Teaching kids to obey with a simple “Yes Mommy”. This is an effective solution to get first-time obedience.
Requiring that simple response can change how well your child listens to you.
Does that sound too easy? I think it does.
A little too easy.
It sounds easy enough that at times I let it fall off my radar. Many times over my parenting years, I have let this simple requirement slack.
Despite the easiness of the way, let me assure you that it absolutely does work.
“Of all the practical helps we can offer, this one has undoubtedly the most impact on a child’s willingness and ability to comply the first time”(On Becoming Childwise, p. 122–affiliate link).
Requiring a “Yes Mommy” Response
When you give instructions to your child, you want to require him to give you a “yes, mom” (or yes, dad) response.
For you, hearing a “yes, mom” lets you know your child heard what you said. If your child doesn’t obey, you know it is because he chose disobedience, not that he didn’t hear what you said.
So often we give instructions and then do not correct our child when they do not listen because we worry they didn’t really hear us.
“Yes mommy” fixes that.
For your child, “yes, mom” is your child committing to obey.
Years ago, a person’s word was completely trustworthy. If someone verbally committed to something, they did it.
We have been taught in our modern age to lie, cheat, and steal to get where we want to go. We tell people what they want to hear. If you want a commitment, you need it in writing.
But our children haven’t learned that yet. They are still pure. We all know that morally, a verbal commitment should be honored as much as a written one.
Yes Mommy Really Works
Of course, your child will have moments where he “yes, moms” and then doesn’t follow through. But it really does make a huge difference on the rate of obedience.
There is a communication theory that many people have heard about. It is called “self-fulfilling prophesy.” This theory basically states that if you tell yourself something will happen, it likely will–for better or worse.
When your child agrees to obey, he is creating his own self-fulfilling prophecy.
The first time I tried “yes, mom” I knew we had a winner.
Because it was so hard for Brayden to say. He didn’t want to say “yes, mom.” He was avoiding eye contact. He was struggling internally. He tried just nodding.
I told him no, I wanted a “yes, Mama.” He finally gave it.
I knew that he knew if he said “yes, mom” that he would be committing himself.
Tips for Starting “Yes, Mom”
There are some things you will want to do to set everyone up for success with the “yes mom” approach.
Sit down in a time of non-conflict and explain the new rules about obedience.
This means that it isn’t in the heat of the moment when your child is hesitant to obey. You teach it at a time when there is no battle of wills going on.
You will talk your child through what will happen from now on, as outlined below. Explain what you will do and how you expect your child to respond.
>>>Read: Training in Times of Non-Conflict
Call your child’s name or say your child’s name before you give the instruction. You say your child’s name and then you pause. You will then require two things: eye contact and the “yes mommy” response.
Require eye contact when giving instructions. If your child is used to ignoring you, you might need to hold his face in your hand to get that eye contact initially.
Eye contact helps your child focus on instruction. Also, it is a great communication skill for your child to develop.
When you first start “yes, mom,” you need to tell your child to say it. You tell your child “In five minutes, it is time for your nap. Say ‘yes, Mama.’ ” Your child should then say it.
So here is how it will work once you and your child have this down:
Mom: “Brayden” (pause and wait for response)
Brayden: Looks at mom and then replies, “Yes Mama”
Mom: “It is time for nap. Please clean up your toys.”
Brayden: “Yes Mama” and then he cleans up
As you are just learning, it will will look like this:
Mom: “Brayden” (pause and wait for response). Remind the child to look at mom.
Brayden: Looks at mom
Mom: “Say, ‘Yes, Mama’ “
Brayden: Replies, “Yes Mama”
Mom: “It is time for nap. Please clean up your toys. Say ‘Yes Mama’ “
Brayden: “Yes Mama” and then he cleans up
After some time, your child will surprise you by saying “yes, Mom” on his own without any prompting. Be sure to thank him and tell him what a good boy he is to say that without you reminding him.
Practice what you preach. If you are going to require your child to respond “yes, mom” when you call his name, you should do the same for him.
Like I said, eye contact is a great communication skill. It tells the speaker that you are listening. When your children call to you and talk to you, you should respond with a “Yes, Brayden” and look him in the eyes.
I have also read in an article that responding with a “Yes, Brayden” or “Yes, Honey” to your child is a lot more inviting and friendly than a “what.” You are more approachable with a “Yes, dear.”
If you want your children to be kind to you and others, you need to be kind to them.
