Motherhood

Three Words That Changed How I Parent

Toby and Anton

Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years (!) so we’ve decided that every week, we’ll be highlighting one of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on April 30, 2018.

Six years ago, I heard some parenting advice, and it changed everything…

“AIM FOR YES.”

Funnily enough, I can’t remember who said it or where I heard it, but those three words have run through my mind every few days since then. (That’s approximately 712 times.) The idea is that there are certain rules kids need to follow — say, try hard at school, be respectful to others, go to bed at bedtime, eat the odd vegetable, etc. — but outside of that, if they want to try something out, just say yes.

For example, here are few recent scenes at home:
Toby wanted to wear his bathing suit in the bath
Anton wanted to jump from one sofa to the other
Toby wanted to mix milk and water
Anton wanted to wear pajamas to the grocery store
Anton wanted to lie down on the skateboard
Toby wanted to wear shorts on a chilly day
Anton wanted to sleep upside down (feet on pillow)

My knee-jerk reaction is sometimes to say no — I mean, just hop in the bath, just drink your milk — but then I think: why not? If it’s not hurting anyone, and they find it exciting or enticing for some reason, who cares? “Aim for yes” runs through my mind, and I say go for it. They might feel cold on the walk home, they might not love the flavor of their drink, but they will feel free and curious! And that’s worth it, right? Side note: It’s also funny for me to see all the random stuff they come up with. :)

I just wish I could thank the person who said those three words.

Thoughts? What’s the best parenting advice you’ve gotten? Anything that still sticks with you? (My runner-up would be “babies be babies.”)

P.S. Trying out slow parenting, and 20 surprising parenting tips.

  1. Emily says...

    ‘Let them be little’ is a phrase I try to remember. My boys have the rest of their lives to be in a rush, to eat sensibly, to wear proper clothes, so sometimes if my eldest doesn’t want to wear trousers when we’re at home so be it, if he wants to stay in pyjamas that’s ok, if he asks for chocolate in the afternoon sometimes it’s ok, and if he wants to stop and admire every single flower/weed/stone on the way to the park, it’s ok. Because one day he won’t.

  2. Inspired by you! And inspired by the comments in here! Love you, girls!

  3. Bec B says...

    My ex (but still beloved) in-laws raised their children with “ you are the most important people in our world but not necessarily to anyone else” meaning: we love you, find you interesting and will always support you BUT the world doesn’t revolve around you. I think this is a great reminder of the role a family can play but that the outside world might not always feel the same way and that’s important to learn too.

  4. Lindsey says...

    Instead of asking your child “how was your day?” ask them “what was the first thing you did today?” The results are magical.

  5. Meghan says...

    This is great advice, thank you. It reminds me of a decision I recently made about my son. He’s five, and when he gets home from school, he just wants to work on art/lego/building projects together with me– all while I am trying to take care of his two younger siblings and clean the house and cook dinner, wrap up work emails, etc. He always asks if I’ll do something specific with him, and I used to say, “I’d love to but I can’t right now.” Now I say, “Yes.” And I work with him for a minute or two, or five, and then return to whatever else I have to do. He keeps working, and I’m able to interact with him about it, and it makes us both feel better to have a “yes,” not a “no,” floating in the air between us.

  6. Marie says...

    My kids love mixing milk and water— specifically drinking a glass of milk, then adding water to those last few drips you can never quite get. They refer to the resulting cloudy, mostly-water concoction sometimes as lemonade, sometimes as “wrestling tea.”

  7. Sara says...

    A teacher in 12th grade told us that when a child requests something, think if it a) isn’t unsafe and b)it doesnt go against personal/spiritual beliefs, then say yes! She told us that her duaghter wantes to take a bath in her clothes! She looked at this checklist and said yes! She said after that bath her daughter never asked that again as she probably realized how uncomfortable it is!

  8. Jill says...

    totally!!!! I am a pretty strict parent to my now 13 1/2 yr old daughter. But I think Im fun and she’s always surprised. One day she asked me if she could jump in the pool with her clothes on, “sure go for it I said”. Can I have cheetos for breakfast? “sure one time wont hurt you, just not every day”. She is soooo happy to have these silly requests being honored and I look like an awesome mom and I do enforce the important rules like bed time, 9:30 . You must do all homework before video games etc.

  9. Jan says...

    Oddly enuf I heard that you should say no far less often as your kids age. Sorta the same thing. I heard this as my kids were entering the teen years. I followed it and think it is the best advice.

  10. Chelsey says...

    I’ve saved a bunch of these wise parenting gems. Thanks everyone!

    And I agree with being able to change your mind (even after originally saying no) and I must do it often enough because I’ve heard my son let his little sister “well I’ve thought it over and you can have it/do that.”

  11. bisbee says...

    My kids are now 40 and 43 (what!!) but I remember saying to people (including their father) that I was tired of saying no…so I only said it when necessary! They survived…quite well!

  12. Emily says...

    The best advice I ever got was from a firewoman at a block party: There are no bad kids. Only parents who stayed too long.

    This has helped me to see my kids ‘ “bad” behavior as being over tired, over stimulated or just plain done. I can control some of that by not asking too much of them.

    As they get older (my bigs are 10 and 12), I also need to not “stay too long” and let them make their own mistakes and become their own people. That is much harder than leaving a restaurant or party earlier than I want to!

  13. Ahhh, I couldn’t agree with this more! I have a 3 and 5 y.o., and on our most frustrating days, I realize that it’s because I’m saying no (to things that are worthy of a no). One day it dawned on me that the solution to those days was to place us all in a situation where I could say yes. “Aim for yes” perfectly describes how I strive to turn those crazy days around!

  14. Dana says...

    Also, best advice for married couples- make your marriage a priority. The kids will grow up and leave and you will be left living with a stranger if you don’t make your marriage a priority. Plus it sets a great example for the kids and gives them a solid foundation. What stuck with me from the movie “Date Night” is when the friend explains why he’s getting a divorce. “Nothing went wrong. We just became really excellent roommate’s”

  15. Catharine says...

    “I’m just not trying to figure it out anymore”

    Baby isn’t sleeping: Sleep regression? low supply? ear infection? What WHAT could it be??? Come on baby, it has to BE something.
    Baby is crying: Cold? Hot? Bored? Tired?

    Best baby advice ever–stop dissecting everything and just let it go. Unless blatently obvious (or harmful), just stop trying to figure it out and move on.

    • Kate says...

      Love this! I am due with my second next month and I want to be more like this with her. The first time you know nothing and worry about everything – now I just want to let her be a baby and ”stop trying to figure it out”. Thanks for putting it into words!

  16. steph says...

    Lots of adults in my life said yes to my hair-brained ideas. My Grandma let me pop her vitamin a capsule over the sink, my mom let me make numerous nature stews with our kitchen dishes and my other Grandma let me make experiments with food coloring and random ingredients mixed and put into the freezer. I have this unshakable confidence in my 30’s now since so many adults believed in me and made me feel my ideas had value!

  17. Dana says...

    This is something I’ve been working on. I distinctly remember being about 5 years old and asking my parents if i could play with play-doh. My dad so “no”. My mom responded “why can’t she play with play-doh?” My dad said “i don’t know, I guess she can.” I don’t know why that exchange has stayed with me all these years but it’s true that, for some reason, saying “no” feels like a default, auto-pilot response. I’m trying to fight the urge to say no. Especially to things that are messier. Like play-doh :p

  18. Kathryn says...

    I needed this.
    Thank you!

  19. Caitlin says...

    Oh my gosh yes! This really resonates with me!!! My husbands reaction was pretty priceless when he came home from work to find our three year old in a bubble bath wearing my bikini top! ?. There’s a beautiful saying that I heard recently, I like you don’t remember where I heard it but it’s “better a broken bone than a broken spirit” and I LOVE that. Be curious, be brave. Be adventurous. Ask for what you want!

    • Anna says...

      “Better a broken bone than a broken spirit.” I like that, a lot. As I’ve gotten older, I have noticed that my mom’s first reaction to anything is to point out the dangerous side of it. At 30, I finally bought a bicycle because I wanted to learn to ride well; her first reaction was not “Good for you” but was “Do NOT ride on the streets” and then not speak to me for a week when I didn’t acquiesce immediately. When I joined a gym with a personal trainer to finally get in shape, her first reaction was not “Good for you” but was “Be very careful and don’t let him make you do too much.” When I said that I wanted to ask my boss for a promotion and a raise, her reaction was not “Good for you” but was “Don’t ask for too much if everything is fine already.” Come to think of it, none of her second or third or subsequent reactions were “Good for you.”

      I know it comes from a place of caring for my well-being. But is it also, on some level, selfish of her because the more she keeps me in her mind’s safe zone, the less she has to worry about, at the expense of my spirit and confidence?

      Do anyone have any advice on how to wrestle with this, either to my mom or just for myself?

    • Michelle says...

      Anna, I have a mother who sounds similar to yours. I try to remember that my mother’s comments come from a place of love. Her love is just often expressed as concern and worry, which is different than how I would handle the same interaction. For me, it’s important to keep in mind that I’ll never have control over what she says to me or how she reacts, but I do get to choose what I share with her and how I feel about what she says. Hope that helps :) xo

    • Anna says...

      Thanks, Michelle :)

    • Mel says...

      Anna,
      Your comment really struck a nerve with me, because I am so afraid of becoming just like your mom is to you to my own 6 month old daughter and any other children I’ll have if I’m lucky. In fact, I have my first therapy appointment in years this Friday to address some of my major anxiety/ obsessive compulsive issues. I wonder if your mom suffers like I do. I heard somewhere once that suffering from anxiety is your brain reacting to any small “incident” just as though they were true 911 emergencies. A flat tire gets the same response as a severe car crash, for example. I always wonder how am i going to “let” her do things when I’m so afraid of everything? Which is why I’m going to therapy of course, hoping that I can learn how to control my anxieties to not push them on her. I guess my advice really is more a thought that your mom might suffer internally from this, and if she’s like me doesn’t always want to be so negative. Sometimes I feel so trapped in my own mind it makes me crazy, maybe she does too. Maybe talk to her about it, see if there’s deeper meaning behind it. It could help her, you never know! I felt so sad reading your comment, but I think this is something I’m going to keep with me to remind myself my daughter really will need my support even if it’s something I’m uncomfortable with! I am glad that you seem so well adjusted despite her sometimes lack of encouragement though. Good luck!

    • Anna says...

      Mel, I think the fact that you are making the effort to go to therapy and have the foresight to recognize how your anxiety may affect your relationship with your daughter already speaks volumes to how you are likely to create a much different influence than the one my mom has had on me. Yes, I do think that my mom likely suffers from some anxiety issues, though I don’t think my mom would agree. I don’t think she even recognizes that she is being negative; I think she just feels it’s her responsibility to constantly warn us about the dangers of the world, and with her anxious mentality, she zeroes in on the potential danger in everything and can’t help but to focus on that.

