Believe me, I am a believer in learning the skill of giving a solid, “No.”

But if I am continually saying no in the preschool classroom, my emotional connection with the students will quickly deteriorate and it won’t be long before they stop listening. I have learned that “yes” is critical, not because I am afraid to say no, but because my students are growing up in a world where, in just a couple years, life is about to change dramatically for them.

You see, preschoolers are so truly amazing.

There is no popular kid.  There is no rich kid.  There is no dumb kid. There is no smart kid. They are not ugly.  They don’t need better hair.  Her bike isn’t better than his bike.

There is blue playdough. There is a friend.  There is a funny book.  I am wearing a red shirt. There is a cute dog. There is a grandpa. There is a mosquito bite on my knee. I am hungry. There is a worm.

But soon, oh too soon, the world of comparisons and judgments and materialism and body image and all sorts of things will beg for permission to begin playing out in their environments and even worse, in their minds.

So my yes now is a calm.  My yes is teaching a preschooler that the world is an endless possibility of goodness for them.  My yes is security.  My yes is important so that when I must give a no, my no matters.  My no is a solid boundary that is only said when I really mean no.

Here are some classroom examples that can also work in the home to turn what could quickly be a no statement into a yes statement:

Instead of: “Stop crying.”
Use: “You can cry.  Take some big breaths.  I am here to help. We are trying to have class and some of your friends cannot hear me.  Would you like to cry over by the pillows or quietly hold my hand here for a while?”

Instead of: “No, you cannot have a snack right now.”
Use: “I can tell you are hungry!  We will be having our snack in just ten minutes!”

Instead of: “You cannot be loud in here.”
Use: “Can you use a softer voice? If you cannot, you are welcome to go be loud outside in a few minutes.”

Instead of: “Do not ask me any questions.”
Use: “I can answer your questions after I finish writing my note.” or “I am feeling like I cannot answer any more questions right now, but I really know that you can do this!”

Instead of: “Do not say that.”
Use: “In our classroom, I am asking you to use kind words and I know you can do that.”

Instead of: “Do not talk.”
Use: “I think you will really want to hear what I am about to say.”

Instead of: “You made a mess.  You need to clean up.”
Use: “It looks like you sure had fun painting.  How can you clean up?”

Instead of: “You cannot ride bikes.”
Use: “You can play in the sandbox or on the swings.”
Child: “But I want to ride on the bikes.”
Use: “You can play in the sandbox or on the swings.”
Child: “But I want to ride on the bikes.”
Use: “I can tell that you really wanted to ride on the bikes.  If you do not want to play in the sandbox or on the swings, what could we do instead of riding bikes?”

Instead of: “You can’t do that by yourself.”
Use: “I would love to come help you do that.”

Instead of: “No, you cannot go play with Jake.”
Use: “Our family is planning on doing some grocery shopping right now.  But I know you want to play with Jake.  Let’s look at our calendar and write down the day that we will ask if Jake can play.”

Instead of: “Do not talk to me right now.”
Use: “I am talking with my friend Jan on the phone right now.  Hold on to my leg and I will talk with you next.”

The beauty of yes statements is that they also communicate to a child that:
you see them,
you hear them,
you recognize their desires,
and you have confidence in them.

What a wonderful gift to give a child.