Could You Go 24 Hours Without Saying No To Your Kids?

Gymboree Sale On Now!

How many times do you think you say NO to your kids every day?

Five times? Twenty times? A hundred times?

I bet if I kept track, it would be in the triple digits. Easily.

Sometimes I say no to them before they can even finish a complete sentence.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

Because Number 6 is giving me a serious run for my money lately.

He’s super defiant, and I find myself embroiled in power struggles with him way more often than I’d like to be.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the source of the issues I’ve been having with him. I believe there are a few main reasons he’s such a challenge right now.

And one of them isn’t that he’s being a tool.

It’s the way I’m talking to him.

I tried to be very conscious of this yesterday. I paid attention to our interactions.

Mommy, can I ride in the car without a booster seat?


Mommy, can I have some orange juice?


Mommy, can I have two granola bars?


Mommy, can I play on the iPad?


Mommy, can I stay home instead of going to the Y?


Mommy, can I have one of those juice boxes?


Mommy, can I –



These are just a few of the times I said no to Number 6 yesterday.

Forget about all the rest of my kids.

Between all of them, I very, very easily say no hundreds of times a day.

So when I ask my kids to do something, or, more accurately, when I tell them to do something and they automatically say no, why am I surprised?

I mean, it only takes one time for you to let a shit! or a fuck! slip out for your kids to memorize that word and use it at every embarrassing and inopportune time possible.

So what are we to expect when they hear us saying no hundreds of times a day?

I have become what Positive Discipline would refer to as a no monster.

I am no-ing my kids to death.

And that immediately builds the foundation for a power struggle. And power struggles are exhausting and infuriating.

Obviously we can’t say yes to every single question our kids ask.  We need to set limits and boundaries.

But how can that be done without saying no?

Well, I am going to focus on the following three things:

First, I’m going to do my best to stop with the demands. 

I’m getting better at this.

What do you need to do to be ready to get on the bus? has been MUCH more effective for me than progressing from:

Go get your shoes.


I said go get your shoes!


Didn’t I just ask you to get your shoes?


Why are your shoes still not on?



Next, I’m going to try really, REALLY hard to ask questions that can’t be answered with yes or no. Those just invite the power struggles.

Instead of Can you help me bring something in from the car?

I’m going to try something more along the lines of What do you want to carry inside? Your swim bag or a bag of groceries?

That gives Number 6 a choice so he has some control and it also gives hime an opportunity to make decisions.

Finally, I’m giving myself this challenge. I’m going to try not to say no for a whole day.

Yep. For a whole day.

I will find a way to either give him choices, or to say yes.

Before you lose your shit about the saying yes thing, hold on.

First, as far as the choices go, instead of saying “Get ready to go to practice” I’m going to try:

“It’s time to get ready to leave. What do you want to do first? Pack your swim bag or eat your snack?”

When it’s time to get out of the car, (one of the things that drives me f&%$ing insane because he takes like five million years to get out) rather than barking, “Hurry up and get out of the car!!!!”

I’m going to try, “How many seconds do you think it’s going to take you to get from the car to the front door?”

We’ll see if we can make it fun instead of turning it into a battle.

Now back to that saying yes thing. I don’t mean I’m just going to give up and let the kids do whatever the hell they want.

When I tell Number 6 it’s time to get ready for bed and he says,  “NO! I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED!”

I’m going to try “Yes, I can understand you want to stay up, but it’s time for bed! Now what do you want to do first? Brush your teeth or put your pajamas on?”

That’s a whole lot different than saying, “GO UPSTAIRS AND GO TO BED.”

If your kids are giving you a hard time in the defiance department, take a look at how you are talking to them.

How many times do you say no to them every day? It might be more than you think!  You might be unknowingly inviting the responses and behavior.

If you find you are in the same boat as me, maybe you can take the just say no to saying no challenge with me.

Think you can make it through a whole day without saying no?

I don’t know if I can, but for my sake and Number 6’s sake, I’m sure gonna try.