      I once read or heard somewhere that a parent’s responsibility isn’t to protect their child from the hardships of the world, but to give their child the tools and courage to deal with those hardships. Of course, I know it’s much easier for me to tout that philosophy when I am not a parent and don’t know what it’s like to have created a person that’s literally a piece of you. :)

      I’m sorry if my comment made you feel sad or more anxious! I should say that despite the issues that I have with my mom, I love and appreciate her very much, and the older I get the more I am able to comprehend who she is as a person, separate from who she is as a mother. I am sure your daughter will feel the same love and appreciation for you! Good luck and much love!

  20. Monique says...

    I agree with this. Thanks for posting.

  21. Diana says...

    I think my Mom’s parenting mantra was “Never, ever yes.” But despite all of her hard work, I turned into a teenager who secretly brought ski goggles to wear at a school dance and came home with green hair the day after graduation.

  22. Kate says...

    “when they go high you stay low” it was Vanessa Lapointe childhood psych. She means parents need to stay calm when their kids are having a meltdown. Whenever my kids are losing their sh*t i hear her Canadian accent in my head “when they go high stay low”

  23. joanna says...

    I always love when something changes my perspective.
    I am a teacher of middle age students(12-14) and this is very fitting.
    It often feels like there are some students whom have never heard “No” in their lives. Kids have permission to do it all, whenever they want, how they want and sometimes right away.
    I am conflicted with this because I truly do want to “Aim for yes”.
    I will post this is my classroom as a reminder. Maybe my students can learn from it too. Present behaviors where the teacher can say “Yes” to the students! Thanks for a new perspective.

  24. Cindy says...

    Up until my kids were in 6th grade, I would remind myself that they were closer in age to kindergarteners than graduating seniors. It helped me cut them some slack when they acted like, you know, KIDS.

  25. Love that! Will add it to my rotating list of mantras.

    I found that I was saying NO to my kids/family just because I was busy and tired and it seemed easier to shut down the question with no. Sounds terrible, I know, but thankfully, I have learned to say “just give me a minute” and then my brain has to click through the question and I can come up with an answer I feel good about. Yes, hopefully, or no-with-a-good-reason-or-alternative.

  26. Aliciea says...

    “Light up when a child walks into the room” – Oprah

    “When your child (any child) makes eye contact with you smile” , these were the best advice I’ve gotten as a parent. My kids are 13 and 1 1/2 and I always remember to do so, even when I’ve just finished scolding them. It’s a non-verbal way to reassure them that they are truly loved and special.

  27. JC says...

    In hindsight, I wish I had been more relaxed and said yes more when my adult kids were little. I sweated the small stuff way too much and wanted everything to be “perfect” or close to it and most of it really didn’t matter.

    I am glad I am more laid back in my old age-all that stress prevents you from really enjoying life.

  28. kati says...

    This is the one of the best comment threads I have read on your blog (and I’ve read quite a few).

    When I gave birth to our first child, my cousin said to me, “she isn’t as breakable as she seems”. Simple words that decreased my anxiety and gave me confidence. Solid advice for new mommies.

  29. Susan Grine says...

    Leave while you’re still having fun.

    • Rachel says...

      Okay, have to laugh at this. Yes. And yes, I adopted this “aim for yes” which really seemed to be great for awhile. And then I had an older teen, and the all the yes answers ended up supporting some awfully bad decisions on my teen’s part that were hidden by more simple requests – to which I had said… yes. Parenting is insane. The teen years for one of my three was so difficult, lonely, tricky, hard… You just never know how it’s gonna turn out – even when you put in all the “yes” times and the endless hours of reading books and playing board games, travel, vegetables, fruits, fun…

    • Caitlin says...

      A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y!

    • Morgan says...

      Ah yes, the “high note”! We have three small kids and I can’t tell you how many times while out with friends or at a party that my husband or I will say to the other, “high note?” and then we leave.

    • Gwen says...

      Hopefully not leaving parenting :p

  30. Kristy says...

    I agree totaly with some limits specially when its cold out and my 13 yr old wants to wear shorts to school i do say uh no. With that being said a piece of advice that was given to me that has been permanently etched in my brain by a great friend of mine and a single father of 2 was if ur alright they will b alright. Best advice ever for me being a single mom.

    • how true. like they say you can’t pour from an empty cup.
      thank you for this. i am going to go ahead pass it on all to all my mommy friends. :) and my mommy too :)

  31. even as a thirty-something without kids, these words resonate profoundly. how freeing would it be to apply this perspective to ALL of our relationships on a daily basis?!? how much more life to live, risks to take, places to explore if we all just let go of the control and said “yes!” thank you for sharing this, for bringing light to a freedom we all have within us (if we allow it). truly, truly grateful.

    • totally agree!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such a great point, erica.

    • Devon says...

      This is the way I’ve tried to live my life after going through a break-up a few years ago. Now I say yes to adventure, to loving myself, to making new friends, to pushing myself to be more open, and to doing things I never thought I could. I feel so much happier and more relaxed!

    • Katey says...

      A) I completely agree with your lovely comment, Erica (as another 30 something without kids) and B) thank you to Joanna for her equally as lovely comment to your comment :-) Although small, it is affirming and a reminder of how inclusive this blog space is of people coming from all backgrounds and experiences–earlier this evening I thoughtfully commented on another blog I regularly read (and I rarely every comment on blogs!), and the blogger basically said I was “wrong” to point out that her post was also helpful for those of us without kids (because her post was referencing a specific topic in the framework of having small children). I was completely flabbergasted by her response! It was as if she was saying “nope, don’t try to have a conversation here with me if you don’t have kids because if you don’t have kids then we can’t relate.” Ooff. So, kudos to you Joanna for always making this space so inclusive and welcoming!

  32. Audrey Johnson says...

    Very similarly, one of my favorites is “pick your battles”. Thanks for sharing.

  33. sheila says...

    This is absolutely the best advice ever! My three are now grown and because we always said “yes” whenever we could they are curious, successful, loving and full of life. I honestly couldn’t imagine more amazing adults if I tried. One other piece of advice I give the new parents I work with (RN on a busy maternity ward), because they always ask me, is “be kind”. It covers a lot and I think the world would be better off if we all kept that in mind.

    • Rachel Youngman says...

      Yes, I like Be Kind. To yourself also.
      Be Kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself.

  34. Annie says...

    Bedtime is not the time for teaching lessons re bad behavior bc no one is alert enough to learn anything (including this toddler mom!).

    • Allison says...

      Oh Annie – I could’ve used this tonight as my toddler was repeatedly ripping leaves/flowers off my plants. Will try again tomorrow with this renewed perspective. :)

    • Rachel Youngman says...

      My 2 yr old used to constantly rip my plant leaves. She did eventually stop and now very very rarely does it only if she’s ultra tired or if I’ve been busily not giving much one on one quality time and she wants my attention!

  35. KL says...

    I’ve copied a lot of the reader comments so I can return to them later. They say it takes a village to raise children, and without any family here to help, and my friends all about an hour+ away (#citytraffic, amiright), the other Cup of Jo moms are a part of my village! Thanks for all the wisdom ladies (and gents if any gents shared here)! My children (and Godchildren!) will thank you.

    • such a great idea! I, too, have learned so much through the insights of other readers on this blog! what an incredible community we have :)

  36. zivar says...

    the path of least resistance is the path. good for parenting, relationships and in all things. it can feel counter-intuitive at first, especially for those of us who equate struggle with growth but shifting my mindset and trusting the current has truly worked. we have been mostly child-led as parents — with food, with co-sleeping, with school. some may not agree with our parenting, and that’s fine, it works for us and our daughter is awesome.

  37. Hayley says...

    Love this! I don’t have kids but I am a teacher and I am responsible for training an apprentice teacher each school year. I have found that the key for success in my classroom is flexibility- something I still work on/remind myself of daily and try to model for my apprentice as much as possible. Kids have so much of their lives controlled and really seem to thrive when they have choices.

  38. Ryal says...

    Same thing applies to when you’re 59 and maybe getting stuck in your ways just a little bit.

  39. I love this. I find myself doing this more often as the kids get older and I don’t feel I need such a white-knuckled grip on everything. The best parenting advice I got was from my husband who, during one particularly low moment and some feelings of ‘failure’, told me: you haven’t failed until you quit trying. I think of that every single day.

    • Lulu says...

      good one!

    • Emily says...

      Your husband is a wise man. With a two year old and a six month old and a house that is constantly a pigsty no matter how much time i seem to spend trying to put things away this really resonates with me and has made me feel instantly better about things. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sasha says...

      When I would feel unhappy because my two kids were upset with me, or they didn’t like dinner, he would say “batting 500 gets you in the hall of fame….I liked dinner, you liked dinner, that’s a hall of fame dinner right there.” Somehow this would help me keep perspective and it’s funny to think that failing half the time at something could still be really great. Is hitting a baseball harder than being a mom, I don’t think so.

  40. Aly says...

    YES. I often tell my husband and my spouse that I’m sick of saying no – even just saying no to the dangerous things (you cannot ride on your baby sister’s back!) and to reading the tenth story during bedtime can be a lot of NO in one day. I recently started saying yes when my 4.5 year old son wants to bring home the “treasures” he finds on the playground – bottle caps, half of an abandoned toy, that sort of thing. It’s only a little gross and it makes him so happy.

    • Aly says...

      WHOOPS I meant my husband and my friends, not my husband and my spouse. My husband IS my spouse. Sleep deprivation ;)

    • I sometimes tell my kids: ask me something I can say YES to! I love saying yes to you!

    • Kelsey says...

      I always like to think that those kind of “yeses” are the things they’ll remember about their childhood most. Nice job mama!

    • Abesha1 says...

      YES, darling, I’d love to read another book……. tomorrow. ;-)

  41. Marcie says...

    I love this!

  42. Rachel says...

    I often think about your mother’s advice – take their fears and interests seriously (I’m paraphrasing) – and use it a lot. I’ve also been reading these parenting books – How to Talk So Kids Will Listen…, Liberated Children…, and Siblings Without Rivalry and they are seriously changing my life. Can’t say enough good things about them

    • Rachel says...

      Meant to say fears!

    • Diana says...

      I’m so glad you wrote this! Even as an adult I’ve so frequently felt like my fears and anxieties are being dismissed by friends, family, and colleagues. What a gift to be a child who feels completely heard.

  43. Maria says...

    “it’s so good to see you” when getting out of school instead of homework questions, what happened, etc…

    • Steph F. says...

      Love this! I could also see it working well with your partner instead of the generic “how was your day?”

    • Emma says...

      Thank you, Maria.

    • Dawn says...

      Such a great thought!

    • Eliza says...

      ooooh, good one!

    • Emma says...

