Creating a yes environment means setting your child up for success each and every day. It means shifting your words, your home and even the way you think to help them succeed.
Many of us really got this when our kids were tiny. We made countless adaptations for our babies because we didn't expect them to make adaptations for us. As they grew older however many of us lost track of the importance of this simple action. When baby became child we suddenly expected them to adapt their behavior to fit our needs rather than the other way around.
But we can get to a place where there is more harmony, more joy, and less struggle. And all of the steps we are practicing in this journey are a part of that process. Creating a yes environment is the next step. It takes patience, but hey, so does weathering a tantrum. And patience of this sort is the kind I'm game for practicing everyday. Because it transforms me as well.
A yes environment is not permissive parenting. Permissive parenting (or letting your child do almost anything they want) does not create safety for your child. Instead a yes environment is simply providing a clear, safe space (both physical and non-physical) in which your child may have the freedom they need to thrive. There are boundaries to be sure, but we communicate them with kindness, love, and understanding.
A yes environment is multi-layered. It is in the physical space of your home and also your thoughts and words as a parent. It is about creating an environment and family culture where your child will have more freedom to explore and play and learn - and be a kid - with fewer corrections from you.
I have broken down creating a yes environment into three categories: Home, Mindset, and Vocabulary. Make progress (bit by bit) in these categories over the coming days and see what transforms.
A Yes Home
A yes home will be free of many of the temptations that are likely to cause conflicts between parent and child. For a baby it means fragile items kept up and away from little hands and the stairs are blocked by a gate when a grown-up is not nearby. It also means that the gate sometimes comes down when the toddler wants to explore the stairs with an adult beside them. A yes environment means rearranging the kitchen cupboards to allow the toddler to have one to empty out and explore (plastic containers, wooden spoons, pots and pans) and the others secured with cabinet locks to keep baby safe. A yes environment means doing the work to find a way to help your child meet their needs for learning, exploration, and autonomy.
For kids a yes environment frequently comes down to out-of-sight, out-of-mind. There are no cookies on the kitchen counter at dinner time; no off-limits candy bowl on the entryway table. The television is stored in an out-of-the-way nook to keep from frequent requests to view. Mama's sewing shears are put up and away, while child-sized scissors are within reach for projects. It might mean a fence around a backyard to keep your little one from wandering, or clear boundaries of how far an older child may explore unsupervised.
A Yes Mindset
A yes mindset can change everything. It means that you decide how important that "no" really is. "No" flies out of our mouths as parents so readily, and I encourage you to pause and ask yourself if the next "no" really needs to be said. I find myself saying no often when I am trying to create safety, to reduce messes, and to feel like I am in control. But many of those no moments can be transformed. You'll still say no to your child, but a fraction of the times you do now. (And when you do say it, it will really matter.)
A yes mindset means:
Hurrying a little less. Can you take that detour on your walk past your child's favorite spot?
Can your child put on their own shoes and try and try again to tie their laces?
Can your four-year-old make the salad tonight and you help her slice tomatoes with a sharp knife?
Not if you are in a hurry. I find most of my super-stressful "no"-packed moments happen when I am hurrying. And sometimes I'm not even sure why I am in a hurry! (Habit?) Plan as much time as you can for your day-to-day activities to allow your child to explore their world and their skills, and practice your deep breathing skills while they do.
Cultivating flexibility a little more. Is there any reason he can't eat with a serving spoon and a toothpick tonight? It's pretty fun, and a little more fun is usually a good thing.
What will happen if she goes outside without her mittens in the snow or without her raincoat in the storm? She wont be harmed by it, she have some powerful/wonderful sensory experiences, and she'll know why to take her mittens next time if she's bothered by the cold.
If your toddler love ripping pages in books, keep only board books within her reach and read together the books with paper pages. When she has the urge to rip, provide her with an old magazine to tear instead. No, a stack of old torn magazines wasn't in your ideal picture of a quaint playroom, but it meets her need while protecting your books. Why not do it?
Do you experience grocery-store drama? Allow your child or children to choose one healthy treat that is not on your list. You and the child must agree on the item and will keep searching until you find the perfect food. In the meantime, you'll get your shopping done. We brought home a coconut last week and a mango yesterday as a part of this plan. No, I didn't necessarily want a mango (or a coconut!), but now we have Mango Lassis on the breakfast menu tomorrow and the kids are thrilled. (And no one asked for chocolate chips, ice cream, or cereal.)
Shaking off fear of judgement. My daughter picked out a black and yellow fluffy bumble bee tutu as an "everyday dress" for the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair last year. I paused, and then smiled and packed it into her bag. She buzzed around that fair for one whole day, and captivated 99% of the crowd. My mom was amazed and impressed that I didn't veto the outfit, but really - why? There was no harm once I shook off the fear of being judged. And frankly, it was so perfectly Lupine.
