While a yes day is just that — one day — it’s a great way to show how saying yes more often can be a positive thing. From empowering kids to helping parents live in the moment, saying yes benefits all of us.
For insight into the benefits of a yes day, we talked to Dr. Trisha T. Miller, a licensed clinical psychologist at Psychological Associates of the Black Hills, LLC, in Rapid City. Her focus is on children and their families, particularly younger children aged 18 months to 12 years old. Dr. Miller is a mom to three children of her own, and is active in various community activities such as coaching youth sports teams and volunteering as a local 4-H leader.
What’s the downside to always saying “no” to our kids?
When parents constantly say “no” to the little things, kids learn to give up asking or talking to their parents because they feel “the answer’s just going to be ‘no’ anyway.” When that happens, parents miss out on little chances to build the trust that leads to bigger conversations and interactions as their kids get older.
Also, saying yes more doesn’t mean always saying yes. It means teaching kids to prioritize responsibilities through your “no” responses, while providing them with moments of engagement through your “yes” responses. For example, it means saying yes more often when you’re asked to “come look at this” when you’ve just gotten cozy in your easy chair. It doesn’t mean saying “yes” to going to the park if it means homework won’t get finished.
Can a yes day empower kids? Why is that important?
A “yes” day, by nature, is empowering as it hands more authority over to kids than they would usually have. When kids hear “no” constantly, they are starved of a sense of empowerment and they may begin to feel they are prisoners to adult decisions, and may become anxious or depressed as a result.
At the same time, there is a fine balance between empowerment and entitlement parents must be aware of when deciding how often or when to say “yes.” Sometimes, parents have good intentions to empower kids but end up planting a seed of entitlement through over-empowering.
Does saying yes teach children to be more creative and resilient?
Broadening what’s allowed can afford kids space, time, and freedom to explore their creativity and interests in a way that time restraints and tighter rules can hold back. Creating times for them to be who they are, act how they feel, and just have fun can help kids handle moments of adversity since they have those positive-feeling moments to fall back on.
Can letting kids call the shots increase their sense of self?
It’s important for kids to develop a healthy internal and external locus of control, which is the sense of control we perceive we have over our life experiences. A good sense of control leads to a confident child who understands the limits of what they should and shouldn’t do. Finding a good balance with your kids each day between choices they get to make, and decisions you as the parent make, can help kids get the dose of control they crave in a healthy way!
How can a yes day benefit parents?
Parents are always planning for what’s next, which adds a constant underlying layer of stress. A “yes” day may feel like putting the “closed” sign up for a day; parents can set aside responsibilities and be the “fun” mom or dad all day long, or give themselves permission to just live in the moment.
Are there benefits to kids seeing their parents let loose a little?
When children see their parents put down their work, phones, and stresses and let their hair down by acting silly, laughing, and engaging in childish fun, both kids and adults experience connection! Older kids are also likely to see adulthood as less daunting; they see you can be responsible but also have fun.
How can parents find balance between saying yes more, but still have healthy boundaries?
From my perspective as a child psychologist — and a parent — the biggest thing that stops parents from saying yes more often is they’ve already said yes to too many other things! Parents, including myself, often feel overwhelmed by the plate of responsibilities they’ve piled up in front of them and it’s easier to just say no to what feels like will detract from getting things off that plate. Saying no to being over-scheduled can help create space for more comfortable “yes” time.