My son started prefacing his requests with this phrase: “I know you are probably going to say no….”. One day I was standing in the kitchen, denying his request for more chocolate for the 9 millionth time, when it hit me: I say no to my kid a lot. I don’t think there is anything wrong with “no”. In fact, I kinda love it because it sets boundaries, it hopefully empowers him to use the word himself, and it is a one-syllable answer to his most annoying question. But it started to feel like my son viewed me as the ultimate naysayer, the one thing standing in between him and fun.
The other day I heard someone say, “Just mostly aim for ‘Yes’ if they [the kids] want anything”. Those words have run through my mind every few days since then. That is approximately 850 times. The idea is that there are certain rules kids need to follow such as “try hard at school”, “be respectful to others”, “go to bed at bedtime”, “eat vegetables and fruit”, and so on, but outside of that, if they want to try something out, just say yes.
Here are some “just-say-yes-moments” that recently happened to me:
- He wants to jump from the sofa to my reading chair and then to my writing desk
- He wants to mix milk and water and take a bath in it like Cleopatra but with goggles on
- He wants to wear pajamas to the grocery store
- He wants to sleep upside down (feet on a pillow)
- He wants to build a huge cave in his room with all the bed-sheets available
- He wants light-up shoes so he can run even faster
- He wants to see if almond milk tastes better when licked off the floor because cats do that.
My knee-jerk reaction is to say no – I mean just take a normal, quick shower, just drink your almond milk – but then I think: why not? If it is not hurting anyone, and he finds it exciting or enticing for some reason, who cares? He might not love the flavor of his drink, but he will feel free and curious. And that is worth it. It is also fun for me to see all the random stuff he comes up with.
On the opposite, what I say yes to all the time is when it comes to reading or writing. Whenever he asks me to read a book to him, even though I am dead tired, I will do it. I currently read one of my favorite books of all time to my son. Momo, by Michael Ende. If you haven’t read it, read it. It is an amazing story for children (6+). Actually, everybody should read this book. Or watch the movie.
I also came up with a little experiment. Three days of saying “Yes” to everything my son asked for. Of course, I established some ground rules that only I knew existed because I live way too far away from Disneyland, and there was no way in hell I will Corona-fly from Vienna to the U.S.of A. Also, I try to avoid Indoor Playgrounds like the plague.
- I can say no, if I want, to repeat requests after the third ask. This is to save me and my wallet from going out to dinner three nights in a row, and to prevent him from watching Netflix four three hours a day)
- No crazy trips to faraway places.
- No toy purchases over Euro 20 for the week
- Nothing that will hurt us or other people
- I reserve the right to override any questionable requests but will do my best to say yes to everything
Day 1- Friday
I started the “Three Days of Yes” raring to go, but quickly realized that my default habit of saying no was deeply ingrained in my brain. He must have sensed something because the second we walked into our home he asked if he could watch Netflix. “Yes,” I said, and I told him I will prepare the pizza for dinner. He loves to make pizza so Netflix was not on his mind anymore and he wanted to help me in the kitchen.
Day 2- Saturday
For breakfast, he asked for a smoothie and my iPad. I made him a frozen banana blueberry smoothie (his favorite) and I let him binge watch Jurassic Park The Series on Netflix. I once again found myself enjoying how nice it is to read in bed and enjoy a nice cup of coffee ( I bought a pretty good coffee machine to enjoy coffee as Viennese people do) while he is in a zombie trance. Win-win for both of us.
Day 3 – Sunday
We have settled into tons of reading, writing, trips, Heurige (awesome wine places here in Austria), and ice cream. Then he asked to go to the beach. Well, we live in Vienna, Austria. No beaches but lakes, so we went to Neusiedler See, which is beach-like. It turned out to be one of the most stress-free three days ever.
It turns out, his wants are not that extreme or extravagant or absurd. He does not need a limousine or asks for tons of candy, and other stuff. He also did not want to order pizza three days in a row but make his own once a week. His asks revealed a desire to help, play, be seen, be independent, and responsible. But I learned that by saying “yes” more often, it allows him to grow, helps me to lighten up and relax as a parent, and also offers up new opportunities for us to connect, play, and bond.
Sure, it is our job as parents to set boundaries, say no, and be the “bad guy.” But saying yes to my kid, and experiencing his exuberance that came along with it, felt really good. So pass the ice cream and crank up The Lego Movie – I am saying yes to saying yes in general. Just don’t ask me to go to an Indoor Playground on a Sunday.