The number one word to use to strengthen your family bond is such an easy word, yet so hard to use at times.
It is a word, but it is also a mindset. A mindset around valuing your children’s desires and supporting them. I am sure you are wondering what the word is. Here is a question for you: If you have your mind set on doing something, but you are going to ask someone else to help you with it, what is the answer you want to hear when you ask for help?
You got it! YES! Yes is such a magical word and can do wonders for building your family bond.
Let’s think of a few examples:
Your child approaches you (just as you sat down on the couch with a hot cup of coffee) and asks if you can get the Legos down for them.
Your first thought may be “No” I am sitting here drinking my coffee so I am not going to do it now.
When we say no, what message does that send to our kids. That what they desire is not important enough for us to acknowledge? That we don’t want to help them?
What can this lead to:
The child gets upset and starts yelling or whining or climbing all over you to get your attention which then means your coffee gets spilled and everything starts to spiral out of control because you yell at them about the coffee. Then your child starts crying and once you settle down from getting upset over the spilled coffee you feel guilty for reacting that way.
If we say Yes here is the situation:
You set your coffee on the table, go and grab the Legos, hand them to your child with a smile and a hug. And maybe tell them you will come back to play with them when you are done with your coffee or you grab your coffee and bring it over so you can play with them. And everyone is happy, feels loved, and feels like their desires have been met. Win Win!
I get it. Sometimes you just DON’T want to stop what you are doing to get up and go help someone. So if you want to use this magic word to strengthen your family bond you start with having the intention that you will strengthen your family bond. Then when the opportunities present themselves for you to say yes or no, you choose Yes the majority of the time since you have chosen to make strengthening your family bond important to you and a priority in your life.
There will be times when yes just isn’t possible. That’s where we get creative. If Yes isn’t possible because of the size of the request: Mommy can we go to the moon?! Instead of saying no, you could say we can’t go to the real moon but lets build a pretend space ship and we will imagine going there!
Or maybe you are in the middle of doing something that is important and you really can’t stop at that moment. Instead of saying no this is where we can say: Mommy can’t right now because I am finishing _____, but I will come help you with it when I am done. With this situation the key is the follow through. If you really do follow through with it when you are done then the next time you say I will be with you in a minute, they will believe you.
Some situations are easier than others to switch your mindset to yes. Like getting the Lego example. Some are more challenging like when your 2 year old wants to use a knife to cut their apple. Your gut reaction is no. You are too little, the knife is too sharp, maybe when you are older. Yes, all those things are true. But what is this teaching your child? That they aren’t capable, that they are too little to have control over their desires, that their desires don’t matter.
So instead let’s give them the butter knife (or the real knife, yes we have done it), stand there with them, watch them and talk to them about not putting their fingers by the sharp part of the knife. In situations like this you will be rewarded by the sense of accomplishment your child feels when they do something for the first time! And will quickly realize that in most situations there is a way to say YES and let them give it a go.
Is this easy to switch from a No parent to a Yes parent? NO! Is it possible? YES! Do parents that already say yes need reminders about continuing to say yes? For sure! Especially in the beginning.
Saying YES can also lead to having much more enjoyable family trips. Since again giving our kids options and choices and honoring those choices leads to a happy person. Which leads to more fun for everyone!
When you are on your family trip and your child asks to go to the pool, even though you want to go to the museum, it can be hard to say yes to the pool. But again, if your intention is to deepen your family bond then let them choose and say YES!
It doesn’t mean you never get to do what you want to do. It just means that EVERYONE gets a say in the activities that the family is doing. And if you go to the pool first one day and then your child asks the same thing the next day, you can talk to them about how you went to the pool first the day before, but today Mommy is choosing where we go. I am not saying there won’t be whining and crying and arguing. But the more you say YES, the more your child will know that if you suggest something else this time, then next time they will get to decide.
Imagine you are on a trip, before kids, with friends or another couple. Your friend says they want to go to the pool, even though you want to go to the museum. How would you respond? Tell them no we can’t go to the pool we have to go to the museum? Probably not, right? You would probably talk to them and come up with a compromise.
