I became conscious of it, I couldn’t believe how many times I had those conversations with myself in my head. One night our seven-year-old was asking, more like begging, for a snack before she went to bed. It was late, the other two kids were already asleep and naturally, we were in a bit of a rush to get her to bed as well. My instinct was that she was just putting off bedtime but when I stepped back, I realized she’d just had a day where she skied with the Martock Race Team for three hours, then she came home and had winter maintenance for her summer swim team for an hour over supper time. She’d expended a pile of energy and you know what, maybe she actually was hungry.
Then one day this week our five-year-old came downstairs with some cans of washable dye I had in the cupboard and asked if she could have blue and purple hair for school that day. It wasn’t crazy hair day – it was just an ordinary day. Why not? We got her ready for school and sent her off with a blue head and a purple ponytail.
Another night I had rushed in from work and was frantically trying to get supper on the table. Our son asked if he could play with playdough while I was cooking and again, everything in my gut was saying no. Two-year-old plus playdough equals mess. All of the reasons I had in my brain to say no were about me – I didn’t want to have to clean it, I didn’t have time to help squish it through the tools because I was cooking, me, me , me. So, I said yes and set him up on a little play table versus at the counter where I was cooking. He played peacefully there while I made supper and truthfully, it actually ended up being a little easier on me. He wasn’t underfoot and consistently asking when food would be ready.
As with everything, there’s a time and a place for no and for yes. It’s not easy to bring more yes into our lives but I’m realizing that when we do, it does have a positive effect on the general happiness of the house. According to author Jarod Kintz – “There are an infinite number of reasons to say no. Instead, try to focus on one good reason to say yes.”
Deanna is a Mom of three, wife, marketer and blogger – lover of travel, morning coffee, family time, belly laughs, good friends and uninterrupted showers! Follow her on twitter @DeannaCMiller
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