Give Your Kids a “Yes Day!”

By Dr. Michael Oberschneider, Ashburn Psychological & Psychiatric Services

“Yes Day!” is a recent movie that involves a mom and dad that usually say “no” to their children, but agree to a 24-hour period where their children get to do whatever they want (with some reasonable ground rules). The family goes on an adventure with all sorts of twists and turns, and the story unfolds with fun, impulsive, and at times difficult emotional moments for them all.

In the end, the children and parents grow from their whirlwind day, and they become closer and better off as a family for having had the experience. The movie is adapted from the 2009 children’s book of the same name.

I strongly recommend that all families take a break from the day in and day out of life to have a “Yes Day.”

As a psychologist, and in my opinion, the concept represents a metaphor for change and personal growth. When we do the same things the same way every day, our lives can seem redundant and predictable. Approaching things with an open mind and with creativity, or simply trying things out in a different way can, in contrast, be refreshing, which in turn can bring about happiness and growth. In addition to feeling better about ourselves by breaking up fixed patterns, our relationships can also improve when we say “yes” to our important others instead of “no.”

I think that children can also benefit in tremendous ways from a “Yes Day.” Beyond the idea of serving to stretch our children’s comfort level with things, it can also give them a sense of autonomy or independence that they don’t normally have, which is great for developing self-esteem and confidence. It also can provide them with an opportunity to have unbridled and unscheduled fun; having this sort of fun in relation to parents can also increase closeness and improve family relationships.

This has undeniably been one of the hardest years our children have ever been through — socially, emotionally, and academically, and for many, financially. Aside from COVID-19, the demands on today’s children are great, especially in Northern Virginia, where things can be competitive academically; and busy sports schedules and extracurricular activities don’t give children a lot of opportunities for carefree family fun. A “Yes Day” gives a child a revitalizing break to just feel good in relation to the people who matter most to them.

If you’re interested in having a “Yes Day” with your children, here are a few tips to get the most out of the experience:

• Plan ahead and pick a day that has the fewest restrictions or limitations for all involved. A weekend day, the first weekend after the school year, or during a vacation might be good times.

• Get your children to put some skin in the game. Like in the movie, perhaps your children could consistently knock down daily chores for a month or get very good grades to earn the privilege to have a “Yes Day.”

• Put a spending limit on the day.

• Make sure that any and all activities that you engage in as a family are safe.

• Make sure all of your children agree on the activities in advance or give them turns to choose what they’d like to do.

• Keep the fun within the parameter of the 24-hour period, and nothing said or done should spill forward into the next day or the future. While your child might want to get you to say “yes” to getting a puppy, for example, that would be outside of the 24-hour period.

• Decide on a radius. In the movie, the parents implemented a 20-mile radius for the adventurous day and activities.

• From ice cream for breakfast to staying up late and camping outside in the backyard, and whatever other silly and outrageous ideas your children come up with. Embrace the moment, laugh largely, create happy memories and make “Yes Day” the best day!