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Are You a YES-Mom? Take the Quiz

10 tips for breaking the 'yes' cycle

by Susan Newman, Ph.D.  |  2196 views  |  3 comments  |        Rate this now! 

When something needs to be done, you’re the one to do it. It often feels as if you’re the only reliable person you know. The trouble is: Everyone else thinks that way, too. Especially your children.

Children have no trouble saying no. But, it’s a word you want to avoid because it sets your guilt meter running -- particularly where your children are concerned. You don’t want to disappoint them or make them unhappy. 

Park Your Guilt

At times, it seems a child’s needs involve you in different and demanding ways every waking minute. You have every right to say "No" to a child who asks to stay up later or eat more candy than you think healthy, just as you do to an adult child who seeks dollars to start a seemingly risky venture. Parenting is a forever proposition. You’ll be saying no -- or should be -- for decades, so park your guilt.

When you say yes to your children’s every want and whim, you wind up saying no to yourself, being overwhelmed and exhausted. You simply can’t be a happy, effective parent if you always function on overload.

How Much of a Yes-Parent Are You?

If any three of the following statements sounds familiar to you, it’s likely that your children turn you into a yes-person quite easily. It’s time to take stock and learn how to say no.

One room in your home looks like a toy store.

At any given hour, the couch doubles as a trampoline, a wrestling mat, a hiding place, or an arts and crafts center.

Your child wears his Halloween costume to school in February.

You’re on a first-name basis with the workers at McDonald’s.

Your child has everything her best friend has.

Your 6-year-old stays up so late that he can fill you in on Jay Leno’s monologue from the night before.

Your daughter’s last birthday party was almost as elaborate as your wedding.

You have three dogs, two kittens, and a parakeet who all hang out around the fish tank.

You spend most Saturday evenings in the movie theater parking lot, waiting for your children and their friends.

You spend Sunday evenings writing history reports and crafting science projects you found out about during dinner.

The text messaging charges are bigger than your monthly cell phone fee.

Your child’s band equipment takes up both parking spaces in the garage.

'No' Teaches Life Lessons

In some situations, no is the obvious answer, but what happens when your child asks to add another extracurricular to her already-full schedule? You’re proud of her initiative and want her to excel, but at the same time, your brain is calculating the extra stress, cost, time away from other children in the family, and added pressure at your job if you work.

About the Author

Susan Newman is a social psychologist and the author of 13 books about parenting, family issues and relationships. For details, check out her websites: and Susan blogs for Psychology Today Magazine at: Singletons -

Read more by Susan Newman, Ph.D.

3 comments so far...

  • Saying "no" is one of the life strategies I'm learning since becoming a Mom. It's become a necessity to learn to say No - because it's the only way I've been able to say Yes to my family. Granted - I'm saying no to charity work, overtime, and even housework. Spending time with my family needs to be first. Saying No ensures that I can also say Yes.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by charliesaurus on 29th February 2008

  • You are so right, Diane--the "I want/I need" lists just get longer and the items more expensive as children become preteens and teens. With all the yes-parenting today, you have to wonder what these children have to look forward to and what their weddings will look like!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Susan Newman, Ph.D. on 27th February 2008

  • This is great. Thanks for the tips! I'm glad to say I'm pretty confident I'll be okay saying "no" as my daughter grows. But this reminds me of a story I heard recently on NPR. A parent was saying their daughter send something like 2,000 text messages in the previous month. I _think_ that's what he/she said, anyway. And I was like: WHAT are those parents thinking?! The waste of money! The waste of time! The waste of brain cells! Why don't they just say no to her? So many kids get everything they want. Problem is, if you give them everything A) they won't respect you and B) the list of "must-haves" will just grow, not shrink. I swear, I'm a fun mom and not the party-pooper I sound!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 26th February 2008