What matters most is how to see yourself

As you know underpining all my work as a Parent Coach is my passion to help you raise happy, confident, well behaved children, bursting with self esteem and self confidence and able to go on to fulfil their true unlimited potential, free from the crippling effects of low self esteem.

Today my guest blogger is Claire Carpenter who has written a series of wonderful books designed to inspire, motivate and develop the long lasting mindset of self esteem within your children.

To find out more about Claire Carpenter’s inspirational books for children go to => http://www.clairecarpenter.com/

She was interviewed by The Times about a day she decided to say “Yes” more than “No” to her own children and here’s the interview.

“Yes, we can!  Bob the Builder started it.  Barack Obama won an election with it.  But what happens when we bring their rousing chant “Yes, we can!” into the realm of parenting?  I was reading the idle twitter chatter from the office of National Family Week (NFW) recently, an organisation whose remit is to celebrate family life in the UK.   

“Interesting chat in the office about free parenting” they tweeted.  “Setting no boundaries – saying YES to all the kid wants. What do you think? You literally say YES to everything. If the kid wants something, it gets it.”, they explained.

“Are you MAD?” I tweeted back, as surely it would produce spoilt and demanding monsters?  But there is also an argument that it would encourage children to better weigh up the consequences of their actions and take more responsibility for their lives, something I’m very keen for my children to do.

My son Tom (8) and daughter Alex (6), were hovering close so I waited a moment – whatever they ask for next, I’ll say Yes, I thought, bracing myself.  And for those of you who saw Alex turn up to school the next morning, resplendent in her pink fluffy slippers, now you know why.

I decided to give it a proper trial: a full day answering “Yes, you can” to everything they asked for.  “Are you sure this is a good idea?” a friend tweeted.  “Almost certainly not” I replied.

The day began well enough.  By 8 o’clock they’d breakfasted like royalty: several rounds of toast, with beans, scrambled egg and mounds of bacon.    Alex had painted her nails “devil red” and Tom had built an igloo in the living room out of every book in the house.  By 11 o’clock, they’d eaten a fine brunch, (pineapple and bananas with custard, whipped cream and sprinkles on top), both had invited a selection of friends over, Alex had spent an hour in the loft and Tom asked if he could bake his own birthday cake by himself.

Normally I would say no to this.  I don’t like baking and don’t even have a recipe.  But I said yes and let him get on with it.  The result was astounding. He searched for a recipe on the internet, biked round to the shop for all the ingredients, then baked and decorated a fantastic birthday cake.  He was beaming with pride, and so was I: at his independence and resourcefulness.  He’d loved the whole experience, and his confidence soared. 

By 1 o’clock they’d had a lavish lunch, including both cod and salmon fish fingers, lots of chips and very few vegetables.  For dessert they took MY chocolates from the fridge and squeezed themselves a fresh juice using all our remaining fruit.   During our meal Alex wondered what it would be like if we had twins in the family.  My heart beat a little faster and a little harder, but thankfully she didn’t ask me to oblige.  Then they darted outside to play.  I was surprised at how mild their requests were, most of them seemed to be for food and making things that made lots of mess.   Of course, they hadn’t yet cottoned on to my experiment and the colossal opportunity that was theirs for one day.  I guess they just thought I was in a good mood.

At 2 o’clock they came clambering in with their friends and the noise levels began to rise.  The girls had a “disco” in the kitchen, and the boys began a wrestling match in the lounge.  They wanted drinks, more snacks, to do painting, to go shopping, to have their pocket money, to demonstrate their new dance routine for me, to turn the volume up to max.  The house was loud and messy and it was frankly doing my head in. 

At 4 o’clock Alex wanted me to take her and her friend Demi shopping: two little girls with a keen eye for all things sparkly and I gripped my credit card with trepidation. I gave them their pocket money, told them to think hard about the consequences of what they wanted and stressed that they’d have to live with those consequences.  With control of their own money they didn’t think to ask for anything outside their budget and we came home with nothing more than a pink princess outfit. 

By 5 o’clock we’re back home and I told Tom to start thinking about the consequences of his decisions.  He decided that no, he wouldn’t build a hotel out of books after all, because he couldn’t be bothered to tidy them away again afterwards.   I was delighted that they were thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for their choices.

At 6 o’clock Alex wanted to wrap a present for her teacher.  She plonked it and herself by my feet, just as I was cooking dinner (a thankfully manageable spaghetti bolognaise).  I felt exasperated and wanted to say no.  She couldn’t do it by herself and would ask me to help, she’d make a mess and the present would be badly wrapped and frankly I’d be embarrassed if her teacher thought it was me being sloppy.

But rules are rules, and I let her get to work.  It was a triumph.  She wrapped it up by herself and was proud as punch.  She was impressively neat for a 6 year old, and then tidied up afterwards.  And best of all, her self-esteem went through the roof.  

Children’s self-esteem and ego are fluid and fragile things.  They soar one minute and deflate like a popped balloon the next.  A cruel word from a friend, an abrupt dismissal by a tired teacher, an angry ‘no’ from a busy parent – all can affect a child’s self-esteem.  And by my saying yes at that moment, Alex’s self-esteem blossomed and she had another skill under her belt. 

9 o’clock and after a long day it was finally bedtime (an hour later than usual – could have been be so much worse).  We’d all survived, including my bank balance, which was surprising.  I think the reason they didn’t ask for outrageous things is because the boundaries are already in place.  For example, I’m pretty sure Alex hadn’t asked for high-heeled shoes at the shops because she’s already asked me a hundred times and the answer was always no.

It was a brilliant experiment, and it made me reassess my own parenting style.  I’m usually quite strict, and Tom and Alex are well used to me saying no.  But the experiment made me aware that I often say no just because I don’t want to live with the noise and mess of their adventures.  And as a result the children are missing out on some great opportunities to have fun, grow their skills and feel good about themselves.

I still believe that children need clear boundaries to feel secure, but I saw ample evidence in that one day that saying yes to children more often encourages them to take more responsibility for their choices. 

The next morning I told Tom and Alex about the experiment and that I’d have said YES to absolutely anything they’d asked for.   “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” they both cried in unison.