Resistance to Saying “Yes, Mom”
You can be pretty confident that the day will come that your child refuses to say “yes, mom.” Be prepared for how to deal with that so you aren’t standing open-mouthed.
Brayden quickly learned that when he said “yes, mom,” it meant he had to comply.
Shortly before Brayden turned three, we were outside and I told him in five minutes it would be time to go in for his nap. I told him to say “Yes, Mama.”
He responded, “No, Mama.”
I said, “You don’t have the freedom to tell Mommy, “No, Mama.” You need to say, “Yes, Mama.”
He then let out a whimper but said, “Yes, Mama.”
When the five minutes were up, he went inside, washed up, and got in bed with no problem.
You also will likely have moments when your child says “yes, Mom” but then doesn’t follow through.
If/when this happens, be sure you have a consequence. “I am sorry you chose to disobey Mommy, now you won’t get to play outside after your nap” for example.
Be sure you have a consequence fitting for the offense, will mean something to your child, and also that you follow through with that consequence.
Do not worry about consequences until you have worked on this skill with your child. Depending on the age of your child, you might wait only a few days before starting consequences or it might be a few weeks.
Yes Mom for Babies and Young Toddlers
You can use this parenting skill even for older babies and young toddlers who cannot talk yet.
You can start with requiring eye contact when you are talking to your kiddo.
Instead of requiring an actual “yes mommy”, nod your head as you tell your little one to say “yes mommy”.
Nodding the head yes can be a form of non-verbal communication your kiddo can use to essentially say “yes mommy.” If your baby can sign to ask for more food, she can nod her head to agree.
>>>Read: How to Teach Your Baby Sign Language
As your kiddo gets older, she will start to try to say yes mommy and one day it will happen!
Using It In Action
One day, I was in the kitchen and heard Brayden (3) talking to Kaitlyn (14 months).
He had this tendency to parent her–something we were always working on.
I heard him telling her not to do something, then he said, “Say, ‘Yes, Brayden‘, ” pause “Say, ‘Yes, Brayden!’ ” The frustration was building. “Say, ‘Yes, Brayden‘! “
Yes, I started laughing.
I composed myself and went in to the two of them and explained that Kaitlyn couldn’t say ‘Yes, Brayden‘ at this point in her vocabulary. That appeased him.
I had to smile at the situation. It was one of those moments where I knew without a doubt that he understood what was supposed to happen after an instruction was given.
He knew the importance of a response. He knew the reason behind me requiring that.
Here is another story.
Kaitlyn was a two year old. While she was quite obedient, she still had her battles dealing with her wanting to do everything herself and deciding when she will do it.
Whenever she hesitated to obey me, I repeated my instruction and followed it with “say Yes Mommy.”
So let’s say I had told her to come to me so I can help her get dressed. She would look at me and start to tell me why she couldn’t come at the moment.
I would say, “Kaitlyn, come to Mommy so you can get dressed. Say Yes Mommy.” What was her reaction? She smiled a big smile, said “Yes, Mommy” and ran to me.
Does that sound powerful?
Does it sound too good to be true? It works!
For Kaitlyn, it was 100% effective.
She has grown up witnessing “Yes Mommy” with an older brother since she was a second child. She has also been told to say “Yes Mommy” for quite some time.
I started this concept later in life with Brayden, but saw results so quickly that I was sure to use it with Kaitlyn from as early we could.
I am still shocked, amazed, and pleased at how well it worked in getting my independent two year old to obey me. It is well worth your efforts!
We do still use this for attitude as it comes up with our eight year old Brinley. Whenever she gets “wise in her own eyes”, I remember this tool and implement it.
>>>Read: Wise In Your Own Eyes Explained
In conclusion, don’t let the easiness of the way deter you from using “Yes, Mom” with your child. You will be surprised and pleased by the results.
- Tips for Avoiding and Responding to Tantrums
- 10 Guidelines for Using Logical Consequences
- Natural Consequences vs. Grace
- How To Teach Your Child to Come When Called
- Valuable Discipline Tips for Toddlers
- 5 Rules for Giving Kids Instructions
Reader Comments/Thank Yous
- heather said…
I wanted to thank you also for your post on “Yes, Mom” for today. Even though I have such a young child, I think it’s a great idea to be thinking in advance on things like this. Thanks!!!
Babywise Mom said…
You are welcome Heather! It is a great tool to have on your radar.
- Dana said…
Yes momma is such a wonderful parenting tool! I’ve found with my son that reminding him in sign language helps me get eye contact. It also keeps me from having to verbally say it so many times each day.
