Friday, January 21, 2011

Thoughts on Being a “Yes” Mom

Two summers ago, right after Luke was born, I read a great post on the blog Beauty and Bedlam.  (Click here and here for two more related posts by Jen.)  It was about the challenge of being a “yes” mom in a culture that already says “yes” to anything and everything your kids want. 

I try so hard to be a “yes” mom, and I think about that post almost daily. 

The truth of the matter is that I feel like a broken record, stuck on “no” for most of my day.  I realize that part of that is because I have a growing toddler, but I hate it all the same.  Seriously, all day long….”No Luke, you can’t touch that”…“Luke please don't throw your spoon/cup/rice/bib/pb&j on the ground”…“Luke please don’t go down the stairs without Mommy”…“Luke please don’t unplug Mommy’s lamp” “Luke please don’t try to grab your poopy diaper when I’m changing you”….on and on and on blah blah blah blah blah….

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So I try to intentionally look for the ways in which I can say “yes.”  For instance, Luke LOVES pens.  Loves, loves, loves them.  Toddlers aren’t “supposed” to play with pens, but they bring him so much joy (oh, I just laughed out loud saying that, but it’s true).  So instead of saying “no” to all pens, always, I try to let him play with them every so often.  But it takes work.  I have to set out a mat so he doesn’t destroy anything, and I have to get the paper and I have to sit with him the whole time so his hands don’t stray and ruin some fabric.  It’s not exactly my idea of a good time, but he loves it.

And sometimes, already, I see the rewards of being a “yes” mom.  Like the other day when I made graham crackers and Luke kept crying to be held and see what I was doing.  So I got him a chair and put out some cookie dough and let him mash it and he pretended to use the measuring cups and spoon (I know about 80 million other moms do this every day; it was just one of the first times I’d ever done it with Luke).  He was thrilled! And, as a perk, it actually let me get the graham crackers done.  ;)

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m just starting the journey of how to find the balance between saying “yes” and “no” as a parent.  I knew too many parents growing up (mine included, sometimes), who said “no” simply because they might have felt that they were supposed to, or out of fear.  (This is not at all meant to criticize my parents; just to compare their parenting style.  I love my parents, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that they were extremely strict, and I’m planning on being a little more lenient with my kids.) 

cookies january 007   cookies january 008
We’re still working on eating yogurt well with the spoon – hence the smock. :)

I want to give my kids the richest life possible – full of as many healthy, fun, educational, and enriching experiences as I can.  I want them to have lots of memories where they think, “Wow, now that was really awesome.” 

There will be *plenty* of times I will say no – that’s a given.  I’m not talking about being a lax parent.  Chris and I are strong Christians, and we believe in discipline, plenty of boundaries, and being consistent.  I learned from my year of subbing and two years of teaching that consistency and following through with your consequences are the only ways to keep a classroom going (and, likewise, your parenting).  My kids always knew that I followed through, and my classrooms were always complimented on their behavior by outsiders.  I say that not to brag, only to say that I’m thankful I learned that lesson early on. 

december 2010 part one 075Christmas Eve – he is obsessed with that tool-belt! 

The question I keep trying to ask myself is,

Why am I saying ‘no’ right now?” 

Is it because it’s inconvenient or because it’s something kids aren’t “supposed” to do?  Or is it something more valid, like telling Luke not to swish his hands in the toilet bowl (oh yes, welcome to my life! ;) because it’s extremely unsanitary and culturally unacceptable (like, I’m pretty sure in every culture). 

{We now close the toilet lid and shut the door for good measure. :)}

I want to be the spontaneous mom who tells her kids to get in the car at 8:00 one night in their pj’s because we’re going to get ice cream (and *gasp* says they don’t have to brush their teeth afterwards).  Or the mom who lets her kids eat breakfast in bed one Saturday, just because.  Bottom line is that I’m trying to make sure my reason for “no” is just as valid as my reason for “yes".”  It takes a lot of thinking.

