No. No. No. No. No.
Some days it’s the only thing I feel like I ever say.
It’d gotten so bad that when my kids would come to me asking for something, “No” came out of my mouth as soon as they said “Mommy”.
I was tired. No one was listening. Everyone misbehaved. The house, and especially their room, was perpetually trashed. And no one cared. Except me.
Every time I turned around, they wanted to play video games, open new toys, do projects, and go places. The only things I wanted were a clean sink and to be able to see their bedroom floor. We had tried chore charts and everything else to encourage some responsibility. Nothing was working.
The day of their tandem birthday party, I shorted out. I was in the middle of preparing for a party in the park with 40 guests. Nothing was going right, recipes were failing, ingredients were missing, things that never should have gone wrong did. The baby was screaming, Little T was whining, JNinja was nowhere to be found, and I just completely freaked out, laughing and crying over the sink. I sucked it up, and went on.
Then, Little T comes up to me, out of nowhere, and says “Thank you, Mommy, for throwing us a party and making everything. It’s so cool.”
Right then, I realized I have great kids. If things aren’t going right, maybe it’s because I’ve made myself too important a part of everything. After all, what I really want is for them to be independent little contributing members of our family (and, eventually, society). So (after the party) I created a plan.
My plan became our new daily system. I started with the idea I had seen on Pintrest, where the kids wake up grounded and work their way off restriction. This idea never sat quite right with me, if only because when I was growing up “being grounded” and “restriction” were serious consequences for doing something really terrible. They weren’t “incentives” to do those things that need to be done.
So I worked with the idea of needing to compete tasks to earn something. Maybe like game objectives? No, that’s too complicated, I needed something quick. They could do one thing to earn one thing… but the kids wanted so many things. So I thought again about doing a star chart, but I remembered how limited it’s effectiveness was last time we used it, and how central my part was in it (Did he do what he was supposed to do? Did I give him a star? Haven’t I already given him a star for that? No, you don’t have 10 stars, you spent 4, don’t you remember?) So I looked for a way to minimize my part.
What if I just let the system answer all those requests they made every day? What if I didn’t say anything? Could it be that simple?
The Answer is NO.
The Answer is NO – Word document download
And yes, it is that simple.
Confused? Bear with me.
The name of our system is “The Answer is No… until”
And it is that simple. Whatever they want, the answer is NO… until they complete the things on their list. And their lists are not complicated. It’s not like I’m planning on them not completing their tasks. Quite the opposite. I have to prepare myself to say “Yes” to anything they want (within reason) once their jobs are done. (This incorporates something else I saw on Pintrest, creating an “atmosphere of yes”.)
At first, everyone played along. I loved answering “What does the paper say?” when they came to me with random requests. (I don’t have to say “no” anymore!) Then there was some mild confusion…
“All my toys have to be picked up?”
“I have to wash the pan I made breakfast with?”
“I have to brush my teeth again?”
With a little explanation the system has taken off. My ten year old has surpassed all my expectations with this system. He loves his video games and the computer, so it’s no wonder he is always on top of his list. He walks the dog three times a day, gets his great-grandmother’s newspaper and mail (she lives two houses down from us), and handles a “daily chore”. My 4 year old has not been quite as interested, as he has told me ever day (before his jobs are done) that the new system is a “bad idea”. Then, with a little reminding, he does his jobs and he thinks the world is just fine. He’s not exactly used to being held to any kind of standard so there will be an adjustment period for him, and I’m OK with that.
Everyday since I started this, my kids have been clean and out of their pajamas, their clothes have been put away, their room has been clean, and my kitchen table hasn’t been covered in plates and random food scraps. It’s been interesting saying “yes” to everything they want to do, and, no, my house hasn’t burned down just yet. It’s actually been a win-win so far. I’ll update our progress again in the future.
I included a Word document download of our list of objectives to help you get started. It’s not fancy or overly beautiful, but I needed something fast that worked, right away.