Learning to Say ‘Yes’ to Your Toddler

Eli MischievousOne look at my precocious children and the word “no” leaps from my throat and sits on my tongue. Ready .. aim …

More often than not I swallow hard and let the negative word fade away. My kids are better off as a result, and my role as a father isn’t diminished in the process.

Being a dad is all about battles – the ones you pick and the others you quickly hoist the white flag over before a verbal shot is fired.

It’s like marriage, in a way. The power structure is far different, though, requiring a benevolent dictatorship rather than a representative democracy.

My boys are constantly in motion, from the time they toddle out of their bedrooms in the morning to those last few moments where they rage, rage against the dying of the night light. They want to eat the wrong things, use tools the wrong way and even pet the dog in a way that makes her cross.

I could shut them down at every turn, and frankly I do when it comes to our beleaguered puggle, Janey Girl.  The rest of the time I quickly do a damage assessment and try my best not to tell them “no.”

Am I spoiling them? Potentially, sure. I’m also letting them be themselves, find their own boundaries and question their surroundings. What’s the worst fallout from Elijah drinking milk out of a bowl, Janey Girl style? Will he want to do so daily, or is it a childish whim to be satiated by a single serving?

Elijah loves his new soccer cleats so much that he wants to sleep with them. Every night (so far). It makes my teeth hurt to see him crawl into bed wearing them, but does it really matter? His infatuation will likely last another week – maybe less. And then it’s over. He still sleeps soundly, and in no time he’ll find the very idea of sleeping in his shoes to be absurd. So why tell him “no” now?

It may sound easier to shelve the word “no” as often as I do. It’s actually harder in practice, but my kids are worth it.


  1. says

    The NO word is most effective if not over used. That’s my thought for the day. I always say, they will be diaper trained at 18. When was the last time you saw a teenager in a diaper? See what I mean. It all flows eventually.

  2. Beth Trapani says

    There are so many times we HAVE to say ‘no’ throughout the day… all the discipline experts suggest saying ‘yes’ as much as possible — Kids do better when they feel better and aren’t constantly ordered around as we so often have to do to get them from Point A to Point B. You’re not ruining/spoiling them!

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