Saying yes can be scary: An almost-teen with a cell phone

One of the biggest changes wrapped up in our journey into homeschooling hasn’t had anything to do with school per se.

A lot of the biggest differences in our life now come in how we interact as a family. In so many ways, we were heading toward what I consider a pretty rock-bottom experience in an awful lot of ways.

Yelling, screaming, crying… sometimes even from Sarah! 😉

A big change for me has been in my parenting approach. Through the years, we’ve adapted several different strategies, and none of them were getting us where we needed to be.

When I read about the idea of gentle parenting, parenting with grace, peaceful parenting, whatever you want to call it, I thought: “Maybe this is the change we need.”

It’s not easy. And I won’t say any of us are adjusting perfectly. But we’re adapting ideas that work, and one of them is Saying Yes.

I’m trying to say yes as often as I can. That’s in terms of Sarah’s requests, but also my husband’s and mother’s, and even my own preferences.

No one in our family is a doormat, but we’re also not tyrants – any of us. So while we all eat dinner together as a family, and we all have a say in menu-planning, if I choose something that I know my husband or daughter really doesn’t want to eat… it’s no longer a big deal. They’re glad to make something else themselves, we still eat together, and everyone enjoys the food.

That’s a simple example, but I’m finding that this “yes” business gets real complicated real quick.

Saying yes to a cell phone

This was our big leap-of-faith YES this week.

Sarah, who’s about 12 and a half, went from having no cell phone to having what I consider a pretty top-of-the-line smartphone with few, if any, restrictions on it.

This is incredibly scary for me. I’m not naive – and I have major worries about the content of text messages that are out there, the types of apps that are available, the drama that comes from the perceived slights among how fast someone does or does not text you back.

I’m trying to trust – and I’m counting on Sarah to keep that trust.

It’s not perfect, for sure. We’ve already talked about some general etiquette do-and-don’t situations (including, probably the hardest one for her, not bombarding her public-school friends with messages during the day, which truly didn’t even occur to her until one of them got mad!)

We’ve also made it clear, even before the phone, that you don’t do anything on email, chat or now text that wouldn’t want broadcast in front of your parents and your pastor. (Now, if only I would extend that rule into my own sometimes-too-snarky text messages…)

The up-side to saying yes to this?

  • Sarah’s learned how to use Instagram, and is happily documenting her life in photos and improving her photography skills.
  • She’s downloaded the NASA app and is on there pretty much daily, checking out space photos and their captions and seeing how the Mars Rover is doing.
  • Her first-ever text message was sent to me, saying, “Mom, I really appreciate my new phone and I love you and you’re my best mom ever, thank you!”
  • She’s beat all the levels of the free Rush Hour logic game app.

Other ways we’re “yessing”

The phone has been the biggest “yes” this month, but we’ve had others, many more than I can list. A few off the top of my head:

  • TAKING the phone places. Yes, you can take it to the fair. (I may have been biting my nails the whole time about this one, but we – and it – survived.)
  • EATING something different than what’s on the menu plan for dinner. And, as I mentioned earlier, this extends to the whole family, not just Sarah!
  • MODELING in a fashion show with my mom! This was a “yes” I probably wouldn’t have done before, but it was an enjoyable way to spend the day and to do something together!
  • WEARING mismatched socks. This is a huge fashion trend among the middle-school set in this area, and Sarah has picked up on it. I kind of like it, but I do admit, we get some looks (including from some of my friends). If Sarah’s comfortable, no one is going to be hurt by her sock choices, so I say go for it, kiddo!

Have you said “YES” lately? Doesn’t matter if you’re an unschooler or not, a homeschooler or not, or even a parent or not! I truly believe saying yes can change all of your relationships when it’s done intentionally and with love.

10 thoughts on “Saying yes can be scary: An almost-teen with a cell phone

  1. You and your family are such an inspiration. Way to go with YES! I try to take the same approach, and although it can be scary (almost always), it works wonders in our family and is very rewarding (most of the time)! 😉

  2. I found when the girls were in school there were so many no’s. No you can’t stay up late reading, you have to get up early. No you can’t continue this amazing conversation, we have to rush to get ready. No you can’t have a friend over to play you have homework to do.

    I find the journey through the first year fascinating. Like you, I have written about saying Yes more often and like you, I found that it can transform our families. We are not throwing rules and guidance out the window but we are allowing the kids to be who they want to be and discover their best selves. Suddenly saying YES is easier and can be so much fun. Of course it brings a whole new family paradigm, but you will work your way through that!

    Enjoy saying YES!

    • You know, I didn’t really think about it in that way, but you totally opened my eyes to the NO that was going on before that was totally circumstance-based. The same idea – “No, we can’t do this awesome thing, because we HAVE to do this other thing for school.”

      I very much agree, too, that we’re not throwing guidance out the window. It’s more that instead of the answer being “No unless I have a GOOD reason to say yes,” it’s “Yes unless I have a GOOD reason to say no!”

    • Yep, we are also mismatched and neon. The funniest part is, I have a close friend with a daughter about the same age, and in their house, mom and daughter share socks… so MOM is walking around with neon, mismatched feet 🙂

  3. I struggle with this a lot! Most of the time I’m saying no to electronics (video games, iPad, TV time). I try to find a way around it by explaining to my kindergartener that he gets a certain allotment each day. YES, he can watch TV now, but then he won’t get to play video games with Daddy when he gets home from work. It’s a lame yes, but a yes none-the-less.

    • Hey, “yes, but” is still better than “no” – it’s perception – which is important! 🙂

      Amazingly, I went from a hard-limit-on-electronics stance (like, you have to earn ANY time at all) to an almost-no-limit stance recently, kind of as an experiment.

      That’s not for everyone, for sure. For us, it works because we’re not facing homework issues and shared-time-with-siblings situations.

      And, again, even without “limits,” it’s still a choice – yes, you can play on your phone now, BUT it won’t be charged to take to the fair with you. That sort of thing! (And, see, I used a “yes but!”)

    • I’m toying with changing our limits. We’re so hardnosed about screen time. But a friend of mine is an elementary school teacher, and the district encourages them to integrate as much technology as possible. The fifth graders take notes on their iPads. So are limits really worthwhile, especially when the kid is playing “learning” games or spending time with his dad? I don’t know.

    • Very definitely a hard question to wrestle with! In our house, Chris and my mom and I are on technology ALL THE TIME, so it seems kind of silly to expect Sarah not to be – especially when that’s how she does everything from reading to exercising to learning science by following NASA and National Geographic’s every move to the legitimate work of keeping up a social life as a 12-year-old, you know? I think I’m still evolving my thoughts on it – because there are some times when I think ALL of us need more face time, but also because I’m realistic enough to know that by the time Sarah is my age, there will likely be almost no non-technology time besides sleep for adults, so why not prepare her?

      Hard questions. When you find the right answer, keep the rest of us posted, you know? 🙂

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