As the mother of two very active toddlers, life is never dull here in the Huck household. Someone is always getting into something they’re not supposed to be into and oftentimes I feel like I’m perpetually preventing a crisis. So pretty quickly I find myself getting into the rhythm of “No.”
“No! You can’t play with the scissors,” as I grab them from the two-year-old’s hand just in time and return them up high.
“No, you can’t have more cheddar bunnies because you need to eat something with nutritional value.”
“No, you may not pull your sister’s hair.”
Obviously, these are all appropriate moments for me to step in and say “no” to my children. But far too easily I find myself morphing into the dreaded No-Monster; saying “no” to the little things because I’m too tired, or they’ll inconvenience me, or out of sheer habit.
I had an experience like this not too long ago when my daughter was begging me to pull out her trundle bed so that she and her brother could jump on it. It was raining for the fifth day in a row and we were all going a little stir crazy from being cooped up indoors again. Yet no matter how many times my daughter persisted in asking about the bed, I continued to tell her “no.” Until suddenly it dawned on me: Why am I saying no to this?
As I thought a little harder, I didn’t really have a good answer. The mattress was essentially on the floor and they wouldn’t harm themselves or the bed. It would be a good way for the kids to exert some energy. Finally, I was forced to conclude that my only answer was that I was being lazy and a bit contrary. I had morphed into the No-Monster.
Reasons to Avoid Unnecessary No’s:
I don’t know about you, but when my children grow up and think about their childhood I don’t want their only memories of me to be those of discipline and sternness. Sure, there are plenty of good reasons to tell my children no or times when “tough love” is necessary. But I’d rather that be the exception, not the norm. I want them to remember me laughing with them. I want them to think back on the times when I let them go out and play in the rain; the huge tents that we made and played in together; the tickle fights and our “special adventures.”
Saying “no” less frequently also helps me be more consistent in my parenting. Christ tells us in Scripture:
“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
When I tell my children “no” without proper thought, I often end up going back and changing my decision when I later re-evaluate it. Over time, this sends my kids a mixed message, causing them to no longer take the word no seriously, even when it matters. Whereas if I spend more time thinking before my responses, I’m able to also be more consistent in my answers.
The third reason is that often times we parents say “no” out of habit when what we really mean is “not right now,” “in a little bit,” or “after you finish x activity.” This is confusing for children, especially little ones, who tend to be very literal thinkers. So, by saying what I actually mean instead of the lazy no, I’m able to strengthen avenues of communication between me and my children and also to prevent potential meltdowns.
Becoming a YES Mom
So during the summer season when life tends to be a bit slower and more family oriented, my goal is to become more of a “yes” mom. I’m striving to reserve those firm “no’s” for only when necessary and to become more of an encourager of and lover of fun. To help me in this process, I’ve developed a little questionnaire to assist me in mentally evaluating my children’s questions/behaviors before giving my answer.
- Will it harm my children in any way?
- Is there a reason my child should not have x object or privilege (i.e. consequence from punishment).
- Is what they are asking for going to require money that we either can’t or shouldn’t spend?
- Is no what I really mean? Or is there another phrase that more appropriately responds to my children’s question?
- Is my child behaving in a morally apprehensible way in which a firm no and consequence are needed?
I’ll keep you posted on my progress through Instagram and Facebook and hope you’ll pray for me in this journey. I’m sure there will still be times when I’ll revert back to the dreaded No-Monster, but with hard work and a lot of grace I know I’ll move closer to becoming the mom I desire to be.