      I gotta use this one at home! I would love to just be told I’m appreciated rather than asked to formulate a summary of my day :).

      My mantra as an au pair was ‘only ask real questions.’ I realized that sometimes I would frame things as questions when there wasn’t really an option. Like, “are you ready to go?” The answer for an outgoing five year old is never yes… so instead I tried to be mindful of only asking when the thing in question was a real option (like do you want to eat peas OR carrots?). Then she felt like I respected her more and it didn’t set up an argument.

    • Molly says...

      love this so much. my son started kindergarten this year and to be honest for the first month or so i was full of nervous questions for him after school. I realized how tired/ annoyed he seemed by being grilled the whole walk home from the school bus but I just couldn’t stop. So one day I forced myself not to ask a single question on our walk home, just gave him a big hug and walked quietly with him. He was in the best mood by the time we got home. Now our walk home from the bus has become such a lovely ritual, where we either chat about random things (the changing leaves, knock knock jokes) or just walk quietly. I couldn’t believe how much it seemed to improve his mood for the rest of the eve. And he began sharing tidbits from school on his own without me asking :))

  44. Sonja says...

    After seeing my friends sweet relationship with her three year old and asking what made it so (and hoping to foster some ideas for my own mother-son relationship) she said, “Oh, I just try to say yes as much as possible. The beach on the way home when it’s an exit away and we have no plans? Yep. Pretending to be a lizard through dinner? Weird, but sure. Building a bridge using a broom and bar stools? Only if you don’t walk on it without help. That way he’s happy, I’m happy, and when we say no he knows we mean it.” Proof that wisdom isn’t always preceded by decades of experience.

  45. Rani says...

    Wow, I really love this simple but important tip. When i’m tired, grumpy, and impatient, I’m way too quick to say no to my kids’ requests, but I have to remind myself that their job is to be curious and learn by experimenting. I agree that if it’s harmless, I may as well say yes, which I’m guessing will brighten everyone’s mood. Requests for swim goggles in the bath, wearing rain boots in sunny weather, and pushing the grocery cart (with a little help) will be approved!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “will be approved” = haha love it.

  46. Lillie says...

    YES! I learned this from my mom. Try to say yes.

  47. Jill says...

    “Tell me more.”

    I learned this phrase during my training in palliative care. So often our everyday conversations just consist of hopping from iceberg tip to iceberg tip, leaving us guessing about the hidden stuff under the surface. I think I will always love hearing how people respond to this invitation. With my patients and my kids, it lets them know that I’m listening and that I care about their internal world.

    So when my kids request something that seems weird or crazy or out-of-nowhere, I ask them to tell me more, and then we figure out next steps. It also works for feelings that seem to come up out of nowhere, especially after the storm surge has passed: “You were so MAD! I could tell how mad you were, you yelled, and you almost pushed that kid. Tell me more about what happened.”

    I say it so often to my daughter (age 3.5) that she now uses it herself. I was making up a story last week, trying to include all the elements that she likes hearing in our stories (currently: robots, dinosaurs, an imaginary naughty cat who lives next door to us named Bulius Baesar, ballet class, doctor visits, things hatching out of eggs and/or bursting out of the ground), and she interrupted me to say, “Mom, you said Bulius Baesar was eating a mango; tell me more about that.”

    • I love this – in every relationship.

    • Mina says...

      LOL, love this! We have a girl the same age and I can so relate!!!

    • Allison says...

      So much love for this one – thank you for sharing!

    • Eliza says...

      If I ever get a cat (I won’t because of severe allergies) I will name it Bulius Beasar.

    • Rainbow says...

      <3 <3 <3

    • whitney says...

      This is such beautiful advice. What a simple phrase to allow people the space to open up and breathe a little. Thank you so much for sharing this and thank you for the work that you do!

  48. Kristen says...

    This post came on exactly the right day for my 6 year old, who has been asking for light-up shoes for years and asked again this morning when the sole fell off his boring, non-light-up sneaker. I would have said that my husband and I are already “aim for yes” parents, but we’ve been staunchly anti-light up shoe. Why?? Who cares?? I’m going to buy a pair today and bask in the glow.

    • Kathryn says...

      I totally also have a crazy aversion to light-up shoes, why?!

    • Cait says...

      Just out of curiosity, why were you anti-light up shoe? It’s one of the great regrets of my life that those became a thing well after I was a kid, haha.

    • Emma says...

      Anti light-up, why? Because, at least when my kids were into them, they were downright tacky! Every one of them! BUT, I did what Kirsten is doing and bought the damn Elmo light-up shoes anyways because, yes, who-the-f cares! Kristen, you won’t regret it! I’m patting myself on the back (13 years later) for buying them now. Forgot all about that. Smiling.

    • ada says...

      I am anti-light-up-shoe! Maybe not the old school ones that took some serious stomping to get that dim little light to flash. . .
      But I swear the new ones are flashing LEDs!
      I am a PreK-5th teacher-librarian and when everyone is sitting criss cross applesauce and it’s already hard to focus. . . those shoes in the periphery doesn’t help! (For my attention span either!)

    • Lindsey says...

      Also not a light-up shoe fan. But the joy our 4 year old has over his new light-up sneakers AND light-up sandals more than makes up for what I feel they lack in style and washability. He feels so ridiculously cool stomping around in them and I love seeing his personal style develop. Plus they DO make him more visible when we are walking late at night in our city neighborhood so there’s that.

  49. Love this advice! I think it’s a great reminder to us parents to stay curious and playful ourselves as well.

  50. Alex F says...

    I’ve never taken a comedy class, but I’ve often wanted to, and the furtherest I’ve gotten with this pursuit is a cursory google search. Researching ‘improv’ incidentally offered me some great parenting advice, which I practice all the time. Wait….maybe my life is an improv class rn?! Anyway…The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE. The second rule of improv is to not only say YES, say YES, AND. The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. THERE ARE NO MISTAKES only OPPORTUNITIES.

    • Robin says...

      Love this as parenting advice!!

    • Lindsey says...

      Parenting is absolutely a combo of improv and marketing.

    • Jennifer says...

      I had the same thought. It reminds me of Improv – “Always say Yes. Yes, And!!” And frankly parenting is just real life Improv!

  51. Lauren says...

    This puts words to something that I’ve been learning with my two year old. Yesterday she decided she wanted to wear last year’s bathing suit bottoms over her pants. My husband and I kind of looked at each other, about to say no, and shrugged and said, “sure!”
    Other weird things we’ve said ok to are ketchup for Clementine dipping, trying a red pepper flake (we said yes with LOTS of warning that it would be spicy!!!), lots of water play shenanigans, and trying to touch a Sparrow (I realized I wanted to warm her that it would fly away but but my tongue and she had fun even when it flew away!).

  52. Ann M Hanson says...

    I am a preschool teacher and try to give my 20 charges a wide range of possibilities. Their day is already largely dictated by adults. I think they need as much autonomy and self directed time as I can (safely) give them. I totally agree with this thinking. Good post!

    • Rachel says...

      Yes!!

  53. june2 says...

    Ha, I just re-watched Jim Carrey’s movie, Yes Man, on HBO and just saying yes more often in general is such great advice, at any age. Thanks for the synchronicity!

  54. April says...

    I love this :) I don’t have kids, but I recently adopted a similar version of this for myself, which is just “why not/who cares?” Not only does it help me feel more free and less judgmental in the decisions I make and the ones I encounter others making, but it helps me delight in them.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      april, that is awesome.

  55. Michelle says...

    I just loved this and can imagine what a helpful change of perspective it could be especially with toddlers and little guys. I’m pregnant with my first and love “babies be babies” too, especially when I dream about life with the baby. :)

    I have a random question, Joanna – how do you guys pronounce Anton? We are considering it as a middle name if our babe is a boy (it’s a family name on my husband’s German mother’s side) but I can’t figure out how it’s pronounced here in the states!

    Second, just an idea, but I would so love to see a motherhood post on the fun/good/happy parts about having babies. I so, so often hear all the horrible scary things and it’s so easy to feel that mothering a baby is all stress and exhaustion!

    • Joanna Goddard says...
    • lydia says...

      here here! mother of three over here and michelle i’m so sorry that most posts about babies are heavy and hard and tiring. why would anyone want to have kids?! for so many reasons! because they smell delicious, their little squeaks and so precious, when you’re feeding them in the middle of the night there is this silence that only the two of you experience, there is nothing quite as awe inspiring as seeing what you and your partner look like in infant form, combined!, you can sit for hours and hours just looking at them and never get bored, they are a great excuse to stay home when you really don’t want to leave the house, they start off little and tiny and needy and you get to grow right along with them. i pray you find someone to speak life and joy into you as you become a mom. it is hard but most of the best things in life are. ❤️

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, lydia, i’m tearing up! so beautiful.

    • Sarah says...

      Michelle, I can relate. That’s how I felt before I had my first baby. A friend told us “although it is hard, the joy FAR eclipses the struggles.” I held that thought close when my son was born and found it was sooo true. I never knew I could experience such joy and love. People always told me that and it was hard for me to imagine, but when he was born I understood. I now think that the reason why it can be so hard is due to the same reason why it is so awesome…because this little person means so much to me and is so important to me, it makes his crying/yelling/lack of sleeping/eating etc. more stressful to me. If it was some other person’s baby, it wouldn’t bother me as much. But anyways, Lydia covered a lot of my thoughts. I could stare at his face forever and when he yawns/smiles/calls me Mom/says silly things, it’s the best. There are many good things to come your way. Best wishes :)

    • Steph says...

      Michelle, I remember when i was pregnant I got so annoyed at how many parents wanted to “warn” me about how exhausted I’d be and all of that. They acted like my life was over! Just wanted to jump in and say it is not all doom and gloom! My little one year old fascinates me like nothing else in the world can and even when i’m tired and impatient, she makes me feel like the luckiest mama ever.

    • Em says...

      To Michelle..the first year of my son’s life was magical. I was so in love and in awe that I had a babe of my own that I rarely felt tired..it felt like an adrenaline rush that never ended (I share this bc everyone talks about how tired you’ll be, but maybe it won’t be so bad?). I couldn’t wait to wake up and take care of him, snuggle him, watch him. I was so incredibly proud of him, and proud to be his mother, and this pride was such a positive experience that I truly hadn’t felt in a long time. Babies have a way of transforming you in positive ways you never expected. Good luck!

    • Maggie says...

      Michelle, I was in your shoes exactly one year ago. My son was born May ’17, and leading up to it, everything I read made me wonder if we were doing the right thing. I mean, I knew I wanted this baby, but the worries kept nagging at me, “Will I have post-partum depression? Will I never sleep again? Will I be any good at this?”
      It has been the most beautiful year of my life. There have been so many times that I’ve choked up with emotion, feeling such all-encompassing love for my child, that I can’t believe more isn’t written about it. And no, motherhood isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I fundamentally believe one choice you make predicts how happy or stressful motherhood will be for you: you have to chose whether to laugh or cry. Fountain of poop on the wall (bonus points for dripping behind your bolted-to-the-wall dresser (baby proofing!))? Laugh. Babe is only able to nap in the baby carrier? Laugh (quietly). Ready for another feed 15 min after you fall asleep? Well, that’s next-level — no one can laugh at that!
      You’ll do great! xx

    • Alison says...

