Say YES to a YES DAY!

colorful and playful background with YES in large letters

If you are a parent and have seen the Netflix movie Yes Day, you are probably thinking something along the lines of, That was a fun movie but there is no way I’m doing that with my kids!  

That is exactly what we thought but I’m here to tell you, I was wrong.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it stars Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramírez as the parents of three kids. The mum (Garner) is constantly saying “no” to her kids and gets sick of always being the one to stop them doing things while her husband (Ramírez) comes home from work and has fun with the kids. They agree to have a Yes Day – basically, they have to say yes to whatever the kids ask for.

This is the point I started to wonder just how far my own kids would take this, given half the chance. I grew more worried as the kids in the movie got their parents to drive through a car wash with the windows down and ate so much ice cream they were fit to burst, but we kept watching. It is very much a feel-good movie. Don’t we all need a bit of that right now?

A caucasian woman with blonde, curly hair is wearing a grey vest. Her top has splashes of water on it and she has a wide smile on her face.
Smiles all round on Yes Day!

The main reason I started wondering if I should do a Yes Day with my kids, aside from also feeling like I say no to them a lot, is that they both get frustrated when they don’t feel like they have much control over what we do or when we do it. 

A case in point: trying to get out of the house to school in the mornings. The more I hurry them along and say we need to leave, the slower they go and more tantrums they throw. I can’t be the only one that notices this with their kids.

I figured that if they had a day where they were in charge and got to make all of the decisions, that was sure to help ease those frustrations? Right?…

Thankfully, in the movie they mention some groundrules, so we followed these as well.  

  1. The kids can’t ask for anything dangerous or that would put anyone else in danger. Although Covid wasn’t mentioned in the movie, this would mean that whatever the kids asked for had to be Covid-friendly, too.
  2. The kids can only ask for things for that day, not in the future. As it turned out, this was an important one because my daughter tried to ask for a puppy!
  3. The kids can’t ask for anything crazy expensive. We put a budget on the day so the kids knew what was reasonable.

In the movie, the kids only told the parents what they wanted to do during the Yes Day, but we changed this a little and asked them to tell us a few days in advance so that we had time to buy supplies and prepare. 

And so, with much trepidation, we agreed to a Yes Day with the kids. 

They had to earn it though (they do in the movie), so the chores were done and rooms were tidied better than ever in the week leading up to Yes Day!

A bowl containing cookies and cream ice cream, chocolate sauce and two wafers.
Ice cream for breakfast!

We woke up in the morning to two very excited kids. That was because they had requested ice cream for breakfast!  Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be allowed but one day wasn’t going to do them any harm. Chocolate sauce, wafers and sprinkles – the full works! The smiles on their faces were well worth it, but I did feel strange eating ice cream that early in the morning…obviously I had to join them!

Next up was a shopping trip to Target.  For this we set a budget and brought cash so that they could pay for it themselves.  My son (4) had already decided in advance what he wanted – Star Wars Lego – but my daughter (6) took a bit more time about it.  She got some Lego too plus a doll so home we went for some serious Lego-building.  My husband may also have bought himself some Star Wars Lego, not wanting to be left out!

A hand holds an outside tap. Attached to the tap are a set of red water balloons which are almost full of water.
Water balloon fight!

After lunch (Kraft mac and cheese followed by cake!), we got ready for a water balloon fight. It wasn’t as warm as we might have liked, but it was A LOT of fun – the kids weren’t the only ones squealing with delight! We will definitely be doing this again once the summer arrives.

There were other smaller requests during the day for various things, and I really enjoyed just dropping everything to say yes. 

I often find that when they ask me, I am usually in the middle of something else that I want to finish. This showed me that I don’t always have to ask them to wait.

This was probably the biggest thing that my husband and I learned from the day.  Often we say ‘no’ or ‘not just now’ out of habit or from some reluctance to make a mess or stop what we are doing. If we take a moment to think about whether we could just say ‘yes’ instead, we might find that the joy it brings the kids far outweighs any inconvenience we might have ourselves.

A girl in a peach dress is in the foreground with her back to the camera, she is pushing a red cart. There is a younger boy in front of her, also with his back to the camera, pointing and lego sets on a shelf.
Choosing toys and Lego sets!

Of course there are times when we do have to say no (Gerry Langan talks about why it is important as a form of self-care). But I also realized that I sometimes say “no” without trying to help the kids understand why. 

For instance, at the toy store my daughter wanted to buy a doll that was far too big.I took the time to explain why it might be better if she chose something else, particularly since she has had dolls like that in the past and doesn’t play with them for long. In the past, I would have said that she couldn’t have it, and she probably would have reacted with anger and frustration. This time, she thought it over and decided to buy something else.  

All in all, it was a great day.

There were no tantrums, a rare occurrence in our house, so we will definitely try it again. I’m not going to lie and say that there have been no tantrums since, but we are trying harder to say “yes” when we can instead of automatically saying “no.”  Except when they ask if we can have a Yes Day every weekend.

Have you had a Yes Day? Are you brave enough to try?