The Power of Yes

Sometimes parenting small children feels like a never-ending stream of negativity. “Don’t dig in the garbage!” “Don’t climb on the table.” “No, you cannot smash play-doh into the carpet.”

A few weeks ago — during a typically testy nap time for our 3-year-old — I learned about the power of yes.

The child was resisting a nap with every ounce of his being. He made excuses, he got physical, he even trotted out his old standby line — “I don’t know how long nap time takes.” After putting him back in his bed for the 34th time, I lost my cool. Honestly, I probably lost my cool for the 15th time. He had a runny nose and asked me to put new sheets on his bed because the ones on the bed had snot on them.

“Hell, no!” I shouted. “I’m not changing your sheets. You’re going to lay here and take a nap.”

“I want clean sheets!” he screamed/cried.

I took a breath.

“Ok. You want clean sheets? I’ll get you clean sheets,” I said, angry at myself for caving in.

I changed his sheets and five minutes later, he was sound asleep. He slept like an angel, probably worn out by our epic match of wills. But maybe he was finally settled down because he expressed what was bothering him and I made it happen.

The episode taught me not only that I have an extremely stubborn child but also that even though my instinct oftentimes is to deny his unusual, seemingly irrational requests maybe I need to flip my script. Maybe I need to answer with a smile and an emphatic “Yes” rather than an instant and angry “No.”

You want to wear your new Batman rain boots to ride your bike in the 80 degree Florida sunshine? No problem. You want to change into your Halloween costume upon waking at 6 am? Sure thing, buddy. You want to eat waffles for dinner? Have at it.

Here’s my thinking — first, saying “Yes” avoids an unnecessary confrontation. If his request is easy and not harmful, then why not let him slide down the stairs wrapped up in his blanket pretending his an astronaut rocketing through space? Second, he’s exerting his power and trying to figure out how much he can control in his little world. By giving him a few, innocuous victories it gives him confidence and makes him feel good about himself. Third, life is going to tell him “No” so many times that maybe by hearing “Yes” it will enable him to better handle rejection in the future. He’ll know that there is room for compromise and he’ll possibly be better equipped to deal with failure as he grows up. And, fourth, by allowing him a few wins, maybe he’ll more easily acquiesce when I tell him “No, you cannot wash your brother’s hair with dirty puddle water.”

Initially, I felt like this was a sign of my weakness or that my strong-willed 3-year-old had beaten me. But I came to realize that it’s not about winning and losing or one of those sports cliches that many men focus on. This was about forging a working relationship with a child whose biggest decision of the day is whether to wear a Batman or Superman t-shirt to school.

Dictates and demands are a necessary part of parenting. After all, our job is to keep our children safe and healthy while teaching them manners, responsibility and proper behavior. But saying “Yes” more often will not only make both of us happier but maybe it will foster greater camaraderie. And maybe it will help both us sleep better, too.


The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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