Gymboree Sale On Now!


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What I Learned Over Spring Break

Last week was our spring break. It was the first spring break in about five years that we haven’t had major money problems.

Where we weren’t in danger of losing our house, where the Man from CL&P wasn’t coming to knock on our door on an almost monthly basis, where we weren’t on food stamps, where we didn’t have to return cans and bottles or hold a tag sale in order to pay for groceries.

We aren’t anywhere near rolling around in bags of money. We aren’t in the position to do whatever we want whenever we want. We are nowhere near that. We still have to be frugal and cut the fat wherever we can.

But we aren’t destitute.

Being in a terrible financial black hole for years had put me into the mindset that I couldn’t relax. That I had to spend just about every second of every day working or trying to find ways to make money. And so for the past four of five spring breaks and Christmas vacations and summer vacations, I have basically ignored the kids.

Going away anywhere was clearly not an option. But I had also convinced myself that taking time to do just about anything with them wasn’t possible. Or allowed.

It’s hard to get out of that mindset.

For me, anyway.

So this spring break, I made the conscious decision to be much more available to the kids.

I did this for a number of reasons.

First, Number 7 is five years old.

Five years old!!!

How did that happen so fast?

There are phases of life that have passed us for good.

We are done with diapers and highchairs and strollers and carrying kids. I find myself feeling nostalgic for some of these things that are long gone sometimes.

Although I appreciate where we are now. I am enjoying the kids having more independence. I am enjoying relating to them on a different level.

But damn is it going by fast!!!

I definitely have regrets. And I’ll see an occasional video show up on Facebook from five years ago and it’s scary how quickly I forget. I forget what the kids looked like and what they smelled like and what they sounded like. I know that happens.  But has it happened more for me because I’ve been letting so many opportunities with the kids pass me by?

I spend a lot of time with my kids. I mean, I’m the one who is usually home with them.

But I feel like I’ve been absent for a lot of that time.

I’m in the same place as them, but I’m not really present.

You know, like the stereotypical husband sitting across the table from the wife, reading the newspaper, and not listening to a thing she ways and just uh-huh-ing her without even looking up from the paper or actually listening to a word she says.

So there was that realization.

Then there is the fact that some of the kids are having issues with behavior. They happen to be the kids I spend the least amount of time with.

Maybe it’s just coincidental, but I don’t think so.

I am certain there is a direct correlation between kids behavior and the amount of or quality of interaction between them and their parents.

My kids need my attention. My focused, undivided attention. They don’t necessarily need hours and hours of it.

But they sure as shit need more than they’ve been getting.

So for the first time in years, I made the conscious decision to spend a significant amount of quality time with my kids while they were home last week.

And something ironic happened.

I didn’t get sick of them. I didn’t find myself getting pissed and annoyed and short on patience.

Don’t get me wrong. They did stupid and infuriating stuff. They still tried to annoy the shit out of each other and me. The are kids. That’s what they do sometimes.

But they started doing it less and less.

I spent more quality time with the kids than I have in a long, long time. And instead of me getting to the end of our vacation and feeling exhausted and exasperated and desperate for a break, I felt kind of sad that the break was over. I could have used a couple more days.

What the fuck?

I have never, ever felt that way.

I have spent every vacation for the last couple years desperate for the kids to go back to school so I could have a break.

And the kids (who are usually at least a little bit excited to go back to school and see their friends) were bummed, too.

Number 4 had no desire to go back to school. That’s never happened before.

At least ten times last week, she just looked at me — not in response to going on one of our adventures or in an effort to get something but just out of the blue — and she said, I love you, Mom.


I guess I am having one of Oprah’s proverbial light bulb moments.

I’m not going to stop working, drop everything I want to do, start homeschooling and construct a huge family bed.

But it’s clear that my priorities need to shift. Or at least the way I structure my time does.

Last week the kids and I had one of the best weeks we’ve ever had together. Possibly, the best week we’ve ever had.

I know we did some fun things. But it wasn’t really the fun things that made the break so great.

