4 tips for cultivating a “yes environment”

kelly-shealer-and-daughterChildren hear the word “no” about 400 times a day. Being told “no” constantly doesn’t feel good and often times can be frustrating. The more children hear it, the more likely they are to have tantrums and power struggles, and feel disconnected from their parents.

Creating a “yes environment” can help families to feel happier and more connected.

This doesn’t mean you must say “yes” to literally everything, or that the word “no” should be nonexistent. It’s important to keep boundaries and to set the limits that are right for your family. The point of creating a “yes environment” is to save the “no” for the occasional vital situations — safety reasons, things that go against family rules, or times when something truly isn’t possible to do.

Here are 4 tips for cultivating a “yes environment”:

  1. Make sure your “no” is really a no — Sometimes we say “no” to a request before we even really think about it. It’s important to take the time to think before answering children’s requests. For example, Is it really unsafe when my sons are roughhousing? Can I make it safer by removing obstacles from the room and helping them set some ground rules? Or, Do I have the time to do this art project? Am I inclined to say “no” just because I don’t want to deal with the potential mess? There are many times when my children will ask to go the playground, but I simply don’t feel like it and I want to start thinking of every excuse not to go. However, when I try to stay in “yes” mode and give it a try, so often I have more fun than expected. I end up feeling grateful that I chose to have that moment of connection with my children and to say “yes” to adventures and exploration.
  2. Save “no” for when it matters — When we say “no” all the time, the word loses some of its significance and effectiveness. “No” is a strong word. Our children need to know that it really matters. That’s important both in having them listen to and respect people who tell them “no,” as well as in situations where their own “no” needs to be respected by other people. When we save “no” for the situations that really matter, it makes the word more powerful — our children know that we indeed mean it.
  3. yes-1137274_1280“Yes…later” — Sometimes your child will ask to do something that would be a “yes” at a different time, like wanting to go to the playground shortly before you need to pick up an older child from school. Instead of saying, “No, we can’t go now. We don’t have time,” you might say, “Yes, we can go to the park after we get your sister from school.” Reframing your words in a positive way, rather than using negative language, is helpful to children.
  4. Explain the “no” — Imagine your toddler is pulling your hair. Your first inclination may be to say, “No!” After all, it hurts, you’re angry, and you want to make it clear that it’s not OK. A more positive way to handle it would be to remain calm and say instead, “That hurts Mommy,” as you move her hand away from your hair. You’re not using the word “no,” but you’re also not allowing the behavior. Explaining it to her in this way will help her understand why you’re stopping their behavior. It also helps develop empathy and gives young children exposure to more language than just “no.”

National Spank Out Day – Positive Discipline Resources

April 30th is National Spank Out Day, which was established to promote non-violent discipline of children.

Today, we aim to raise awareness about physical punishment for children, as well as educate parents about effective discipline practices that do not involve hitting and spanking.

Here, we’ve listed some of API’s resources on positive discipline, as well as information from other trusted sources. These can serve as a starting point on the path to implementing positive discipline in the home, or those familiar with positive discipline may find new tools to deepen the understanding between the parent and child.

We offer these resources to let parents know that there are alternatives to spanking that work.

From Attachment Parenting International:

“What is Misbehavior?” API Speaks

“Toddler Ten Commandments” API Speaks

“Tips to Dealing With Acting Out Behavior” The Attached Family

“The Man in the Yellow Hat Exemplifies Positive Discipline” API Speaks

Attachment Parenting International’s Effective Discipline page

The Truth About Spanking: What Parents Must Know About Physical Discipline [Teleseminar]

From Other Sources:

10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child Ask Dr. Sears

“How to Use Positive Parenting” Aha Parenting

“The Power of Touch” San Diego Family

“Connection is Key” Parenting from Scratch

Alternatives to Spanking” Positive Parents

“No More Timeouts, No More Tiger Moms” Tips on Life and Love

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

Any of my mama friends who come across this post will probably meet it with a rolling of the eyes. I just recently hashed out this very issue over the course of several days. Following my whining, their loving comments, my venting, their loving comments, I came to a realization…my little boy is growing up.

