More Peaceful Parenting Step 4. Creating a Yes Environment.




Creating a yes environment means setting your child up for success each and every day. It means shifting your words, your home and even the way you think to help them succeed.

Many of us really got this when our kids were tiny. We made countless adaptations for our babies because we didn't expect them to make adaptations for us. As they grew older however many of us lost track of the importance of this simple action. When baby became child we suddenly expected them to adapt their behavior to fit our needs rather than the other way around.

But we can get to a place where there is more harmony, more joy, and less struggle. And all of the steps we are practicing in this journey are a part of that process. Creating a yes environment is the next step. It takes patience, but hey, so does weathering a tantrum. And patience of this sort is the kind I'm game for practicing everyday. Because it transforms me as well.


A yes environment is not permissive parenting. Permissive parenting (or letting your child do almost anything they want) does not create safety for your child. Instead a yes environment is simply providing a clear, safe space (both physical and non-physical) in which your child may have the freedom they need to thrive. There are boundaries to be sure, but we communicate them with kindness, love, and understanding.

A yes environment is multi-layered. It is in the physical space of your home and also your thoughts and words as a parent. It is about creating an environment and family culture where your child will have more freedom to explore and play and learn – and be a kid – with fewer corrections from you. 

I have broken down creating a yes environment into three categories: Home, Mindset, and Vocabulary. Make progress (bit by bit) in these categories over the coming days and see what transforms.

A Yes Home

A yes home will be free of many of the temptations that are likely to cause conflicts between parent and child. For a baby it means fragile items kept up and away from little hands and the stairs are blocked by a gate when a grown-up is not nearby. It also means that the gate sometimes comes down when the toddler wants to explore the stairs with an adult beside them. A yes environment means rearranging the kitchen cupboards to allow the toddler to have one to empty out and explore (plastic containers, wooden spoons, pots and pans) and the others secured with cabinet locks to keep baby safe. A yes environment means doing the work to find a way to help your child meet their needs for learning, exploration, and autonomy.

For kids a yes environment frequently comes down to out-of-sight, out-of-mind. There are no cookies on the kitchen counter at dinner time; no off-limits candy bowl on the entryway table. The television is stored in an out-of-the-way nook to keep from frequent requests to view. Mama's sewing shears are put up and away, while child-sized scissors are within reach for projects. It might mean a fence around a backyard to keep your little one from wandering, or clear boundaries of how far an older child may explore unsupervised.


A Yes Mindset

A yes mindset can change everything. It means that you decide how important that "no" really is. "No" flies out of our mouths as parents so readily, and I encourage you to pause and ask yourself if the next "no" really needs to be said. I find myself saying no often when I am trying to create safety, to reduce messes, and to feel like I am in control. But many of those no moments can be transformed. You'll still say no to your child, but a fraction of the times you do now. (And when you do say it, it will really matter.)

A yes mindset means:

Hurrying a little less. Can you take that detour on your walk past your child's favorite spot?

Can your child put on their own shoes and try and try again to tie their laces?

Can your four-year-old make the salad tonight and you help her slice tomatoes with a sharp knife?

Not if you are in a hurry. I find most of my super-stressful "no"-packed moments happen when I am hurrying. And sometimes I'm not even sure why I am in a hurry! (Habit?) Plan as much time as you can for your day-to-day activities to allow your child to explore their world and their skills, and practice your deep breathing skills while they do.

Cultivating flexibility a little more. Is there any reason he can't eat with a serving spoon and a toothpick tonight? It's pretty fun, and a little more fun is usually a good thing.

What will happen if she goes outside without her mittens in the snow or without her raincoat in the storm? She wont be harmed by it, she have some powerful/wonderful sensory experiences, and she'll know why to take her mittens next time if she's bothered by the cold.

If your toddler love ripping pages in books, keep only board books within her reach and read together the books with paper pages. When she has the urge to rip, provide her with an old magazine to tear instead. No, a stack of old torn magazines wasn't in your ideal picture of a quaint playroom, but it meets her need while protecting your books. Why not do it?

Do you experience grocery-store drama? Allow your child or children to choose one healthy treat that is not on your list. You and the child must agree on the item and will keep searching until you find the perfect food. In the meantime, you'll get your shopping done. We brought home a coconut last week and a mango yesterday as a part of this plan. No, I didn't necessarily want a mango (or a coconut!), but now we have Mango Lassis on the breakfast menu tomorrow and the kids are thrilled. (And no one asked for chocolate chips, ice cream, or cereal.)

