Any too-busy-studying-to-worry-but-have-never-have-held-a-baby-clueless new parents out there? Like me on kid number one (despite being a freshly minted child psychiatrist)?
My poor number one kid. When my husband wisely voiced concerns about fitting a baby into our lives, I happily showed him a corner of our one bedroom apartment where the baby would fit perfectly. And, I meant it. Fifteen years later, I look at my now six foot two tall number one and recall that he never actually did fit in that corner. As a baby, the poor colicky baby never left my arms.
However, by kid three I thankfully do have a clue, including approaches that make parenting vastly easier and more pleasant, my favorite being "yes parenting."
Yes this is as simple as it sounds. In "yes parenting" tell children “yes.” Just say “yes” as often and in as many ways and in as many locations and as frequently as possible.
Now, please don't complain that I'm a spoiling, lazy shrink mother. Don’t mix up nay saying with limit saying. Sure set limits. To my children's chagrin, I sure do. Absolutely. Limits are critical. Just don’t say “no” while setting them.
By kid number three I have "yes" down cold. Can I dig a hole to China? Yes. How do you plan to? Can I make paper flags and go play capture the flag in the woods in the rain? Yes. But come home if you hear thunder, ok? Can I go to the moon? Sure. When is take off? Whatever. Yes.
And no my number three isn’t spoiled. So how to pepper your child with “yes” and not end up with a bon bon inhaling, couch lying over-indulged child?
The secret lies in how you say it. Words have power. If my child insists that he wants to play Monopoly (as he did today) when I have endless chores to get through and interminable Monopoly sounds undoable, I don’t say, “no.” Why? The kid just wants to play.
Rather, I explain the situation and ask whether he’d prefer to play a few rounds of Monopoly or whether he’d rather pick a concise game where we might see the finish line? I set a time limit but say “yes.” And, now I am staring at a pile of properties rapidly acquired and meager multi-colored play money quickly spent, even as I write this. The game sits happily unfinished.
"Yes parenting" actually makes life easier for everyone. Yesterday, as we were leaving school on an unseasonably hot spring day, the sprinklers turned on in the courtyard. Glittering in the new found sun, the water was irresistible to my little guy number three.
Although in a hurry to get to a lesson, I listened. He explained that there was an amazing game he just made up involving sprinting through sprinklers on a circuitous course with a complex set of rules. Despite the time pressure, I avoided “no” and instead replied, “ok but you have to hurry because we need to get to the lesson." And I wisely added, “How many laps do you need?” To my surprise, he said “three” and barely three minutes later I was on my way with a panting, moist, grinning child. Not a bad deal for either of us.
I really think it’s simply a matter of empathy. After all, how many of us like being told we can’t do what we want to do? How many of us like to hear “no”?