One of the best parenting tips I ever read was to look for ways to say yes to your child’s requests when you could.
This is not advice to become indulgent, or grant every whim your child might have, but rather to develop an attitude of discernment and know when you really can say yes to what your child wants.
Think of that favorite childhood pastime: splashing in the bath. Every child wants to splash as wildly as possible, while every parent wants to keep the bathroom floor dry.
Is there a way in this situation that both parties’ needs can be met? Turns out there is. When I looked for a way to say yes, I realized that if I closed the shower curtain, and told my daughter her job was to keep the water in the tub, she could splash to her heart’s content, and my floor still stayed dry.
With the goal of keeping the water in the tub instead of not splashing, she felt empowered rather than limited, and she worked hard to keep the water in the tub and protect her privilege of splashing.
This particular solution of course only works with older children, and you still need to remain in the bathroom to make sure your child is safe. One positive side effect of looking for ways to say yes is that when you say no to a child’s request, they are less likely to complain as loudly or for as long.
They’ll still complain—testing boundaries is one of their jobs as children after all—but if you have a habit of saying yes, they’ll know there is a sound reason when you say no. You then get to pick your battles and focus on the things that really matter.