      Congratulations! A pregnant friend and I were talking once and I was telling her how hard being a mom can be and she said, “It can not possibly be as hard as not being a mom”. I will never forget it. So profound and absolutely true.

    • Sharon says...

      I love the replies to your comment! I’ll chime in to say that it’s OK if you do not love the first year of a baby’s life. It’s also OK if you do. Bottom line is, we all love our babies, we would all die for our babies, but when we peak as mothers are as individual as each of us and each of our kids combined. We just do our best in our not-so-best days (or weeks, or months), and REVEL in the highs when they do come and grace us with their presence.

      I did not love the first year of either of my kids’ lives. Remember those Love Languages? That also applies to motherhood – we have different love languages. I love the verbal and cognitive aspects of motherhood so I love my toddler kids. I was, to be honest, desperately bored sometimes by my non-verbal babies when they were teeny tiny. I really don’t miss those early days, and I do not feel any guilt about that because I was there every day loving them hard!

    • Sarah says...

      A funny side note- I went to high school with an Anton whose last name is Hill, middle initial A, so….yup. Anton A. Hill! There’s some creative parenting at work!

    • E. says...

      I’d like to request this topic too. I love kids and babies, have so many in my life I adore, but the world (intentionally or unintentionally) makes it out like deciding to have children as the End of Days. Life is over for you, it’s all about them, kiss your bodily autonomy and and semblance of organization or peace and quiet in your life goodbye. It’s dark out there, people. Even with positive examples around me, it’s still very much there. Articles out there even list “Being Able to get out of plans” as an actual “perk” (I mean fine, but how is that top 10??).

      I know its silly, but it’s there. You know when you know the answer to something but you just need to hear someone else say it, or even hear you’re not the only one? This is one of those things. Sorry for the tirade.

    • dippythediplodocus says...

      I made my pregnant yoga teacher cry recently when I said ‘Having a baby is the best… the whole world is new and you get to discover it with them’. They had been receiving such negative messages about having a baby (you’ll never sleep, you’ll be broke) and needed a positive one.

    • Michelle says...

      I am SO touched by all of your comments, ladies! You’ve all helped to soothe my heart a bit. This is exactly what I was talking about :) I think most people mean well by ‘keeping it real’ and are just trying to prepare you for what’s to come… but all of that just comes through so much louder than the little joys and wonders you hear about so much less often. So thank you guys so much. I can’t wait for the new baby scent, the quietness of night feeding, the all-encompassing love and joy and pride, and re-discovering the world along with my little one. And such good advice to choose to laugh instead of cry!

      Joanna, thanks for the name pronunciation and the links! I’m reading all of them :) And Sarah, lol @ Anton A. Hill!

  56. B. says...

    Not sure if you read Bringing Up Bebe but “aim for yes” is a key tenant in that book. The author talks a lot about the concept of “cadre” or a set of rules that must be followed for the child to be a good citizen and remain healthy. Everything else is a potential “yes” situation! I just read that book and loved it—it should be required reading for parents!

    • Robin says...

      Agree! It’s a bit uneven but there’s a ton of great, thought- provoking advice. I’ve applied more from it than any other parenting book. ‘Le pause’, the cadre, serving kids salad first, cooking w kids have all been winners around here. Some of the marriage/relationship/body image stuff I’m less sure about, but you just have to put it through your own personal filter (like any parenting advice!).

    • r says...

      There’s a nursery that I visited that that has a rule, “ten yeses for every no,” which follows similar lines thinking – freedom through having clear boundaries (a frame). It has similarly stuck with me while raising my toddler. On days where there are too many nos, I try to think about whether we need to adjust things around the flat/daily structure so that we can make yeses more possible… it’s been really helpful!

  57. Babies be babies! Heard it here years ago and just said it to my niece yesterday.

  58. this is SO helpful while parenting my 20 month old. giving ourselves a break from policing and restricting our kids is a relief to everyone in the family! i can see how it would improve even the simplest experiences. love it!

  59. Jen says...

    I love this so much! Thanks, Joanna!

  60. Nisha says...

    This is great advice!

  61. Mona says...

    This post resonates with me as it was something I was talking about with a friend yesterday. My advice to her was another three word phrase: “Pick your battles”. Giving kids freedom for the fun stuff makes them smile, learn, and realize things on their own. Child: makes a small choice, sees direct consequence = learning experience.

  62. Sasha says...

    I love this post Joanna! Thanks for modeling so much great “mom-ing”! Saying yes, in these ways, shows you trust your kids, and respect their autonomy (within proper boundaries), so important.

    My favorite advice right now is “look for the good intentions.” Man, sometimes kids are jerks, annoying, obnoxious, etc. But are they really, really meaning to annoy us, be naughty, push nuclear buttons? Behavior is communication of needs. They are showing us what’s going on with them, and sometimes they need help. Serious help. It’s so much easier to be patient, empathetic, compassionate, consistent and in charge when somewhere in your heart you are holding on to the idea that they have good intentions.

    I love the book “Joyful Toddlers and Preschoolers” for this advice and many more useful helpful parenting tools. As a preschool teacher, it’s been wonderful for me and the kids I teach. It’s also pretty relevant for relationships with bigger kids and even partners.

    • Cait says...

      Look for the good intentions is probably a great rule of thumb when dealing with adults too! ;)

    • Ellie says...

      I teach high school, and I am going to use this as a mantra. Thank you!

  63. Angela Z. says...

    Surprised no one has beat me to this recommendation: Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s picture book “Yes Day!” Super great, just like all of her books :)

  64. jen says...

    Good advice. It also works if there are too many arguments with your husband–I work for peace.

  65. Laura says...

    Expecting my first child has me reflecting a lot on the way that I was raised. I think my mom followed the “aim for yes” advice without really knowing it. I rarely heard “no” as a kid, but I was also expected to make my own fun and deal with my own consequences. As a result, my siblings and I all share a strong spirit of independence and self reliance

    • Laura says...

      OH and also, “babies be babies” has been part of my vocabulary since that original post! I have 5 nephews, two of whom are newborns. Whenever their parents are frustrated or overwhelmed by their behavior I always remind them: Whatever man, babies be babies :-)

    • Maria says...

      That’s exactly what I thought when I read the post and the comments. I rarely heard no when growing up and was often reminded that I had to deal with the consequences. That’s what I plan to follow with my baby girl. :)

  66. Leah says...

    This is great! Daniel Siegel just wrote a book called “The Yes Brain” which I believe really emphasizes the benefit of this approach. His books are incredible by the way!

  67. Shelley says...

    Brilliant, as always. Thanks, I needed this reminder.

  68. Kaitlin says...

    My father in law is a lawyer dealing in family law and has had to arbitrate many parental rights disputes. He always tells his clients, and often the judge, to try to “remember how you felt as a child” and use that to guide your decision making. That sort of empathy – even if you’re making a decision that your child will hate, but is necessary – is so critical.

  69. Two pieces. Once I said to my best friend that I wished we could move to an island when my older daughter was having friendship troubles during elementary school. She said, “You do have an island: Your family.” Now whenever someone is struggling (even me), I pull in the draw bridges and make sure we have some solid family time, whether that’s an evening of watching TV or a daylong outing of clamming, hiking and shopping.
    Secondly, parenting is about the relationship. Build a strong relationship with your kid and think about every decision in terms of how to build that relationship. That’s directly from Gorden Neufeld of the Neufeld Institute. I write parenting articles and often when I’m researching for a new article, I have the desire to write just one sentence: Think about this problem in terms of your relationship with your child. Ha.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i love this:
      ““You do have an island: Your family.” Now whenever someone is struggling (even me), I pull in the draw bridges and make sure we have some solid family time, whether that’s an evening of watching TV or a daylong outing of clamming, hiking and shopping.”

    • Ellie says...

      I was lucky to raise my three kids before cell phones were ubiquitous, and our home really could be an island. I worry about my students (high school) who are so addicted to their phones and social media; I fear that they can’t ever escape the social pressures and retreat back to their islands. I hope the pendulum swings back soon, and I suspect it will be thoughtful parents like those who comment on this blog who help that pendulum to swing. (Say Yes as much as possible….but say No to perpetual phone use!)

  70. Eliza says...

    “Put your own mask on first” (airplane mask analogy) – I get in a phase where I’ve put on everyone else’s masks and my own “oxygen”, figuratively, is too low to help anyone anymore, including my kids. When I haven’t taken care of myself I’m terrible at controlling my energy levels, my temper, and I’m not the mom I want to be (the mom I am when I’ve taken care of my own important needs).

    • KL says...

      this is so important!

  71. MBN says...

    Is there a good iPhone screensaver to remind us to “Aim for Yes” and/or “Aim for Slow” this summer? A constant reminder would be helpful. If not, any tech folks around who could make one?

    • Rachel Youngman says...

      If you’re not a techie, you could always go the slow way and make a poster with paper and paint. Stick it on your wall where you’ll see it and that will help you to remember!

      Then take a photo of it and use it as your phone wallpaper! Hahaha ?

    • Kris says...

      I don’t have children, but I wear a necklace that has YES engraved on it to remind me to say yes more in my own life. I had it made when I realized I was letting anxiety get it in the way of living just a little too often.

  72. I think that’s why my niece adopted the attitude of asking me for permission for stuff that she needed adult help with. She knew from an early age that it was going to be a “yes” to anything which wasn’t dangerous or hurtful to others. It’s good to see it written out like this though and it’s a really good reminder.

  73. Shelley says...

    Absolutely love this!

  74. Chloe says...

    Nawww I love this so much and this is infact my current mantra. My struggle at the mo is that in saying yes it often leads to screen time, which I avoid at all costs ( save for family movies in the weekend).
    But besides computers and TV’s, Yes!
    My favourite parenting advice is if they are crabby add water…. this has served me well over the years and believe it or not, with a 14, 10 &8 year old, I still use it. Take a bath, shower, water my garden for me, wash the dog, have a hot drink, have a cold drink… just add water. It works 99% of the time.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      if they are crabby, add water! love.

    • Mariah says...

      Love that! It reminds me of a quote I keep on my desk ‘The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears or the sea.’

    • Hani says...

      YES! One of my sisters clued me in to the magic of that and it’s absolutely one of my most versatile mom ‘tricks’. “Sometimes,’ she said ‘a bath is less about getting clean than it is a gentle containment strategy.” It works so well to get everyone dialed in to calmer emotions.
      Sometimes, if I have too much going on, I’ll get a bowl of warm soapy water and a couple of spoons or measuring cups and plop my youngest in front of it. It fascinates him for at least an hour. Amazing.

