Why I Say “Yes” to My Toddlers as Often as Possible

posted by Andrea | 09/29/2015

yes to toddlers

As a full-time stay-at-home mom to 3 children 3 and under (one of which is a nonstop chatterbox), I’m sure you can just about imagine how many questions I’m asked EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Sometimes I feel like Nora asks 250 questions by breakfast time… and even though Simon doesn’t officially talk yet, he definitely gets his point across when he wants something (and thankfully, I almost always know exactly what he’s asking for).

  • Can I do this?
  • Can we go here?
  • Can we have a snack?
  • Who will we play with today?
  • Is anyone coming over?
  • Are we going anywhere today?
  • When will dad be home?
  • Can we go to the park today?
  • Can we do a craft?
  • Will you get the stickers out for me?
  • Can we read this book?
  • Can I watch a show?
  • Can I change my clothes?
  • Can we go outside?
  • Can we go to the pool?

Multiply this by 50, and you can start to see what I’m talking about in terms of the daily questions I get!

At least they’re cute… right?

It’s very easy for me to get overwhelmed by the constant questions, whining voices, and temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want… and when I get overwhelmed, I start saying “NO” a lot!

However, over the last few months, I’ve been trying really hard to say “yes” to my toddlers, as often as I possibly can.

Please know that this does NOT mean I’m giving into them, spoiling them, or letting them rule our household. No, instead, I’m simply phrasing my responses in a more positive way that helps the kids to feel like they are “winning” even though I’m still in full control — or at least mostly in control 🙂

Let me explain with a few examples:

1. Nora asks to do a craft while both boys are awake.

I could say, “No, not right now. I need to feed James and Simon will make a mess.”

Or I could say, “Yes, we will do ______ crafts when Simon and James are napping later today. Right now, you can color by yourself if you’d like.”

2. Simon wants to watch a show before his nap but I don’t want to prolong the pre-nap process.

I could say, “No shows today.”

Or I could say, “Yes, you may watch ______ show after your nap, but right now, it’s time to lay down.”

3. The kids want a snack even though we just finished eating a meal. 

I could say, “No snacks, we just finished eating.”

Or I could say, “Yes, you may have a snack in an hour. I’ll set the timer, what would you like for your snack?”

4. They want to go for a bike ride when Dave is gone.

I could say, “No, James is too small to go for a bike ride.”

Or I could say, “Yes, after Dad gets home from school, either he or I will take you for a bike ride.”

5. Nora asks for something at the store (like candy or a toy).

I could say, “No, we’re not shopping for toys or candy today.”

Or I could say, “Yes, that would be a great thing to put on your birthday or Christmas list.”

6. Nora asks if we can go to Disney World. (this is a current hot topic in our house right now)

I could say, “No, not now.”

Or I could say, “Yes, we will most likely go to Disney World at some point. Probably when you are older.”

7. They want a Band Aid even though there is no cut or blood.

I could say, “No, you’re not bleeding.”

Or I could say, “Yes, the next time you have a cut or are bleeding, we will get you a Band Aid.”

You get the idea…

Now, please don’t picture my children smiling and giving me a big hug because I’m the best mom ever, even though I’m not giving them exactly what they want. No, they are still usually annoyed and upset — but they are LESS annoyed and upset than if I totally shoot down their request with a big fat “no” answer… and right now, I’ll take “less annoyed and upset” over “more annoyed and upset” any day 🙂

By the way, I have noticed that it is much easier for me to say “yes” earlier in the day. As evening approaches, my patience has usually been pushed to the limits and I catch myself saying “no” more often.

For example…

Nora, after being told (for the millionth time) that she can not eat the pickles yet! 

Simon, after being told that we could not his blanket out of the washing machine until it was clean.

James, after I told him he could not stay up so late anymore 🙂 

Kids in “control”

In general, I try to let my kids make as many decisions during the day as possible. Anything that is not a life-or-death issue, anything that is not morally wrong, anything that’s not hurting someone else, or anything that I don’t have a strong opinion about, I try to let them decide so they feel like they are in control of something.

  • I let them pick out their own clothes if they want to (even Simon has an opinion at certain times).
  • I let Nora decide how she wants me to do her hair.
  • I let them pick from a few options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
  • I let them pick what books we read, what toys we play with, what games we play, if we play inside or outside, etc.
  • If we’re going to watch TV, I give them a few choices and let them decide.
  • I let them pick what plate and cup they want to use at meal times.

