The Power of Yes: “Can We Get a Puppy, Mom?”

Posted December 21, 2010 by

As many of us realize, sometimes it seems the main job of a parent is to say no.  I remember as a child waiting for a “maybe.”  At least a “maybe” meant my parents were thinking it over and there was the possibility of a yes.  Well, that is until I learned and often voiced, “But maybe means No!”  Since I became a mother, I’ve learned that parenting an ADHD, defiant, or Asperger child means there are even more opportunities to say no.

No to the clothing they want to wear for the day, no to the sugar cereal they want, no to bringing a cherished object from home to school, no to the repeated requests of the latest toy they want.  The list of opportunities to say no is fairly lengthy.  And I say no, often, with conviction, and the absolute feeling I am parenting this child in his best interests.

However the other night, I got to be the good guy — I got to be the yes mom.  And I loved every minute of it.  I said yes to adopt a puppy.  Well, a 2-year-old “puppy.”  It happened to be “Adopt-a-Dog” night at a sports event our family was enjoying.  When asked by my son if we could get the puppy he picked out, I paused.  Did we really need another dog?  So of course, at first, I said “maybe.”  There is a husband involved after all.  But this “maybe” held the possibility of a yes. And my child knew it.  I love dogs and he and I had been looking on Pet-finder for the past months, exploring different breeds.  After some pleading and a final approval by the younger brother, the papers were signed and a new dog was added to the family.

I was able to see, once again, how great it is to say yes to a child you are normally saying no to.  It feels good.  It feels like a relief that you will not always be the adult saying no, reciting the rules, and feeling like the bad guy.

So I am now trying harder to say yes, a little more often about the small things.  I am also trying to give him the opportunity to make his own good choices.  I will say yes.  However I will add the “Yes, but I think…you should…because…but it is up to you.”   I try to give him the information of why I am saying no and give him the chance to let him make the right choices.   This is a child who likes to do the opposite of what I say, so ironically saying yes has really been working in my favor.

For the past nine years of his eleven years, I have had to draw strict lines in the sand with this child because he needs to know that the daily boundaries are clear and defined.  There can be no gray area with this type of child.  The tighter the structure, the better the day.  So most days, I say no and move on,  knowing I am helping him grow to be a responsible, caring child.

But the opportunity to get a puppy was too sweet to resist.  I had been thinking about adding another dog to our family for the past four months, because I wanted one.  I know it is my dog.  I will be responsible for her.  However, my son will help walk, feed, and play with her.  And he will enjoy the unconditional love and fun of a puppy who will always say yes to him.


Kim Stricker is a mom to two boys, an elementary school teacher, and freelance writer. She also writes a blog called lifeslikethis about the daily experiences of raising a child with Asperger’s and ADHD.

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