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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6 Strategies To Help Your Kids Stop Fighting (And Tattling) That Work!

If your kids are anything like mine, they can really get on each other’s nerves.

Big time.

In fact, sometimes it feels as though my children’s main objective in life is to piss each other off as much as possible.

It’s really fucking annoying.

And tiring.

Why do they do it? Why do they bicker and argue and poke and prod and nudge until the other kid can’t take it any more and explodes?

It could be for a number of reasons.

It could be because your kids are trying to get revenge on each other.

We had a revenge situation here last night.

While I was at swim practice, Number 3 and Number 6 got into a fight while they were playing ping pong.

But as soon as I walked in the door at 8:30, Number 3 immediately ran into the mudroom before I even had a chance to close the door behind me.

“MOM! Where is my book?” he yelled.

I hadn’t been home for the last four hours, so I had no idea what the heck he was talking about.

My husband was putting Number 6 and 7 into bed.

I went upstairs and looked all over Number 3’s room and the book was nowhere, although he insisted that he had been reading it earlier. He also told me he had straightened his bed out earlier, and it was now a total mess.

And then he briefed me on the ping pong fight.

I sensed foul play.

When Number 6 gets pissed, he hides things. It’s his go-to revenge move.

Last week when he was giving me a hard time at breakfast, I took his Cheerios away. He immediately retaliated by grabbing the whole box and running into another room.


I got sidetracked by something after that and forgot about the Cheerios, and I found them a couple days ago hidden on a shelf in the playroom.

So anyway, knowing that Number 3 and 6 had gotten into a fight earlier, I had a feeling Number 6 may have retaliated with a little game of hide and seek with Number 3’s book.

I didn’t want to interrupt my husband who was getting Number 6 and 7 into bed because once you veer off the routine, you never know what’s going to happen, but Number 3 needed his book for school the next day.

I tiptoed into Number 6 and 7’s room.

Number 7 was already out cold.

I asked Number 6 if he had any idea where Number 3’s book was.

He pretended to look confused.

And then he said, “Oh yeah… I think I remember seeing it… ummm…. in the corner of Number 5’s closet.

Right. Because that’s a typical place to be hanging out or to store books.

Sure enough, I went into Number 5’s closet, and there was Number 3’s book, hidden under some shoes.

Anyway, the point of the story is that kids sometimes fight to get back at each other.

Sometimes it’s more of a symbolic thing — they may be fighting for their “spot” in the family — this may be the case more so with our family since we have lots of kids.

Other times they mistakenly believe that it’s the only way to solve problems.

Whatever the reason, it’s fucking annoying.

And what I didn’t realize until recently is that I am often (unknowingly) contributing to the problem the way I’ve typically been handling it.

First, I am way easier on the younger kids than I am on the older kids.

This makes the problem worse because now you are helping to create a situation where the kids are competing to be the “right” one, or you are creating a bully/victim situation. You might be inadvertently encouraging fighting rather than doing something to stop it.

So if you, like me, are finding yourself frustrated by kids who are fighting, and if you have kids constantly coming to you to tell on their siblings, I have some suggestions that may work better for you in the long run.

Because they are working better for me. And while the fighting and arguing in the moment is super draining, what is more frustrating and exhausting is having it happen over and over again.

So what can you do?

  • When your kids start fighting, give them two options: Either find a way to cooperate, or go fight outside. If you decide to fight, I don’t want to hear it.
  • Silently leave the room. This one has been really effective for me, because as soon as the kids  know I’m not paying attention to them, they lose most of their reason for fighting!
  • Say to them, I am confident you two can work this out. Whoah! My kids did not like this at first. But when they realized I wasn’t going to intervene, the tattling started happening much less frequently!
  • If you do need to intervene (like if the kids start beating the crap out of each other), treat both kids involved equally. Because while you may think you know who “started it”, unless you were right there, you never really know. And the kid who is poking, poking, poking, poking until the other kid snaps is really just as much a part of the problem as the kid who starts swinging first. Start with the younger kid so you are not favoring. And say something like You need to go to your room until you are ready to stop fighting. Repeat this with the other kid. You aren’t punishing them or putting them in a time out. You are helping them get to a calmer place.
  • Put the kids in the same room and tell them they can come out when they have a solution.
  • Take away the thing the kids are fighting over and tell them they can have it back when they come up with a solution to share it or play nicely without arguing. (I helped my kids with this at first and gave them suggestions: Do you need some suggestions? Would it help if you set a timer and took turns?  Now when they are fighting over something and they come to me and I say I am confident you can find a way to work this out, they often look at each other and say, Do you want to set the timer? They are learning!)
  • Obviously if your kids are about to seriously injure each other, then you’ll have to intervene!