All of these choices are things I could care less about, and I know they like making the decisions on their own. It’s one less thing to fight or argue about, and it makes it easier for me to put my foot down when it really matters.

There are definitely still days when I feel like every other phrase out of my mouth is “Just a minute” or “Not right now”… and I don’t particularly like how I feel on those days.

I would much rather tell my kids yes as much as possible!

Again, I want to reiterate that in no way am I relinquishing control to my children. Instead, I’m just choosing my battles and trying to put a positive spin on my answers whenever I can.

It’s a very simple concept (at least in theory — it takes some practice to get in the habit). However, I truly do think this makes a big difference with how my kids react to an answer that might not be exactly what they wanted to hear, and also in how smoothly our days go.

I don’t always make it work, but I’ve noticed that the more often I can give a “yes answer” the happier we all are!


Filed under: FamilyParentingChildren

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  1. The Weekender: No. 25 – happy heart & home


    […] Why I Say “Yes” to My Toddlers As Often As I Can […]

  2. Georgia


    My personal opinion is that you are 100% correct I’m trying to say yes as often as you can. I also can say from personal experience that it is exhausting to try to think of how many ways you can say yes without giving in to their every little whim. It’s so much easier to just say no however I don’t think that benefits parent or child. It’s also a good idea to let them make as many decisions and they are able to such as what they’re going to wear after all most of the clothes they have picked up by you anyway so you’re going to be satisfied with whatever they pick. It’s just one small example.


  3. Cristina Dantzler


    I read u r site often I can, i enjoy a lot and I admire u a lot to be able to handle with r Kid’s and 3, I have one boy not 3 and I ‘m not so good to discipline him, but he listen to his father,i m home mom, how u do or convinced Simon to sleep alone in his bed I see he still ware his pacifier.
    My boy he is two year old and still sleep with his mommy and be picky on food.


    Andrea Reply:

    Simon was always a very good sleeper from the beginning. He slept in his own crib alone from day 1… and he’s had a pacifier since day one 🙂


  4. Susan


    I brought my boys, now 44 and 45 this same way but sometimes the answer was “Yes, when you are 30 years old, you may do that. (lots of qualifiers as they get older)
    I overheard my grandson say, “ask Nana, she will say yes but that won’t mean you’ll get to do it”.


    Andrea Reply:

    ha!! I love that!


  5. Meagan M


    I needed this post today!!! I have an almost 3 year old and 12 week old and feel like recently all I do is say “no” to my toddler. This is exactly what I need to be doing. I also love letting them make choices that don’t matter to you-clothes, cups/plate, etc. I’m a control freak and get so frustrated when I pick out my toddler’s clothes or make his lunch and he refuses to put his clothes on or drink from “that” cup. Such an easy change to make but I never thought of it. Thank you!


    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I have those days all the time. Somedays are just ‘no’ days!


  6. Tricia @ Our Provident Home


    I try to do this as well. I would add that it is also very important to follow through with any promises you may make so the kids trust that when you say later you really mean it. That trust is super important to build while they are little. Just ask the mommas of teenagers…

    I also feel that when I absolutely must tell them “NO” it makes it much more strong and memorable since they don’t often hear me say it. And those are usually the things I really want them to remember. No you cannot play in the road. No you cannot hit your brother.


  7. Janice


    Years ago I was told about or read a terrific piece of child rearing advice from either Dr. James Dobson or Chuck Swindoll. It was,”Say ‘yes’ as often as you can so that when you say ‘no,’ your children will know it must be important.” I think that advice can surely apply to other kinds of relationships too. Today’s blog post is an extremely wise position you have given out, Andrea. And I always love your transparency as you tell us how you don’t manage perfection 24/7.


  8. JJ


    My dad brought us up like this, and I’m bringing mine up like this, too. It helps you to become a more confident person, because you are used to making decisions. Love this approach!


  9. Shawn Fore


    I really like that you allow them to make choices about small things. If they are not taught how to make choices they often don’t know how to make good choices as they get older. At some point they will be offered not so good opportunities (sex, drugs, shoplifting) and I believe that children who have been taught how to make small choices are more likely to make GOOD choices!


  10. Kimberley


    This is great! I try to stay positive as well but it is so funny how by the end of the day, all I want to do is say no to everything and just have everyone go to bed! I am definitely going to give this suggestion a try and see how it goes…


  11. Ann


    Wonderful way to answer consciously and to give kids the information they need in a positive way. Have you been reading books by Chick Moorman and Cynthia Tobias?