It was the fact that we did them together.

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One Great Catch Can Be A Game Changer

You know how a kid can totally suck at baseball and make like ten errors in one game and start to feel completely hopeless and dejected, but then out of nowhere he can make an amazing catch that no one ever thought was possible? And even with all those errors in one game, that one awesome catch has him riding a high and feeling like there is hope for him as a baseball player after all?

This past Friday I was that sucky baseball player, but in the mom department. I made a thousand errors. I couldn’t do anything right. I was feeling like a complete failure.

And then this afternoon, I finally made a really good play.

And I am still riding that high.

There is something I’ve been trying SO HARD for my kids to “get”.

But they have not been getting it.

I know I’m not the only parent whose kids are constantly bugging the shit out of each other.

It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. The kids just needling each other until someone eventually explodes.

Then they are either screaming at each other or beating the crap out of each other, and it pretty much always ends in tears.

It drives me insane.

And I have been working very, VERY hard to teach the kids how to resolve this issue without my help.

Because when I intervene, they don’t learn how to solve these problems themselves, and I put myself in the position to always be the referee.

It’s infuriating and exhausting. And it’s monotonous and boring.

This happens very often when the kids are in the kitchen.

We have a counter/bar area where the kids eat most of their meals.

And inevitably the kids are looking at each other or touching each other or chewing the wrong way or doing any other number of things that annoy the living crap out of each other. This turns into them yelling at each other and then them  pleading for me to make the other person stop.

So I’ve really been working to teach them that you can’t make anyone else do anything.

You can politely ask them to stop doing whatever it is, but you can’t make anyone other than yourself start or stop doing anything.

The kids very often get so frustrated with each other that after they ask whoever is bugging the crap out of them to stop in as civil a way as possible. When they refuse, the next move is to yell at them, and then when they reach the boiling point, they will progress to a push/shove/smack/whatever.

That’s the thing that pushes me over the edge.

Their response is typically, “BUT HE’S JUST SO ANNOYING!!!”

I assure them I feel the same way very often each day, but if I hit someone every time they annoyed me, I’d be throwing punches all day long. Plus, when you’re a grown up and do that stuff you go to jail.

So we’ve been working on solutions to this problem.

As I explained earlier, the kids usually eat in close proximity to each other at the counter in the kitchen.

The dining room is right around the corner from the kitchen. And there is a nice table in there at which to eat.

We have talked about alternatives to the arguing/bickering/fighting.

We have talked about how even though it’s frustrating and annoying, it’s your job to either accept the situation and ignore the behavior or remove yourself from the situation when you’ve politely said something but the other person refuses to stop and/or change.

This afternoon at lunch, the bickering began.

I felt myself getting extremely agitated.

I took a deep breath, clenched my teeth, and prepared to ask the kids what they thought would be a good solution to the problem, and before I even opened my mouth, Number 6 stood up, pushed in his seat, picked up his plate, silently left the kitchen and sat down at the dining room table.



And I didn’t have to say a word.

I couldn’t believe it.

I didn’t feel like I had just made an amazing catch. I felt like I had won the whole damn World Series!!!

I know this doesn’t mean everything has clicked permanently, but my six-year-old son is learning how to regulate his emotion and how to keep his cool, and I didn’t have to intervene at all.

He did it all by himself. And he didn’t learn it by being punished, by having something held over his head, by having a carrot dangled in front of him, by being threatened, or by being singled out.

He learned it because we’ve been practicing, we’ve been talking, and I’ve been consistent.

That is a major life skill, and he’s getting it at six years old.



I ran into the dining room and high fived him.

I yelled “GOOD JOB NUMBER 6!!!” and gave him a hug.

He squeezed me back, looked straight up at me, and he said,


It wasn’t just a great play today in the parenting department.

To me, it was more like a grand slam.


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Perfection Is Unattainable. And Stupid. So Stop Trying To Achieve It.

The other day I was talking with a friend who is a bit of a perfectionist.

