By Galit Birk, PhD
1. Say More Yes to your kids
Say more ‘Yes’ to children of any age and reserve the ‘No’ for when it really matters to you. It seems that the more our kids grow up and begin to find their independence and assert themselves in the world (as they should), the more we parents find ourselves saying, pleading, and then inevitably screaming ‘No!’ which rarely gets us the response we wish for and certainly does not foster the learning we so desire. Parents, this skill requires much ongoing practice, but I invite you to try it.
The more we reserve the ‘No’ for when it really matters to us such as ‘No, don’t run into the street,’ or ‘No, don’t do drugs,’ and use ‘Yes’ where we can such as ‘Yes, you can go to your friend’s house after you finish your homework’ the more ‘Yes’ we will start to see from our kids. No one likes to hear ‘No’ all the time, not even parents! Turn a non-emergency ‘No’ into a ‘Yes’ that works for you and affirm the positives you see in your kids more than you point out the negatives (this works with spouses too!) and you will start to see more of that which you wish for. Practice: Try turning some of the most common ‘No’s’ in your house into Yes-statements so that you can be ready when the urge for ‘No!’ arises.
2. Say More No to obligations
Say more ‘No’ to life’s obligations and make yourself more of a priority. Think about the difference in how your car runs when it is almost out of gas and then after you fill it up and maybe even get an oil change. You can feel the difference, right? It gets its pep back, it feels alive again. So do we, as parents, need to be refueled. We too need to recharge to get our pep back and to have our optimal energy to ‘run’ smoothly and efficiently as happy, fully functioning parents. Think about how you have felt after an energizing workout or a girl’s night out or a weekend getaway without the kids. Alive? Energized? Ready to take on more tantrums or a messy room or mud all over the kitchen floor?! At least for a little while longer than usual before you have your own meltdown?
Self-care is an extremely important life skill for parents. The paradox is that while it may take us physically away from our families for a bit, it rejuvenates us so that we can truly be with them with more focus and presence when we return and able to give them a better version of ourselves. So learn to say more ‘No’ to life’s obligations; ‘No I can’t make that fundraiser,’ or ‘No, I can’t volunteer at school today,’ so that you can say more ‘Yes’ to yourself and be more present with your families.
3. Say Not Now to gadgets
Say both ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ and ‘Not Now’ to television, video games, and the like and create boundaries around media for you and your kids. Today’s parents are facing an unprecedented challenge with our children of instilling relatedness, creativity, and active-ity within a culture that wants us to be sedentary, separate, and consuming. Today’s kids are almost born with the innate ability to navigate smart phones and tablets and most can use a computer better than many of us can, which of course is fascinating.
But many children today do not know how to be with other children. They sit next to one another on the couch and play individual video games, separate from one another, and parents sadly allow this. They navigate through e-books and learning games with ease but rarely have the opportunity to create their own stories or games. They sit and consume others’ brilliant creativity rather than get up and move their bodies and activate higher-order thinking areas of the brain. They keep themselves separate rather than related to their friends and their families, and we do the same. Parents and kids alike must have boundaries when it comes to screen technology. It’s ok to say ‘Yes,’ sometimes, but it is also imperative for us to say ‘No,’ or ‘Not Now,’ and to encourage our kids to do or to be with others, to be connected in the physical versus the virtual sense. I invite you to set boundaries around television and other gadgets, even educational ones, and focus more on being and doing together. Let’s not raise separate, inactive consuming children but rather connected, related, independent thinkers, movers and shakers! (In both the literal and figurative sense.)
There’s always a time for ‘Yes,’ a time for ‘No,’ and a time for ‘Not Now’. As always, find the balance for you and your family.
Galit Birk, PhD