One Word With A Big Impact

I can’t do that…yet.

Memorial Day Weekend was action packed at our house. The weather was fantastic and we found ourselves at the pool every day. As you know from my previous posts, Keener has been taking swim lessons. I was so excited for him to “show off” his new moves at this inaugural summer kick off at the pool. In 3 year old form he told me, “I’m not going in the big pool.” I quickly paraphrased for him, You’re not feeling ready to go in the big pool yet.

I touched on the use of this word in one of my weekly newsletters but have felt myself using it more and more recently so I wanted to revisit the idea of yet. Keener turned 3 last week and therefore his awareness of life — it’s glory and its uncertainties — is increasing every day. While he is a pretty independent kid, I have noticed that he is becoming more and more cautious. I love watching my kids’ personalities emerge and evolve.

When he is unsure about someone or something, I have found it helpful to add the word “yet” to whatever he is resisting. “I don’t want that new babysitter to come.” Oh, you are wanting mommy to stay home and you’re not ready for her to come yet. She will be here soon so why don’t we read one more book together before she is here.

I find using this word validates how he is feeling, but also leaves the door open to whatever it is that he is feeling anxious, worried, or nervous about. Sometimes, the “yet” can be days, weeks or months away, but sometimes the “yet” is imminent. You may not be ready for the new babysitter but mama is leaving so let’s get you ready in the next 5 minutes!

We started in the baby pool on day 1. By day 2, he changed his mind and said, “I want to go in the big pool!” Let’s do it bud! You weren’t ready yesterday but you are ready today. Sometimes it helps to watch other kids go first and to see how much fun they are having.

One of our roles as parents is to guide our kids and half the battle is knowing how much to push. Do they need a little tough love? Or do they need adequate time to observe and our role is simply to narrate what we see? I think it depends on the kid and depends on the situation — there is certainly no ‘one size fits all.’ By adding “yet” to the end of their sentences, we can help leave the door to new experiences and opportunities open, or at least slightly ajar.

Sample language:

  • “I’m don’t want to go to school.” → You’re not feeling ready to go to school yet. Let’s eat breakfast and get our shoes on and then your body will be ready for school. You still might not feel ready yet but you will have a full belly and your shoes on ready to run and play!
  • “I can’t put my shoes on.” → You can’t put your shoes on by yourself yet. You are learning and have already figured out how to velcro the straps! Once you can get the shoe over your heel, you will be putting them on all by yourself!
  • “I don’t want to poop in the potty” → You’re not feeling ready to poop in the potty yet. We know pee pee and poo poo goes in the potty. You will be getting yours in there soon

I originally heard of this idea of using the word yet after reading The Yes Brain, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. I highly recommend this book (affiliate link above) if you are looking for an easy read on developing emotional regulation, a growth mindset, interpersonal skills, and problem solving skills.


  1. I found this entry on the use of the word “yet” to be a wonderful suggestion in helping children navigate hesitancy toward a task or expectation. As you mentioned, it recognizes and respects the child’s feelings “yet” encourages them to take the next step to conquer their hesitancy which instills the confidence to do so. I applaud this idea!

    • Thanks Mr. John! It’s such a fine balance knowing when to encourage and when to coddle. “Yet” has helped me do both. Plant seeds while honoring where he is in the process.

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