I Never Say “No” to My Kids

Dr. Stacy Haynes explains her somewhat radical, well-researched idea that avoiding the "no" word leads to a more peaceful home.

Dr. Stacy Haynes has worked as a parenting coach for 15 years. She runs her coaching with a pretty radical notion: be preventative with your kids, be honest with your kids, and try to never say “no” unless you really mean it. She offers solutions for kid’s problems, rather than punitive punishment.

A lot of people might call B.S. on her methods. But, to her credit, there’s been a decent amount of academic research about mindful and peaceful parenting, and a good portion of it endorses the practice as a way to deepen and strengthen the relationships parents have with their children. Dr. Haynes argues that a lot of people parent the way their parents parented them. She thinks that isn’t always a good thing.

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When dealing with her own family, Dr. Haynes firmly practices what she preaches. Her two kids were raised with preventative, mindful parenting practices, and although she admits they’re not perfect — and she has yet to jump the hurdle into adolescence with her kids, who are 10 and 11 — she says she successfully created solutions, not conflicts with her kids that work for both parties.

Here, Dr. Haynes talks about her belief system, and acting on those beliefs.

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I truly believe in prevention. If I’m two or 10 minutes ahead of my kids then I don’t have to discipline. Less is best: I’m not necessarily punishing, I’m not doing time out, I’m not doing rewards or sticker charts. Those are things I’ve never done with my children. That’s really because I felt that if I was doing my job, and being ahead of them, then I wouldn’t have to discipline them.

Read more of Fatherly’s stories on discipline, behavior, and parenting.

Think about your two-year-old. I’ll use the remote control example: the parent says, “Put that down, stop, don’t touch, don’t touch.” Instead of the parent taking that two seconds to realize, “You know what, my two-year-old is going to be in this room. Let me remove that.” Or instead of using the word “No,” in that moment, I ask, “Well could you give me that? Thank you for handing that to me.” The importance of that is just that relationship: the connection between you and your kid, especially as they are learning. This world is new to them. We’ve been here, we know how it’s supposed to be. We know we’re not supposed to touch the remote, and we know what the remote does. But those types of moments give us an opportunity to build healthy relationships and teach at the same time.

When people say, “That’s not the real world,” it really is.

Kids are also hearing our tone. I always tell parents, “You have to remember: you are taller, bigger, stronger, than a 2-year-old.” We do have to be careful because children will start to believe that they’re bad. Our bells and whistles go off and we get excited and animated when they keep touching it, which is also why they’re touching it.

I only use no if I mean it. Oftentimes, we say no, and we really mean “later.” That’s confusing for children. So if a kid says, “Hey, can I have a cookie?” and we say “no,” we just don’t want them to have it now. Don’t say no, because that’s all they hear. They melt down. They have temper tantrums. The anger starts. Unless I absolutely mean, “No, that’s never going to happen,” then we’re not going to use the word no. Hopefully, I’ll keep myself calm as we get to the teenage years. But so far, so good.

I’ve studied the problem-solving philosophy for 10 years now about. Many families want solutions to the problems they have with their kid, instead of having the same problem every day. The teenager that won’t come in for curfew. The kid gives me a hard time getting dressed in the morning or won’t do his homework. The connotation of discipline means negative and time-out punishment. Instead, we can work with the kids and the family to problem-solve, and say, “Well, what’s the solution?”

There are a bunch of people who think we are softening our kids by not saying the word ‘no.’ But what we’re really doing is problem-solving with our kids and getting ahead of situations that don’t have to be conflictual.

When my kids were young, I would sit outside their bedroom because they’d have a hard time staying in bed. They’d come out and I’d walk them right back into bed. They knew I was there, which helped them settle in. Now, at 10 and 11, I don’t have to do that anymore. They go right to bed. Different solutions could help parents not have that problem anymore, instead of using punishment when we don’t have a solution to the problem, and the next day we continue to have the same problem.

When people say, “That’s not the real world,” it really is. Our employers are going to do the same thing. If you notice a problem or a difficulty, you sit down with your employee and discuss those concerns and come up with a solution that works for you and put those solutions into place. You’re essentially doing the same thing, just with your children. That’s the real goal of parenting: that kids realize that they can come up with solutions to their own problems.

There are a bunch of people who think we are softening our kids by not saying the word “No.” But what we’re really doing is problem-solving with our kids and getting ahead of situations that don’t have to be conflictual.

— As Told To Lizzy Francis

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