The Consequences of Saying “Yes”

Unschoolers read a lot about saying yes to their children. Yes is the answer that leads to life and learning, while no closes doors and shuts off curiosity. Unless yes will absolutely lead to injury—as in Yes, you may hit your brother on the head with a hammer—say it, we are told.

But there are consequences to saying yes to our children. Saying yes to them does not always necessarily make life very pleasant for us. My answer to this: say yes anyway. And here’s why.

Whenever our daughter has asked for something—to go somewhere, to do something with us—and we have a problem with saying yes to her, it’s usually because we are tired or we have other plans. But, instead of saying no, we say yes and then explain the obstacle (i.e., “Yes, Daddy and I want to watch TV with you, but he has computer work that he has to finish tonight.”)

At that point, our darling daughter begins to use her darling brain to figure out a way to make everything that everyone wants to have happen actually happen. In the example I gave, the solution might be as simple as, “Instead of watching TV now, we can watch as soon as Dad’s done.” Other times, the solution is the end result of a complex round of negotiations that requires serious thinking power on darling daughter’s part.

And if we had just said no, that brain work wouldn’t have happened. Oh, she’d have used her brain to think of something else to do after we said no. But, the knowledge that a yes is floating in the air, waiting for a way to be seized, can generate an impressive amount of real thought—the kind of thought we use every day in the real world.

Note: we don’t present “YES + OBSTACLE” problems to our child artificially. These are incidents that come up in real life.

So, as I stated above, even if part of you wants to say something else, say yes. When you do, wonderful things happen:

  • Your child becomes aware of her power to manipulate the world around her in a positive way.
  • Your family comes together as a problem-solving unit.
  • You have a great time doing whatever you said yes to.

And, if you can imagine the world as a big sky filled with yes clouds and no clouds, there is a yes cloud in the world that wasn’t there before.

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10 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Karen said,

    Great post!

    It’s good to consider the joys of ‘yes’ even if you sometimes want to say ‘no’ 🙂

  2. 3

    Shirley said,

    Yes! Love this so much. Thank you.

  3. 7

    […] Gaissert presents an insightful look at The Consequences of Saying Yes at The Expanding […]

  4. 8

    Love this! You presented a point of view that I really needed to see clearer. Can’t wait to see how my own daughters will take to this!

  5. 10

    […] The Consequences of Saying Yes […]


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