Your job is to say yes.

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Am I the only parent to whom the word “no” just seems to roll off the tongue?

I don’t understand why, but my natural tendency is to say no first and think about yes later. This is sometimes legitimate–maybe I’m not sure what the answer should be or I’m in the middle of something important.

But sometimes I say no for no good reason. Can you relate?

Many homeschooling parents started this lifestyle because we wanted to tailor the curriculum and learning process to our children and their individualized interests. But it can be hard to do that when we get so caught up in our own daily agenda that our “yeses” come infrequently.

Recently I’ve been reading Free-Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon, and I agree with Laura when she says the following:

“We want our children’s lives built on meaningful influences. What relationships and activities each family chooses will be unique. That uniqueness is precious. By filling our days with what is important to us, we take charge of our own lives.

“We don’t have to fit cherished moments into the time left after school hours and homework. Nor do we have to confine our bodies and minds to processed educational materials if we choose to find our own way.”

Uniqueness, freedom–yes.

It seems, during the holiday season, we relax and go deeper into life. This makes it the perfect time to say yes more often. Sometimes we think our children only care about the stuff we have to give, when really they care about who we have to give–ourselves.

Times to Say Yes

  • when your child wants to help bake your Thanksgiving pie
  • when they get the paint or Play-Doh out and we can envision the mess in our mind
  • when it’s bedtime but they beg to read books for a few more minutes
  • when they say “Mama, watch me!”
  • when you can tell they need your attention to ward off an emotional meltdown
  • when they say “Read it again. Just one more time, please?!”
  • when they want to decorate the Christmas tree–not quite the way you imagined

Reasons to Say Yes

  • because education comes most naturally and easily when it follows a child’s interests
  • because it’s fun to let go and embrace the moment
  • because choosing peace sometimes means letting go of productivity
  • because we want our kids to know we’re listening
  • because we want our kids to know how important they are
  • because sometimes the best memories are delivered in unplanned packages
  • because ideas provide the inspiration for an incredible, authentic life

No’s will always be part of our lives, and for good reason, but this holiday season let’s keep in mind that a big part of our job is to say yes.

As we dare to let go of control, we’ll find that joy lives in that place of release. Through saying yes, we discover so much more to be thankful for.

Which comes easier to you: saying no or saying yes?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. Sometimes when I know I have been saying “no” too frequently, we will have “yes” days, and whatever The Child asks for, the answer is “yes.” We don’t tell her that is what we are doing; we just do it. It makes me happy to give her what she asks for (concrete or abstract), and it also makes me realize how little she asks for.

    Saying “yes” is easier than saying “no” in so many ways, but I think saying “no” keeps the control in the parents’ hands, and “yes” feels reckless. Sometimes it is good to just let go. 🙂

  2. I definitely think that I am more prone to saying no. Sometimes I catch myself and really think about why I am saying no, and nine times out of ten I have no reason, or no good reason anyways. I have been trying to say yes more often. Letting my kids have at it in the craft room has helped alleviate some of my issues with the messes that always follow craft time 🙂 And when it is raining outside and my daughter wants to run around in the puddles, I have been trying to let her. Both of my kids want to explore and create and learn, and I shouldn’t stand in their way, or try to discourage them because it is easier for me 🙂 Great post!
    Heather’s latest post: the craziness begins

  3. I prayed that my children would know, deep down in their hearts, that could come to me and find a mommy filled with grace.
    Grace will let others try, make mistakes, have struggles, need help, succeed and overcome. This is often expressed with, “Yes, you may …”
    I recognize that when I am in performance mode, I often say, “No.” It is easy, then, to stay in control. Saying “yes” to my kids will often cost me my time, my patience and my grace.
    Thanks for your reminder of all these other wonderful reasons why we should say “yes”.
    Nadene’s latest post: World War II Notebook Pages, Maps, Timelines & Online Resources

  4. Well said. My kids and I have a joke now where I say ‘no’ to everything. Even reasonable requests just to be goofy and pretend to be unreasonable. “Mom, could we have tuna salad for lunch?” “No! Are you crazy? Today is peanut butter day. No tuna allowed.” Or I interrupt them. “Mom, may I…” “NO.” Then they laugh. I get that your post is about letting go and letting them participate, experiment and learn. We like to add humor too. 🙂

  5. Thanks for this post! I’m guilty of saying “no” way too much.

  6. Oh my gosh, can I ever relate to this one! I have a friend who always tells me, “Don’t ask why, ask why not?” If I can’t come up with a legitimate reason to say no, then yes is the correct answer. My daughter will often challenge me with this one, asking why not, and I often times the answer is – good question! I know that reversing my answer is taboo to many, but it’s important to accept that we aren’t infallible!
    Kelly @ Ahimsa Mama’s latest post: Peaceful parenting means loving other people’s kids, too

  7. Thanks for the 2×4. So needed this!

  8. Sometimes that big smile after a yes just brightens your whole day. 🙂
    e-Expeditions’s latest post: Youtube Monday: American Museum of Natural History

  9. I so need this reminder. It is hard to say “yes”!

  10. I’m guilty! Usually I say no because I don’t want to clean up what they are asking to do. Not a good reason for saying no. Thanks for the reminder to say yes more than I say no. You should see the mess at my house today as a result of your post! 🙂
    Stephanie’s Mommy Brain’s latest post: 5 Kernels of Corn Thanksgiving Tradition

  11. Thanks for this post. I believe my most important job in both homeschooling and parenting is saying yes as much as possible. The more I say yes, the more learning I see that takes place and the closer my relationship with my kids can be.

