Say Yes! to your kids— within limits.

Say YES! to your kids—within limits

Feel like all you say to your kids is “No”? If Netflix’st new movie “Yes Day” is any indication of the state of parenting in the U.S., you are not alone. This family-friendly film provides inspiration for ways parents can say “YES!” to your kids—within limits.

In the movie, Allison and Carlos (played by Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramirez) were an adventurous couple who said “yes” to everything… until they had children and adopted a new outlook on life: “Saying ‘NO’ 50 times an hour—it’s called PARENTING!” Allison finds creative ways to say no like “Nope on a rope”. And backs it up with the old standbys “because I said so” and “I’m a MOTHER. I don’t need to have a reason!”

Say “Yes!”—within limits

Garner’s character does have a point; saying “no” is a big part of parenting because we must set limits to keep our children safe and help them make good choices. But I think this movie aims to inspire us to find ways to say “Yes!” to our kids more often by setting ground rules using freedom within limits. I know it’s easier to say NO and stay focused on your to-do list, but take a breath and get creative. With some patience, you may be able to find a way to achieve your kids’ goals without causing any damage. When you take the time to consider your child’s ideas, you show that you hear them, you are listening. It’s important for everyone to feel heard. Who knows—it could bring your family closer. And will be more cherished than any item you might buy them.

In the film, a school counselor explains how it works: “For 24 hours, you say YES TO EVERYTHING that your kids want”. After the laughter and dubious remarks subside, he continues, “Well you set some ground rules.”

The Ground Rules: Freedom within Limits

Ground rules are an essential foundation for Yes Day. They work like Freedom Within Limits, which we talk about a lot in Active Parenting programs: The limits change as your child gets older and shows the ability to handle more freedom and responsibility.

  • “YES DAY” has to be earned.
    For example, kids must do their chores and finish their homework every day for the three weeks before Yes Day.
  • You CANNOT ask to do anything dangerous or illegal.
    I recommend a conversation about what “dangerous” means. In the movie, the family eats about 20 pounds of ice cream, which I would argue can be very dangerous to your digestive system ; )
  • You cannot damage property.
    This was not in the movie, but I recommend adding this rule. There is cringe-worthy damage to the car and home that makes for a fun movie plot but is not fun in real life.
  • Each kid has a budget.
  • Cannot be more than 20 miles (or whatever you think is reasonable) from home.
  • Have fun!

Parents Unite!

Another important takeaway from the movie is that parents should be in agreement. Dad says to Mom: “You don’t need help from a ‘Yes Day’. What you need is a partner”. It was only a small moment in the movie, but it is a very important concept in parenting. When parents support each other, you’re not only modeling good behavior for your children but also helping them feel secure. They see that there is consistency with the rules of their family. If parents are not on the same page, children learn that they can get what they want by going around one parent to the other; which leads to division in the family.

Family Meetings

Find ways to say YES! to your kids—within limits and setting ground rules—and turn that “no” into a “YES!”. The movie is fun yet thought provoking. Even if a Yes Day is not right for your family it might inspire ideas that will bring your family closer. Maybe have a “Family Wish Jar” where every member of the family can put their wishes. A Family Meeting is a great place to discuss those wishes and explore whether they are feasible, safe, and cause no property damage. The ideas that meet those criteria stay in the Wish Jar and can be used occasionally as a special treat, for example when everyone has completed their chores and homework.

“Yes Day” (on Netflix) is based on the best-selling children’s book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

For more on Family Meetings, check out Doc Pop’s 52 Weeks of Active Parenting and most of the Active Parenting programs.

Contributing author: Gabrielle Tingley

Active Parenting Publishers founder and president Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D. has been providing research-based education programs with an emphasis on nonviolent discipline, mutual respect, and open communication for over 35 years. He is widely known for his expertise in the field of parent education and has appeared on over 100 TV programs, including CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show.