Sometimes, I find that I need to change my default setting. I’m not necessarily talking about computer programs or the speed dial on my phone. I’m talking more about my attitude and the way I interact with the kids. Every so often, I’ll find that my default response gets stuck on “NO.”

Sometimes, I can trace the events of the day that led to the situation. Maybe there was a rough day at work. Maybe I didn’t sleep overly well the night before. Maybe the kids had been running me ragged all day, and I just didn’t have anything left. Other times, it’s more of a surprise. Either way, I’ll find myself responding to every question that the kids ask with “NO.”

To be fair, that’s the correct answer for a large percentage of the questions. When Princess comes up and asks if she can jump off her bunkbed into a pile of pillows, the answer should be negative. When she asks me if she can paint, however, the question at least should be considered. Unfortunately, when my response gets stuck, I’ll usually say no before she’s even done asking the question.

There are times when the answer should absolutely be “YES.” I’ve had times where Little Dude asked if he could help me unload the dishwasher and told him no without even thinking. Princess might ask me if she can go read a book, and I’ll say no. Afterwards, I’ll look back and think, “What was that??? I just told my son that he can’t help me do the dishes and my daughter that she can’t read a book. Why on earth would I say that?” Then, I realize that my default response has gotten stuck again.

At that point, I’ll try to stop and reconsider things. I’ll realize that I’m putting the kids into a position where they are bound to get into trouble. If I forbid them from doing anything, they’re going to get bored and find something to do. By eliminating all of their normal options, I’m driving them towards unusual situations. That’s definitely not setting them up for success.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I should have my default setting switched to “YES” either. That can be just as bad. If Little Dude asks me if he can chase the dogs with his toy sword (very much in the realm of possibility), the answer should absolutely be no. If Princess asks if she can color on the wall (also very possible), she should be discouraged.

I need to keep my default response set to “Let me think about it.” That’s fairly safe. Maybe there are times when painting a picture isn’t a good idea. If we have company coming over and don’t want a mess, for example. There may be other times when it’s perfectly acceptable. It might be a little work to get everything set up, but that work may result in a kid that is totally entertained for the next 2 hours. It may actually take me longer to unload the dishwasher with a 3 year old helping me, but there are some valuable lessons contained in that process. It would be absolutely worth the extra time and there would even be some bonding in there.

Next time that you’ve had a long day, and you find yourself dismissing every question that your kids ask, try to stop and think for a second. Are you answering no because that’s what the answer should be, or is your default setting stuck again? It might be worth the effort to stop, take a deep breath, and reassess things. I’m not saying that it’s time to start allowing everything, but the night may go a lot smoother if you simply take a second to say, “Let me think about it.” Maybe the answer is still no, but maybe you’ll realize that they are trying to do something completely innocent. Maybe, by answering yes, you’re entire night can get turned around.

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  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    Smart. I learned to STOP what I was focused on when my boys come in to my (home) office. It’s SO hard since I like what I do and am often quite “into it.” BUT, every time I put it aside and spend those moments with my boys, it pays off. THOSE moments are becoming fewer and fewer as my oldest is heading off to college in the fall and my younger one is a high school freshman…it goes by fast.

    I think I need to re-set my default to ALWAYS be open to them!

    • Anonymous

      Great points.

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