Actually, she’s a raging perfectionist. She would openly admit this.

And we were talking about how life is such a challenge sometimes.

I was reminded of this picture I recently saw on a friend’s Facebook page:


We went back to talking, and my friend told me she recently asked her 81-year-old mother-in-law what the secret to happiness (or just survival) was.

And her mother-in-law told her, You have to stop trying to be perfect.

And my friend was like, I think she’s right!

And I was like, Well HOLY SHIT, Woman, I could have told you that last week, and I’m nowhere near 80 years old!

I was floored that my friend had not yet realized this.

And then it occurred to me that maybe my friend wasn’t alone. That there are still many women (and men) who feel this (self-imposed) pressure to be perfect.

So I thought I’d try to smack some sense into those of you who are still breaking your backs in an effort to obtain the unobtainable.

Perfection is not just overrated.

It’s impossible.

Okay. Let me clarify.

You can probably do some things perfectly. You could maybe maintain a perfect house. (Why you would spend the time necessary to do that, I will never understand, but whatever floats your boat).

But perfection across the board is impossible.

In college, you could maybe maintain a perfect grade point average. But in doing so, you lose out on the perfect social life or the perfect relationship or the perfect level of stress and mental and emotional health.

When I look at the aspects of my life that are the most important to me, there is my health, my kids, and my marriage.

And there is no way to achieve perfection in any of those areas!

If you devote a lot of time and effort toward the quest for the “perfect” body, then something else is gonna give. Your relationships are going to suffer. Or the level of cleanliness in your home will. Or your mental health will.

Besides, what is the “perfect body” or the “perfect marriage” or the “perfect mother” anyway?

We look at people who are seemingly perfect on the outside (or on Facebook).

We look at the impeccably dressed woman or the mom with  7% body fat or the mom with perfectly dressed children, and we think to ourselves, she’s got her shit together.

But she’s not as perfect as she outwardly appears.

Take, for instance, the ultimate example of perfection.

Martha Stewart.

She’s loaded and attractive and successful and can do pretty much anything.

She seems pretty perfect.

From the outside.

She can cook the perfect soufflé.  She can maintain a perfect home and make the perfect bed and build shit with her own hands.

But she couldn’t maintain the perfect marriage. And her daughter wrote a book detailing how she was basically a shitty mom.

Oh yeah.

And she also went to fucking jail.

So scratch that name of the list of candidates for perfection.

While we’re at it, cross all the rest of them off, too.

In fact, just crumple the paper up and throw it directly into the fireplace.

No one is perfect.

It’s the imperfection that makes things interesting. And bearable.

If everything was perfect, nothing would ever be funny.

Could you imagine?

Could you imagine if no one ever fell, if our kids never said anything embarrassing, if bloopers never happened, and if we never fucked up so badly that we had that awesome story to tell six months later?

We would never laugh if people were perfect all the time.

That would suck!

And if we were perfect all the time, we’d never have opportunities to do better. We’d never be able to feel proud of ourselves because we’d never improve. We’d just be on a constant hamster wheel trying to maintain a level of perfection at all times.

We’d self destruct.

Which is what happens on a certain level to moms who are constantly trying to achieve perfection.

And it’s not just moms. It’s dads too. Did you see Randall in the latest episode of  This Is Us? He’s the poster child for the negative effects of trying to be perfect across the board!

Nope. Being a good mom or wife or husband or father is not about being perfect.

And perhaps the biggest danger of all in the quest for perfection is that we are (unknowingly) giving our children the message that that’s what we expect of them.

And that’s not good.

The key to life is not perfection.

The key to truly enjoying the ups of life while navigating the downs, making it through the time when it sucks to when it’s great to when it sucks again to when it’s great again is awareness. And growth. And improvement. And acceptance.

When you possess all those things, you realize it’s the imperfections that help to make you a better mother and wife and person.

Because you are moving forward.

And that’s the key.

Not waking up each and every day and maintaining a level of flawlessness.

But waking up each and every day and simply putting one foot in front of the other.


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