Shaking off fear of judgement. My daughter picked out a black and yellow fluffy bumble bee tutu as an "everyday dress" for the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair last year. I paused, and then smiled and packed it into her bag. She buzzed around that fair for one whole day, and captivated 99% of the crowd. My mom was amazed and impressed that I didn't veto the outfit, but really – why? There was no harm once I shook off the fear of being judged. And frankly, it was so perfectly Lupine.


A Yes Vocabulary

Lastly, finding the best-feeling words can make all of the difference. Sometimes a "No" becomes a "Yes" simply by the language you choose. Here are a few examples.

Your toddler is helping you clean up the floor. Suddenly sweeping turns to high-sticking and they are running through the kitchen, broom in the air, swinging wildly. The (indeed, logical) "no" response sounds something like this: "No swinging the broom! Put it down or you're done sweeping. You could break something!"

The "yes" response transforms this age-appropriate decision to high-stick more gently and effectively as the parent moves quickly towards the child to guide them into a more appropriate choice. "We sweep with our broom. There are some crumbs. Let's sweep them up!" The parents hands guide the broom to the floor and into sweeping mode once more. The adult stays close to be sure the lesson was absorbed. If the swinging continues (also age-appropriate), the broom is peacefully swapped out for the dustpan or a hand broom and the clean up continues – together.

In another example, a child is moving towards the road unsupervised. The (again, logical) "no" response could be: "Stop! No road! The road is dangerous. You could get hurt!"

The "yes" response (as the adult runs quickly to the child's side) is: "Sophie! Do you see the cars? Would you like to cross the street? We'll do it together, holding hands. Are there any cars this way?"

A yes vocabulary does not mean that your child can do what ever they want. It means we cultivate patience for the age and stage of their development, and we nurture the child and the needs.


Look into your days and identify the most stressful moments. Transitions, meals, and bedtime come up for many. Now evaluate how often your child hears "no" during these moments, and see what can be transformed through the changes outlined above.

As we practice finding more "yes" moments and fewer "no" moments, our children will respond. They will feel their expanding safety, autonomy, and freedom and move with more ease and grace into the space. Sure, there will still be "no"s. But using validation you will navigate these more rare moments with more ease and grace as well.


P.S. If you missed the rest of the series, here are links to each post.

More Peaceful Parenting Step 1. Forgive, Accept, and Love Yourself.

More Peaceful Parenting Step 2. Identify the Need.

More Peaceful Parenting Step 3. Validate.

41 thoughts on “More Peaceful Parenting Step 4. Creating a Yes Environment.

  1. Mikaela says:

    Great post, and such a key to positive adult-child interactions.

    The five-year-old I babysit said yesterday, “You say ‘yes’ a lot!”. I’m not sure why he brought it up–in approval or disapproval or just surprise–but I’ll take it!

    Truly, however, in the evolution of my work with children, the ‘yes’ has always come easily. It’s been much harder to learn to set boundaries within the ‘yes’ context. (I will always carry with me the memory of walking around the neighborhood with embarrassing child-made hairdos, because I was too afraid the kids wouldn’t like me if I told them I’d really prefer to do my own hair before going outside.) Now that I’m much better at it, I love to do so, because it’s an instant conflict-resolver. “Throwing things is an outside activity. Let’s take those balls outside.” “I’m worried about sand getting in your sister’s eyes. If you want to throw sand, you can take ten steps that way and do it there.” And on and on, as you well know!

    I’ve found that it has shaped a true problem-solving mindset in the child I work with–if we find that something won’t or can’t work, he says, “How can we make it work?” I love this, because with so many challenges ahead for our world, I think problem-solving is one of the greatest skills we can teach our kids.

    Thanks for your words!

  2. Robyn says:

    it’s so funny that you mention scissors in one of your examples, because my boss, who has 3 young boys of her own thinks i’m crazy for leaving kid friendly scissors in my almost 3 year old’s craft box. the craft box is stored with all her other toys on a shelf she can easily reach on her own. when it came up, i was surprised that she thought it was so odd. i was like, “it’s not like they are my super sharp sewing scissors. she knows to be careful with them, and they aren’t pointed. if she cuts something she shouldn’t (like her skin) then she’ll learn not to do it again.” i think people need to give their kids a little more credit and the opportunity to learn from real life experiences more. we’ve practiced cutting many times, to the point where she corrects me if she sees me cutting and i let the scissors get too close to my fingers, lol. i’d rather take the time to teach her now and give her responsibiilty for her own scissors than run the risk that one day i’ll forget and leave my sewing scissors out and she’ll really hurt herself because she won’t have the proper respect for them.

  3. Jennie D says:

    Yes, I agree so much with this whole post. Creating a Yes Environment seems to be the key to happiness in our house. It’s funny that as much as I know this, I constantly find myself slipping into old, bad habits. Patience is a practice for sure, thank you for the reminder.

