"Always say yes. Or some form of yes."

[editor's note: Joyce Fetteroll's responses below are in black;
colors indicate other writers to whom she was responding, October 2003]

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Not Just for Kids!

I've been saying "why not?" more often and it feels good! I think it's rubbing off on my husband.

Last night, we were in the bathroom with our 6 yr old, Sophia, helping her get her bath water just like she likes it. She undressed but forgot her socks. When she asked her Dad to "jump" her in the tub, she realized she was still wearing the socks. My husband said, "why not?" and "jumped" her into the tub anyway. She giggled with glee and then peeled off the wet socks and smacked them against the wall, enjoying the noise and our smiling faces.

It was a good "yes" moment. Later, I talked with my husband about it. We discussed how crazy it is that we all have these little rules inside us that don't mean a thing really, have no reason for being.

Anyway, say "yes" to saying yes! :)

Kara
UnschoolingDiscussion list, 3/7/05

By Katherine Imes (Queenjane) on Thursday, April 8, 2004 - 11:42 pm:
The biggest thing "radical" unschooling has done for us is just to make us feel so *free*. We aren't sorta free, we arent just free of school, we are 100 percent (ok, maybe 99!)living our lives in an open, happy, cooperative way. Does that mean that i don't snap at my son, or yell "sheesh go to sleep already!", sometimes when i wake up at 4am and he is STILL playing videogames. Sure i do. But i'm working on it every day, i yell sooooo much less than i used to.

We've never had chores or enforced bedtimes, or a "clean your plate" mentality here, mostly because growing up i had really hands off parents (not necessarily in a good way, but not totally bad either) so those things are very foreign to me anyway. But the idea that i could pick up my son's toys for him, or take his plate to the sink, and do so lovingly, and not be resentful or feel like i was allowing him to be "lazy" has made me a much happier person.

Today we went to Meijer, and spent nearly $75 on videogames. $30 of that was my son's allowance, he was saving up for Pokemon Saphire for Gameboy Advance, and $40 was for Harvest Moon, which i offered to buy for him, since Sandra has mentioned Holly likes it and i thought my son might (it seems like a more involved Animal Crossing type game.) I spent that much money, because i had it to spend. I had just gotten paid, and my son is stuck at my mom's house (with me)all week so i thought maybe he could share in my paycheck that i get from being there. I jokingly said to him "Hey you're pretty lucky having such a videogame-positive mom ya know!" and the cashier guy was like "yep!"...i dunno...it made me feel really involved and supportive of his lifestyle to OFFER to buy one, totally out of the blue, rather than just relent to buying one because he begged for it. I don't know if what i just wrote makes a whole lot of sense, but i guess what i am trying to say is i think my son respects my "no" more because he knows i don't usually say "no" just because i'm the mom and i can (exercising power over him, or trying to teach him a lesson), and because he knows that if its possible for me to say "yes", if its something i truly can do (whether its buy a video game, or Gogurt at the store, or staying ten more minutes in the arcade), then i will. And if i can't, i can't and he believes me.

Also, something little my son does, that he has *never* been "taught", is that he holds doors open for people. He will go out of his way to do it, sometimes he'll be standing there holding a door for like 15 people, and we will wonder where he went. He shows this kindness to strangers despite never having been drilled to "be polite." Hmmmm.....

katherine

By Vida on Monday, October 6, 2003 - 04:12 am:

Oh no... I just yelled at Athena and I feel awful. She found a bag of old summer clothes and wanted a dress from the bag. I told her I wanted to put the bag away for the winter. I just didn't feel like opening up the bag, getting clothes all over, and having to pick it all up again. FRUSTRATED!!! So I took the bag and said she couldn't have it. Then sat down at the computer and she comes along and starts pushing the chair from behind and hitting my leg. She always does stuff like that when she can't get her way... annoying stuff. So I blew my top and yelled "Athena! The answer is NO!"

