When I am trying to decide if I should say yes to something with the kids, there are two things I have learned. The first one is easy and yet the one I can most often forget:
I DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER IMMEDIATELY.
I don’t. And that is a wonderful thing.
Often, when the kids ask me for something, I will tell them that mom needs a few minutes to decide and I will let them know in a moment. Allowing myself even 30-60 seconds to breathe before I make the decision can help me make it with a clear head instead of impulsively. Some people are more prone to impulsively say yes. Others impulsively so no. Either way, the simple phrase “mom needs a minutes to decide and I will let you know in a moment” gives you the space to think through whatever is being asked, and also teaches your kids they don’t have to have an answer right away. It is a good and healthy lesson for them to learn!
During that 30-60 seconds, I implement my second tactic for decision making with the kids:
I play the scene out to the end and decide if I have the time/energy for it.
So often I will impulsively say no to the kids helping in the kitchen only to realize we actually have no plans for the entire morning. Even if a mess is made and it takes twice as long to make, we have nowhere to be. Giving myself a chance to realize we actually have nothing but time and I am rushing to get to nowhere allows me to say yes more frequently.
This also goes for when the kids ask for a messy activity. I usually play it out and ask myself, “Do I have the energy to clean up play dough?” and if the answer is yes, then I say yes. If it has been a long morning and I know I personally cannot handle play dough I say no. The kids will survive and hopefully one day in the future I will have the energy or the weather will warm up and we can do play dough outside.
This second tactic also works really well for moms who impulsively say yes only to end up snapping at their kids due to a big mess. Sometimes it really is ok and good to say no and since you are the one in charge; you get to decide if you have the energy and patience for what is being asked of you. You are the captain of the ship.
Having that minute to decide can also help you with expectations for how things went last time you said yes or no. Maybe the mess was huge and this time you will be prepared for it, or maybe the mess was huge and you know you don’t have it in you right now. There is no right or wrong answer here. Being a parent is exhausting and it is ok to recognize your limits when the kids want to pull out the 15th activity before 10am.
Over the next few weeks, I invite you to try these two tactics: 1) allow yourself a minute or two to respond, and 2) play out the scenario to the end before you respond.
And please know, I do not do this perfectly. Sometimes you will say no when you could have said yes. And sometimes you will say yes to something that you clearly didn’t have the energy for. Parenting is hard and humbling. No one does this perfectly.