Saying "yes" and chocolate cake!
Today, my youngest and I have been baking a chocolate cake. He had asked me late in the day yesterday, when my energies were waning fast. I explained that I really wanted to bake with him, but that I was really tired at that moment. We agreed to find a recipe, find the tins we needed and set a time to do the baking the following day. Even in this simple exchange I am mindful of the skills and behaviours being modelled, and therefore being learned and internalised. What were those skills? We were modelling/learning how to listen to each other, how to communicate our needs and desires, how to hold boundaries in a loving, gentle, respectful way, how to collaborate solutions, how to create win:win outcomes.
Many people fear that by saying "yes" to their children as often as possible, that children become entitled, self absorbed and inconsiderate of others' needs. When we advocate saying "yes" to our children wherever possible, we are not advocating doing so at the expense of ours, or other peoples, needs. Quite the contrary. We are trying to remove the arbitrary, power and control centred, definitive and final "no", that's so often given to children by adults. Via our connection and respectful environment, we are fostering communication, flexibility, a "can do" attitude, an attitude of problem solving and of empathetic understanding. This does not happen overnight, it takes time and conscious practice. Do I always get it right? Does it always go this smoothly? No, of course not. When it goes less well than it could then it is up to me to show humility, show that it's ok to make mistakes and to show how to repair, apologise and how to make amends.
Over time I am now seeing how my children have internalised these skills and values. I am starting to see them utilise these in their interactions with me and with others. Is it always perfect? Of course not, but even then there is room for learning and growth, for us to model compassion and non-judgement, and connection.
On finishing the baking we were left with a pile of washing up. I invited (without expectation) my youngest to help with the drying up, not something he has done before, explaining that I would very much appreciate his help. He responded "no problem". As we worked we discussed which items he felt comfortable tackling and where to put dried items that he was unsure of their storage place. On finishing the washing up, I grabbed a towel offering to help him finish up. We gladly and happily finished up together. None of this happened because he was forced, shamed, coerced, obliged, made to, compelled or threatened into doing this. The driver to help was not due to an external force applied to him by me. The driver was internal, an internalised desire to help. Developing this internal drive takes time, conscious effort, requires presence, patience, connection and respect, but for me it is oh so worth it.