Letting your child decide what you’ll spend the day doing, without any argument or input from you – does that sound fun or stressful?! It actually takes a little getting used to, but Yes Days are fast becoming my favourite day. Read on to see what a Yes Day taught me about my parenting style.
A few years ago I read an article about having a Yes Day with your child and I was intrigued, so I banked it as an idea for when my daughter was a little older. When she was five we had our first Yes Day, and I’m happy to report it is now a family tradition.
What is a Yes Day?
The premise of a Yes Day is that your child gets to decide what you do together – and you say “yes”. It’s that simple. Give your child the control to plan some one-on-one or family time, and you will be surprised with the results.
My daughter is now ten, and two or three times a year we celebrate Yes Day, where she gets to plan our day without any input or refusal from me.
Why is a Yes Day Important?
Our days are jam-packed, full of school and after-school activities, play dates and family events. Just general busy-ness which sees me saying (okay, probably screeching at her) to “hurry up” and “let’s go!”, or lamenting the fact that she hasn’t brushed her teeth/cleaned her face/got up/gone to bed as quickly as I would like. There isn’t much time for doing things the way that she might like to do them.
While it’s not always feasible to hand control over to a child when you’re trying to get out the door for school or work, we could afford them that luxury more than we do.
It’s not that I never say “yes”, but honestly my default answer, particularly on those busy days, has become “gimme a second” or “let me think about it”. Or often an outright “no” because it just doesn’t fit in with the already-overpacked schedule I’m running in my head.
What harm could saying “yes” do? Absolutely none. But in the depths of busy parenting, it can be hard to remember that.
Yes Days have helped me to loosen the reins (a bit…) because they have given me a chance to see how my witty and kind daughter has her own style, her own way of doing things, her own method for evaluating her options, and most importantly her own values. And I am always bowled over by the person she is becoming – she’s pretty amazing!
A Yes Day isn’t about giving in to your child’s every whim, and it’s absolutely not about buying goodwill. In fact, it’s a chance to see what your child holds dear to them, and gives them both responsibility and respect.
Ideas for a Yes Day
Obviously the point here is that your child plans the day, but here are some of the things we’ve done on a Yes Day in case they need some inspiration:
- Had breakfast in bed
- Painted our nails
- Played board games
- Dressed up in crazy outfits
- Had breakfast for dinner (pancakes, waffles and bacon)
- Baked cakes, cupcakes and cookies
- Painted rocks
- Went to our local beach for a swim
- Went on a short train ride
- Had a picnic
- Watched a movie
- Stayed up late
- Made ice cream sundaes
- Got McDonald’s drive-thru (a big treat!)
- Played video games together
- Slept in a tent in the back garden (Dad did this one…!)
- Only ate foods beginning with B (burgers, bananas, berries, bacon, burritos, and an all-encompassing BBQ)
- Played with face paints
- Visited a new playground
- Had a ‘spa’ day with homemade face masks and hair styling
- Played balloon tennis
- Visited Dad at work
- Ate her choice of food, which has included pancakes, nachos, fajitas, plenty of ice cream and, randomly, a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings.
No one ever said parenting was easy! With that in mind, here are 15 positive parenting techniques every parent should know:
My Top Tips for a Successful Yes Day
#1. Give Your Child Some Notice
The first time we had a Yes Day, I surprised my daughter with it on the day. I didn’t give her time to plan and we floundered a bit as the day went on.
Since then, we decided to have set days throughout the year that are designated for a Yes Day. We are big fans of celebrating every occasion big and small, so we usually have a Yes Day on her half-birthday (the halfway point between birthdays), but it’s also a fun way to spend time together over school holidays.
Planning will also give your child a chance to make the most of their time in charge, and you can make sure you have no demands on your time that will interfere.
The excitement building up to a Yes Day is also lots of fun!
#2. Set the Ground Rules
Okay, there aren’t really any rules to a Yes Day, but you may want to remind your child of what is and isn’t possible – for example, not travelling more than 20km from home or doing anything illegal (like an 8-year-old driving the car…yes, I got asked this one).
Over the years we have also decided that giving the dog a haircut and repainting her room are not on the agenda for Yes Day.
#3. Set a Budget
Part of the ground rules above could be setting a small budget for the day. The point of a Yes Day is not about spoiling your child with things or spending a fortune. The focus is on spending time together – not a chance for your child to do a trolley dash in the toy store or pick up the latest games console. To prevent any temptation, I set a limit of €25.
It’s worth noting though, that I’ve actually never been asked to do anything particularly expensive – but the budget just keeps everything in check. I was pleasantly surprised that all the things my daughter has chosen for us to do have been free (e.g. playing a board game) or inexpensive (e.g. going for an ice cream), and definitely centred more on the time spent together than on getting new stuff.
#4. Say Yes
So, this seems like an obvious point for a successful Yes Day – but it’s important to be enthusiastic about your child’s plan. Don’t give a grudging ‘yes’, don’t make a face that shows your child what you think of their idea, don’t hold back in taking part.
If nothing else, this is a chance for you to act like a kid again!
#5. Capture the Memories
Don’t forget to keep some mementoes of your Yes Days as you go along. Your child could write a story or draw a picture of your day, you could keep some souvenirs (eg a shell from the beach or a ticket from a train ride), and you could take photos of your time together to look back on.
#6. Have Fun!
Let loose and enjoy the time with your child – believe me when I say that this will be a fun memory both you and your child will treasure.
My daughter talks about her previous Yes Days all year, compiling a list and reworking it for weeks at a time in preparation for the next one, and telling anyone who will listen about how she gets to be the boss!
Parenthood can weigh heavy, wondering if you are doing it ‘right’. I know I worry about whether I’m being too strict; whether I am reinforcing the right messages and teaching her strength to say no to the wrong ones; negotiating the minefield that is playground politics; and dealing with the impending fears and battles we all face as pre-teens and teens.
One thing I will never regret is starting the tradition of a Yes Day. This event in our calendar that would previously have caused me an unnecessary (and, frankly, unwarranted) amount of stress is now something I look forward to greatly.
Make time for a Yes Day – it is a great opportunity to see what your child really values. And I would bet that it’s not another toy.