Dear Dan Advice Column

“Hey Dan, do you have any tricks I can use with my kids when they ask for something and I have to say no? I feel like I have to say no dozens of times every day.”

ASKED BY: JENNIFER

DAN’S ANSWER: Hey Jennifer, I absolutely do have one awesome trick up my sleeve, which for me has worked like gold ever since my kid could say, “cookie Dada?”

Before I tell you my method though, It think it’s important to remind yourself just how little control children have in their own lives to begin with. The more often your child asks you permission to do something, the more proof you have that your child actually respects your authority as a parent. Because of that, never be sad that they ask… And ask… And ask… And ask… And ask. The day they stop asking is the day they don’t care if you are okay with their wants and needs or not.

It’s also human nature to want more from life (and in life), and your kids are no exception to that. Whether it’s a cookie, or to stay up later, or something far more complicated, there’s nothing wrong with ambition. In fact, it’s a trait that is getting harder to find among our youth, so do your best not to squelch that ambition just because the questions and requests get tedious.

To say “no” to your child all the time makes that child feel like they don’t have enough and also that they lack power to get what they want. This brings me to my method of answering my child whenever he asks for something:

I always say… Yes.

Think about it. What is your immediate emotional and mental response when you ask someone for something you think that you want or need and the person you’re asking immediately says, “no?”

As humans, we hate being told no. We like to be validated with the word “yes” and so that’s what we’re going to do.

But how is it possible to always say “yes” to my child, you ask. After all, your children often ask for far more than you can or will give them. Because of this, I suppose I should clarify. You will always say “yes” whether you are telling your child yes or no and you’re going to have fun doing it.

Take this list of questions, for example (all which we assume you will be saying no to in the moment for discussion purposes):

  1. “Can I stay up past bedtime?”
  2. “Can I go play at my friend’s house?”
  3. “Can I have a cookie?”
  4. “Can I have twenty bucks to buy this t-shirt?”
  5. “Can you get me this new video game?”
  6. “Can I have a million bucks?”
  7. “Can I go buy and smoke some crack?”
  8. “Can I run away with a strange man I met in a van?”

As you can see, some of these will always be a strong “no” and some will sometimes be a “no,” but all of them can be answered using the word “yes” instead of “no.” Of course, I chose the last few examples to show you just how far you can take this little method and that there aren’t necessarily limits to the “always say yes” approach. Here’s how I might personally answer each of those with a “yes.”

  1. “Can I stay up past bedtime?”
    “You bet. This weekend let’s pick a night and do something fun a little later than usual. How does that sound?”
  2. “Can I go play at my friend’s house?”
    “Of course, you can! On Thursday if your friend is free and you’ve done all of the chores I ask you to do you can go.”
  3. “Can I have a cookie?”
    “I’d be offended if you’d didn’t eat a cookie, and one of those cookies has your name written all over it just as soon as you’ve taken the dog for a walk.”
  4. “Can I have twenty bucks to buy this t-shirt?”
    “You bet. As soon as you do something to earn it.”
  5. “Can you get me this new video game?”
    “Oh, heck yes. As long as I have over a thousand bucks in my wallet when I open it up. Shoot. I don’t. That’s a bummer. I really wanted you to have it.”
  6. “Can I have a million bucks?”
    “Yeah, I don’t see why not. Go start a business and find a way to earn it. That’s the beauty of living in the free world.”
  7. “Can I go buy and smoke some crack?”
    “Obviously that would make me pretty sad as a parent, but you definitely can as soon as you’ve moved out and I don’t have to pay for your medical bills anymore.”
  8. “Can I run away with a stranger I met in a windowless van?”
    “Yes, of course. As long as you don’t mind getting murdered and chopped up into little pieces and ending up on the news!”

Ha. You get the point. Sometimes I’ve gotta get pretty creative to figure out how to say “yes” to things, but there is always a way.

And the best part is, my kid and I laugh about it, and we laugh often. The things I say to turn a “no” into a “yes” are often ridiculous and silly, and it just ends the conversation and somehow brings us closer together in the end.

I didn’t come up with this trick. I learned it in a parenting course I once took and it worked so well that I latched onto it ever since.

I hope that helps, and happy parenting.

Now, let’s practice… Will you please send me fifty bucks for sharing this with strategy with you? Please?

Dan Pearce | The Single Dad Laughing Blog

~ Dan Pearce | Single Dad Laughing

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