These strategies will not only take you out of the equation, they will also help your kids learn problem solving and cooling off skills they are going to need (as those of us who are married can attest) throughout the rest of their lives!


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Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

If you know anything about an iceberg, then you know the part that you see above the water is just a small fraction of it.

The majority of the iceberg is underwater.

Hence the saying, the tip of the iceberg.

This is especially true with your kids.

If they are demonstrating a certain behavior that is frustrating the living shit out of you, the behavior is just the tip of the iceberg.

The cause of the behavior, and the reason why they are demonstrating this behavior is the big part of the iceberg.

So you can punish your kid for the behavior.

You can send your kid to time out and ground him and take away the phone and then take away everything.

When the punishment doesn’t stop the behavior, you can come up with something even harsher. And harsher. And harsher.

Or you can bribe your kid. You can use toys and candy and special outings and money to get your kid to stop. Or to start. Whatever it is you are hoping they will stop or start doing.

These things may work in the short run. It may stop the behavior immediately.

But inevitably, the behavior returns. Sometimes worse than before.

Like a virus.

It’s now a superbehavior, and it pushes you way over the damn edge. It pushes every single one of your buttons.

When I attended the Positive Discipline training last month, Jane Nelson, the founder of Positive Discipline, showed us this picture of an iceberg.

At the very root of any behavior is a child’s desire to belong and feel significant.

When they don’t feel like they belong, when they don’t feel significant, they start to believe certain things about themselves.

The develop mistaken beliefs.

So they start exhibiting all those challenging behaviors that push us over the edge.

When your kids talk back, when they are defiant, when they give up, when they retaliate, when break shit, when they beat the crap out of their siblings, when they do all the things that drive us batshit crazy over and over and over and over again, even though it seems like it, they are not doing all that stuff to be assholes.

They are doing it because they have a mistaken goal.

Their goal is attention, revenge, power, or assumed inadequacy — the desire to give up and be left alone.

And our kids have these goals not because they want to drive us insane, but because underneath the water, where most of the iceberg is, they feel like they only matter when they are getting all your attention, no matter how they get it. Or they only feel like they belong when they have control. Or they don’t feel loved so they lash out and hurt people and destroy things. Or they feel like they’ll never get it right and they’ll never belong, so they just stop trying altogether.

I know we want the behavior to be about the kids just being douchey.

But it’s not.

It’s about how we are reacting to situations and behaviors.

What? It’s us? No f*cking way! My kid knows better. It’s not me! It’s my damn kid being a tool!

No. It’s not.

Our kids are never going to be perfect. Kids test things and push buttons.

But if we can react to situations and behaviors in a different way, we can start dealing with the part of the iceberg that’s below the surface of the water, rather than just constantly addressing the small percentage that we can see above the water.

There is a lot to address with each of these mistaken beliefs.

So for starters, I’ll start with the belief behind the power struggle behavior.

This behavior can make us feel challenged, threatened, defeated and determined. Determined to break our kid until he or she gets it.

And so we most often react by doing one of four things.

1) We fight back. This just intensifies the power struggle.

2) We give in. This make us doormats and our kids now know they can take advantage of us if they are persistent enough.

3) We say to ourselves,  I’ll make you. More power struggles ensue.

4) We engage in getting to be right wars. Again, the power struggle gets more intense.

We may dominate in the short run. But the behavior will return.

And what we are doing in essence is rather than catching an arsonist, we are repeatedly putting out fires.

We aren’t looking for what is causing the fires.

We’re just dealing with them once they occur.

So what can we do differently?

Well, we can respond in a different way.

And we can think about the message our kids are really trying to give us.

Although it may feel this way, when your kids defy you, they aren’t necessarily saying Go fuck yourself.

There is a really good chance they are trying to say to you,  Let me help and Give me choices.

So rather than fighting back or giving in or not stopping until our kids get it and we make them, we can do something else that will not only help to put out the fires, but to also change our kids’ mistaken beliefs about what they need to do in order to feel a sense of belonging and importance.