A Yes Vocabulary
Lastly, finding the best-feeling words can make all of the difference. Sometimes a "No" becomes a "Yes" simply by the language you choose. Here are a few examples.
Your toddler is helping you clean up the floor. Suddenly sweeping turns to high-sticking and they are running through the kitchen, broom in the air, swinging wildly. The (indeed, logical) "no" response sounds something like this: "No swinging the broom! Put it down or you're done sweeping. You could break something!"
The "yes" response transforms this age-appropriate decision to high-stick more gently and effectively as the parent moves quickly towards the child to guide them into a more appropriate choice. "We sweep with our broom. There are some crumbs. Let's sweep them up!" The parents hands guide the broom to the floor and into sweeping mode once more. The adult stays close to be sure the lesson was absorbed. If the swinging continues (also age-appropriate), the broom is peacefully swapped out for the dustpan or a hand broom and the clean up continues - together.
In another example, a child is moving towards the road unsupervised. The (again, logical) "no" response could be: "Stop! No road! The road is dangerous. You could get hurt!"
The "yes" response (as the adult runs quickly to the child's side) is: "Sophie! Do you see the cars? Would you like to cross the street? We'll do it together, holding hands. Are there any cars this way?"
A yes vocabulary does not mean that your child can do what ever they want. It means we cultivate patience for the age and stage of their development, and we nurture the child and the needs.
Look into your days and identify the most stressful moments. Transitions, meals, and bedtime come up for many. Now evaluate how often your child hears "no" during these moments, and see what can be transformed through the changes outlined above.
As we practice finding more "yes" moments and fewer "no" moments, our children will respond. They will feel their expanding safety, autonomy, and freedom and move with more ease and grace into the space. Sure, there will still be "no"s. But using validation you will navigate these more rare moments with more ease and grace as well.
P.S. If you missed the rest of the series, here are links to each post.
And we've got a rhythm to honor. You know - teeth to brush, books to read, lights to turn out...
But just then Pete rolls in from fishing at a nearby creek. And he found an owl pellet. An owl pellet! My years as a naturalist come rushing back and bedtime is delayed until further notice.
Clad in jammies, the kids dig in and dissect it with their hands. A rodent skull emerges (muskrat?) and we talk about how rodent teeth constantly grow and they must chew on hard things or be killed by their own teeth. Freaky cool, right? Fur is piling up on the dining room table, guard hairs and the underfur - the waterproof layer and the insulating one. We tease it apart more and find gnawing teeth, tiny bones, and other bits of the story of this one mammal, one bird, and one meal.
Natural history. Oh, yes. This is my favorite kind of "schooling".
All four of us dug in and reveled in the unexpected, spontaneous, after-dark learning to be had this night.
So they went to bed late. They also went to bed brimming with questions and answers and ideas and curiosity. Welcome to unschooling. Welcome to my kitchen table. There is so much magic that happens here.
(Oh, and don't worry. We'll wipe up before breakfast.)
For those who are wondering what an owl pellet is, it is the undigested material from any owl meal that becomes a compact lump in their crop. (Since owls swallow their prey whole something needs to happen with all that fur and bones.) The indigestible bits (bones, teeth, fur, and/or hair) form into the pellet and they bring back up. (You know, as in puke.) Cool? We think so.
When Lupine saw locally wildcrafted ramps at the co-op she squealed. "Mama! Ramps! We have to go the the woods and forage today!"
How could I resist?
So we packed a picnic and headed to our favorite foraging spot. The ramps were just beginning to come up so we harvested only enough for dinner and a couple of salad-additions. And then we played in the woods and by the creek for the rest of the day.
And days like these are among my favorites. Owl calls, wild flowers, red-winged blackbirds, laughing-playing kids (and mama), and a puppy learning to swim. Simple perfection.
(For the botanically curious, plants from top are: hepatica, wood anemone, hepatica, bloodroot, and ramps. And here are some recipes for ramps you find in your own woods.)
Hi ya'll. It's me, Rachel. In the pictures above. And that's my family. And those are the products we make with our own hands. We are actual human beings! (Not a corporation at all.) And every so often as an actual human I issue a sweet and gentle reminder that not only do I spend my time here writing, but I also own a lovely small business. A small business that pays my mortgage as well as feeds my soul. (The job of writing here, which I so love, does only the latter.)
So I am here to say, "Hey, I'd be stoked if you bought some product from me!" There. It's out. Yes - you, too, can have a little LuSa in your life.
I am the creator and owner of LuSa Organics, a line of highest quality, handmade organic body care and baby care. This blog actually was born out of my desire to make our business a little more transparent by giving you a view into our life, my philosophy and values. Because I think who we are is almost as important as what we make. And while the blog has since become it's own entity it began because of LuSa.
