How many times a day do you think we say no to our children? How often are we giving them a yes, a win? I’m trying to remember to say yes to my kids more often during this COVID-19 Pandemic for their sake and mine.
Many years ago, before being a mom was anywhere on my radar, I was listening to a woman I knew talk about parenting her two young children.
What she said stuck with me all these years later.
She had no education in child development or behavior, only her own instincts and experience as a mom. She said,
“I try to give them a yes for every no I have to give. As parents we say no all the time. Setting boundaries and raising upstanding citizens, but they need a balance with wins too.”
Wow! I mean it is so simple but so easy to forget when you are in the thick of the weeds.
Her example was:
“if they ask for ice cream for breakfast and I say no, then I might say breakfast is not a great time for your to have ice cream. but let’s have some after we eat a nice lunch.”
So it’s about balance. You’re not giving in, but still giving.
Ok typing that even impressed me, so I’m going to say it again.
You’re not giving in but still giving.
Wow, I needed to hear that.
My kids are barely 5 and barely 3, and this quarantine with two working parents is rough on all of us. I was seeing the behaviors worsen and I was getting worried.
Let me say that I did not reminisce on this conversation from 15 years ago all on my own. I am a therapist who has a great deal of expertise in behavior modification but…
I was too close to the situation I was in. Weeds up to my eyeballs in the garden of child rearing if you will.
I could tell my kids were stressed, especially my 5-year-old son. My heart was hurting but I was also so frustrated.
My 5-year-old son sucks his fingers and I see it as a problem. It can pass germs, but more so I was a severe thumb sucker myself and felt shame and insecure about the consequences. (Although my parents never made me feel bad about it, I got those messages somewhere, probably at school and at the dentist.)
I was considering contacting a child therapist for a consult before COVID-19 hit, and now with added behavioral changes it seemed like it couldn’t wait. So this past week we did just that.
The conversation with the therapist triggered the memory about saying yes to my kids more often than no.
She suggested we reframe our thinking about the finger sucking and see it as a positive. How great that my sweet, empathetic, sensitive kid has a way to self sooth.
She pointed out that with us together 24/7 he was getting a lot more negative attention for something he found comfort in. Something I decided was bad. Not to mention he is a preschooler pushing limits and so there are no’s flying for all sorts of reasons daily around here. (I know I’m getting a collective amen on that.)
So we have started to not acknowledge the finger sucking in any way.
In fact we are doing little things to make it more pleasant. If I see him doing it, I might ruffle his hair or give him a squeeze or mention something he did well recently. We want him to associate positivity with his soothing action again.
Guess what is happening?!
It has only been two days and he seems calmer and happier. He also offered up some communication, unprompted, about worries he had regarding COVID-19.
It really made me think how else can I be giving my kids more yes’s than no’s during this difficult time, where everything is different and their routines are, well, nonexistent?
I’m giving them more choices.
“would you like rice or pasta with the chicken tonight?”
“we can go for a walk and then do art, or do art and then go for a walk. You choose.”
When I have to say no I try and say yes too.
“we can’t have a play date right now, but we can Zoom with that friend this week.”
“I really don’t want you to wear that shirt for the third day in a row, but you can pick any shirt in your closet and once I’ve washed that shirt you can wear it immediately.”
I’m trying to remember that as much as I’m struggling my children are too.
Now, if only I could just get more yeses for myself too. Like, yes you can eat that half gallon of ice cream with out gaining weight….