    • Sasha says...

      Chloe, I love the add water idea!!

      About yes, I think Joanna is making a distinction between saying no when it’s appropriate and just saying no because it’s a habit or slightly inconvenient, or even silly, to say yes. A yes in those situations opens up so much for us and our children. It’s a yes that we really mean. A no, to screen time for example, is awesome. You are giving your child a chance to make their own fun and develop that habit. A yes to screen time is more like giving in to something you don’t actually want. I think the difference is really important.

    • Matilda says...

      Totally doing this and spreading the word. I love it!

    • Claire says...

      yes! water always worked with my son when he was little. I used to set him up with many different containers and bowls and water and he would be completely absorbed by it all. Even now as a teenager a swimming pool, river, lake or beach will often work some magic.

    • Robin says...

      Yes :)

    • Rachel Youngman says...

      Yes! Yesterday after some grumpiness, my kids requested to be outside on the balcony with the water play table even though it was cold. I thought, “why not?” and accommodated the wish. They were so happy splashing around and playing. Then when they were drenched and had enough, they went straight into a nice warm bath. Double joy! I love water :)

    • Kate says...

      Second this, as well as ‘if in doubt, feed them.’ Works for teeny tiny newborns from day one, for the rest of thier lives.

    • Diana says...

      genius!

    • WMom says...

      My mom was a preschool teacher and she said that if she had kids that were acting out she would ask them to go wash their hands. She said this always calmed them down.

    • Alison says...

      Mariah I love that quote: ‘The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears or the sea.’ I haven’t heard that one before but just wrote it down! It is so true!

  75. MJay says...

    We need some more aiming for yes in this house! It’s so easy to say no, but I feel like we could use more fun and laughter. My new mantra will be aim for yes.

    The best parenting advice I ever got was “Sleeping is a life skill.” My girls pediatrician told me this when I was sleep deprived and struggling with a baby who wouldn’t sleep. It drove home the importance of sleep and that sleep doesn’t alway just happen or occur naturally. It all sorted out eventually and she became a world class sleeper but it took some work!

    • Laura says...

      I love this! I’m expecting my first child and feel pretty well prepared, but the sleep thing has me very nervous.

  76. This isn’t parenting advice but I think it’s related. It’s advice that I received my first year working as a third grade teacher. (1997!) I was having a hard time with the parents of one of my students. They hassled me a lot and tried to be really controlling, even wanting to dictate who their daughter sat next to in the classroom. (She didn’t have any special needs or a reason she couldn’t sit with the other kids.) I called the woman who I had done my student teaching with the year before to get some advice about how to handle the situation. That was when she gave me the advice that became my mantra in working with all the parents in my classes, and as a parent for the past 9 years I think about it regarding the parents of my kids friends, too. It’s this: People do what they do because they love their kids. Sometimes they are misguided and what they are doing isn’t a good choice, but their motivation is their love for their kids. I really do think about that all the time and it’s helped me form great relationships with the parents of my students and also to connect with them and help them reframe their thinking sometimes. When they know I’m on their side and that I am not approaching them as their adversary, it really helps us all to make the best decision for their child.

  77. It’s a phase… all of it!

  78. Alice says...

    https://cupofjo.com/2015/05/slow-parenting/
    This way of going around things, rather than a statement, was something you wrote about a few years ago that has stuck with me almost daily.

    My eldest was just over 1 at the time and starting to really move and instead of panicking I followed him, just keeping him safe! Since then I’ve had another and I’ve found taking the slow approach is loads of simple fun that results in happy satisfied kiddos. People pack in loads to provide experiences/opportunities/skills, but kids (especially pre-aschoolers) often aren’t bothered or find it overwhelming. I think the love and respect involved in slow parenting results in a child who feels secure in being loved and respected, and is confident and curious. Plus you really get to see the wonder of a child’s mind, which is a beautiful thing. I’m still rushing about some of the time, but I aim for this and we’re all much happier for it.

    That and pick your battles. That’s for my sanity, more than theirs.

  79. Vanessa says...

    I saw this of Facebook once and it really resonated with me:

    Most of parenting is knowing when to let them make a mess, when to hug them rather than give timeout, and when to just get pizza for dinner.

  80. Janna says...

    I just set “Aim for Yes.” as my lock screen on my phone. What a good reminder for summer with a 3 and 1 year old. Thank you!

    • Marissa says...

      Great idea!

  81. Brooke says...

    Marjorie Pay Hinckely once said, “Whenever possible, say yes. They are kids only once!” This has always stuck with me.

    I have also started reminding myself childhood is a feeling. They won’t remember we rode scooters today. But the compilation of memories creates an overall feeling of security & happiness. So whenever I don’t want to take them outside or when I feel like yelling or doing something for me instead, I remember childhood is a feeling & I adjust my attitude, plans or tone of voice.

    • B cres says...

      Childhood is a feeling, love this!

  82. Tori says...

    I do appreciate this sentiment but I’m finding it to be a real challenge.

    I have an almost 3 year old and am pregnant so finding the balance of having fun without compromising my patience/stamina has been difficult. Especially lately, as she is NOT into listening/taking direction…

    Sometimes I feel like I’m being too hands on and just need to let her do her thing. I’m sure there will be more of that when the baby comes.

  83. Wuselbibi says...

    Once a friend confessed she struggled with leaving her kids alone while they were perfectly content playing something. She felt the urge to improve/help/engage herself too often and told me how she wanted to try and take herself back, because “you should not try to make a lucky child more lucky!”

    It stayed with me, and I’ve found myself thinking of those words so often. And backing out of “improving” children’s play with adult improvements… because why should I know how to play better? Children are experts in playing, right? So I’ll give recommendations, show things and if possible leave them to play on their own.

    • Suzy Prince Quinn says...

      Great attitude!!

    • Claire S. says...

      One of my favorite pieces of parenting advice was similar, given at my work baby shower: Never try to make a happy baby happier.
      Also works with older kids. If they’re happy, and not doing something harmful, just leave them be.

  84. Emiley says...

    One of my work colleagues told me before the birth of my first: “the days are long, but the years are short.” How true that’s proven to be two kids later! Similarly, my friend said she thinks: “this too shall pass” in response to whatever stage her kids are in (good or bad). Both have been a good reminder for me that there will be tough times, but there will impossibly good ones too – and none of them last forever. I try to remember this no matter what end of the spectrum I’m on that day. It helps me to soak it in and keep on trucking.

  85. This is great! I love this Joanna, thank you. I have been struggling with my 4yo lately. I will try this for my solo parenting week this week!

    It also reminds me of a kid’s book a friend of mine wrote. He pushed it one step further. To write this book, my friend was inspired by his own experience as a dad. One night, while he is alone with his 2 daughters, he decides to make a night of nonsense allowed. Eyes full of mischief, the two girls are eager to give free rein to their imagination. Then follow a battle of cushions, the looting of mom’s wardrobe and a bowling game in the bathroom!

    https://www.helvetiq.com/les-interdits-ca-suffit?___store=sw_fr&___from_store=sw_ge

  86. Marissa says...

    Such a sweet pic of your boys! And it’s great advice, which can be so hard to remember at times! But it’s the kind of mindset I’d like to have, to make a habit of saying yes to these little things. It reminds me of the children’s book Yes Day! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

  87. Louise says...

    My favourite author Astrid Lindgren once said: “Give children love, more love and even more love. Good manners will follow”.
    I’m sure I just butchered the original quote “Ge barnen kärlek, mera kärlek och ännu mera kärlek, så kommer folkvettet av sig själv” with my freestyle translation, but it’s really the way I was raised and what I try to apply with our three boys. They always respond well to kindness, love and respect.

  88. I supervise multiple after-school programs for kinder-5th grade and my advice to all my staff is say yes when you can. And I always ask them to check their motives when they are saying no. If it is because it annoys you that is not a good reason.

  89. Thanks for the reminder to be tender and open <3

  90. Brooke says...

    I feel like this is really good husband advice, too :)

    • Lauren E. says...

      So. Much. Yes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg, yes, what a sweet point <3

    • Laura says...

      Love this! No babies yet but practicing om my husband sounds like a great idea :-)

  91. Laura says...

    My favorite mantra is a slight variation of this same idea: “find a yes!” So maybe no, we can’t run down the aisles of the grocery store, but yes, we can have breakfast for dinner, and yes, we can make that new recipe that you’ve wanted to try. Some “no’s” are justified, but I find I can usually find a yes somewhere.

    • Oh, I really like this twist. For example, I’m not on board with saying yes to jumping from one sofa to the other – we say “not a jungle gym!” fairly often in our house. But I can get on board with “no, you can’t jump on the sofas, but you CAN put some cushions on the floor and jump.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      totally agree, laura!

  92. Abesha1 says...

    “Take a breath.”

    “Just hold them.”

    “Milk fixes anything.”

  93. Jessie says...

    My mom said “the only predictable thing about kids is their unpredictability”, something I always refer back to when my 7 y.o. surprises me by completely changing up their habit or like or dislike.
    My favorite one is something I came up with myself (if I can pat myself on the back!). Emotions are hard, complicated & messy, especially for my child who has challenges with emotional regulation. When they’re angry, I always repeat “you can be angry, but you can’t be mean”. I hope I am teaching my child that it’s okay to be angry (& acceptable) & to even have moments of hating me. But to sit with the anger instead of lashing out.

    • Rachel Youngman says...

      Thanks for sharing this Jessie! I’m going to keep it. For my emotional self and my emotional kids! It’s good to acknowledge that it is ok/ acceptable/ normal to feel angry. We just need to keep in check what we do with that anger. x

  94. Carrie says...

    This is one of those posts I hope I remember years from now when I (maybe? hopefully?) have children. I really love this advice. Why limit their exploration, as long as there’s no threat of danger?

  95. Tania Barnes says...

    This made me smile, because this is my boss’s mantra at work: “look for reasons to say yes”. I definitely think it’s helped me be better at my job — but for some reason I never thought about it in the parenting context. I’m definitely going to try it out!

  96. Some of the best parenting advice we received came from our wonderful pediatrician. Shortly after my daughter was born, when we had so many questions and little confidence, he told us that the best decision for our baby would be the decision that was best for our family as a whole. That advice has helped us make decisions regarding breastfeeding, sleep training, TV, babysitters, everything really.

    • Zm says...

      Beautiful!

  97. AP says...

    This has always been my approach to parenting when it comes to silly things that really don’t matter in the end. We regularly have swimming suit “swims” in the bathtub or dessert first (I swear it makes her eat her real dinner with less fuss). I also notice that my husband — who is usually just saying “no” to her in fear of my questioning of his motives — has a lot more trouble with our daughter. I remember her wanting to take a book to the store once and he said, “no, let’s just leave it at home.” And I whispered to him when she was out of earshot–why, though?

