Filling Up The Yes Bucket

What Is The Yes Bucket?

Based on what you know about parenting or caring for a child, what is the easiest way to incite a temper tantrum?? I’ll give you a hint, it is only two letters and was probably one of your first words…

You guessed it!  It is “no.” Did you know that using “no” too often can desensitize a child to its meaning? Experts recommend to save the word “no” for life-threatening situations instead and to use short, clear and concise phrases to explain why your child shouldn’t do something.

Have you ever noticed how often you actually say “no” in your everyday parenting? A good rule of thumb is to make sure your child’s yes bucket is full before you start filling up their no bucket.  In other words, be sure you have said “yes” many times before you say “no.” If you do that, when you do say no, it will be much easier received!

How I’ve Filled The Yes Bucket

An example of a time when I caught myself almost saying “no” and then stopping myself to say “yes” is a good example of filling the yes bucket! My two-year-old nephew (at the time) and I were walking through a parking lot holding hands. We approached a puddle and he stopped and said, “Aye-Anne (how he said my name), “It ok I jump in that puddle?” Of course my initial instinct was to say no, but wait!

  • He ASKED permission to jump in the puddle, he didn’t just do it
  • Why couldn’t he jump in the puddle?

What would it hurt to let the kid jump in a water puddle? So, he jumped in the puddle, and I made a deposit in his yes bucket!

Giving Kids Age-Appropriate Control

Amy McCready, the founder of explains that:

“Simply saying ‘no’ or barking orders about what kids should be doing can be expedient in the moment. However, it doesn’t foster their sense of capability or independence and can make the situation ripe for power struggles.”

Positive discipline doesn’t mean that kids always get their way or that you say “yes” to everything. McCready explains:

“It means giving kids opportunities to have some age-appropriate control over their own world, within the firm and loving boundaries you feel comfortable with.”

Explanations Are Key

In her article, Naria Halliwell refers to three different ways to empower your child instead of saying “no.”  Halliwell encourages parents to let their child be responsible for certain things and to actually discuss the situation with their child, rather than out rightly saying “no.”

Betsy Brown Braun recommends saying yes, then saying no. For example, I understand you really want that cookie. Why don’t we eat some carrots for a snack right now and you can have that cookie after dinner.

When you do have to tell your child “no,” remember that it is important that an explanation goes along with the “no” so they understand why you are saying no to them.  Particularly for a child that has not grown up in your home, they may not understand why you are saying no to them.  Perhaps you are saying no to him going over to his friend’s house because it is dark and he wanted to walk. Explain why it isn’t safe to walk in the dark and help him come up with an alternate plan for getting there.

Just remember, the yes bucket always has to be filling up before you start making deposits in the no bucket.

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About The Author

As the Director of Adoption and Foster Care Services, Arianne Riebel, LMSW, LCPAA, oversees Arms Wide Adoption Services’ team of adoption and foster care employees, making sure each step of the adoption and foster care journey goes smoothly. While earning her Bachelor’s in Social Work at Stephen F. Austin University, she first considered a career in adoption and gained experience working in the field during her college career. A few years after graduation, she completed her Master of Social Work at the University of Houston and gained a decade of experience in child welfare before becoming a part of the Arms Wide family. Through her role at Arms Wide, she wanted to be able to give each child and family one-on-one support and attention. Her favorite part about her job is seeing people become parents or add more children to their family, and knowing that kids have found their forever homes. Read more about Arianne here.