So the next time you find yourself heading into a power struggle, consider trying some of these strategies instead:

  •  Put yourself in a time out. Take yourself out of the conflict. Give yourself time to calm down.
  • Acknowledge that you can’t make your kid do something, and instead, ask for help. I can’t make you unload the dishwasher, but I would really appreciate your help.
  • Be kind AND firm.
  • Validate feelings. I know you want to eat ice cream, AND we are not having dessert tonight.
  • Show understanding. I can totally understand not wanting to put your clothes away, AND it needs to be done before you watch television. 
  • Make agreements in advance. I know you don’t want to fold your laundry, AND what was our agreement?
  • Redirect!   You don’t want to take a bath AND let’s do it together. Want to race to the bathroom?
  • Allow them to make a choice and then decide what you will do and follow through. I know you want to keep playing Minecraft on the iPad AND you’ve had your five minute warning and time is up.  You can turn it off now, or it will be put in my closet until next weekend when you can try again.
  • Offer a limited choice. Do you want to brush your teeth before you put your pajamas on, or after? You decide.
  • Let routines (rather than you) be the boss. If you have a routine chart, this is when you ask them, What is the next thing on your routine chart you need to do when you get home from school?
  • Get help from your child. Ask him/her what would be reasonable in this situation? What are reasonable limits? How much time do you think you will need to get ready for bed? What do you think is reasonable? What time should we start the routine so you can be in bed by 8:00? When your child is involved in determining how much time he/she needs, he will feel like he is a part of the process.

These are just some of the things you can try to get to the root of the problem, rather than repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) dealing with just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are looking for more help, I highly recommend these Positive Discipline tool cards.

I use them all the time when I find myself about to lose it.

You can even use these with your kids when you are heading into a potential power struggle or blow out.

Let’s get the tool cards and see if we can find a card that will give us some ideas so we can come up with a solution together!


I’m telling you, it works!

If you are sick of putting out fires, there is a better way!

A better way for you, and a better way for your kids, and a better way for your whole family.

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Help! My Kid Is Fighting Me On Everything And I Don’t Know How To Deal With It!

A couple weeks ago, I received this email from a reader:

I could use some advice! My two year old has been acting up ridiculously lately and I’m due any day now with our second child and idk if he senses the new baby and has been acting out the past two months or if it’s just a terrible two thing! He gives me a struggle every day lately from eating, putting him into his car seat, to simply changing his clothes or getting him to bed. He is fighting me on EVERYTHING and I’m at my wits end and with zero energy to tolerate the tantrums!!! Everything is a fight of him kicking, throwing a toy or whatever he can get his hands on, running away from me, screaming, throwing himself on the floor, and now out of nowhere he began stomping his feet and spitting at me! He never used to do any of this nor does he have any bad influences from other children that have those behaviors…. Please tell me you have some alternative ideas because time out, spanking and yelling are a waste of time and aren’t doing anything but getting us more angry and exhausted. I’ve tried showing him more one on one attention at first and doing more activities together thinking he knew about the baby and was feeling left out but it continued getting worse. Time out/the naughty chair worked for a little while then he decided that was no longer a threat. It got to the point where I’d start yelling and would end up popping his leg or butt to get him to sit still and stop kicking at me but that doesn’t phase him anymore and I honestly don’t like it because it makes me feel worse even though my husband is a firm believer in spanking but I feel a child is just misunderstood even more so when they are that young. So please tell me how’d you make it through all the toddler years????

First of all, congratulations on the baby!

And secondly, I feel your pain!

The terrible twos (which usually start before the twos and last until about the fours) can be ridiculously challenging!

But take a little comfort in the fact that you are not alone.

These behaviors, the temper tantrums and the hitting and kicking, are definitely forms of communication. And if your son has learned that throwing a fit is a way to get your attention, he may be thinking this is the best way for him to relate to you.

So how to deal with these tantrums?

Well, they are power struggles. Nobody wins in a power struggle. Even though your kid is only two, you can’t really force him to do anything. There’s nothing more infuriating than chasing your kid around the house because he’s running away from you. And if you are nine months pregnant or holding an infant, that’s even more challenging.

So I have a few suggestions.

First, take a look at what you are doing. You may be encouraging them without realizing it.

Are you demanding that your son eats something or wears something or does things in a particular order (when the order of doing things isn’t so important )? If so, I would recommend offering him limited choices.

Think about the things you are willing to be flexible with. Ask him if he wants help picking out his clothes or if he’d rather choose them himself (and if the clothes don’t match but he really wants to wear them, who cares! The goal is for him to get dressed, not win a fashion competition!) Give him the option between two different kinds of cereal for breakfast —  “Do you want Cheerios or Rice Krispies?”

If he says “I WANT FROSTED FLAKES!!!” kindly and firmly tell him those aren’t an option.