Then I felt awful.

How do I know when to say no and when to let them decide. I mean, it is her dress, and if I wanted a dress from a bag of clothes I'd certainly take it out... so why did I get so angry?

Feeling just so bad...

Vida


[Then another person responded in quite a traditional way,
and Joyce's response to both follows that.
—ed.]


I don't feel bad for saying no. I don't say it much. When I do, I stick to it. I think I'm a dependable person to my kids that way. Yes means Yes, and No means No. Of course there are times when NO is the wrong thing to say. And it would be good to change your mind. Or apologize for the way I said it. Vida, you got angry because your feelings in the matter weren't considered. Of course you realize not to expect your young daughter to show the degree of empathy needed to accept your NO without complaint. And of course children "test" more often to see if you really mean what you say, if you don't normally stand by your decisions. There's a lot of factors at play here.


**There's a lot of factors at play here.**

If someone sees the situation between parent and child about maintaining control then there's a lot of factors.

When the situation is seen as respect then most of the factors disappear.

**When I do, I stick to it.**

Even when you're wrong?

**I think I'm a dependable person to my kids that way.**

I think it sounds rigid.

Trust comes from following through on promises not from following through on whatever happens to come out of our mouths. My daughter -- or any human for that matter -- doesn't trust me less if I say no and change it to yes. But she does trust me less if I say yes and change it to no.

**How do I know when to say no**

Don’t say no. Always say yes. Or some form of yes. See your role as helping her get what she needs rather than negotiating for what’s most convenient for you.

Yes can come in all sorts of forms:

“Yes, we can do that in 15 minutes when I’m done with this. If you’d like to help, I can be done even sooner.”

“Yes, you can buy that. Let’s think up ways you could save up or earn the money.”

“Yes, we can do that tomorrow morning because right now I’m about to drop from exhaustion.”

**How do I know when to say no and when to let them decide.**

The question is what's more important? Is your need to put the clothes away more important than a fun time spent playing with them? Think about the memories you're creating for your daughter: a knowledge that the summer clothes were put away in a timely manner or an hour spent pretending with them.

I’d go get the clothes and apologize for being mean and rude to her. Even if she’s a grudge holder and doesn’t want to play any more, the fact that you apologize will make a difference even if she doesn’t show it. It will let her know you recognize that her needs are important and that you didn’t treat them that way.

We can view children's needs as inconvenient for us or we can view them as people who need our help doing what they want to do.

As an adult if I want to paint, I get out the paints. If want a Coke from the store, I get in the car and go. If I want to not cook dinner, I can order pizza.

If I had to ask permission to use the paints, or ask my husband to drive me, or ask for money and convince him why it was a good idea to spend it how I wanted to then it would change our relationship knowing that he had the power to grant or deny my request based on *his* perception of what's important.

It's not that he trusts me to make the decisions he would. It's that he trusts that I understand my own needs.

We can be our kids partner in helping them get what they want in life or we can be the barrier that opens or closes according to our whim.

Our kids won't make the same choices we will. They don't have the same needs we do. If we want them to respect our needs then we need to offer them respect. We need to respect what *they* say is important, *not* what we judge to be important.

Our kids are different people and they're not the age we are so their needs are different. It's not our job to train them to need what we need — they will have adult needs when they are of adult age — but to model how to respect others needs by respecting theirs.

What's helpful is to recognize that what we think is important doesn't look important at all to kids. We can't make them understand how important it is. We can make them act as though they understand by making them comply with what we want. But that isn't respect. That's control.

If we want them to respect needs they don't understand then we need to respect needs we don't understand. It won't be an equal give and take for years and years but eventually as the cognitive ability to understand someone's needs as separate from their own grows, as they build up a feeling of being respected, kids will offer in return what they're given.

Joyce


Other Joyce-links!
Joyce's own page on unschooling and parenting

More on saying YES to children,

respecting kids and video games.