  4. Jillian says:

    Thank you for this post today. The day got off to a rocky start but this has changed my entire afternoon! I was very conscious of this approach as my son was two and it helped us through that phase. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of this and it’s refreshing to start it again. It is just as applicable now as it was then!

  5. kendra says:

    i’ve seen that broom conflict happen! it inspired me to make woolly playbrooms, actually! : ) i think of this more in ‘reconsider your request’ – it takes work for me to realize first that i am making a request (demand), and then step back further and see if i can say yes. if that makes sense!

  6. Kim says:

    Love this post Rachel, thanks so much. We have been trying to create a “yes’ environment from the start, and it really works!!! It does take some extra thought in the beginning, because we are so “conditioned” to just say no, but once you get used to it, it flows.

    Will be sharing this post with others who don’t always understand why I do the things I do, you have explained so well. Thanks!

  7. Rachel Wolf says:

    I’ve had this conversation so many times. My kids both uses sharp knives and scissors at a very early age (my memory is early 2 but it was possibly late 1 for scissors). And really, I have never been worried about a small injury while learning how to do a job or use a tool. Such great (real!) lessons.

  8. Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for this series, it has really got me thinking. I have been lurking for a few months now, and really enjoy your blog. We had stumbled on validation with our 3 year old when we noticed that if she hurt herself and was crying uncontrollably, if we acknowledged that what she did must have really hurt (as opposed to saying “you’re ok”, the crying stopped almost instantly. Incredible.

    I was reminded of your series and how it began earlier today when I read this article: Great article. It really is a whole new philosophy for me, some days I do really well, others not so much, but I try not to beat myself up and just keep trying.

  9. Isavoyage says:

    Just like Alexandra (1st comment), i do not have children but still find this series very interesting. It helps me change the way i interact with people in general, loved-ones in particular. I confess to being a “no” person. Saying “no” has been my way of protecting myself. I have been working very hard in the past few years at seeing the YES in every situation. Your peaceful parenting series is a HUGE help to me. Thank you Rachel.

  10. Nettie Black says:

    Perfect timing for this one. Really. Yesterday was huge for us – it was the first evening in a long while (weeks) that we did not have some sort of huge tantrum/meltdown. I made it a point to just put aside all the stuff I need to cook, do, etc and slow down with our 4 year old daughter. Not hurrying is huge for us. We started our evening routine earlier, read literally 20 stories, bath and jammy time was finally not a huge struggle, and the family bed has been reassembled. I even read her stories while she was in the tub. It was a great reminder of the phase that she is in now – needing my full attention. All the time. And I just need to roll with that to help bring back some harmony again. Thanks Rachel so very much for this series. xoxo

  11. Amber J says:

    I have been working with this concept lately and the more I practice the easier it gets. My three year old is very persistent in her desires for life to be a certain way, quite similar to me. The other day we were having some granola for a snack and before checking I assumed she wanted milk, the resulting yelling let me know it was not happy inducing. As I sat there trying to decide where I wanted to go with this, the thought I had was, why not do what she wants, it doesn’t hurt anyone and it will make her happy. My friend said something along the lines of put her in her room and throw granola away, I immediately thought about the resulting screaming fit. I thought I will just poor the milk out and then we will both be happy. I am finding more and more times where I’m asking myself why I would want to say no when yes will work better. 🙂

  12. Rachel Wolf says:

    I agree. It does get easier with practice. Because WE are learning (and modeling) the self-control we wish for our kids to embody. The lesson in you providing her with the granola she wants is, You matter. You are heard. The lesson in throwing it away and sending her to her room (I believe) is, Dont express your feelings like that. Dont expect to get what you want. You are not in charge. And while the screaming is not the ideal way to express your wants, with time – with seeing that your needs will be met – she will be able to access a kinder voice, as you have with her. Leading with love… Thank you for sharing.

  13. Gretchen says:

    Rachael – thank you for sharing this series – I’m really enjoying it. There are so many wonderful reminders in your words. You have such a wonderful tone to your thoughts and ideas.

  14. Rachel says:

    Do you have any advice for how I can positively guide my 1 year old not to bite and scratch? I think she mostly does it because she needs something to bite (I try to swap and get her to bite appropriate things that apparently don’t taste as good as my toes) and also because she wants my attention which I try to give her before she does…I’ve just been saying “No Teeth” firmly and/or removing temptation, but…yeah. Ideas?

