The Character Movement

Being a “Yes Mom”

This blog post was written by Jane Leyden Cavanaugh, School Relations Representative and Joe Cavanaugh’s wife.

A couple of years ago, I overheard a conversation Tess was having with her friend. Tess said, “Daddy always says yes to me. Mommy always says no.” This comment really shocked me, but then I took a step back and thought about my recent conversations with Tess.

Tess: “Mommy, can I wear shorts today?”
Me: “No. Are you nuts? It’s only 40 degrees out.”

Tess: “Mom, can I watch ‘My Little Pony’ on TV until we have to leave for Nanny’s?”
Me: “No. We can’t be late. It drives Nanny nuts.”

Tess: “Mommy, can I have some Pirate Booty before dinner?”
Me: “No. You’ll be stuffed for dinner. Your stomach’s the size of a golf ball.”

I wondered to myself, “How many times a day am I saying ‘no’ to this child?” Although my parental instincts were probably right-on, I didn’t want Tess to think that I would always say “no” to her. From that point on, I was determined to turn myself from a “No Mom” into a “Yes Mom.” I did some research and found some great advice in Diane Gossen’s book, “My Child is a Pleasure.” This book outlines strategies that help parents talk to their kids about getting needs met – for both the parent and the child – in a safe and healthy way.

Gossen suggests that the number of times you say “no” to your child should be considerably less than the times you say “yes.” You can make this possible by embracing the phrase, “Yes, if.” This idea has positively shifted conversations that I have with Tess.

Tess: “Mommy, can I wear shorts today?”
Me: “Yes, if you also bring pants in your backpack to change into in case you get cold at school.”

Tess: “Mom, can I watch ‘My Little Pony’ on TV until we have to leave for Nanny’s?”
Me: “Yes, if you promise to come to me the first time I call your name.”

Tess: “Mommy, can I have some Pirate Booty before dinner?”
Me: “Yes, if you eat all of your yummy brussel sprouts at dinner.”

Reworking my “nos” into “yes, ifs” has made a world of difference in my relationship with Tess. It’s become a game I play with myself and we both win. Tess now hears “yes” from mommy, but my responsibilities and needs as a parent are still met – we are on time, food is eaten when it’s served and she has clothing to cover her when she’s cold. It has been extremely helpful and has worked in many situations.

I encourage you to test out this method with your kids to see if it works for your family. I know it has erased some stress from our household and has slowly changed Tess’ perception of me – I am no longer the mommy who always says “no.”

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