Babywise Mom said…
Thanks for your added testament Dana!
- Don & Denise Sullivan said…
I absolutely agree with this. Our 19 month old son can say “mama” but cannot say “yes” yet. So whenever I give him an instruction, I tell him, “Say “Yes Momma”” and he’ll look at me and nod his head “yes”. When he does this, he almost always complies. If he refuses to nod his head “yes”, that earns him a timeout and afterwards, he’ll give me the “yes momma” and comply. It has helped him tremendously.
Babywise Mom said…
Thanks for your thoughts Denise!
- Stephanie C. said:
Thank you for your post on this. It’s something we have been working on with our very independent almost 2 year old, and this just gave me some positive reinforcement for our efforts.
- Matt and Brooke said:
“yes Mommy” works wonders for my brother’s family. I have a 17 month old who isn’t saying two word phrases yet. Is there a way to teach them “yes mommy” at this stage or do you recommend waiting until they can actually say it? Thanks for your help! Love your blog!
- Rachel said:
Thank you again for the reminder of how powerful it is! I am def. not consistent with having my 2.5 year old say it!
- Deonne said:
My oldest will soon be 12 and believe it or not, we still use this phrase in our home. When I call them by name, it is much more pleasant to hear, “Yes, Mom?” than “What?” This has been one of my favorite tips I learned from Babywise – many years ago! Thanks for sharing your ideas with fellow Babywise parents.
Plowmanators said: Deonne, I think that is great! I think that is much better than “what.” And much more courteous in general. I have noticed that when my kids call my name, I don’t just say “what.” I look at them and say, “Yes, Brayden.” It is just nice.
- Don and Denise Sullivan:
We’ve taught our 2-1/2 yr son to say this since he was a 1yr old and it does work. Now that he’s entering 3, he has become very independent & stubborn. He’ll give a “yes mom” but occasionally it’s followed by whining or a frustration fit because it doesn’t fit in with HIS plans. However, we continue to be consistent and even if it means a trip to the step stool until he’s finished crying, he will eventually comply and when we ask him why he was disciplined, he’ll answer correctly. The positive reports we get from the nursery, about him being helpful tell us that it’s worth the work and consistency! Thanks for the post!
Plowmanators said: You are welcome Denise! Brayden also has trouble with this; he is very willful 🙂 Kaitlyn has no issues, but Brayden will sometimes try a “yes” without the “mommy” just so he can maintain some control over the situation. I wonder if it is an oldest thing? I am an oldest, and I can totally see myself doing the same thing 🙂
- Jessica Molepske said:
I can’t wait to start using Yes Mommy! I have a 16 month old. How did you start this? He is not very verbal yet but does know Mommy. I know that he knows what yes means but he doesn’t say the word yes. Do I just start saying “say yes mommy” to get him used to the phrase?? or do we wait until he is older? thank you!
Babywise Mom said:
Jessica, You can start now. You can have him nod his head yes if he will do that. You can try yes mommy and he will most likely imitate to the best of his ability. If that means it is “mommy” that is totally fine. Just modify as it suits his ability.
- Tiffany said:
We taught our son a few signs before he started speaking. He nodded his head for the word yes. He is two now and “yes mommy” works great with him. He has been speaking 2 word phrases for about 2 months now, even before he could say more than two word at a time he started responding to “yes mommy” with a nod of his head and then obeying.
- fickchantellelee said:
Hi, Roxy-lee is 13months old and I have been trying “yes mom” from 12 months, but not consistent… If I ask her to come to me and see ignores me I repeat and tell her to sy yes mommy (she can’t speak yet but she did nod her head once when I asked her to say yes mommy)After I ask her to say yes mommy she throughs a mini fit and will throw something on the floor. Do I just continue? And what should I do when she does have a mini fit do I ignore her, because if I pick her up and tell her to stop she just excellerate?/?
Babywise Mom said: I would continue to ask her to say yes mommy. If she doesn’t obey, tell her that if she doesn’t, you will have to XYZ for her. “If you don’t come to mommy, then I will have to come get you. Come to mommy. Say Yes, Mommy.” If she doesn’t, go get her. Most toddlers love to “do it themselves” so to have mom get them is a huge punishment :)Figure out the best reaction to her mini-fits for her personality. Some do it for the attention. If that is her case, then ignoring it would be the best option.
This post originally appeared on this blog May 2008