Disciplining children is hard work! It takes time, energy, acknowledgment, structure, consistency, and a calm demeanor! Easier said than done! Some days, you just don’t want to deal with another battle. I get it! Power struggles are hard to untangle once started. So in order to prevent another power struggle that leaves you feeling depleted of energy, out of control, and confused about who is “winning” (let me guess, it’s probably not you), let me share some insights that are going to make your power struggles a thing of the past (on most days)!
What’s the secret? Just say “Yes” but do so strategically! Read along and we will work through this together!
It might seem counterintuitive to say “yes” because we feel we are letting our kids get their way, but in reality it’s the most valuable word in our discipline toolbox. If you reflect on your days, you probably say “yes” to your children a bunch of times and don’t even think about. The only time you actually think about it is when you really want your kids to NOT be doing THAT thing or YOU want them to be doing THIS thing instead and you impulsively tell them, “NO! We’re not doing that right now!” And next thing you know. Boom. Bam. Pow. Your power struggle ensues. Let’s put an end to 95% of our power struggles with our kids by saying that simple three-letter word. “YES!” Read on to find out why saying “Yes” is important and how to say it in a way where everyone can win!
How to Say YES Strategically:
Scenario: Your child tells you he wants to play with his cars, but you need him to clean up the dishes on the table. You are trying to get out the door for work and get him to school so there probably isn’t time for cars.
Your Strategic “Yes” response: “Yes.” You can definitely play with cars once you clean up the table.
Tip: Make sure to positively reinforce consistently. If your child is playing with their cars and didn’t clean up the table, let them know you are taking the car away and say, “Once you clean up the table, you can play with the cars.”
Outcome #1: In most cases, your child is going to clean up the table because they want to play with the cars. If cleaning up the table takes extra time and you have to leave before your child gets to play, just positively reinforce by saying, “We can play cars when you get home tonight.”
Outcome #2: Your child is still playing with cars and isn’t listening to your directions.
Your Strategic Follow-Up Response: Give your child two choices with the same outcome. For example, “Do you want to clean up the table on your own or do you want me to help you clean up the table?“
Why Saying Yes is Important for Your Toddler to Hear:
- Saying Yes Acknowledges Your Toddler’s Interests. I’ve noticed that when I say yes strategically, my son complies and sometimes I realize later that we never did what he was asking for earlier in the day because we both forgot! Of course, I’ll remind him and we’ll make time for it the next day. In my experience with 95% of cases, that acknowledgment is what is at the heart of a potential power struggle.
2. Saying Yes Helps Toddlers Feel a Sense of Control. On top of acknowledgement, your child feels a sense of control when they are able to voice a preferred interest and you give them the power to execute on the FUN! Toddlers love to play with their parents, negotiate, and give directives! Saying YES reinforces that their idea has merit, and gets them motivated and excited when it finally comes to fruition!
3. Saying Yes Gives Your Toddler Structure: When you say yes strategically, you usually give a structured directive (as in, “Yes. That’s a great idea! Let’s do that after we eat our breakfast!”). With consistency, your toddler will start to naturally respond to and anticipate that structure (your toddler trusts that first we eat breakfast, then we get to use finger paints!
Earlier I mentioned that forced choices are great to use when your toddler is not responding to your strategic YES response. Forced choices are amazing because they give your toddler the power to make decisions, but still comply with the task. For example, “Do you want to eat breakfast inside or would you like to eat breakfast outside?” Your toddler gets to make the decision, which gives them a sense of power and control but still comply with the routine!
I want to be clear that I am not advocating that you never say NO! In fact, NO is very important to use, especially when your toddler is ready to push their younger sibling out of the way to get something they want, take a toy from another child, or use those dreaded words they don’t yet fully understand but may have overheard somewhere! NO is important. And when we use YES strategically, toddlers are going to tune in more when you use NO because they now understand that NO means business.
So to sum it up, use YES strategically to give your toddler acknowledgement, structure, and control. And don’t forget to use forced choices when needed to give your child a sense of power. And when they are getting into the bowl of dog food for the umpteenth time, feel confident in nicely screaming out a big-old NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Happy Parenting!
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What did you enjoy about this article? Have any other suggestions or ideas to share? Let me know in the comments below!