    • Rachel says...

      We let our kids eat dessert mid-meal too and then they always eat more dinner after!

  98. Jordan says...

    I was recently recounting a frustrating parenting moment to a co-worker and he said “you just can’t bargain a kid out of their feelings.” I felt like the clouds parted and my way of thinking about parenting shifted on its axis! I spend so much time begging, cajoling, bartering with my son to not feel the way he is feeling (“sorry you didn’t win the toy in the claw game, but if you stop crying and eat dinner you can get dessert!”) when I should really just let him be sad – It DOES suck not to win the toy out of the claw game! It’s not that crazy for a 3 y/o to cry about that.
    I’ve starting applying this advice to adults as well and it is life changing. I bet 3 times a day I say to myself, “Don’t bargain with him/her. Let her have her feelings.”

    • Cheryl says...

      This! In the moments you just don’t want to hear the crying or the tantrum, but its their honest emotion! So it acknowledge it and to validate it makes such a difference. I swear it has cut my 3 yr old daughter’s moments down in length because she knows she is understood.

    • Jenn says...

      Totally! My almost 4 year old son has big emotions andi also found myself trying to convince him not to be upset. I just read How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen and the authors write a lot about the importance of acknowledging your kids’ feelings. I’ve been trying to do that in moments of meltdown and it seems to be working. Such simple and helpful advice!

    • Jamie says...

      Have you heard of Janet Lansbury? http://www.janetlansbury.com She gives great advice about respecting kids feelings and letting them experience frustration, anger etc without trying to fix it. Very helpful.

  99. Katie says...

    This is such a terrific reminder to just let kids be kids and enjoy the joy that is evident in even the simplest (and sometimes bizarre and often times silly and almost always joyful) things in their lives. It doesn’t take much beyond a little flexibility to make a child truly happy.

    I’ve been trying to do a better job of slowing down with my kids and keeping this in mind. Last Friday, on the way home from school in Brooklyn, my son asked for about the millionth time to drive over the Carroll Street Bridge in Brooklyn. It’s a little wooden draw bridge that goes over the Gowanus Canal and opens sideways rather than up. This request would mean going out of our way to do so, but last Friday I decided yes! Why not! And we had a blast! We played the Carroll Street Bridge song by one of our favorite children’s musicians (Lloyd H. Miller) while we drove over the bridge. It was the first thing he told his dad about that night and it is still bringing a smile to my face today:)

    • Erin says...

      I went to grad school with Lloyd’s wife – we were running buddies in Vermont! I saw that name and “children’s musician” and thought, hmmm…I know him!

  100. Karen says...

    My mother was very hands off and allowed me to explore my curiosity growing up (pre-teen is as far as i can remember). A few of my favorite memories include:

    1. When we were a few blocks from the house I would ask her to let me get out the car and walk the rest of the way by myself. She would either drive slowly ahead of me or pull up to the house and wait for me outside. It was the perfect little bit of independence/ alone time that i needed as a pre-teen. She patiently let me do this a handful of times until one day she had enough and explained to me that she just wanted to get home for Pete’s sake (haha). Still grateful for the experience.

    2. We would keep bags of candy in the house from parties and we never paid them any attention. My mother didn’t eat candy so it was never a practice that I grew up with. However, my cousins were always getting yelled at for eating sweets so seeing what the fuss was about was my trigger to tasting the kaleidoscope of flavors and colors in my goody bags. One day I had an excessive amount (my mother was aware) and got so full that my stomach and teeth hurt. My mother explained why i was feeling that way and advised that if i didn’t like the icky feeling to avoid eating candy. I only did this about 2-3 times in my childhood and til this day avoid candy bc i hate the icky feeling I get afterwards.

    3. Doing crazy stunts on my bicycle such as: standing on the seat while in motion, lying down on the seat while in motion (superhero style), poppin’ wheelie’s, going FAST. thank God i didn’t get hurt!

    Thanks Mom for often saying YES (or nothing at all which was my green light to yes hehe).

  101. Meredith says...

    Last weekentd we had a “yes” day where we did whatever the kids wanted all day. They are 5 and 7, and they know what is reasonable really well, so their requests were really in line with things that were awesome to do. It made their week to plan the whole day, and know that we would say yes. We ended up: having pancakes, reading on the couch together, going to the trampoline park, having lunch at McDonalds (with fries and milkshakes!!!), buying an LOL Doll and a hatchimal for each of them (something I would never normally say yes to), going to their aunt’s house to play with them, visiting a playground, watching 2 episodes of a kids show, eating dinner all together at Olive Garden (with ice cream!). It was so much fun to follow their lead, say yes to everything, and see their stunned amazement at getting to determine their own day.

    We’re already planning that they have a yes week each when they turn 10. It wouldn’t be that we say yes to everything, but a week where they set the course of what we do. I can’t wait to go on the adventures they determine!

  102. B says...

    I love this, I am more of a “let them learn for themselves” parent and my husband is a very protective cautious “I don’t want them to get hurt” parent. It makes for some interesting battles however perhaps if I rephrase it into “Aim for Yes” there will be more give from the protective one and my crazies can do what their young little hearts desire – as long as it is not mean spirited or hurtful.

  103. M says...

    This is good advice. Unfortunately, I’m almost 30 and my first thought was, “I wish my mom had done this.” She was a good mother overall and we are close now, but I remember all the “no’s” growing up until I left for college, and it caused so much unnecessary friction. Trust me, this advice is so important.

  104. Maiz says...

    Remembering to tell myself, “Just because they”re unhappy doesn’t mean I have to be unhappy,” has helped me through a lot of kid meltdowns. I don’t remember where I first heard that, but it’s been a great one for me.

    • Trish O says...

      Love this. I always try to remind myself to “stay out of teen drama” let the kids figure out their own social life. Also, I try to remember that people are not happy all the time and that is ok.

  105. Sargjo says...

    Your failed dinners are your kids’ favorites. I realized this when I put together just steamed broccoli and noodles with olive oil and salt and my kids said THANK YOU and this was the BEST DINNER EVER. Usually I stress trying to get in some protein or introduce a new vegetable or eat what were eating. I immediately flashed to my own favorite childhood dinner, macaroni and cheese with frozen peas mixed in. For her, it was a dinner that failed-an offering of exhaustion. But for my sister and I, it was THE BEST DINNER EVER.

  106. Colleen says...

    My wonderful friend (who has since passed away, so sad) was a dad to three girls. When our daughter was born he advised “Never give a toy to a happy baby.” Makes great sense and continues to apply as the baby and toys get more sophisticated. Maybe even applies to me ; )

    • Katie says...

      This is such wonderful advice! They should post it on every maternity ward. My husband is notorious for this and I always remind him to “save” it for when we need it. But your friend’s advice is much more succinct and happy. Thanks for sharing. <3

  107. Rachel says...

    I love this advice and have tried to put it into practice since my second (creative non-conformist) child came along. The world of young children is often filled with “no” and it’s important to pick your battles as another commenter noted. My other mantra is “embrace the chaos”. When we interact with other people, particularly in intimate relationships, there is very little we can control. Kids are a good reminder that life is inherently chaotic and all we can do is try and control our reaction to that.

  108. Tammy says...

    The most helpful tip for me has been “don’t take it personally.” I used to be offended when my toddler would throw a horrible tantrum for me but now I realize it’s not aimed at me and she’s not doing it on purpose to ruin my day.

    I read somewhere that when toddlers throw tantrums they feel out of control and are often scared of their big emotions so now I let my daughter get it out and when she’s calmed down ask if she needs a hug. She always says yes and is clingy for a bit, then goes back to her normal happy self. Since approaching tantrums differently I am a much happier parent!

  109. Ruth says...

    I love this so much. I feel like I’m constantly asking my (mostly awesome and obedient) 2.5-year-old to not do things. I love her creativity and approach to things so this phrase will really help me to encourage her – and also remind myself not to taking things so seriously.

  110. Morgan says...

    Oooof, I think about this a lot. I don’t have kids yet, but I remember the *very* strict way my parents raised me; it was ALWAYS no, even to small things. It was as if that was just the easiest thing for them, but I to this day have a hard time pushing myself out of my comfort zone and being creative in day to day routines or taking risks with life and career. Sometimes I wonder if I would be a different adult if my parents had said YES more and allowed me to explore life’s possibilities more.

  111. Cynthia says...

    Good ideas, but I never let my girls jump on the furniture. If they wanted to run and jump in the house, I sent them outside.

    • Glad I’m not the only one – I cringed at that part.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, i think that one depends on the family’s preference. (also makes me wish we had a backyard!)

  112. Trish O says...

    For my family, I don’t think I agree with this. I think I am more of a “pick your battles” and explain in age appropriate way why you said no, mom. In fact, at times the answer is no, because I said so. And I am in charge. Because sometimes in life, you need to do what the person in charge says…like your boss, or a teacher, or the police. I get why this works for you, and I do say yes when it is appropriate, but….I don’t know. Sometimes, it is more helpful for my sons to understand no. Maybe it is because my boys are teens and the things they ask to do at times have a tremendous amount of consequences, but not sure this would work for us.

    • Jules says...

      I agree. I feel very conflicted about all this. I like the idea of curious kids, but working in retail, I’ve seen way too many times, entitlement from adults who were clearly not told “no” and lack both respect and manners. Same for kids who are not being respectful of a space (subway, store, restaurant…) and people around them because they are not being told “no”. My mom’s raised us saying : ” your freedom stops were other people’s freedom starts” and I will make sure this is what I teach my children.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, i think we actually agree with each other — we are VERY strict in many ways, when it comes to going to school/bed/etc, being polite, following family rules, thanking people, respecting others, sitting still and talking quietly in restaurants, etc etc etc. we do say “no” many times a day. i just mean that if they’re playing, and they want to do something silly/random and it’s not going to bother anyone else, i’ll let them go for it! :)

  113. JO says...

    I’ve heard “aim for yes” too and I think about it all the time with my little guys! I’ve heard that another reason to use this mantra with your kids is that “no” will carry much more weight when it’s not such a constant! Basically, save NO for when it really counts!

    • JO says...

      Oh, and the best advice I’ve received was from my mom: no idle threats! She always says, “whatever you say, be prepared to stick to it.”

    • Aya says...

      I agree! I try to “save my no’s” and it really works. When I get my “no” and “mom eyes” out, I mean business!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      mom eyes!!!

  114. Rachel says...

    You taught me “babies be babies” and now it’s my advice to all new moms! Ex. Go thru your checklist: diaper needs changed? hungry? cold? teething? belly ache? tired?

    If you’ve assessed everything imaginable…then I say “babies be babies”.

  115. L says...

    I’m not sure about this one. Yes, many times I agree, you can let them experiment, and I also do it (I just call it “choose you battles”). But I feel that many times too, kids should not be given choices at every turn – even for things that are not that important – and it is a disservice to let them do so.

