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The Power of Yes

2015 November 12


A few months ago, we started to make a conscious effort to encourage our kids to say “yes.”

To physically use the word, as it was intended to be used. Instead of yeah, sure, uh-huh and the like. When they use one of the shortcut terms, we gently remind them to use the word “yes” instead.

Before you all call me out for being a crazy, type A mom (not that I don’t have those tendencies on occasion…trust me), this started out innocently – my ears were hurting from all the random “yeahs” I was hearing all day, usually mumbled in passing, barely articulating a thing. It just sounded lazy and bored to me and frankly, I was just getting lazy and bored of hearing it with every question I asked.

But then the reasoning behind it became a little more meaningful. “Yeah” started sounding so disengaged to me, so casual, that it felt like they were already teenagers sneaking past me in a hurry to anywhere and that the conversation was eroding before my very eyes. It felt like they weren’t taking pride in their decisions and their responses and their voice when they uttered “sure” with their eyes evading the question. It seemed like “uh-huh” was not only overly casual but kind of rude…like omitting the “please” and “thank you” we’ve been taught to ingrain in them since birth. Why are “please” and “thank you” the only ones we need to enforce? Who made up that rule?

So we started encouraging them to say “yes” instead. And with time, they did it. And now, they always do it. With us, with teachers, with friends, with their elders, even with each other.

They say “yes” and they articulate it and they say it with clarity and confidence in their voice. They say “yes” and they think about it and they choose to use it and they say it with pride. They say “yes” and they treat the conversation or the question at hand with respect and attention – whether that question is big or small.

With time, I know it will become like “please” and “thank you” and it will go on auto-pilot. It won’t have the same significance when they are using it subconsciously, when they aren’t getting our gentle reminders or when they grow older and don’t think about it at all. I know all that. But I also know that right now, at this stage of parenting, this little word took on big meaning for us. It showed that we could teach our kids about being mindful and thoughtful and communicating well. That we can lead them by example and create routines that they may (hopefully) keep with them for years to come. That we showed them how to use their voices with clarity and confidence. And honestly, that it didn’t take that much effort or stress on our part to make the change. It was a little thing that we started doing and it had a very big impact on these little minds and how we mold them. And that was more powerful than I ever imagined it would be.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. November 12, 2015

    I love this. I think the way we speak influences how we feel about ourselves, and girls especially can fall into verbal habits that undermine our confidence.

  2. November 12, 2015

    I love this. I can still hear my dad correcting me when I was a child. “YES.” Oh, he’d look physically pained each time I said “yeah.”

  3. Erin permalink
    November 15, 2015

    I have been working on this with my 4.5 and 6 year old….”Yes, mama”….I have been working on it – teaching the kids that to “acknowledge” is very important.
    My kids aren’t old enough to say, “yeah”….they just didn’t say anything so I feel like I ‘ve noticed a difference in accountability and communication. Boy….a lot of work…..but worth it! :):)

  4. Emily permalink
    January 12, 2016

    I agree! I’ve always hated the word ‘sure’ – sounds so uninterested – and my kids have learned never to answer me with a ‘sure’ instead of a whole hearted YES. Now my 10-year old tells his friends not to answer me with ‘sure’ or I will treat it as a ‘no’ 😉

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