The Power of Yes in Parenting

Supportive parenting has a long reach.

Posted Oct 16, 2018

RitaE / Pixabay
Source: RitaE / Pixabay

Parenting is tricky business, that’s for sure. Part of it is that you have to say "no" thousands of times to each of your kids. And this is true even if you’re a pushover. Consider the following scenarios in which almost any parent would say no to a child:

  • 2-year-old Billy goes to pull the tail of a strange large dog at a park. No, Billy!
  • 4-year-old Val asks if she can have birthday cake for dinner. Sorry, but no, that’s just not a good idea.
  • 7-year-old Timmy asks if he can stay home from school so he can play video games. Uh… no!
  • 9-year old Amber asks if she can stay home alone without a babysitter for four hours on a Saturday night. Nope—not going to happen!
  • 14-year-old Eddie asks if he can sleep over his girlfriend’s house. Well… no. Definitely, no! And what?! You have a girlfriend!?
  • 17-year-old Emily asks you to buy her a $35,000 BMW that she plans to drive across country with her boyfriend. Let me count the ways that I can say no.

Saying "no" is part of the deal when it comes to parenting.

Parenting Styles and the Dark Triad

When rejection and negativity by parents toward one’s kids become unnecessary or excessive, we can expect problems with such issues as emotions and self-esteem to emerge. This is concerning partly because some people, by their very nature, consistently reject others and create unfriendly, intimidating atmospheres in their social worlds. Such an approach can be of concern in the realm of parenting.

In psychology, we refer to people with such attributes as being high in the Dark Triad. The dark triad consists of high levels of narcissism (an excessive focus on oneself), Machiavellianism (a tendency to manipulate others for one’s own gain), and psychopathy (a tendency to care little about others’ feelings; see Jonason et al., 2013). Jonason et al. (2013) provided strong evidence that one’s own tendency to manifest dark traits was significantly related to one’s perceptions of having parents who were emotionally cold and non-supportive, suggesting that there is a link between parenting and the Dark Triad.

With a focus on advancing one’s own agenda at a cost to others, individuals who are high on all facets of the Dark Triad, in fact, may represent the prototype of being non-other-oriented and non-supportive. Such individuals may, by their very character, end up as parents who tend to be rejecting and non-supportive, perhaps leading children to question themselves and to feel low in self-esteem.

The Power of Saying Yes to Your Kids

When you’re a parent, you’re in a position of power. In effect, you’re a leader, whether you like it or not. And when it comes to being a leader, we have choices (see Geher, 2018). Other-oriented leaders look to support others in their endeavors, building a foundation of trust and of confidence in oneself. Dark, power-hungry leaders focus more on intimidating others and bring them down as a mechanism for asserting one’s own power. If you’re a parent, thinking about these two different leadership styles can lead to great insight on how to deal with your kids.

While parenting necessarily requires much in the “no” department, parents need to realize that there is a strong case for saying “yes!” Just as a supportive supervisor in a workplace can help cultivate a positive culture in the office, supportive parents in the home can help cultivate a warm, trusting environment in the household. Along the way, kids who come to expect support will develop confidence and a positive belief in themselves. And with such an upbringing, the sky is the limit.

Bottom Line

If you’re a parent, saying “no” (often dozens of times a day) comes with the territory. Good parenting requires setting boundaries. That being said, parents have regular opportunities to create a culture of support. Parents regularly have the opportunity to say “yes!”

Self-focused, power-wielding individuals who score higher on the Dark Triad often create environments of intimidation, showing the antithesis of support for other people. Such a pattern may well lead to various problems when it comes to parenting.

If you’re a parent, stepping back and thinking about the importance of utilizing a supportive, selfless approach to dealing with your kids can be key for helping get them to believe in themselves and to internalize an other-oriented approach in how they deal with others as they develop. When utilized wisely, regularly saying “yes” may well be a critical element to success as a parent.

References

Geher, G. (2018). The Power of Yes! Psychology Today blog post.

Jonason, P.K., Lyons, M., & Bethell, E. (2014). The making of Darth Vader: Parent-child care and the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 30-34