And my baby’s only 18 months old.  Oh boy. :)



I’d *love* to hear your thoughts on this subject, if you feel like chiming in! 


  1. I think that being a 'yes mom' is a noble endeavor. :) Think about it: How much happier are you when swimming in positivity than you are when drowning in negativity? And isn't that just how it feels? Negativity is so....negative! ;) Being a 'yes mom' doesn't mean giving in to your child's every whim or allowing them to do things they want to do even when you know they shouldn't. Sometimes it means using some finesse to find a way to say yes by working your way around a no. Basically, just turning negatives into positives. Like when your child asks if you can go swimming on a day when it just isn't possible and you counter with "Let's do something even MORE fun, like pack ourselves a picnic lunch and eat in the backyard!" Simple, really, but it sure does make a child think happier thoughts and have a more pleasant outlook. And you know what? That means he/she is going to radiate that to everyone around him/her. :)
    Love this post! You are most definitely on the right track and Luke is a lucky little boy. :)

  2. I haven't actually heard of this concept aside from a daycare years ago where I worked and we had to say things like "That is not ok." I just call it choosing my battles. For me it comes down to safety and respect. I'm big on those things. I guess I'll have to think about this one more for a better answer! LOL! But wanted to leave at least a little comment for ya. :o)

  3. @Mary, It's not so much the word as the attitude behind it - I guess maybe I should have cleared that up!

  4. I like it! I think many times I hear myself saying 'not now' instead of 'no'. Like when they ask to watch TV during the school day and I say 'not now, but maybe later'. As far as the spontaneous jump in the car for ice cream and skip brushing your teeth - I'm ALL for that kind of stuff! I LOVE doing that kind of thing just because. =)

  5. I think that if you do it right, there's nothing especially lenient or indulging about making modifications to your own life so your children fit into it better. I can't stand being around parents who are constantly saying no to their kids, and constantly scolding their kids for doing things that are just normal things kids do (e.g. making a mess, or constantly punishing a toddler for not sharing toys- it's not developmentally appropriate for a one-year-old to share toys!). I like what you said about considering whether you have a valid reason for saying "no" to things. Sometimes saying "yes" takes a little more work on our part, but being a good parent is work, after all. I try to reserve "no" mainly for things that are safety hazards. And of course, I have to say "no" when Celia wants something she can't have. If your kids have strong attachments and clear boundaries and routines, there shouldn't be much of a need to say "no".

    Great post!

  6. Oops, I really wrote a novel there. Sorry 'bout that!

  7. Love it! It's an ambitious dream, especially during the toddler phase. Somedays I think it'll never end! Thanks for your positivity and encouraging spirit! :)

  8. This post resonates with me. Since having baby #2, I feel like I say a LOT of 'No's to my toddler. It seems like he's always asking for something I can't get him right now, into something he shouldn't be, or testing boundaries. So I'm trying really hard to find all the 'Yes'es in a day. Like when I was settling him back into bed after he woke too early this a.m., and he asked if he could take the leftover graham crackers from last night's bedtime snack to bed with him. Conventional answer = no, no food in your bed. But I said yes anyway. What are few crumbs in bed? Not the end of the world. He thought it was pretty cool. :-)

  9. Hey Jess, I just wanted to thank you for your post. My Lucas is 11, but I realized that I do tend to say "no" a lot to him, and most of the time its because I just don't want to deal with it. Tonight for instance, we were at a restaurant eating and he wanted a pen, and I said no at first, and then I was like, what would it hurt. Unfortunately I could not find a pen, but thanks for making me think about what I'm saying instead of just saying "no" all the time.

  10. Thank you for a timely reminder-I know that I'm a "no" mom and have to constantly check myself on why I say no.

    I heard someone say once that if it wasn't dangerous, deadly, or illegal, yes should be the answer we give our kids. That is hard for me, but I see that on most points it's worth it. (with boundaries of course!) Anyway, this was good for me to hear today!


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