How (and why) to Agree to Almost Anything

I recommend saying “yes” to your kids’ requests.  Almost always.  “Can I stay up an extra hour?”  “Can I have a puppy?”  “Can I go with my friend’s teenaged brother to Tijuana over spring break?”  “Yes, yes, yes!”

But wait, this is crazy.  We can’t just let our children do whatever they want!


Here’s the thing:  When we think about a particular thing that we don’t want our child to have or do, in most cases, there is a problematic potential consequence of them having or doing that thing that is the real reason we want to say no to it.  And in most cases, when we really think about it, we can imagine a scenario in which that problematic consequence was remedied.  So in theory, we can say yes to most things, as long as we qualify them with an “if” or an “as soon as” or “as long as,” etc.

Like this…  Let’s say your kid wants a new bike.  What do you do?

Step 1: Identify the problematic potential consequence of saying yes to their request.  (Example:  The bicycle your kid wants is very expensive.)

Step 2: Think of something the child could do to solve that problem.  (Example:  The child could do chores to earn the money for the bike.)

Step 3: Say, “Yes, if you (do the thing in step 2).”  (Example:  “Yes, you can have the bike, if you earn the money to pay for it yourself.  Here are some chores you can do that I’ll pay you for…”)



Another way to think of it, rather than the child fixing the potential problem, is that the child needs to make it worth your while.  They need to do something that makes you happy to grant their request.  They may decide they’re not willing or able to do it, but then they don’t get whatever they’re asking for.  And not because you said “no,” but because they decided it wasn’t worth what it would cost them.

So we know that we can, in most cases, say yes (at least with a qualifier), but why should we?  Several reasons!

  1.  It feels better for them to hear.
  2. It feels better for us to say.
  3. It gives them power and the option of earning what they want.
  4. It does not require that you relinquish your own power or that you compromise your needs or feelings.
  5. It teaches them that having the things we want in life comes at a cost.
  6. It shows them that you want them to have what they want.
  7. It puts the ball back in their court.
  8. And last but not least, it costs nothing!  If you do it right, you get to say “yes” to everything your children ask of you without giving up a thing.  WIN!


Sure, there are a few things we would never, ever want our children doing or having, no matter what.  But with a little creativity, we really can say “yes” to almost anything.

child rides bike





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