The power of YES in opening up your life to a whole new world of joy, experiences, and collaboration cannot be understated. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been profoundly moved by a detour from my agenda. I suppose that is the point after all. That “my” agenda is only 1 piece to our family’s map. In keeping myself open in the “yes” position, our whole life feels unlocked. We are free. We feel honored. We have room for happiness and adventure and natural life learning.
One symptom of top-down power and control is the default “no” position. With one little syllable we can communicate, “Your desires are bad. Your curiosities, goals, and priorities are unimportant.” With one small word we grossly skew the power balance and make our children smaller while stroking our own ego, bringing a comforting sense of control – coloring life within the lines. So the first step in making the yes shift is not even about the details but about opening the space in your mindset to value your children as whole people with their own autonomous ideas worthy of respect. The “how” comes secondary to believing in the “why.”
If you want to carve out the space in your life for the flexibility required to say “yes,” you have to slow down and be present. Funny enough, that is also one of the most important ingredients to living a happy life. If the life you have created for yourself and your family is rigid and packed there is no room for “yes.” Your knee jerk reaction might be to see your schedule as immovable but it IS. Your life is yours to design so do so with the greatest of intention. You don’t need to fill the space. For in that space, if you hold it and wait for it to wash over you, creativity, self-awareness, and opportunity burst into the forefront.
I would say the majority of our natural learning journey happens through the “yes”es. Children are bubbling over with excited curiosity that spikes with inspiration. When we meet that natural drive to learn through discovery, their brains screaming out with enthusiasm, with “no,” we slam the door to learning shut. These moments can spring up over seemingly random things and times but finding the “yes” honors those natural learning processes. My children know how to learn and have a love of learning. A big part of that has been fostered through that one powerful word: “yes.”
Whenever we say “yes” to one thing, we say “no” to something else. So saying “yes” isn’t always quite so simple. If you say “yes” to pulling over and exploring that creek you just saw, you might be saying “no” to the movie you were trying to make (and to today joining a clown school, sky diving, or moving to Sri Lanka). If you say “yes” to staying home and playing with Legos, you might be saying “no” to grocery shopping which means PB&J for dinner. If you say “yes” to a shared bath, you might be saying “no” to the few minutes of quiet relaxation you longed for. Going through one door means you are not going through a million other doors. This is where the quality yes comes into play. An outright yes isn’t always what’s best for the family. Sometimes you have to collaborate and find a better yes than the one that first presented itself.
Collaboration is one of my favorite words in parenting and so of course, it has a big place in the “yes” conversation too. Sometimes I want to say yes, but I honestly can’t immediately see how to make it happen. That’s when I say, “Yes. Let’s think about how.” This opener positions them right alongside me in problem solving and exploring alternatives. I see them as wise and innovative and they rise to the occasion.
“Can we go ice skating today?”
“Yes. Let’s think about how. Your brother has a doctor’s appointment that we have waited a long time for at 3.”
“What time does the ice rink close?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll look it up. It looks like they have a session at 7.”
“Okay, that could work. What about Daddy?”
“I’ll call him and see if he would like to join us. He could meet us there after work.”
“Okay, let me know. Oh, are your rain clothes clean? A waterproof layer makes skating much more comfortable.”
“I can grab everyone’s rain clothes and throw them in the washer. Do we have enough time before we have to leave for the doctor?”
“If you start them right now they should be dry in time.”
Sometimes I’m overwhelmed (go figure, with 3 homeschooled boys and a business). In those moments when a flashing “no” reactively pops into my mind, I might not be able to say “yes,” as the thought of adding more to my plate is too much in that moment. When I’m in that emotional space, I’ve found, “I’m open to that. I’ll think on it,” to be a game changer. It gives me the time and space I need to find the quality yes, which might not be a straight forward and simple “yes” right in that moment. Sometimes I need to let it simmer until a demanding priority right in front of my face subsides. The children let it rest with me because they have learned they can trust that when they hear that, I am trying my very best to find a way to say “yes.” On a rare occasion when a child has been particularly fixated on something, I have had to say, “I hear this is important to you. Unfortunately my hands and mind are full right now. So if you need an answer right now, it has to be “no.” On those rarest of occasions, they have responded with a quick, “No, no, you mull it over.” One significant piece to this is that my children have a lot of empathy. If I am overwhelmed, their instinct is to drop their priority and help with mine, because that is what I do for them when they are overwhelmed. I treat them with compassion and it comes back around.
Lastly, don’t forget to say “yes” to yourself! Honoring the members of your family includes you. Your self care is a part of the conversation and if it is from the beginning, your children will learn to spread the “yes”es around.
“Can we go to a park today?”
“Yes. What do you think about going to the one by the lake. I really enjoy that trail and view.”