I know you could have just gone to the museum on your own. But your child does not have that option. So let’s treat them with the same respect we would give a friend or spouse and validate their desires and feelings.
If you are able to do this I guarantee it will lead to happier kids which leads to less stress on Mom and Dad and will lead to a great family trip!
Let me be totally honest in telling you that we do not always say yes. There are times we fall into saying NO all the time. The key is to realize we have fallen into saying no too often and remember our intention to deepen our family bond. This helps us get back on track and act with intention instead of emotion.
We accept that there are times we will forget and times we don’t parent the way we want to. If we acknowledge that and attempt to make the adjustments next time around I think we are doing an OK job at this unimaginably hard thing called parenting!
If you are on board with giving this magic word a go, here are a few recommendations:
- If you are coparenting with a spouse, partner, grandparent, etc. have a conversation with them about it before you start. Your kids may be surprised by all these yeses and may push the limits out of the gate (if you can, go with it and keep saying yes!). So make sure everyone is on the same page and prepared for what is to come and why you are doing it.
- Really think about your intention behind it. Are you ready to make your family bond a focus and to put more time into it. Because when you say yes it means more time is going to go into following through with the yes.
- Be prepared for it to be a challenge. It will not be easy to make this adjustment. Accept that and be ready for the frustration and challenge of changing your thinking and then acting on it.
- Enjoy the amazing moments that come out of saying yes to your child and acknowledge them and take a minute to give yourself a high five! Or if you see your co-parent doing it tell them great job! Or talk about the experience with them to see what they thought.
- Hang up the reminders below in key places in your house and car. Seeing reminders throughout your day will help keep you on track.
- Your bathroom so you see it every morning
- Your fridge in the kitchen
- On the TV stand in the living room
- On the dash of your car
- Or if you want set a reminder in your phone for every 30 minutes to remind you to say Yes!
- Know that you are probably not going to be perfect at it. But that’s OK as long as you realize you said No and then focus on saying Yes for the rest of the day.
- Take it a day at a time. Each day will get easier and the longer you do it the more natural it becomes.
- If you can talk to a friend or family member about it who also has kids to see if they are interested in doing it do. There is nothing better then hanging out with a community of people that act and parent like you. It helps to remind you of what you want to do and is a great way to learn how to do it. By watching other parents examples and behavior and how they handle situations.
- ENJOY it. Enjoy the process. Be proud that you are taking this step to deepen your family bond and go all in and see what happens!
If after reading this you may feel angry and frustrated and think “Why do I have to say YES to my child all the time? I don’t want to say Yes to them. I want to do what I want to do and not what they are asking me to.” That is fine and this isn’t for you.
But if you have those same feelings and there is an inkling of a thought that maybe you want to think a different way. Then here you go. Give it a shot and see what happens. But know it isn’t going to be all rainbows and sparkles. There will be hard and frustrating times since you are allowing your child to be a person and have a say. Be prepared for that.
What it comes down to for me is that a lot of time you hear parents complaining about how their kids won’t listen or how they misbehave. I think a lot of the time those are the parents who aren’t listening to their kids. So why would a kid listen to you if you aren’t listening to them?
Respect has to be earned (and in this I mean you have to earn your child’s respect not the other way around) and for it to be earned we have to model how we want to be treated and treat our kids that way. Remember they aren’t just your kid, they are a person, an individual, and an amazing human being who desires your love and attention.
In closing, and full disclosure, we will be the first to tell you we are NOT perfect parents and we DO NOT know what we are doing all of the time. But we do know what our intention is and that is to deepen our family bond each and every day. No, we are not perfect. Yes, we mess up and don’t act the way we want to all of the time. But as long as we continue to move down a path of correcting those situations and apologizing to our kids, for our misguided actions, we feel like we are going in the right direction.
We would love to hear your comments and questions about this topic. How do you parent? Do you think we are totally crazy? Do you agree with this philosophy? Do you think this is something you would want to try?
Here are a couple more ideas on how to deepen your family bond!
Also, here are print outs that you can use to remind yourself about saying YES. Print ’em out and hang ’em everywhere!
We recently focused our Friday Family Chat on this topic. Check it out here!