  12. My husband pointed this out to me recently. We say “no” just because it’s easier and we don’t want to be bothered by another project. So lately, we’ve been trying to START with “YES, that sounds fun!”–even if it’s followed by: “when you finish your schoolwork” or, “when we’re done with the other projects.” That way, they hear us affirm them, they have a goal and the “no” is usually brought about by them when they see how much work/time it might require.

  13. Oh yes!!! I think my biggest discovery this year starting homeschooling is the power and beauty of ‘yes’. I do tend to say ‘no’ a lot (or the coward’s equivalent…’in a minute’). Who wants to deal with mess and change what you had planned?

    But after reading a lot of unschooling stuff, I think that the best thing I can do as a homeschooling mum is say “yes”. Yes, you can use all of the blu-tac to make a tesseract. Yes, I will look at your stick figure cartoons while I listen to an in-depth description of the action. Yes, we will do the jigsaw puzzle. Yes, we can do baking. Yes, we will go talk to the dog-wash man.

    Yes, you are important! Thank you for putting into words what has become so important to me this year.
    Ingi’s latest post: T’riffic Tauranga/Rotorua

  14. I am such a no mother. That is my first response. But I am also predictably as “I change my mind quick mother”. It’s pretty pathetic. I recognize this in myself and am trying to say “i’ll think about it” instead of no. Because what I really mean is “I need to process that for a moment before I respond with an immediate yes”, which is what children seem to want. An affirmation. Right. Now.

    I’m learning how to better respond to them because in the end I say yes to a lot but I’d rather say it right off instead of always changing my mind.

    I’m predictable in my inconsistency. Does that make me consistent?
    Renee’s latest post: Celine’s Pomegranate Muesli

  15. SUCH a great article! I’ve issued a “Say Yes!” Challenge on my blog (and linked to your post)! 😀
    Tara McClenahan’s latest post: The "Say Yes!" Challenge

  16. Funny – I’ve just been reading Positive Discipline A To Z and the authors point out that parents generally say “no” way too much. I often say “no” b/c I think that I will ruin DS’ life if I give him too much leeway, but then a few minutes later realize that there is no real reason that he couldn’t do/have what he was asking for.

    I am going to have to find that book, as we are just beginning to embark on our life-learning journey.
    Emily’s latest post: “Do I Need To Worry About Food Combining?”

  17. My “no” almost always stems from my perceived need to control things. Sad but true. Since teaching from home, however, I’ve found that the gift of time has encouraged me to release some of this control and roll with my daughter’s ideas more often than not.

    Your post is a great reminder of the value in saying yes – essentially retraining our hearts and minds in this direction. I’m intrigued to take a look at the book you mentioned as well.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  18. Oh my goodness!!!! The Christmas tree!!! My mother has a self-admitted OCD thing going on with every ornament dangling freely from a limb. Determined to overcome the voice of perfection in my own head, I’ve recently let my children place all the ornaments themselves. My imperfect tree is much more fun and just as beautiful. To me, saying “yes” to my children is saying “I trust how you do it.” Kids need that feeling of competence and acceptance.
    Jennifer’s latest post: The Disney Tour (A Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday Night)

  19. I really needed to be reminded of this today. Too much focus on myself today and there is a little 5 year old boy here who just wishes Mama had time for him. Sigh. I don’t know why it is always so tough to say yes, especially knowing that the yes will be best for him AND for me! Thank you for this.

  20. Love this! I found myself saying no too often to my kids. I finally starting asking myself “why not?”. We need to learn to say YES to our kids more often and learn to say NO more often to others!
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center’s latest post: Truly grateful

  21. Pam in Missouri says:

    What a great reminder. Before we had kids in our family, I vowed to be a “yes” parent. Over the years, I’ve done pretty well even though sometimes the answer is “yes, after we do a couple chores” or “yes, but when you are older.” Lately, as the requests have become more about buying stuff I’m finding my default to be “no.” I need to come up with some better “yes” responses. Things like: “let’s see if we can make that from our craft stash” or “yes, if you save the money for it.”

  22. Thanks for the reminder. I think first borns have the most problem with saying no all the time. Thanks for giving us some ideas for ways to say yes. 🙂

  23. A great reminder. I am one of those ‘no’ mothers, and while I really don’t like it, it is a hard rut to get out of. Some great suggestions in this post, and the comments. Thanks for sharing it.
    Natalia’s latest post: It’s a sign

  24. Glad for the shout-out and thrilled to find Simple Homeschool.

    And I can relate. I like to say yes, but even when it can’t happen I try to find something to agree with. It’s something I learned from teaching conflict resolution. When dealing with a miserable kid at the store who wants something, I simply empathize rather than (as I want to do) lecture about living lightly on the earth. I say “If I had a million bucks I’d get you a truckload and dump it on your bed, wouldn’t that be funny?” When being asked for a privilege the teen didn’t earn, I say “Sure, let’s figure out how you can work your way toward this,” rather than a flat no. It keeps communication open and our spirits light.

  25. I’m a “yes” mom. I remember enough about being a child that I can relate to the need to be creative and explore and experience regularly. I also want my child to know that I will have a good reason for saying “no”, if I do, when they ask permission. I say yes to crafts, friends, projects. I don’t buy my kids whatever the want, though. —that’s not good for character development. Saying “no” to making a mess doesn’t contribute to learning, memories nor character. My husband is more of a “no” dad, and sometimes it’s good for the kids to learn to put up with an unreasoned “no”. But, many times I’ve asked him privately, “why”, and he realizes what many of you have said. When he’s on auto-no, I wonder why he wouldn’t want them to live life more fully.

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