    One of my friends lets her 6 year old make a lot of those not-so-important decisions, and as a result I find him to be very un-flexible and self absorbed. He just thinks it’s normal to demand a specific color for his dish, or that he should always be the one choosing what games to play and how to play it etc. What was ok or even cute at 2 can become seriously annoying when they grow up…

    • Madie says...

      He was probably un-flexible from birth and she was also “choosing her battles” just to make it through the day… Like, OK, no need for WW3 over the color of his plate. But I totally hear you and think it’s a super interesting topic because where do you draw the line? There is so much conflicting advice regarding giving kids a choice when you can… like when either outcome is truly OK. But I also agree that kids don’t need to decide everything, and I think too much choice can stress them out. Remember the inner peace and security that came with knowing your parents just had it DOWN?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      totally get that! so interesting to think about. with our kids, they have lots of rules they have to do — sit for dinner without complaining (even if they don’t love or want to eat all the foods), be respectful and kind to everyone (so, for example, turn off the music if i have a headache), get their pajamas on and brush their teeth done when asked, etc etc. but it’s more when they’re playing or doing the fun parts of the day, then they can let their imaginations and curiosity run wild :)

    • Emily says...

      I see what you’re saying! I have a friend who has had her 7 year-old dictate their family activities from the time she could talk. The parents are constantly asking what she wants to do in every situation, and, not sure if this is a direct result, they are grappling with some behavioral problems. She must have her way and tantrums are the norm (though not surprisingly she’s fine at school). The mother now realizes they have given her too much control at home, but it’s very difficult at this point to become the ones in charge.

      This is an extreme example, and every child and parental relationship is different, but I have to say as a mom who probably says no more than she should… I’m glad to have erred this way. I try to explain why I’m saying no, and as a result I think my kids are making good judgments (and recognizing bad judgments in others). And when I do say yes it’s appreciated. :)

      And one more thing, I heard somewhere that if the kids know that something is a standard “no,” but then the parent waivers and sometimes it becomes a “yes,” what is that teaching the children? “Just this once” can become a slippery slope, especially in the teenage years. Just sayin’. But I think I dramatized the point of this article, cheers to fun moms (just be careful!).

    • Sarah says...

      Continuing the theme of “yes, and…,” I would probably respond to those demands by saying “yes, and you can get up and go get the dish you want, put the dish you don’t want in the dishwasher, and come back to the table!” Let them make choices, but set an expectation that those choices can’t be disrespectful of other peoples’ time and energy.

    • Maiz says...

      Kids do need to learn that they are going to be okay when they don’t get their way. Sometimes they need practice at being denied or disappointed so that they can develop resilience and flexibility. But this “aim for yes” idea doesn’t mean say yes to everything!

  116. Megan says...

    The advice I try to follow – “Don’t do anything for your children that they can do for themselves”. It sounds so simple, but applies to anything, large or small. And the truth is, children love to learn and be the masters of their own universe, perfectly in line with “Just say yes”!

    • Katie says...

      Oh this is so so good!!!!! I am using this starting tomorrow with my 3 and 5 year old. :)

  117. My best friend is really close with her extended family, and they lovingly call their twin aunts (who are also best friends and neighbors) the House of Yes and the House of F*ck Yes. My friend’s favorite example is going over to the House of F Yes and seeing her 6-year-old cousin laying on the countertop without pants on watching TV and using an English Muffin as a pillow. #AIMFORYES

  118. Absolutely! My sisters and I have talked about how we are all this kind of parent. My mom was, too, which is why photos from our childhood are damning evidence of how we dressed ourselves EVERY DAY from the time we were about 5 years old. (Giant white t-shirt and black leggings with lace cuffs every day of 4th grade, anyone?)

    This also reminds me of Bringing Up Bebe. Like, there’s a structure, there’s rules, but then there’s a ton of freedom inside that structure. With my 2-year-old, sometimes I say yes and just wait to see if it’s gonna end up being dangerous or destructive…I’m ready to jump in right before it does, though!

    • Madie says...

      Yes! I was going to say, this feels like the French “cadre” or “framework” of structure and rules (for the really important stuff), with all the freedom within. My favorite aspect of that book!

    • amy says...

      This is very Montessori- we call it “freedom within limits”!

  119. Lindsey says...

    The one I think about often is, “Good for her! Not for me.” I think I read it here and I think it’s from Amy Phoeler? All my friends are potty-training their 1-year-olds. I find that wild and want my baby to be a baby a little longer…plus potty training is the worst and I don’t want to deal with that right now. I felt this weird guilt because at play dates, my toddler still pees…in his diaper. Even worse, he doesn’t even KNOW he’s peeing. But he’s 1!!!! (Almost 2…but 1!!!) So I took a good long look in the mirror and reminded myself, “Good for them! Not for me.” And I was lifted up :)

    • Sara says...

      Omg! I’m not a mom, but I think of that quote all the time. “Good for her. Not for me” really resonated with me when I first heard it. It’s a great life mantra :)

    • Katherine says...

      I faced this same potty training timing dilemma. We were in a parent-tot class and he was the only one NOT potty trained at 18 months. I tried to do it at 2 years and man was i humbled. He was not ready and we pulled it after a few days. At a few months shy of three I tried again and it was much better. But we went at his pace and it worked. I think of another COJ post recently… my mom poem would be: “Forgotten lipgloss, 3T Elmo underwear in my purse.”

  120. Stephanie says...

    A few years ago, before I had kids of my own, I asked a women I admired how she raised her three daughters to be independent, funny, kind (and not boy-crazy).

    She explained that she and her husband decided when their girls were little to only say no when they needed to and to say yes to as many requests as possible. By doing this, they fostered creativity, passion and fun in their home. And it shows!

    My boys are now 4 and 2, and her advice rolls through my mind regularly. She’s the reason, for instance, that both boys have rain boots and jackets–when they ask they ask to stomp in puddles or take a walk through the rain, I quickly and happily say yes!

  121. Natasha says...

    I love this approach, and have been trying to let my 11-month-old (first) baby be her intrepid self without saying no / redirecting her unless it interferes with her safety. It seems like saying no or telling her to be careful more than absolutely necessary will mess with her curious nature. My concern is how to say yes as much as possible without her becoming a kid who throws a tantrum when I do say no. How do you raise a respectful explorer? I would love to hear your thoughts on walking that line!

    • Emily says...

      Janet Lansbury is the parenting guru you need to read.

  122. Kate says...

    I think this just works for life, overall. I realized a couple of years ago that I say no way too often – to my husband, friends, family, work, and myself – because I’ve always been afraid of change and the unknown. And for what?! So I’ve been “aiming for yes” in all aspects of my life and I’m so much happier now!

  123. Samantha Blackmer says...

    I love this idea but would have a difficult time with the aftermath… like “my milk tastes bad now, I want a new cup.” What do you think/do/say in those situations that keep the mood upbeat and positive while letting your little guys know that their decisions have resulted in a modicum of displeasure?

  124. It might be Tina Fey who said that, but I think that for her this philosophy came from her improv training, the first rule of which is “yes, and”… i.e. it’s hard to continue a scene when someone says no to you, but when they say
    Yes, And… it’s almost the idea of building on something. We try that with our 3 year-old too. He sleeps wearing his hat, sometimes (often) holding an apple. Strange? Yes! Hurting anyone? No. At the same time, he says hello, goodbye, thank you, and please looking people in the eye. I consider that a parenting win! :)

  125. Alex says...

    I’ve been trying to remember to “re-orient” by 2.5 year old when she asks (well more likely demands) to do something she shouldn’t be doing. I’ll say, “Well, lets try…” or “Why do we….” instead of a flat-out “No.” But this is a good reminder that often the answer can be a flat out “Yes!”.
    I feel like at this age its hard to explain or reason with her on things like its okay to stand on your chair at home, but its not okay to stand on a chair at a restaurant or a friend’s house. So i make these universal “No” rules. But maybe I’m not giving her enough credit?

    • Emily says...

      Very young kids will absolutely understand that there are different rules for different places. We often say “at our house we…..but at the library/grandmas/restaurant we…..”

    • Paige says...

      If you don’t want your child to stand on a chair or jump on furniture when you are out, then don’t allow it at home. As a preschool teacher, I see that it is hard for young children to understand that what is ok at home is not ok at school.

  126. Lynzie says...

    Then what happens when the answer really is no? Is there a meltdown because they are used to hearing yes? I’m about to be a first time mom and love hearing all the strategies! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Aya says...

      Congratulations on your upcoming baby!

      I try to give my little 2.5-year-old a lot of freedom and have found that when I do say “no” it means something to her and she’s rather compliant. This tactic also helps me because I am not constantly regulating things that don’t need to be controlled.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      for my boys, when they hear no, they listen because it’s more rare. (at least, most of the time lol)

    • Anita says...

      Lynzie, I think that if you are consistent in the kinds of things you say “yes” to and “no” to kids can predict and understand what you think is okay and what is not. As a parent you have to decide and set standards for many things (healthy food, media, behaviour in public, consumer habits etc.), as well as in terms of what you think is “dangerous” or “unsafe.” There will be many “no”s. And meltdowns are inevitable (so many meltdowns!). But this does not have to interfere with saying yes to things that nurture their creative and playful spirit, or are fun and spontaneous, or allows them to express their autonomy, identity and attachments. I have been very inspired by Marshall Rosenberg (non-violent communication) in my parenting (2 boys and 1 girl, 5-12). He thinks that kids just need to know that their needs matter to you (and, in turn, they need to recognize that parents have needs too). I tell my kids all the time that I need more yeses from them!
      Good luck with entering momhood!

  127. Shannon says...

    I have a friend that did “the summer of yes.” At the time, she had 2 year old twins, a 4 year old and 6 year old. Everyone had a much better summer when they didn’t spend time arguing over silly things she would have previously said “no” to.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love!!

    • Noelle says...

      Our friends did a “day of yes” a few weeks ago. I loved the idea!

  128. Katherine says...

    Whenever I am about to lose it on my kids, I try to think about describing the moment as it is happening as I would/will tell it to to my best mom friend.

    Example: My 3 year old son will not stop crying because there were only plain doughnut holes left and no one chocolate ones in front of everyone at school and my baby spit up on me. I was about to burst into tears as a lot of other things had occurred that week. Then I thought about the utter normalcy and hilarious nature of this moment and telling my friend about it. This approach allows me to detach a bit and regain perspective.

    I love this friend because whatever I tell her, she almost always replies, “This all sounds so normal to me!” And then we (normally!) laugh and laugh.

    • Carrie says...

      You are brilliant. I love that!

  129. Em says...

    This reminds me of one of my favorite and most helpful parenting books: Parenting with Love and Logic. It’s all about retaining only the control you need, and saying yes/going with the flow otherwise! I think you might love it!

