“You’re too big to sleep in the porta-crib Buddy. Cribs are just for little babies.”
“Magoo. You’ll break it.”
“Okay. When I’m grown into a really small baby again, can I sleep in it sometimes?”
“Yes,” I said, “Yes you can.”
And my little Benjamin Button went away smiling because although what I was really saying was “No,” the answer I gave him was “Yes.”
The “yeah-no” has become quite the art form around our house. I give the kids the affirmation they need without actually allowing them to do the bizarre and sometimes impossible things they ask for. The goal is to say “no” with some sort of affirmative statement that lets them walk away with a smidge of dignity intact and smiles on their squishable faces.
Here are a few specific techniques I use when employing the “yeah-no”:
1. What a Great/Fun/Crazy Idea!
With this technique I let the child know how creative and imaginative they are while still telling them that they can’t jump off the roof onto the trampoline.
Ex: “What a fun idea! I wish we had a big enough trampoline and enough padding that you wouldn’t get hurt really bad if you tried that. How about jumping from this lawn chair?”
2. We Should Totally Do That Sometime!
I use this one when the activity they’ve suggested is either seasonally inappropriate, unbearably annoying at the moment, or temporarily beyond my messiness threshold. This comes in handy when they ask if they can invite 5 friends to go roller skating with your family when none of them know how to stand up straight on skates, or finger paint an entire paper roll with pudding.
Ex: “We should totally do that sometime! How about we read a T-Rex story right now, and we can plan it all out later?”
The key to this one is that you have to be willing to follow through because you want them to trust you, and they always remember these things. If you’re not willing to ever do the activity ever throughout all time, consider using technique #1 instead.
3. You Should Put That on Your Wish List.
When we’re out shopping or at a play date and they see something they MUST HAVE, I say, “Wow! That is cool. You should totally put that on your wish list,” or, “I wonder how long it will take you to save enough allowance money to buy that."
They can have nearly any toy someday if they save for it long enough, and who knows what merciful soul might come along and view their wish list? It might even be me if occasion permits. Maybe she won’t still want the $300 collectable Barbie by the time she’s 30 but she’ll have the option and the hope because you didn’t say “no.”
4. When You’re Big Like a Mommy, You Should Get One of Those!
This one has worked especially well when we’re discussing the purchase of pets, but also works on the topics of makeup, high-heeled shoes, and True-Love’s-Kisses.