December 21, 2005

Parent Tricks #2: The Yes Trick

A quick self-quote from the comments board on Parent Tricks #1:

“My son is what the teachers like to call 'spirited' and what I like to call 'opinionated and stubborn as an Irish Mule'. Luckily he's always had an innate sense of Fairness, so as long as our explanations/rules made sense and he could see that it was applied evenhandedly, he would usually settle down and abide by it.

That mealtime rule and the 'Yes Trick' both made our lives so easy and peaceful that I became largely unaware of how difficult my child could be, until we had Parent/Teacher conferences.”

Having noted early on my then-toddler son’s strong aversion to the word ‘no’, which nearly uniformly precipitated a tantrum or whine-fest, I decided to avoid the word altogether as a form of self-protection.

This worked so well that my son never caught on to ‘The Yes Trick’ until he was an adolescent (“HEY!!! You guys are SNEAKY!!!) and still hasn’t worked out an effective countermeasure; as he’s gotten older, we’ve gotten more cunning. We’ve been able to stay a step ahead of him. I wonder how long that will last?

In any case, it occurs to me that other people might benefit as we did from a nearly total abstinence from the word ‘no’ when dealing with their kids. Here’s how the Yes Trick works:

When your child asks/begs for/demands something, ALWAYS begin your response with a pleasant, “Yes.”

Wait, I know what you’re thinking. The trick is in the next bit, which always starts with “if”. What sort of “if” you use depends on the child’s request/demand, and how that balances out with your end goal.

If you don’t object too much to the request, and you do have something you’d like to get the child to do, use an “if” that isn’t too punitive or extreme. Yes, you may have the muffin, if you finish your dinner/chores. Yes, you may have that toy, if you fill this box with your old toys and give them to a homeless shelter. Yes, you may go to Jenny’s for a sleepover, if you can go three nights without sleeping with the Binky.

The best way to present this is to try to find an If that connects in some way to the demand. But if you can’t and the child asks why you are making a particular demand, just say it’s a fair trade, s/he gives and you give. If your “if” helps you in getting them to a desirable goal (more responsibility, better habits, etc), all the better.

If you do object to giving in to the child’s request, use a really extreme, somewhat punitive or seemingly impossible “if”. Yes, you may go to Jenny’s for a sleepover, if you don’t suck your thumb for two weeks first. Yes, you may have that toy, if you give up your entire Lego collection. Yes, you may have the muffin, if you rake the front and back yard AND pile the new load of wood neatly out back.

Either way, be prepared for your kid to occasionally take you up on even the extreme offers, and always follow through as promised, even if you don’t like it. If you don’t abide by your deal, the Trick will never work again; it depends entirely on your child’s trust in your honesty in the bargain. S/he will test even the more extreme “if” once or twice, just to see if you really mean it. It’s okay; once s/he sees you do mean it, s/he’s unlikely to test it too frequently.

In the meantime you usually end up looking like a really cool parent – after all, you hardly ever say no!

The best benefit of the Yes Trick is that when I DO say 'no' and give a reason, it's a rare enough occurance that the Vampire takes it more into consideration than he might otherwise - he knows I'm not going to say 'no' reflexively or 'meanly', so he doesn't start out from a position of resentment or resistance. Trust me: this is particularly useful as your child enters Teenhood.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Feed