    • Catherine says...

      That book (Love and Logic) changed EVERYTHING for me. The concept that my frustration/anger should never be the consequence. The natural consequence should the consequence! I let them feel cold when they insist on tank tops in winter. Or get hungry when they choose to only pack strawberries for lunch. It encouraged me to come along side my kids and feel compassion when they have hard consequences. Instead of “I told you so!!!” I remind myself to say “Oh man that is SO HARD! I’m so sorry you feel cold. I hate that feeling too.” I feel like I stopped yelling, and became a loving guide to my kids. Sweet relief!

    • Bex says...

      Yes!! I’m not a parent, but as a summer camp counselor, we were trained in Love and Logic and it worked wonders with even the most challenging kids- most coming from really difficult inner city situations.

  130. Whitney says...

    I completely agree! I let my 3yo dip his kiwi slices in ketchup for lunch today because why not? I thought it was completely disgusting, but let him go for it, and let him figure that out by himself. One bite later he came to the conclusion of how gross it was by himself.

    • freya says...

      hahaha!

    • Ruth says...

      My daughter put peas in yogurt and blueberries in soy sauce. Who am I to tell her no?! LOL.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha yes!

    • G says...

      My husband taught our kids to say “don’t yuck my yum” when a friend or family member doubts their culinary creations!

  131. When I became a single parent I read something about not trying to be supermum, and the advice was “who cares if you have beans on toast for dinner for 3 days running, as long as there’s love in the house that’s what your kids will remember.” I thought about that many, many times over the years when I was finding it hard, and it always helped me to keep things in perspective.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that!!!

  132. Heather says...

    My mother’s mantra for raising my brother and I was, “kids are people, too!” Meaning, just because we were children, it didn’t mean that we were less than – our opinions counted, our ideas were valid, and our concerns were taken into account. I remember loving when she said that. It shaped my childhood. The idea that I mattered, even though I was small. I think I’ve carried that through my whole life – my ideas are valid, I am valid. I matter. It was such a gift.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!! i once read “a baby is a whole person,” meaning that their fears/joys/etc are just as valid and meaningful as an adult’s. i loved that so much.

    • One of my elementary school teachers had a poster with “Kids Are People, Too” on it and I always loved that!

    • Gilli says...

      Love this advice!

    • amy says...

      Ooo, I love this. I was my mother’s property growing up and I am still sloughing off the scar tissue, lol…thank god for the evolution of consciousness in parenting!

  133. i love this – and interestingly enough (as i am well within my late twenties) I am happily accepting of this parenting advice for myself! Even if i am ‘young’ adult – why limit the freedom of curiosity and exploration!?

    “Aim for Yes” almost pairs well with other advice i received in college “it’s either love or a lesson” … I mean, in Toby’s case how will he ever know if Milk and Water isn’t his favorite beloved combo!? OR if its a dud then the lessened learned for next time that he might try a different mixture until he finds one to fall in love with!

  134. Penny says...

    Such a great reminder, thank you!! Indeed it’s so easy to just say no, especially if one’s patience is tried by other things the kids have been doing so far that day. But I’ll refresh my stock of “yes” here for a while, and hope to remember this every day too. Thanks!

  135. Isabel says...

    I love this!
    Similarly, I read once a few years ago (also from a source I don’t remember), “it’s their day, too,” which really resonated with me. Ultimately, while the parents make so many of the rules and dictate the schedule (or try to!), the kids are living their lives, too – so let them bathe in their bathing suits or drink watered down milk!

    • Oh I like this one! Never thought of it like that. Most of the times it just feels like they are living in my day. Such a good way to put it.

  136. Claire says...

    what terrific words of advice!
    After I gave birth via a long labor, followed by a c-section, one of the nurses (without saying a word to me) took my new baby away to feed him some formula because she thought he didn’t look good. I had been trying to breast feed, and when this happened I went completely to pieces. Post-partum hormones were at work, but also I was sure this was the proof that I was already failing him. Another nurse who happened to be with me when it happened went out of her way to comfort me. She was very young, but had 3 kids of her own, and another one on the way. She told me not to worry about the formula, or the breast feeding, or any other expectations I had about what it took to be a good mom. “Our job is to love them,” she said. She was right of course. My son is 16 now and those words are still a North Star to me.

    • Tara says...

      Thanks, Claire. Your North Star brought a little tear to my eye. I’m mother to a 4 year old, pregnant with twins and I’m not sure how I’m going to manage. But, I do know how to love like a world-class mama. That is enough.

    • Hita says...

      Thank you for this today!

  137. Ashley E says...

    We have 3 babes under 5, and I’ve noted the changes from first kid to third; First one everything was a cautious ‘no, sweetie’, second kid ‘sure, but BE CAREFUL’, third kid ‘of course you can climb into the super rickety tree house with a croquet mallet and flip flops on, just try not to hurt yourself after 9pm when Urgent Care closes’. Funny how my ‘free range parenting style’ is in direct correlation to my exhaustion level- CURIOUS.

    • Kristin says...

      YEP! I could have written this exact paragraph. :)

    • Anna says...

      hahaha this is so true.

    • Sarah says...

      Hilarious!

    • Abesha1 says...

      Haha. Hahahah!

  138. Emma says...

    So true about that keen-jerk reaction! Thank you for the reminder!

  139. sarah says...

    Love the advice but ADORE the picture of Toby and Anton. Perfect summary of childhood right there.

  140. jona hilario says...

    Very similar to this is ‘Pick your battles’. Makes me think more deeply about whether I’m willing to execute whatever random rule or consequence I’m thinking of imposing for whatever behavior. Also ‘Take a loss’ has been useful if I’m having difficulty thinking up a consequence for an icky behavior on the fly.

    • Katha says...

      “Pick your battles” is what I wanted to add :)

      But I love “aim for yes”. I will try to think of this more often.

  141. Morgan says...

    I totally do this, too. My source was Tina Fey, who in an interview said “there’s always more fun at the other side of a ‘yes’.” With my 7 year old, my knee jerk reaction is “no” and I’ve started the habit of quickly reevaluating and telling her “ask me again” and then I say yes. It’s become silly, but I appreciate letting her in on my goal to not always just say no automatically.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, morgan :)

    • Yes! Parenting expert Janet Lansbury talks about being free to change your mind with stuff with kids. Just because you already said no, you don’t have to stick to it. You can say, “You know, I thought more about it and decided it’s just fine for you to wear your princess dress to the grocery store.” That’s helped me a lot!

    • Darcy says...

      Morgan – Thank you for this! I unfortunately so No a lot! So, I MUST try this immediately tonight!

  142. TJPea says...

    Love this. I think it should apply to person’s whole life too. Aim for Yes seems like an awesome self mantra.

  143. Liz says...

    This is so funny to me — when I was a first year teacher, my mentor gave me the exact same advice. Your students are weird and wonderful, and just saying yes to them can make school feel completely different. Aim for yes. So now, if they want to write in purple — Yes. If they want to sit backward in their chair — yes. As long as it doesn’t disrupt learning, why not say yes? :)

    • Leanne says...

      Liz, thank you for being that kind of teacher. My kid is weird and wonderful and will depend on folks like you. :)

    • Jane says...

      Thank you. I really needed to hear this. I do this a lot and just feel like a wishy-washy teacher. Tomorrow I will think “aim for yes!” and feel like I have a mantra.

      BTW I do this all the time with my kids and my husband cannot get his head around it!

  144. Charlene says...

    This is so great. As I was prepping dinner my son asked to go outside and play. In my head we were so close to dinner it didn’t make sense so I automatically said no. Two seconds later I told him “wait a minute, you can go outside”. There was no logical reason he couldn’t go outside and get 15 minutes of energy out!

    I’m trying to ask myself “why am I saying no?” before I say no!

  145. Beth says...

    Makes me think of this Neil DeGrasse Tyson speech. The other day my five year old wanted to mix eggs, vinegar, and Sprite together. My gut reaction was no, but I thought of this and said yes instead. It was a pretty gross experiment that sat on my kitchen counter for a week, but she’s a scientist! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbX6aMfPtEw

  146. Melanie says...

    I love this idea. I’ve got a 20 month old who is curious and silly and we try so hard to just let her be and do her crazy thing (but sometimes that is HARD). Also in my head it was babies BE babies (I must have read it wrong months ago) and it has helped me and my Mom friends so much. My sister would call and say ‘help! Baby is doing xyz why?!’ and I would just say ‘babies be babies’. And now my husband and I always say ‘toddlers be toddlin’ at all the nutty hilarious (and sometimes frustrating/ridiculous) things she does. It helps to not make a big deal out of things in your head and make it just a little lighter, a little easier.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, yes, you’re right, it’s babies be babies! love that story, melanie. TODDLERS BE TODDLIN’! xoxo

  147. K says...

    This is just what I needed to hear while I’m feeling inadequate as a parent. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. It’s such a simple way to please a child and teach some lessons along the way.

    • Katha says...

      oh “…while I’m feeling inadequate as a parent. ” just resonated with me so much. I do too.
      I’m sure you’re doing better than you feel you are.

  148. Amber says...

    This is great!!! I’m going to try to incorporate this into my work life, too, where as an administrative assistant I am constantly wishing I could say ‘no’… And into my marriage, into my friendships, and, of course, into the parenting I’ll be doing as soon as this baby shows himself. :)

    Can’t wait to see the comments on this post! Thanks for sharing, Jo. xoxo

    • Bets says...

      Good tips to apply to all aspects of love <3

  149. Amy says...

    I love this! A few weeks ago, my two year wanted to climb up the curvy metal ladder of the jungle gym. My husband kept telling him « no you’re not ready » while I was on the other side saying « yes, you can ». My husband was just trying to be the protective dad and while we argued No! Yes! Slowly my little one went up the ladder and down the slide :)

  150. Amy says...

    A) this is a great reminder; I sometimes feel annoyed with all the quirky/time-consuming/random things my kids want to do. Don’t spend 20 minutes making a nest out of blankets in your bed to sleep in; just lay down and sleep for Pete’s sake! I’m off the clock! ;)

    B) I loved that shirt of Anton’s so much that I literally made one for my son haha! I think the shipping to Canada was ridiculous or something so I just freezer-stencilled one – it suits his personality so well I should probably make a bigger one for this year!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that you made the tee, amy!!

      PS also “I’m off the clock!” made me lol. going to use that one tonight:)

    • Katie says...

      We also have that shirt and LOVE it. Makes me smile every time.

    • Hahaha I’m off the clock – love it! Also had to pipe in here as my small business actually makes this tee and I love that you liked the phrase so much you stencilled one yourself (shipping outside of the US is for sure hard :)! I incidentally started making tees using handmade stencils and screen-prints, so it’s kind of fun to know that this tee lives on in other ways and in crafty homes :)