Yes~Oui~Da~Si~Ja... Saying "YES!" to Kids

Another important lesson we learned, in the behavior course that I took, is how to say "YES!"
We know that kids hear "NO!" on a regular basis.

Well, this post is for the toddlers, the "No Davids" and every kid in between.

I used to think that a way to avoid saying "no" so often was to say "no" in a nicer way.
You know, like...
"Please use walking feet."
"Please use an inside voice."
"Please sit quietly."
Putting a positive and polite twist on "no," is still "no."

Now, if you are a kid, and you hear "no" all of the time (no matter how it is worded) you'll get pretty frustrated.  Adults also say "no" by saying "go to time-out."  Many kids who hear "no" often are the same kids who get put into time-out on a regular basis... quite the double whammy.
"No" builds up anger, it knocks down self worth and it doesn't fix behaviors.

Here is how to say YES.

When a child is climbing something, antsy, running, throwing something or yelling, telling them to stop is not usually successful.  Not only is that word not going to get you the results you are looking for but, if you are constantly telling them what they can't do then they are going to stop listening to your "nos."  When you say it, and really mean it, they are going to ignore you.
Save the word "no" for the most important safety hazards like when they are about to touch something hot.

So what do you do?
Assess the situation and think, "how can I make this safe or acceptable?"  After all, safety is often the reason that we say "no!"  Instead of "nicely" telling them to stop, find a place and a way for them to carry on.

Here are examples of saying yes:
Note: If you are dealing with a toddler, it is often easier to just show them the replacement behavior or put them where you want them to be rather than explaining it with lots of words.  Stick to something short like, "Here you go." or "How about this instead?" as you show them what is acceptable and safe.

NO = "No running inside!" YES = "Let's march!" or "Let's dance!" or "Let's take a walk."

NO = "Don't climb that!"  YES = "This play structure is safe to climb.  If you want to climb something, you can climb this instead."

 NO = "Stop yelling." or "Quiet down!" YES = "Let's sing!" or "Let's go outside and see who can make the funniest [or loudest] noises."

NO = "Stop kicking that chair!" YES = "Here is a ball you can kick."

NO = "No throwing rocks!" YES = "What is ok to throw?" (have the child problem solve - see first blog post) "Let's find a ball to throw."  or the inside version, "Here are some pom poms; who can get them in the cup from over here?!"

NO = "No hitting!"  YES = "That hurts people but, here is a pillow you can hit if you are angry." or "Let's hit this drum (instead of the book) if you want to hit something."

I'll end with this blog post I came across recently.  The post is called "The YES Album."

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  1. I love this post!! What a good reminder.

    1. So glad you loved it! Thanks for reading!

  2. This is great advice, not only for the understanding of kids, but also for the treatment of all those around us especially adults. Do we criticize by being negative and causing shame---shame leads to either external aggression or internal low self-esteem. Or to we criticize---change behavior---by talking and critiquing positively thus truly bringing about change. All this applies to dogs, too. You cannot train a dog by constantly yelling "No." I hear this in the park everyday. You get one huge "no" for a dog, and as you so wisely point out, it should be reserved for something dangerous such as running into the street. Kids, adults, dogs: aren't we all related?

  3. So true. My mom is always remarking how similar kids and dogs are when it comes to behaviors and behavior methods.