Rather than say NO, which cuts something off, you can say YES and then find some way to do something.” Merce Cunningham

I love considering this quote in the context of raising children, especially pre-schoolers. I invite all parents to simply observe themselves during an average day and try to count all the times they say “no.” (Of course you will automatically say it fewer times as soon as you start observing). Next pay close attention to what happens after the first ‘no.’ (Hint: it tends to lead to further no’s).

When I did this when my kids were young, I was stunned to observe that it was practically a reflex; I said ‘no’ without really reflecting on it. I then began to simply pose the question to myself, “Well why not?” and was almost equally surprised to notice that there was often no real reason.

Okay, so you’ve observed how much you say ‘no.’ PLEASE do this with no judgment. We all say ‘no’ a lot. Now observe the times that you don’t exactly say ‘no’ but lecture, reason, persuade, attempt to convince, make bargains, etc. We all know the “tricks” we perform with our kids.

So now that you’ve observed your full arsenal, I imagine you are wondering, so what do I say or do instead?!

Here is a list of headings (for examples for parents and pre-school teachers go here)

  • Clear expectations
  • Respond with a question
  • State a given (i.e., a rule or condition)
  • Check out a child’s knowledge or understanding
  • Invite cooperation
  • Limited choices
  • Negotiate an agreement
  • Follow through
  • Say what it is that you want
  • Just say yes
  • Draw a picture of what you want the child to be doing
  • Distraction and re-direct (for under 2-year-olds)
    From Positive Discipline for Preschoolers

If you are a playful sort, you can turn it into a kind of game for yourself. See how many times a day you can find another way of stating what you want clearly. When you read the examples of what each of the guidelines could sound like, you will note that this is not at all about saying ‘yes’ where you would have said ‘no,’ but rather about saying what it is you want the child to do rather than not do. This is much much clearer for the child and ultimately for you. It kind of forces us adults to consider and articulate what it is that we want or need the child to do. Remember to keep it short, sweet, concrete.

It would be so helpful and fun to hear what successes, comments and struggles you have as you observe yourself and come up with ways to avoid saying No on the PeaceWorks Coaching Facebook page.

Happy Parenting!