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How to change your child's ‘no’ to a confident ‘yes’

Through her new book, The Girl Who Lost Her YES, author Aarti Khatwani Bhatia focuses on changing children's constant ‘no’ to a confident ‘yes’

 Aarti Khatwani Bhatia’s new book delves into what happens when children cling to the big ‘no’
Aarti Khatwani Bhatia’s new book delves into what happens when children cling to the big ‘no’ (Pexels)

The one thing that parents often struggle with, as children go through the phase of developing their likes and dislikes, is getting them to do things that are good for them but might not look appealing. From eating the greens to sharing their toys with friends, children can often shut off new experiences with a ‘no’. Through her new book, author Aarti Khatwani Bhatia focuses on changing the constant ‘no’ to a confident ‘yes’.

The idea for the book, The Girl Who Lost Her YES, sparked when one night, Bhatia, tired of her six-year-old daughter saying no to everything, narrated a spontaneous story to nudge her towards changing her attitude.

Seeing her daughter fall in love with the story, Bhatia decided to turn it into a picture book. Illustrated by Priya Kurian, Bhatia’s new book delves into what happens when children cling to the big ‘no’ and hopes to get children to be more open to new learnings.empathy

The Girl Who Lost Her YES
The Girl Who Lost Her YES

She talks to Lounge about the importance of teaching children to have a more , how storytelling can be effective in teaching good behaviour and correcting attitudes, and parenting trends she wants to bring back.

Generally, the focus is on teaching children how to say ‘no’ but you have written a book on the opposite. Why is it important to teach children to say ‘yes’?

Yes, saying 'no' is often taught to young children to make them independent. But they tend to overuse this 'no'. They indulge in things their parents ask them not to do and seldom do what their parents ask of them. This can be exhausting for parents trying to go about their day, along with trying to do what's best for the child.

Instilling the habit of saying 'yes' helps the child to be respectful to others, makes them open to new experiences and brings about a soft discipline in their routine, amongst many other things.

Do you feel storytelling is an effective way to teach children about behaviours and attitudes and their consequences?

Storytelling is the best way to indirectly tell your child things they would otherwise dislike being told directly. Children see themselves through their parents' eyes. So, while teaching them good behaviour and correcting their attitude is an essential part of raising them well, it can also be a bit annoying for the child to be constantly told what to do and what not to do.

When we tell them the same thing through a story, they either see themselves in the tale or find a relatable experience in it. By visualising the story, they get to learn about how a certain attitude can lead to a consequence, and also how certain behaviours can be changed.

My six-year-old daughter loved the story of 'The Girl Who Lost Her YES', and ever since, her responses have had a lot of 'yes' in them. She proudly shares that this way her 'yes' will never get lost.

Is teaching children to say ‘yes’ also a way to build confidence to try out different things?

Saying 'yes' can be a real booster to a child's confidence, as it opens them to new experiences. For example, in this technologically advanced era, it can become very easy for children to make screens their comfort zone.

How, then, do you get them to appreciate real-life adventures? How do you make them agree to go on a nature hike? If children get too comfortable with saying 'no', then they lose out on expanding their horizons.

In your book, you talk about the importance of teaching children to share their things and make amends. How do you think kindness and empathy can be taught to children?

Children absorb everything from their surroundings, taking the most after what we parents do and do not. So, while there is no one way to teach children the values of kindness and empathy, one sure-shot way of doing that is to be kind and empathetic ourselves.

Reinforcing the same by having a heart-to-heart conversation at the end of the day, in the form of stories from our day-to-day life, can have a lasting impact on moulding their mindset towards imbibing these values.

As children learn to communicate their likes and dislikes, how important is it to teach them about their boundaries? How can this be communicated to them?

Setting boundaries with children, as they start being decisive, is very important. This teaches them to care for their body as well as that of others. One way to communicate this is to encourage questions around and share information about good touch and bad touch.

For example, if your child gets sick, then talk to them while applying Vaporub, informing them that you are touching their chest, that only you as a parent can do that and that they should let you know if anything makes them feel uncomfortable.

Also, make it a routine of casually talking to your children about their day - what they did, where they went, who all were there, and how they were treated by various people. Such open communication with your children from an early age gradually makes them aware of healthy boundaries.

What are three things that you have learnt in your parenting journey that you would pass on?

One, become a child. The best way to connect with your child is to be a child with them. See the world as they do—like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with creativity. 

Two, bond with books. Instead of giving your child the bondage of screens, give them the gift of open imagination with the world of books. 

And three, say 'yes'. Even if you disagree with your child, let the first thing you say to them be 'yes'. You may follow it up with a soft 'but', if needed. Before you know it, they will be saying 'yes' too.

What are the two parenting trends that you want to bring back and two that they want to let go?

I would bring back playing under the sun. Instead of in enclosed arenas packed with styrofoam mats, I wish kids today would be more out in the open - riding bicycles, playing in the mud and running around with friends, like my generation used to.

Also, co-sleeping with kids. Till they are of age where they can sleep on their own, do not miss out on getting as many of your child's cuddles as you can, as their little arms hug you to sleep. This is one thing every parent misses when their children grow up.

I am not a fan of exposing kids to screens and allowing them access to social media, from an early age.


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