  15. Emma says:

    This post follows the conversation we had about a month ago. The one that truly shifted my relationship. The BIGGEST shift for me was taking my time, and giving ample time to run errands, get out the door, complete a task like bedtime. Marshal Rosenburg really emphasizes the value of time in his Non Violent Communication book-for good reason-it takes time to connect and listen and find solution. Especially for toddlers who are (appropriately) unaware of time, and the “big picture”.

  16. Karen says:

    Thank you Rachel, I really needed to read this post – over and over! My ‘no’ comes flying out of my mouth when hurrying – it seems to come down to priority. If I don’t continue cooking dinner, instead of helping kids start a new art project, we will completely lose our rhythm and everyone will be too tired to eat properly and there will be tears at bedtime! I guess it’s just about allowing that extra time – all day long! – to make time for all those unplanned yeses.

  17. Sally says:

    LOVE this post! My daughter is now 8, and we’ve worked from the beginning to try to have a yes home. It does indeed take lots of practice, and we struggle at times. But, I find that the times when I’m struggling with this mark times when I most NEED to say yes, that I need to slow down because I’m struggling with something else. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the “yes”s are good, learning, healing times for us parents, too.

  18. Beth says:

    Just took a week off from the computer (except for 5 min in AM to check for critical emails–there were almost none)…so I’m late, but I have to share that we just had a perfect YES moment in the bath. 28 months wanted to bite the soap. I paused (childhood soap wasn’t good or good for us!). Then remembered “THIS IS LuSa Soap! It is GOOD for teeth!” Pretty soon we were all tasting it. Really it is better than I had thought it might be. The really funny part is that I’d been trying to get up the nerve to try it on my tooth brush, just hadn’t gotten to it. 🙂

  19. Trinitee says:

    Okay, I really need some help with this. As of the beginning of this series, this worked well with my 2 year old. But, in the last few weeks there have been too many “battles” for both of us. It’s stressful for everyone when these tension filled times happen, and I am growing concerned about the direction in which weare heading. It has been happening when it is time to do something he does not want to do. On the one hand I appreciate his growing sense of self and independence. On the other hand, I am beginning to dread nap and bed time in anticipation of major resistance. Validating his desire to continue playing doesn’t seem to be working because he seems to get his hopes up when I say that I understand he wants to play, then he is more upset when say he can play again after nap time. He tries bargaining, and it becomes a series of “no”. Yesterday, crying, kicking, bargaining, and raising our ovoices went on for over a half hour. By the end, I gave up on trying to het him to nap because I was infuriated and needed a break.

    I really need some advice here. I plan to work on making our days more kid friendly and dedicating some more time to slowing down before sleep time, but my nerves are raw after a couple of weeks of this. I am short on patience, and trying to find ways to “fill my cup,” but there’s just so much that can be done when I am caring for him.

    Any suggestions for making this stage in our family’s life more harmonious?

    The latest battles have been at nap and bed time.

  20. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Trinitee,
    Talk to me about how you are transitioning him from play to sleep. Are you giving warnings? Are there regular steps that happen between play and sleep? For example, how does he respond to a five minute and then one minute warning? Does he have a regular progression leading to sleep: play, tea, book, snuggle/nurse/backrub, sleep? Often smoothing the transitions are key.

    Also, sometimes with validation there is bottled up emotion that simply needs to be vented off. Its hard to stop playing does not equate you dont have to stop playing but if this is a new technique for your family perhaps that is the message he is getting somehow. Before validation how did you navigate these times?

    Thanks for your email. Blessings, mama.

  21. Trinitee says:

    Hi Rachel,

    You ask great questions. To be honest, I really struggle with time management, and get a overwhelmed with all of the things I’d like to “fix,” so I’ve been trying to figure out how to break changes into smaller steps.

    Yesterday, I saw my son’s “window” of sleepiness come and go as I tried to finish some shopping and get lunch ready and eaten. I knew we were headed for trouble, but wasn’t sure how to fix it.

    A friend gave me the advice about trainsitions, so I’ve been using them since Sid was a year or younger. I tell Sid what’s coming next and in how long. Lately, he has been answering me with,” I don’t want to,” or silence. I’ve been trying to get his attension by getting down to his level, and asking if we can talk, so that I feel he has heard me. Sometimes I ignore his silence, and try to move on. I feel his silence is another way he says no.

    Prep for nap time usually inlcudes having him choose a book, reading time in bed, then nursing. He’s been anticipating nap time, and refusing to choose a book, or running away and laughing.

    As far as validation, I’ve tried it in different ways for some time now, but I feel I need some practice to determine an approach that can work for us, especially making sure my son truly understands what I’m saying.

