Lessons Learned – the power of ‘yes’

Not only did I allow The Bear to bring an icicle into the house, I let her eat it too.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Bear has a lot of energy. In an effort to rein her in, MJ and I have come to rely on what I like to call, pre-emptive parenting.

For example…

Before we go into the grocery store, we remind The Bear of the rules – no running, no yelling, stay where we can see you. We also tell her that if she doesn’t behave, we will leave the store immediately.

This may seem sensible, but this pre-emptive parenting creates an environment where we anticipate poor behaviour and increase our tendency to say ‘no’ a lot. Over-using ‘no’ can build mistrust because we always assume a negative outcome. Saying ‘no’ also doesn’t allow her to experience any logical consequences. Nor does it allow The Bear a chance to grow up.

I realized that our technique might need a re-think on a recent trip to my parents. I came into the kitchen to catch The Bear standing on a chair at the counter cutting up celery for dinner. My mother was calmly supervising. I cringed to see The Bear clumsily handling a sharp knife. But was she actually getting the job done and was so proud to be doing such an adult task. The Bear glowed with the responsibility of using a knife.

It was around this time that MJ and I agreed we needed to relax and start saying ‘yes’ a lot more. Rather than assume that we know the outcome, MJ and I have acknowledged that saying ‘yes’ might be agreeing to a positive experience. Before we say ‘no,’ we have started to ask ourselves – does it really matter?

So, I let The Bear have an icicle. A large one had beautifully formed near the entrance to our home and she asked if she could have it. Rather than think about the variety of outcomes that could play out, I said ‘yes’. She started sucking on it and wanted to take it inside. I resisted saying ‘no’ yet again. I told her that she had to keep her mittens on and to please keep it off the floor. She was absolutely thrilled to bring an icicle inside the house and eat it. And you know what? Not a drop of water fell on the floor, The Bear didn’t get sick from some sort of lurking germs, and it was the highlight of her day.

The power of ‘yes’ isn’t about giving children everything that they want; it is about loosening the limits that we have placed on them because of our own fears or doubts or lack of time/patience. Where is the source of the ‘no’ coming from? Saying ‘yes’ can create a lot of joy and allow children to experience more of the world.

MJ and I are consciously trying to say ‘yes’ more often. We have to work at it. And we give each other little reminder ‘ahems’ when we hear a request from The Bear.

The icicles have stopped forming on our house. But if they start again, I won’t hesitate allowing The Bear some harmless fun.

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1 Response to “Lessons Learned – the power of ‘yes’”


  1. 1 Rosemary January 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    This post is awesome. I will be telling my hubbie about it too. I think we are pretty relaxed with a lot of things anyway; but you’ve made some really good points. I can just imagine The Bear with her icicle.


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