Using Positive Discipline to Create a Yes Environment:
Parenting is exhausting. Yes it is also fun and beneficial, but you have to admit there are those days that just drain you. Parents are only human. And you know what? That’s okay!
We are bound to make mistakes and have our learning experiences. There are going to be those days that your child decides to use your toothbrush to scrub the toilet, or steal a crayon to decorate the walls of the house. There are going to be days when you struggle not to become irritated and yell. Days where it is hard to maintain positive discipline. Days when you wonder if you have any sanity left. But, when you raise your voice you lose the battle.
And, when you find yourself constantly saying no you are also loosing the battle.
Raising your voice and using the word no only leads to more frustrations for everyone. It leads to more behaviors, rebellions, and everyone getting more upset than they really need to be.
When a child is little we baby proof our environments. We adapt our lives to fit our infant’s needs. Yet, as that child gets older many of us forget the importance of this action. Just because baby becomes a child does not mean we stop adapting our lives for our children’s needs. It is our job to adapt, not our kids.
Creating a yes environment is not an easy task and requires a lot of patience. It is not the same thing as permissive parenting. Permissive parenting (or letting your child do whatever they want) does not create a safe environment for your child. A yes environment is providing a safe place where your child can get what they need physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is providing an environment with boundaries that still gives them the freedom they need to thrive.
There are three main components to a yes environment: setting, mentality, and vocabulary. These are to be worked on in baby steps. Remember if you start this it takes about 21 days to make a habit.
Setting:A yes setting means removing the temptations that cause conflicts between parents and child. Just like baby proofing, it means making the environment structured with the child in mind. However, it goes one step further. Children are designed to explore. With baby proofing you may put a gate up. With creating a yes environment you look for ways to make that area safe to explore without blocking it off. A yes environment means doing the work to find a way to help your child meet their needs for freedom, learning, and exploration.
When we approached creating a yes environment I took a piece of paper and stuck it on the fridge. Every time I found myself saying no, I wrote down the incident. This then became my to-do list.
Kids like to get into the cupboards? Move all the kid safe dishes down to their level or make a lower cupboard kid only dishes and let them help you! Children learn through play. Turn those trouble areas into playful learning areas. Always fighting with your kids over sweets? As they say, out of sight out of mind. Out of sight can work for just about anything. By having a running list I knew where to start and was able to prioritize our most common occurrences.
Another important aspect of a yes environment is a quiet area. I do not believe in time out. To me that teaches children, I’m too mad to talk to you…and then we wonder why teenagers like to give the silent treatment! Instead I believe in quiet communication areas. A place free of distractions and stimulation where parents and children can talk. This is a vital part of a yes environment and it doesn’t have to be very extravagant. Just establish a place that you can talk to your child when things get out of hand. When I find things getting out of hand I refer to first/then language. Yes we can do this activity, but first we need to go to the quiet spot and talk. Then we can come back out and play.
Our quiet area is in the corner of my bedroom. We have also had one in a closet before. It is filled with books, social stories, and has an overstuffed chair with soft lighting. It is our safe place to relax.
The thing with settings is that you cannot control every environment your child experiences. You can modify your home, but you can’t modify the grocery store, mall, or other public places you may frequent. For these places I use a redirection bag. It holds a couple of my kids favorite things that I can pull out and use to distract them from possible temptations. If you make a redirection bag only select a few key items. You don’t want to be lugging around a suitcase. Some of the things in my bag are iPad, snacks, favorite lovely, invisibility glasses, fidgets, and books.
Mentality: Before you say no, decide how important that no really is. I know that as a parent this is something I really struggle with. My immediate reaction is always no! before I have even had a moment to think. I try to remind myself how I would react if I always heard no. Eventually it would fall on deaf ears…or become a challenge. Ever notice how toddler’s go through a no stage and straight into a why stage? Save your no’s for safety, for those moments that really matter. There are three main things that helped me reshape my mentality:
Slow down. There is no need to constantly rush. It is amazing how many no’s disappear when you move at your child’s pace. Take the time to stop and run your hands through a rosemary bush or bend down to inspect an insect. Take a detour to get a closer look at the construction vehicles. Remember that the world is a new and fascinating place for your child.
Photo by Mike Baird
Be flexible. Let your child explore. Let your child experiment. Don’t be afraid of the mess. Give your child independence and limited choices (I follow a one choice per year old rule). Let your child make mistakes (within reason) and experience consequences. Guide them. Don’t micromanage them.
Stop worrying about what other people think. When my daughter first started school one of her first accomplishments was learning how to dress herself. I will never forget the day she went to pre-school wearing an elmo costume, neon green tutu, leopard print cowboy hat, and bright pink combat boots. The teacher thought I was insane. However, Livia was beaming with pride. Instead of telling her no you can’t wear that and discourage her attempts I let her do her own thing. For weeks she was excited to be able to dress herself because she had the choice. Just remember only provide the opportunity for choices that you would allow your child to do. If you can’t live with it, move it out of sight.
Vocabulary: You can still say no without saying no. When you are tempted to say no or yell instead of just saying no, explain and redirect.
Livia struggled for quite some time with wanting to dart out into the road without checking for traffic. A logical and appropriate parent response is No! Stop! We don’t run out into the road where we can get hurt!
But, what if you could say this in a different positive way? A way that turns that no into a yes?
Livia! Do you see cars? Would you like to cross the street? Let’s cross the street together. Look that way for cars. Look this way for cars. Now let’s hold hands and cross.
Remember that young children are learning communication and social skills. To a two year old a no doesn’t tell them anything. They may look at you perplexed as you yell no at them while they crawl up on the table. They may even try to return if you move them to another part of the room. But by taking a yes approach you are teaching the child what is appropriate, expanding their language, and removing the battle. An example of a yes approach for this would be, “We don’t crawl on the table because we could fall off and hurt ourselves but, if you would like to play at the table we can color or play play dough.”
A yes vocabulary doesn’t mean turning every want a child has into yes. It means cultivating our language to meet the child’s developmental stage and learning needs.
It may take some time, but your children will respond positively. Just remember as you do this, we are parents…we aren’t perfect.
What is your biggest struggle area? Do you have any advice for anyone who may be creating a yes environment?