“I know you want Frosted Flakes, and your choices are Rice Krispies and Cheerios.”

The tantrum will likely continue. Reply with “I know you are angry. I’d probably feel the same way.”  And leave it at that! It’s okay for your child to be upset.

The what can you do?

You can offer your child a hug. Sometimes your kids get worked up and they want comfort. Sometimes that helps them calm down. You could say something like, “It’s okay to be upset. I’m here and I love you. Do you want a hug?”

You can ignore the tantrum altogether.

The less you talk, the better. Just act. Put him in his crib and let him cry it out. Let him know it’s okay, and when he’s calm, you’ll  try again.

Another thing you can try is to redirect him. Distract him. It’s okay to try and change his focus to stop the tantrum! “Whoah! What is that over there! Look at that bird/squirrel/cloud/whatever outside! Let’s go check it out!” Redirecting often works pretty well with younger kids.

As for the throwing stuff and the hitting and the kicking, when your kid enters the hitting phase, it can be embarrassing and infuriating and exhausting.

This is a normal thing for kids to do, and all of my kids went through this phase, some more than others.

Kids may hit for different reasons. Sometimes it’s because their feelings are hurt. I know some of my older kids will still hit each other on occasion when the other kid has pissed them off or annoyed them so much that they just snap.

But since your son isn’t talking yet, I would wager that he is feeling frustrated because he cannot communicate verbally what his feelings and frustrations are.

This is why so many kids this age hit. Because it’s the easiest way for them to communicate their frustration.

I know it’s super annoying. And I know if it happens in front of other people, you may be worried about what they are thinking about you as a parent.

As far as other people go, pardon my French, but f*ck  ’em. If they ever had a toddler/preschooler, then they should get it. They’ve been there, too. We’ve all been there.

So what do you do?

You mentioned that spanking doesn’t work. I agree!

I think it is funny how people try to teach their kids that hitting isn’t okay, by, um… hitting their kids!

The fact that your husband feels differently about that than you do adds in another challenge for you.

With regard to the spanking, I am going to offer you a passage straight out of one of my favorite books, Positive Discipline A-Z, 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems:

“Many people use the biblical admonition ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ as an excuse for spanking. Biblical scholars tell us the rod was never used to hit the sheep. The rod was a symbol of authority or leadership, and the staff or crook was used to gently prod and guide. Our children definitely need gentle guidance and prodding, but they do not need to be beated, struck, or humiliated.”

Maybe you can show that to your husband. Maybe he’s never gonna change his mind on the spanking. It’s okay. You can still deal with the behavior in a kind and firm way that teaches your son what’s appropriate behavior when he’s frustrated. He will still learn from you!

Because that’s what he needs. He needs someone to teach him how to deal with the feelings of hurt and anger and frustration without hitting.

(And when your husband sees you employing a different strategy, he might decide to try it, too.)

Until your son learns how to really express his feelings verbally, he’s gonna need help from you. So it will take a little while. But don’t worry… it will pass!

So what can you try?

Here are some alternative suggestions (taken straight from Positive Discipline  A-Z ) :

  • Every time your son hits/kicks you, take his hand and calmly say, “It is not okay to hit people. I’m sorry you are feeling hurt and upset. You can hit this pillow, but people aren’t for hitting.”
  • Try giving him a hug before removing him from the situation. This models a loving method while showing them that hitting is not okay. Hugging does not reinforce the misbehavior!
  • Use words like “Hitting hurts people. Let’s find something else you can do.”
  • Show him what to do rather than telling him. Every time he tries to hit, take his hand and say “Touch nicely” while showing him how to touch nicely.
  • Decide what you will do rather than trying to control your child. Let him know that every time he hits you, you will put him down and leave the room until he is ready to treat you respectfully. Then follow through and do it! Without words! Leave the room immediately.
  • Later, when you and your son are calm, you can tell him something like “It really hurts when you hit me” or “That hurts my feelings. If I have done something to hurt your feelings, I would like to know about it so I can apologize. When you are ready, an apology would help me feel better.” But don’t demand or force an apology!

Doing these things once isn’t going to change or teach your son overnight. You are going to have to consistently teach and model until he is old enough to completely comprehend.

But it will take hold, and in the process you will be teaching him how to effectively handle his anger and emotions, how to self-regulate his behavior, and how to communicate with other human beings in a way that is kind, firm, and respectful.

And that’s the goal for all of us, right?

So hang in there, know that there is hope, give yourself time, remember this isn’t forever, and enjoy that new baby!

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