Convey a “No” with a “Yes, AND” answer.
Our kids are smart. And they’re little energy readers. They know exactly what’s going on, even if they don’t have the language to articulate it. They’re good at asserting their needs and sticking to them. Maybe some of us adults could learn a thing or two from them?! 😉
So, how do you honor your child’s autonomy, their use of an assertive voice (albeit sometimes some coaching is needed on HOW to use it), and their inclination to meet their needs without letting go of rules, structures and limits?
How do we set those limits? Especially when they feel like a constant track of “no”…. ALL. DAY. LONG…..It’s an awful feeling to have to repeatedly say no, no, no to our kids. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and annoying. Is there a better way?????
Yep. It’s not perfect, but it does help quite a bit. Here’s how it goes:
Convey “yes” energy in the structure of your “no” statement.
Kids hear “no” all day long, so it’s no surprise that they don’t want to accept it, or even hear it again and again. If we start with a conditional “yes”, it piques their interest. They cue into us, and *actually* listen to what we’re going to say next. This is parenting gold right here – having your kiddos attention and ear and being able to set the standard and reaffirm the structure.
This could look like: Your kiddo wanting to play on their tablet, but they left the Lego bin all dumped out.
Kiddo: “I want to play my tablet, please, please, PLEASE!”
Parent: “Yea! The tablet is so fun. We can absolutely have some time on there, AND I noticed the Legos are still out, so let’s get that done first.”
Kiddo: “I don’t want to clean them up!!!”
Parent (wisely matching their child’s energy and vigor): “Yea! That’s no fun is it…How can I help you get it done? I know you *really* want some tablet time”
You can feel above how much the parent is aligned with the kiddo. They’re a team, and the felt-sense is that there is safety, autonomy and a shared goal of getting some time on the tablet. It also conveys that there are responsibilities that need to be done, and structures in place that need to happen before the kiddo gets some tablet time.
It’s a “yes, and” response. It helps our kiddos channel their motivation into something productive. We, as the parent, get to be on ‘their side’ – we’ve joined their cause, TABLET TIME! YAY!
They feel seen, supported, heard, validated, and they can feel the ‘walls in the room’ – the boundaries that you’ve set up, and the limits and rules of behavior for the family. It creates a sense of safety and trust. Kids that feel safe, stay more regulated, calm, connected and grounded.
And, as an added bonus, the power struggle that may have happened if the immediate response would have been “heck no! you’ve got a huge pile of Legos still out!” is avoided.
We can honor our kiddos feelings, emotions, and desires, AND set the limits at the same time. In fact, it works better this way. We all feel less tense, stressed out, and can feel the alignment that occurs when we work together.
Give it a shot. You can build connection, regulation, adherence to limits, and mutual respect together. You got this, and we’re here to help if needed.