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Saying “No” (or even “No, because”) vs “Yes, and…”

As you may know if you’ve been reading my parenting posts,
I’m not a big fan of saying No to kids.
I think it inhibits independence
and creates a separation
(an unnecessary separation) between parent and child.

I also know that this point of view bugs a lot of people!!


I Don’t Understand the Question

Recently I was talking to a friend about how my daughter wants to get a tattoo.
I was saying that she wants one going down her arm
and that she has asked me to design it for her.

My friend asked me
“Did her asking you to design it make it easier for you to say Yes?”

Say yes to what? I was wondering.
At first I honestly didn’t understand the question.
I was genuinely confused.

Then suddenly I realized that they meant
was it easier to say yes to her getting a tattoo!!

I laughed and said
“I would never say no to her. I just don’t do that!”

Then it was my friend’s turn to be a bit confused.
“I just don’t get that.” they said.

Well the story of my daughter’s tattoo
illustrates the point perfectly so I shall share it with you.

You Want to do WHAT to Your Body?

My kiddo is now 17.
when she was 15 she asked me if she could get a tattoo.
(now that in itself should be interesting to note.
Why would a kid that always gets told yes think of asking for permission?)

I told her Of Course she could get a tattoo.
It is her body and she has the right to decide what is done with it.
No one else has that right.
(isn’t that a good message for a young person? I think so!)

Saying “YES…and” teaches a lesson, “NO” closes down thinking

Though it wasn’t a permissive and uninvolved yes.
I said: Yes… and here’s something to think about when making the decision.
At 15 you’re still evolving.
Right now you’re a young woman
and growing into such an amazing person.

Sometimes from the ages of 15 – 18 we change a lot of things about ourselves,
our tastes in music, art and other preferences, our friends and lots of other things.

If you choose a tattoo now and you change you won’t be terribly happy.
If you wait till your 18 then you’ll have a few more years under your belt
and you’ll feel more sure about your choice.

Think about that and whatever you decide I’ll stand behind you.

She thought about it for a few days. She did her own processing.
After some time she decided not to get the tattoo. It’s worth noting that she thought about it for a few DAYS. That means she knows I’m not imposing my will on her. She knows I’m giving her information and guidance to include in her own decision making. It also means she took the suggestion seriously. No resistance. 

I don’t want my kid to immediately resist nor comply with me. I want them to be deeply, collaboratively involved in whatever we’re exploring.

YES Encourages Self-Awareness and Self-Knowledge

Shortly after she turned 17 she came to me and asked
“Dad, Do I you think I have to wait till I’m 18 to get a tattoo?
I’m 17 and I know myself pretty well.
I want to get a happy face and I know I’ll always like happy faces.”
(again, she knows I’m going to say yes… why does she ask me?)

I said, of course you can! You know yourself best and if that’s what you want then let’s do it.

She responded saying that she also wants a longer one on her arm and a band on the other arm, but she feels like it’ll be a good idea to wait till she’s 18 to make those decisions. (The long one on the arm is the one she wants me to design!)

Clearly she had been thinking about the suggestion I offered  2 years ago. She has been self-evaluating and assessing the situation intelligently and independently.

YES Gives Kids Ownership Over Their Thinking and Their Lives

If I had told her “No” or even “No, because…” instead of “Yes, and…” she would not have done the same level of self-evaluation. She would not have made the decision her own.

She would not have felt the same level of ownership and autonomy over her body. And I am quite sure she would not have involved me in the process to the extent she has. 

Instead of being a source of guidance and wisdom in her processing I would have been an obstacle in her achieving her desires.

NO closes doors while “YES and” opens them,
it allows for more possibilities!

The other benefit of this approach is that I know she will apply this decision making model
to other areas of her life. It is now hers. It is her wisdom, her understanding and her self-knowledge.

The model will evolve and adapt as she grows. Developing this kind of capacity is far more important to me as a parent than “laying down the law.”

YES Helps Kids to Feel Safe With You

This uncommon level of acceptance that I offer her has made her know that I am a safe place for her to express herself. That she can count on me to validate her no matter what.

Because of this she actually seeks my guidance, even when she doesn’t have to.
This is why she asks me when she already knows the answer is yes, because she knows that if I have anything important for her to consider I will share it with her and support her decision once she does.

To me this is so wonderful.
This is why I’m such a fan of “Yes”!

Can you challenge yourself to deepen your relationship with YES? To trust it more?
I believe you can ❤

0 thoughts on “Saying “No” (or even “No, because”) vs “Yes, and…”

  1. This is a definite “YES” with no – if, ands, or buts.
    What a beautiful relationship you two have. It is one that should go down as a teaching in the manual of Loving and Respecting our Children. 🙂

  2. I have always loved this approach to your parenting Vivek, it’s an ideology that truly shows trust, thought, and care in the partnership that is raising children.

    I am often put in a position where I end up saying no to my children. More often than not it’s simply because of expediency in the situation (sometimes it’s a lack of diligence and laziness in myself).

    I think these articles are a great way to express the implementation of this approach in situations that would concern others.

    Keep up the inspirational work!

    1. It’s really not easy to avoid saying no.
      I relate to your struggle my friend.

      It requires constant vigilance.
      A constant reaffirming of priorities.

      As I’m about to write in a new post:

      What I do is look at the deeper thing being taught,
      the deeper lesson being imparted in every experience.

      Is it more important for them to go to school every day
      or is it more important for them to learn intelligent decision making?

      Is it more important for them to get to bed on time
      or is it more important for them to learn how sleep affects the body
      and make choices based on that knowledge?

      Is it more important for them to eat what we want them to eat
      (and how much, and when and what manners they have while eating)
      or is it more important for them to love their bodies,
      to learn about how food affects them,
      to learn to balance nutrition with the enjoyment of eating and
      to make their own decisions around food.

      Are we dealing with present behaviours
      or are we instilling LIFELONG skills, attitudes and knowledge?

      It’s a continuous process to develop this mindset so that it over rides our normal consciousness.

      All we can do is be patient with ourselves and keep trying one day at a time.

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