Getting better at yes

“No, why?” was my thoughtless response when my son asked me if he could buy a football helmet.  I was pretty darned sure he hadn’t developed a sudden interest in football, and I couldn’t think of another reason for him to need one.  But when I realized I’d said no before even asking for an explanation, it reminded me of other times I’ve thoughtlessly said no just for convenience’s sake.

It’s a self-protective mechanism, really, a response to many children asking me all sorts of things all day long every single day.  In just the past day or two, along with the mysterious helmet request, kids have asked to go the library, and to the midnight movie.   Two kids wanted sleepovers.  A couple of others wanted to play games. There were hankerings for pizza, cookies, and root beer floats.  One kid wanted to skip the biology test, and another wanted to take his test two days early.  And those were just the requests I remember.

Nearly every request takes a chunk of time out of my day. In interest of keeping the chaos manageable, I’ve gotten into the habit of saying no to most ideas that deviate from our usual daily plan.

But somehow that helmet request made me question that habit.  Yes, it’s simpler.  But it’s not  fun for the kids.  In the case of my son and the helmet, my response shut him down without hearing what was on his mind.  And that’s the last thing I want to do.  I want to be a listening mom, and as much as possible I also want to be a ‘Yes’ mom.  I’ll never be a pushover — it’s just not me.  But I’m going to try to get better at the ‘yes’ word, even if the thing will inconvenience me or make a mess or cause me to rearrange my day.  Sometimes the yes will need to be, ‘yes, after dinner’ or ‘yes, let’s go on Saturday’, but I want my kids to be able to remember that word coming out of my mouth.

I went back and asked my son about the football helmet request. His reason?  His 17yo sister is doing her student driving now, and he’s feeling nervous and out of control while riding in the car with her.  Hm.  Kinda sounds like the way I feel when my kids have ideas for ways to spend my day. I guess there are lots of times in life when we need to relinquish control and trust that God has our life in His hands.  Wish me wisdom and discernment as I try to say yes more often!

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  1. I felt like you were talking about me while reading this post! 🙂 Thank you for the reminder. I need to be more spontaneous with my kids and forget my agenda from time to time.

  2. I can remember when we were at the Emp to Connect session in Austin a few years back. They were talking about saying “yes” when possible and it really challenged me! I’ve s-l-o-w-l-y been putting that into practice the last couple of years. Thanks for the reminder today of how important it is to LISTEN to our kids beyond the requests. I needed it! 🙂

  3. Chelese Bergstrom says:

    Thank you so much for this reminder! This is a big struggle for me! I just get so busy and forget to stop to listen. I definitely need to improve at this!

  4. Oh my goodness, Mary! I have been a grouch today, because I’m so tired of the constant questions. It seems like all I do is answer questions about food (Can I have this for a snack? What about this? When is lunch? What is for dinner? What is for dessert? Can I have a sandwich instead?) or electronics (Can we play computer tonight? When can I play computer? Can I play computer now?)

    My son was is tears today because he forgot he had already asked about the computer and been told no. He asked again, and I glared at him. It hurt his feelings.

    I know questions are important and that they are how we learn. But sometimes I feel like stabbing my eyes out with a fork. If you have any suggestions on how to be open to inquiries but keep them from taking over, I’d love to hear them!!

    • The computer questions! I totally forgot to mention those, which surprises me, because they are some of the most frequent! I don’t have great answers– I find it a hard struggle…

      • I just told my husband about this post. It took me a good two minutes of conversation before I realized he was responding to everything I said by asking a question! (What was her advice? And what did you think about that advice? etc.) ORNERY MAN!!

    • I’ve been known to call a “question time-out” and say they are not allowed to ask ANY question for 30 minutes. It’s usually pretty funny when they realize how many times they want to ask something and we all dissolve in giggles. And it gives me a bit of a break.

      But I’m in the exact same boat. I remember Karyn Purvis saying once that it’s important to say Yes as many times as we can – even if we have to create yes opportunities. Especially w/ adopted kids.

  5. Thank you so much for this reminder!! I want to be a “yes” mom, too.

    LOL, I actually have a friend who bought herself a helmet when her older sister started learning to drive. I don’t remember how old she was (less than 10, I think…), but I always thought that was so adorable and hilarious!

  6. Ruth Hansen says:

    That is so hilarious. Thanks for the laugh and the good reminder to try to say yes whenever possible. Have a great day!

  7. I find myself doing the ‘no’ thing so often without even thinking, just as a reaction. I don’t want to be that way! Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Melanie E. says:


    So did you say “yes” to the helmet, or tell him to just suck it up? 😀

  9. I’ve been trying to do this more…. and you know what? You can have fun with it. “Yes, when you get a job and can pay for it yourself.” “Yes, when you are married and can make the decisions for your house”. “Yes, when I’m dead and buried…” “Sure thing…. let me know when you find the tree growing free money!” etc… it helps to lighten the mood. 🙂 even when you are essentially saying no, or not now it makes them feel like you are at least listening even if you can’t give them what they want.

  10. Have you been spying on us? 😉 Boy, did you hit the nail on the head here! It seems to vary in frequency and creativity with each of my children, but the result is still a never-ending flow of requests. It’s gets overwhelming sometimes!

    I’ve been trying to be intentional about listening so that even when I have to say “no”, I can give them a thoughtful reason why not. I do, however, still get caught by my kids sometimes, when they say, “Mama, I don’t think you were listening.” Oops!! 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for this…it really hits home with me. I will try to make my response, “why?” instead. Whew…such a difficult thing to consider when it is so convenient to just say, “no.” Of course the problem with “no” is that then there may be backtracking to do and hurt feelings.

  12. I loved this post – I don’t have children and I say no to myself! I get asked to do something or find something I might be able to do but – what is my first fallback default position – NO. It is a turrible thang to have a negative first response – even maybe beats NO. I like what Elissa posted – Why is a better response – to your children and to myself – thanks I needed this – ;))

  13. Thank you for this reminder. I needed it. I am very bad at saying yes! There is a schedule to keep for Pete sake! But this morning my 9 year old daughter wanted to make cookies for her dad as a gift to him, my first thought was no!!! I just cleaned up from breakfast, I want to sit and do my Bible study and then I was gently reminded say yes. Bless her with a yes so she may bless her father who works so hard for all of you. I said yes!!! I sat at the bar and watched her work. I read my Bible while she mixed, I was able to pray for her as she poured. Honestly we had the sweetest time together, her, myself and our time with Jesus. I do believe that this has been an eye opening experience, the blessing of saying yes, allowing the Holy Spirit to move in my home and learning to yield my will and plan to His!

  14. I just keep thinking of your daughter’s reaction if he puts on a helmet next time he gets in the car with her. 🙂

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Oh wow! I’m totally convicted now of how much I say “no”! I really appreciate what you shared and the explanation of why it’s easier to say no. I have one child that asks to do or eat certain things all day long it seems. I try to look for times to say yes, but no is so much easier! This post encouraged me to not always take the easy way out! Thank you!