My son is 3.25 and over the last few weeks, we have been trialing a program at the YMCA that requires I sit outside while he participates inside. While 3 seems to be the magic age for this, it’s a first for us. All of the programs that we have ever attended have been together, so I was tentative at first but was willing to give it a try if he was. On the first day he joined without much urging, but came running out half way through in tears and has done so every time until last week when he flat out refused to go. He gave it a try–a real effort in my book–and while I won’t go into the ins and outs of why I agree with him I will say that I believe it is very telling of our current growing pain.

Over the last few weeks he’s kept closer, cuddled more and slept lighter. He’s cried when I didn’t expect it and has asked for me when he previously would not have. I was growing worried, filled with concern and frustration and considering “solutions” and “fixes”. And, then it dawned on me–he was in doubt. And so was I. I was doubting his ability to determine his own readiness. I was choosing for him and pushing, gently pushing but pushing nonetheless, when he wasn’t ready.

This new world with all of its “without mom possibilities” has only just recently begun computing in his little processor. And I have noticed that our Y experience, casual conversations about possible Jr. Kindergarten (Canada’s Pre-K) enrollment this fall and my own attempts at urging autonomous play at home have triggered a pulling in rather than a moving out and away. After watching a pee-wee karate demonstration in awe this past weekend, he quickly turned to me without provocation and refused to ever take a karate class (by himself)–then it was swimming class, a yoga class and music class. He has always been eager to jump into social situations–excited to connect with playmates for engagement and group fun. But it’s now clear that the idea of all of this without mom nearby is foreign and, therefore, scary leaving him feeling unsure and insecure. My perceptions of where he should be now that he’s 3 have been clouding my observation and honoring of where he is at developmentally. As a result, I have not been unconditionally offering him what he has been needing the most as he navigates this very unsteady new territory–more, not less, of me and time.

With the addition of a little sister, more responsibilities and expectations have been tucked into his pocket. He’s asked for some but others have been hashed out by us, perhaps, too prematurely. We expect that with a certain age, readiness for moving forward and stepping ahead magically appears. But as with all things readiness, too, comes best in its own time, in its own way, and at its own pace. As such, I have decided that my best and only role in all of this is not to fix or solve anything–nothing is broken–it’s simply to be mom. Therefore, beginning tomorrow, I’ll meet his caution with patience, his fear with reassurance, his tears with empathy and glimpses of bravery with encouragement and by doing so, hopefully, foster the courage to take the next step in his own time, in his own way, and at his own pace.

The Man in The Yellow Hat Exemplifies Positive Discipline

A few of my parent friends have pointed out that as much as their kids enjoy watching the PBS show “Curious George”, George always gets into trouble (makes a mess, does something wrong, doesn’t stay where he’s supposed to, etc…) and nothing ever happens to him for it.  He never gets punished or has a privilege taken away or a consequence imposed for his actions. This may bother some parents about “Curious George,” saying that the show is not setting a good example for kids about what what should happen in the face of misbehavior, but I happen to think it’s a great example for parents.

Curious George does exactly what he’s supposed to do for his age and development (and species)!  By nature and by name, he is curious.  He explores his world fully and completely. This is his job as a young, continually developing little person, er, monkey. This is why my kids love the show–they relate so well to George’s genuinely curious nature and all of the honest mistakes that ensue. But, as a parent, what I find most refreshing about “Curious George” is The Man in the Yellow Hat.

The Man in the Yellow Hat never punishes George for his mistakes. He is more concerned with solving the problem. The man helps George put things away, fix things that broke, apologize to people who were involved in any indiscretions, and generally restore order.

The Man in the Yellow Hat doesn’t force George to apologize. Of course, George can’t talk, so maybe that’s why! But George’s body language and expression, along with his cooperation in fixing the problem, is more meaningful than a forced “Sor-ry,” anyway. People can see his remorse and feel his desire to set things right again. George’s inability to speak provides an unwitting platform for making genuine apologies.

The Man in the Yellow Hat will give a heartfelt apology on George’s behalf.  And when he does, the apologizee says it’s not necessary. The mistake has been fixed, and they enjoyed George’s authenticity–his curious nature–and appreciated his spirit. The characters in this show are understanding of George’s developmental capabilities.

The Man in the Yellow Hat doesn’t put fear into George. George is never afraid of what The Man will do or say to him when he finds out  what happened while he was gone. George is able to present his problem to The Man and know that he will get help in return.

Now, if only The Man in the Yellow Hat would learn not to leave George unsupervised as often as he does…

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