    It usually goes something like, “you’re sad/frustrated/angry because you don’t want to go to sleep and you want to play?” I try to wait for a reaction, but he is often crying, so I often try the “happiest toddler” approach by trying to match his level of emotion and say, “Sidney’s sad. Sidney wants to play.” He sometimes says, “yes, I want to play,” and looks hopeful, then I tell him it’s nap time and we can play again after. Then he gets more upset, and more refusals and flailing ensue. I hug him or ask if he wants me to hug him, and he seems to get more upset, so I sit there while he cries. I’m not sure what to do when he’s flailing or doesn’t want me to hold him.

    Lately, he’ll get calm, then say, “Mommy, I want to go in the living room,” or request another book, or food, etc., and it starts again. This is when I feel like we get really derailed, and we go back and forth as he makes requests and I tell him whatever it is can happen after nap.

    I feel like, on some level, he’s grasping that if he can keep me talking, the nap isn’t going to happen. We co-sleep and I stay in bed with him until he falls asleep, so this is especially stress inducing for me at night when I am looking forward to a little mommy reading time, and he doesn’t go to sleep for an hour or longer. I don’t know how to validate and not have it become an “argument” once I tell him want he wants will happen later and he continues to make requests.

    My son speaks really well, but I want to make sure we are not confusing language acquisition with real understanding.

    Sorry to be so long winded, but my friends, family, and I parent differently, so on issues like this, they don’t really have advice to offer that I am comfortable with trying. I am genuinely grateful you have created this space, I truly apprecaite your input, and reading other parents’ experiences within this community.

  22. Marie says:

    reading this post through tears..this is exactly what i needed to read this evening. thank you! i have got a couple of books from the lbrary – unconditional parenting and raising our children raising ourselves..i will get through them but finding them tough going. i have realised that i do control my 3 year old-my 2 year old is very headstrong and resisting the control- thank goodness! i know i want to let both of their wonderful quirky wild spirits shine and not be crushed by my inability to find another way. although i was getting the message i have been struggling to apply it in any way to our lives and these last few weeks feel as if i have gone from control to anarchy. you really have such a magical way with words. it all makes sense now. that is why i keep coming back to your blog even though our life in London, UK is so different to yours. i know by starting with a yes mentality we are definitely going to have s better day. thank you. happy Easter week-end x

  23. Rachel Wolf says:

    Oh, mama. We could talk about this for days. I love that you said his silence means no. Just in that statement I can feel your connection, love, and understanding for your boy. Without being there I will start simply and say this: Give regular predictable warnings. Honor your rhythm and routine and try to stretch out time for less hurrying. Use less words with him. Let him no you understand, but that his body needs rest. Then ask him if he can walk to the bedroom on his own feet of if he would like your help (lovingly carry) him.

    And for you I will say: this too shall pass. There were nights I spent in frustration because she or he just wouldnt settle in. But now they do. They both do. It will come. It reminded me of this post that I wrote some time ago:

    He will be big. Some soon day. And you are doing incredible work.


  24. Rachel Wolf says:

    It sounds like you are on a good path. Is she biting our of anger as well or just exploration? I would also find a statement to use when she’s moving in: Do you need to bite? Then quickly pull whatever it is she can bite out of your pocket. (The less delay the better.) She is likely working on teeth and exploring the power of her little mouth. Does she bite while nursing? Because that one might require a different strategy.

  25. Trinitee says:

    Wow, thank you so much, Rachel. I really needed those words, “this too shall pass.” Your kindness and supportive suggestions are deeply appreciated. Really, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  26. Darcy Nimmons says:

    This goes with the famous quote, “Live everyday to the fullest”. The yes environment sounds great, and it is certainly what everyone desires. It is ideal to have someone who always says “YES” and allows you to take every chance you got as long as it’s near. Children love having great experiences, most especially if they are doing these things together with their loved ones. They are curious about many things, and they would love to try and do as many activities as possible. Their happiness comes from the simplest things and these things can only be given by their parents whom they truly love.

  27. Tristain Eveland says:

    What a wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing. This came at just the right time for me. I have three little ones under 5, and I am trying to find a more positive way to parent them. When my days get really hectic or I am exhausted, it is so easy to get frustrated with the little things, and it’s just not worth it! My children are such a blessing and so wonderful… It’s me that needs some learning sometimes 😉 Thanks again. Wonderful blog, wonderful post, wise mama!

  28. Charlotte Graves says:

    I have read this from beginning to end, and the excellent responses to the comments – it was so nourishing and enjoyable to digest.
    I don’t yet have children, but I’m hopeful that I won’t be saying that for too much longer… in the meantime, I find it so inspiring and encouraging to read about these emotionally intuitive ways of interacting and guiding children. I can’t wait to embark on this amzing, life-altering path.

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