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My Trick For Not Having to Say No

Erin Zammett Ruddy

My kids are constantly coming up with preposterous requests to which my reply would never ever be yes. But because I don’t want to be the mom who’s constantly saying no, I came up with an alternative.

First, let me say that I have no problem churning out the “nos” when they’re warranted. I certainly don’t subscribe to the never-tell-your-kids-no parenting philosophy (did you see the Modern Family episode where Cam and Mitchell give it a shot with Lily—hilarious!). Sure, I usually try to explain why my answer might be “no” to a particular (non-preposterous) question, and I can come up with diversions for them in order to spin a no-no-no! negative situation into a positive one (“How about instead of climbing out the car window while I’m driving, we sing a super-fun  campfire song?!”). But I don’t always feel the need to employ the good-mom tactics. Sometimes no is all I got and I’m OK with that. That said, there are questions I’m being asked lately that I don’t even want to dignify with an answer, even a simple no. For example:  

Can I wipe you?

Can I stay up till 11?

Can I pee here? (a parking lot, our front yard, the kitchen)

Can I watch Batman? (i.e. Christian Bale, Batman)

Can I use the knife?

Can I drive?

Can I unbuckle?

Do you hate me? (Nora likes to ask this for no particular reason at all)

Can I light it?

Can I unbuckle Ali?

Can I have some vodka?

Can I have a cookie? (at 8 a.m., at 9 p.m., after three cookies)

Can I have a sip of your coffee?

Can I wear my snowpants to camp?

Can you read another book? (after 11 have already been read)

Can we have chocolate chips for breakfast? (this was asked just this morning--we have the chips out because we're making zucchini bread later)

Alex and Nora fire these requests at me at a steady and rapid pace and I gave up saying no. Not because I think it’s going to damage their egos or turn them into authority-fearers or whatever the reason is that we’re not supposed to say no to our kids. But because I find these questions silly. I know my kids know the answer and, I’m sure, half the time they’re just playing me. I want them to understand that some of this stuff is just Kah-razy and it shouldn’t have to be my job to tell them so. And I want to shut them down (believe me, they need shutting down sometimes). So instead of saying no when they ask these questions, I say this: “What do you think the answer to that question is?” And they always laugh and roll their eyes in a you-got-me-mom way and say, “Noooooo.” Then I often follow it with: “And why do you think that’s the answer?” In other words, I get them to do my job for me. And it works like a charm. They move on, no more questions asked (for a few minutes, anyway) and I don’t have to be the bad guy. For a few minutes, anyway. Maybe this is lazy parenting, maybe it’s a copout, maybe I am doing some deep psychological damage by not sing-songing “You want to play with a knife? I have a better idea, let’s play with a spoon!!” but I doubt it. This method works for me. It has become my go-to mom move these days and I love it. Bonus: It works on Nick, too (he has some pretty preposterous requests sometimes—use your imagination). Thoughts? I'm sure most parents do this or some version of it, right?