There's a time for maybe, let's talk about it, I'll think about it, and even why. But I have been surprised, relieved and encouraged by how much a firm YES or NO can quickly dissipate the angst, anxiety and miscommunication typical in family dynamics. Sometimes I don't even have to answer myself, as in, "You already asked Dad and he said no." That tables the discussion in our house.
After I've given one of my kids a quick yes or no, my husband has occasionally come to me privately, a little wild-eyed, and said, "I can't believe you said Yes/No!" We discuss, sometimes argue and, yes, I've flip-flopped. The kids are gleeful then, and Frank is kind of smug too. Parenting Conflict? Make Sure Your Kid Wins
Okay, that's fair.
But at least everyone knows where I stand, or stood.
"Yes or no please," I've been known to say when one of the kids is waffling about whether he's cleaned his room or done his homework. Saying yes or no and meaning it is an underrated skill, for couples, for married people, for parents, and especially for kids still learning to live inside their word. I think—though I can't prove it—that my willingness to give a firm yes or no has helped my sons feel more confident in responding yes or no, too, not only within our family, but in social situations.
These are each complete sentences and everyone in my house knows it. When I do fall back into an explaining instead of responding mode, it often backfires. Last week, my cell phone rang as I stepped into a client meeting. Frank wanted to know if I'd told our younger son he could buy (another) Nerf shooter. "No. I told him I'd think about it and let him know," I said. "So which is it, yes or no?" Frank asked. "I'm busy. Can't you decide?" I snapped at my husband. He said no. The next night, he won a huge Nerf gun as a door prize at an event he'd volunteered to help run. You know what the boy said when he saw it? "Yes!"
Lisa Romeo dispenses direct answers (mostly) to her husband and two sons, in New Jersey.