As of late, I’ve become keenly aware of the number of times I say, “No” or “Don’t” or “Stop” each day.
- Don’t sit on your chair like that; you’ll fall.
- Stop putting yogurt in your hair.
- No, you can’t wear that; it’s too small.
- Don’t play on the stairs.
- Stop putting your feet in his face.
- Don’t scream like that.
- No, it’s not time for a snack.
- Don’t lick her tongue.
(Parenting is so weird, isn’t it?)
It’s a constant reel.
Usually, the negative statements are necessary. If I never said, “No,” the girls would have bellies full of play dough and the baby would have gone headfirst out of his door jumper at the hands of his big sisters by now.
It comes down to health and safety and general necessary obedience usually.
You have to say, “No.”
So then I decided to start saying, “Yes,” as much as I possibly could.
And in this quest, a few things have happened.
The Avoidance of Unnecessary Power Struggles.
Lily has very specific fashion preferences and pays no mind to whether or not her clothes match. Now, I know some parents are all, “Oh, but it’s so cute when they dress themselves in ridiculous combinations,” but as someone who can’t sleep unless my pajamas match, this is not me.
But, as much as I can, I’ve been trying to let go, because when she gets to choose what she wants to wear, that’s one less battle I have to worry about during our day.
It’s a simple new litmus test, really (and this goes for more than just clothes): Am I saying, “No” for her benefit or mine?
If the “No” only benefits me, then I tryyyyy to let it go.
Try is the operative word here.
The Language Goes Both Ways.
Not only have I been trying to saying “Yes” more, I’ve been trying to be more positive during our conversations in general. You know, counter every “Stop talking like a baby” with a few “I love how you used your words”.
Yesterday, Lily told me that my necklace was “really beautiful.”
And this morning, as soon as Norah woke up, she said, “How was your sleep, mom? Good?”
Kids hear everything don’t they?
I’m realizing more tangibly now than ever that if I want my kids to be positive and kind and gracious, then those are the words they need to hear me say more than anything.
I Became More Present.
When the girls ask me to do something, (if possible; it’s not always) I’ve been trying to say, “Yes” immediately.
This has eliminated (for the most part) the phrase “Just a second” from my vocabulary.
So often, when that phrase comes out of my mouth, “a second” turns into something more like 3 or 4 or 5 minutes during which time, they get bored and find something else to do without me.
No good. (It’s especially no good when it say it because I know they’ll get bored and find something else to do without me. Oy.)
So now, whenever possible, I try to leave my phone (the obvious main culprit for my distraction) in another room, and say, “Yes, I would love to read that entire stack of 33 books right this second.”
And it’s so. much. better. to be present with them in those moments. I feel it at the end of our days when I reflect on our time together. It feels like I did something right.
Oh, and I have most of our children’s books committed to memory now, so there’s that too.
I’m a work in progress. Just this morning I drew a hard line and told Lily she had to wear pants that matched her shirt. (I did look the other way though when she added a skirt that most certainly didn’t match the ensemble. Baby steps.)
Every day is laced with small failures. The “No” I said too sharply, the selfish “Stop” because I was annoyed with the noise, or the “Don’t” that only came out of my mouth because I didn’t want to get off the couch.
It’s easy to get bogged down by those moments, but I’m finding that the more intentional I am about my positive language, the less power the negatives have over my thoughts at the end of the day.
The days intentionally filled with, “Yes” or “I’d really like to” or “That’s a great idea,” well, those are the days I’ve started feeling really good about.
Of course my days will still be filled with “No.”
I’ve got graham cracker intake and overall baby safety to manage, after all.
I guess I just want to make sure that my days are filled with a lot of yeses too.
I mean, how many more days of endless stacks of children’s books or heaping piles of dress-up dresses do I really have ahead of me?