When was the last time we all said "yes" to our children?
I wonder, because my son recently learned the Dreaded Toddler Negative, or "No." Knowing that all kids use "no" a lot, my husband (and myself, to a lesser extent) tried to say "Please don't do that" instead of "No," hoping that it was too many words for our son to string together. I suppose it worked, since he's not actually saying "no," but he has figured out that he can shake his head to negate something. *sigh* I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.
After he learned it, my husband and I started discussing why toddlers don't say "Yes" as often as they say "No." Is it because we don't use the word as frequently around them?
After all, they hear "No" a lot: any time they do something they shouldn't, for whatever reason. So it's no surprise that kids pick it up quick. Even when we tried not to use it, it slipped out a lot--it's just the first word that comes out when you need to react quickly. But how often do we say "Yes?" He does hear it, don't get me wrong (along with "yeah,") but most of the time when he does something good (or new or milestone-worthy,) praise comes in other forms, like "Good Job," "Good Boy," "Thank You," or "Hooray!"
In the great irony of behavior, we say some variation of "No" every time he does something he oughtn't, but we don't always praise him (or even notice, *hides face in shame*) when he does something right. I do try to notice and say something when he doesn't make a mess of his food, or when he obeys when I ask him to do something, but I know I don't always succeed--and really, we don't want our children to expect praise when they do something right, especially something mundane. Too much praise could become a crutch. I'm not just referring to myself here, I'm referring to all parents, teachers, etc. Bad behavior always gets noticed (and gets attention,) but good behavior is often taken for granted.
Not all children don't use "Yes," of course, it's just not as common. I met a friend at a Playplace a few weeks ago, and I once had to keep her son (six weeks older than mine) from sneaking out an open door. When I asked him if he was trying to escape, he said "Yes!" :)
It is because of this revelation that I will be trying to say the word "Yes" more often. "Yes, you just climbed up into the chair." "Yes, you may have your milk." "Yes, it's time to tickle Daddy." My son has nodded a few times--enough that I'm pretty sure he means "Yes" when he does--and I'm hoping to get more of that from him. And perhaps, if I can remember this bit of wisdom with the next child, I might be able to insert the word "Yes" into their vocabulary just a bit sooner.
It's worth a try, anyway.