Our products are outstanding and I figure, hey, everyone needs soap. And some of you need baby products. Will you try mine?
I created our recipes out of my head over a decade ago and have continued to improve upon them ever since. Our soaps are moisturizing, gentle, long-lasting and offer a crazy buttery lather. And as any customer will attest, they smell incredible. Our award-winning Booty Balm borders on cult-like in its following. Booty Balm is magic in a jar and will heal almost anything you throw it at (the balm, not the jar).
All of the products align with my beliefs about the world. Less waste, more sustainable farming practices, better treatment of people, animals, and the planet. More good mojo all around. We donate 10% of our profits to amazing causes like La Leche League, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, and dozens of other noble organizations. We donate some of our scratch and dent product to our local food pantry and try in general to be all-around-do-gooders.
And our products are made by hand right here in the Driftless. Vernon County - the second poorest county in Wisconsin. We employ four amazing people who all rank on my short list of the nicest folks I've ever met. And by supporting LuSa you support Heather buying chickens for her girls' homeschooling studies and a hay baler for her small farm. You support Chris's quest for a healthy gluten-free life as he heads towards marrying his sweetheart in the coming season. You support Karen finishing the construction of her hand-hewn home. Your support Steve as he bring live theatre to life in our small town. You support me, coming here to write to you here. Real people. A real small town. Real lives.
That's the power of buying from a small family-owned business.
I'm offering a giveaway of your choice of a Welcome, Little One! Gift Collection, a Mama is Born Gift Collection, five bars of naked soap, or a Delight Gift Collection. Leave a comment below to enter. Tell me what you think of our products, or anything you think I should know.
And to encourage you to take the leap into trying LuSa for the first time, I'm offering a free lip balm with any LuSa order this week, and a free lip balm and bar of naked soap with any order over $35. To redeem, type "Taking the LuSa Leap" in the comments field and we'll choose something spectacular for you to try. (Expires March 31. Valid for retail customers only, please.)
Thanks for coming here to read each week, and thank you for supporting LuSa - and therefore both my family and my passion for creating this space where you come to read.
P.S. For those of you who are LuSa customers and not yet blog readers, take a look around. I think you'll find inspiration here that you didn't even know you were looking for.
Comments are now closed. Congratulations to Lynne who said,
"Finding truly natural products, especially for baby, is such a challenge The transparency you offer here on Clean is extremely refreshing. I would love to try your products! Thanks for hosting the giveaway."
I write here (and do most of my work for running my business) in the mornings and the evenings, apart from the time I spend actively parenting my kids. I get up early, and I work after their bedtime. Last night was my turn to "give bed" and Pete was at a class.
For many days transitioning the kids toward sleep has taken longer and longer. The sun is shining later, the neighborhood is alive with sounds, and spring fever is upon them. They giggle and fidget and argue and complain and talk and pop out of bed until an hour or more after bedtime.
Last night was no different.
And my work was waiting. And the Peaceful Parenting series was waiting (you didn't get a new post this week, and Friday was coming fast). And my one brief break from parenting for the day was waiting. (And if I could get my work done fast enough my kitting would be waiting too.)
I found myself getting frustrated. Irritated. Short with my kids. Wanting to scream, "Hurry up and go to sleep FOR GOODNESS SAKE so that I can go and write about being a better mom. DO IT NOW!"
(No, I didn't say it.) I was, however, terse with them for a minute, walked out of the bedroom, and sat down in the dark living room to collect myself. I took a few deep breaths and everything came into focus. Was I really being impatient with them so I could help you become more patient with yours?
I went back to their room. I apologized. I asked them what they needed. We looked for a solution. I told them what I needed. (Some time for myself. Some time for my work. Their help in smoothing out the bumps in the road to bedtime. More quiet-laying-in-bed time after we said goodnight.) I assured them that sleep would indeed come if they stopped coming out to tell me that they were still awake. We hugged and kissed and cuddled once more and said our "I love you"s once more too.
They went to sleep.
It was an hour later than usual (which meant that I didn't have time to write) but they went to sleep just the same. They always fall asleep. But sometimes I stop being graceful along the way.
And so this week there will be no NVC parenting post. Because making the conscious choice to be a more peaceful mother seemed like better parenting than writing that post could have ever been.
I chose to be patient and present with my kids, to connect, to apologize, to choose a more nurturing path than punishment or reward could ever provide, to look for the feeling behind the behavior, and to validate. I chose to stop, re-boot, and remember what kind of mom I want to be.
And then I drank my tea and went to bed. No writing, no knitting, just tea. And I fell asleep knowing that last night being a better parent was far more important than writing about it parenting could ever be.
Hello there! I am Rachel Wolf. Lover of wild places, blogger, homesteader-in-training, unschooling mama, & owner of LüSa Organics. At home in the hills of the Driftless. Welcome!
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