I tell parents in my private counseling practice that I understand how exhausting and stressful it is for parents and children to constantly say and hear the word “No”.
Then, I like to explain how there are many ways to say, “Yes” to your child that builds self-esteem and positive values.
It may be easier to say “No” to your child about so many things than to stop and think of ways you can work with your child so you can say “Yes” to them more often.
If you are clear on your goals and values, you can find ways to say “Yes” to your children when it aligns with your personal beliefs.
The reality is that there are going to be times that you absolutely must say “No” to your child for safety, financial or moral reasons. At these times, you can explain simply and briefly why this is your decision. When you are able to briefly explain to your child your reasoning it helps them to learn how to reason out their own choices in the future, which builds self-esteem.
When your child wants a snack, instead of saying “No” to all his requests, pick out 2 to 3 snacks that you find acceptable (and you know they will eat) and offer them as the only choices. Your child will feel in control of his choices and you, as the parent, are not continually saying “No”.
When you find ways to say, “Yes” it saves the word “No” for bigger issues.
Children and teens continually hear the word “No” without any explanation or other options causing a decrease in self-esteem and then are unsure of what positive values to follow. Hearing “No” over and over can cause your child to question whether he is always wrong.
When your child is exploring independence, they gain self-esteem by making positive choices. For example, if they were to ask to be allowed to walk around a mall with their friends with no parental supervision and this is in conflict with your family’s values you have options to say “Yes” instead of “No” while still sticking to your beliefs. Let me explain.
One option you might offer to be able to say “Yes” is to take them to the mall but make sure you are there too, maybe hanging out in a food court or bookstore so you are nearby in case of emergency. This allows them some freedom and a chance to learn how to handle different situations with you nearby.
A second option is to sit down with them and go over all of your concerns and safety rules and have them check-in by text regularly while allowing them to go for a short period of time as a trial.
A third way to say “Yes” and still align with your values may be to take them to the mall while you walk slowly behind. We chose this options for our daughter before we felt she was ready to be there alone. At a small distance behind, it allowed the girls freedom while helping us as parents come to terms with their growing up. Bonus: we had fun too.
Finally, if you know you will not allow them to be alone at a mall under any circumstances, then you could offer to host the group in your home with an alternative option that allows your child to not be disappointed and still have fun with their friends. This works especially well if you give your child some choices of activities that they and their friends love.
Helping your child make positive choices builds self-esteem while clearly explaining your values and core beliefs will help your child make their own positive choices in the future. Then, you can say, “Yes!” to your child more than “No!” because they will be making choices based on values you believe in.