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When I was a kid I couldn't believe how stupid adults were. I have never forgotten this. As an adult I listen to what children have to say to see if I can remember some of what I knew when I was young. Here is one tidbit:

SAY YES or at least don't say “No.”          

As much as possible say “yes” when your child asks you for something, especially in the “doing” category, but not so much in the “buying” category. When my daughter was young and wanted to go to the park, colour with me, play in the mud, go to the store in her fairy outfit I always wanted to say “Yes,” but my automatic response was mostly “No,” based on nothing at all.

            Because I was an older mom and had already been through Kid #1 and Kid #2, I wasn't in such a hurry for Kid #3 to grow up, so I could take the time to examine why my response was always “No.” I discovered that it was just habit or what I thought I was suppose to say as a parent. When I experimented with saying “Yes” to her, it gave her such joy that the joy spilled over onto me. We both had a better day.

            However, my habit of saying “No” to everything was strong. I told her that. "Daughter, I'm probably going to say no to most of the things you ask me because “No” is my initial response to just about everything."

As she grew older, I did learn to tell her that if she wanted to ask me for something, it would be easier for us both if she could phrase it, "Mom could you think about letting me..." Most of the time all I needed was time (five minutes to five days) to get use to the idea of whatever she was asking and see if there were any real reasons “Why not?” (This is proving more difficult as she gets older and she's not asking if she can go to the grocery store in her fairy costume but if she can take the bus to Vancouver or fly to Japan by herself. Then I try to remember what I was doing at her age.)

            But back to a younger time. As with everything, there is no set rule and every situation is different. It isn't always possible to give a child what they want when they want it. That isn't realistic. But rather than giving Kid #3 an all out “No” 90% of the time, I learned to say things like, “Let's see if we can do that tomorrow.” I never promised anything that was too far in the future because I couldn't count on myself to keep that promise or even remember.

            It took three kids for me to learn that when a two- or three-year old wants to help wash the floor or cook or some other thing that I think will set the job back three hours and create more work for myself to say “Yes” and just let them help. Kids that age often have the attention span of five minutes and then they're off to something else, so it's not the inconvenience I had convinced myself it would be and Kid #3 got to hear “Yes.”

            One tactic I learned in the saying “Yes” area was the “You scratch my back”tactic. "I'd love to play cards with you and the laundry needs to be folded. If you help me fold the laundry, I will have time to play cards. Do you want to help?" Sometimes she did, but just as often she found something else to amuse herself.

            Another thing I discovered through observation was the truth that children learn what you model. If you say “No” to them when they are young, then they will say “No” back to you for a long time. If you say “Yes” to them, then they will say “Yes” to you and more importantly they will get the wisdom of saying “Yes” to their children when the time comes. [Watching Kid #1 with her child.] The first five years were really tough because Kid #3 was constantly asking for something and often it was inconvenient as hell. But now we have a teenager who says “Yes” when we ask her to do the dishes or shovel snow. It's so nice to have the agreement without the argument.

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Juanita lives in the Canadian Rockies and has been a mother for nearly forty years. She has three children with a 22 year age spread between the oldest and the youngest. During this time Juanita has also worked with youth in a variety of capacities including as a rehabilitation worker in the public school system and as program director and facilitator for a local youth group centre.


Magic and mysteries have been a life-long pre-occupation of Juanita's and she has published one book Almanac of the Infamous on the unexplained and unsolved. She also is known for her mystery entertainment parties (mysteryfactory.com) for children and grown-ups. Staying in touch with a playful spirit and miraculous possibility is something that she feels is vital to passing on to our children and retaining as adults.

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Guest Wednesday, 22 November 2017