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It has been over a month since we had our first “Yes Day” as a family. I don’t know how to articulate the childish fun I had, and equally express how exhausted I was… but oh my word what a day! There were also a lot of lessons learnt from Yes Day, which we still apply to this day in our home.

The Yes Day concept has fast become a movement that was sparked by the movie “Yes Day” on Netflix starring Jennifer Garner. She propelled this popular topic in parenting media and circles after she shared on Instagram that Yes Day is her family’s annual tradition.

However, that was not the first time the concept appeared in media. It also appears in the 2009 children’s book “Yes Day!” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and Tom Lichtenheld.

For my family and I to have a successful “Yes Day,” we had to establish boundaries and set rules of engagement for the day. 

We set rules for how we would go about the day, how many activities we would have, how much time we would spend on each activity, what boundaries there are, and how we would not push the boundaries. 

One of the boundaries we had to establish is that Yes Day is not meant to trap us as parents, but rather for everyone to have a good day and experience.

The thing with having a full on Yes Day is that, it seems easy at first to just simply say, “Okay, we’re doing a Yes Day. What do you want to do?” But in fact, what we need to try to do during this experience is find pockets of learnings, and ways to take good lessons from them. 

The kids had been yearning for a “Yes Day” and asked us day in and out about having one. So, we set a date for when hubby and I were both available.

The kids had a week to plan out their “Yes Day.” I gave them a start time and end time. They were to set out the programme using the times set out. 

This humoured me because they really had a terrible time when trying to configure their plans. I kept sending them back to the drawing board – they were not allocating time for travel!

After an intense deliberation, the “Yes Day” programme was set:

10:00 – 12:00 :  Breakfast at Wimpy

12:00 – 13:00 :  Travel to Bounce

13:00 – 15:00 :  Bounce & Lunch at Bounce

15:00 – 16:00 :  Travel to Arcade (in Rosebank)

16:00 – 17:30 :  Arcade

17:30 – 18:30 :  Dinner

18:30 – 19:30 :  Bowling

19:30 – 20:00 :  Krispy Kreme

Once it was set, we agreed that it wouldn’t change and that if we met our end of the bargain, they would be as well behaved and disciplined as possible.

There were moments they tried to change the rules as we went along, but we had to remind them of the boundaries we had established. 

In establishing boundaries around this day, setting out a programme and following through on this “Yes Day” to happen, here are some lessons my husband and I learnt about boundaries and establishing them with our children:

  1. Keep it simple

Less is definitely more with children. Keep the rules and the instructions as simple and as few as possible. 

  1. Earn their trust

Make a commitment and follow through. Kids need to know that they have your trust.

  1. Involve the kids in setting boundaries

As we were getting through the Yes Day, we had many moments where we had to remind the children of their boundaries that we had established in collaboration.

For example: We had a moment in the car from Bounce and on the way to the Arcade, the boys were having a conversation in the backseat that went something like this:

Mikaili: I’d really like some ice cream

Morgan: It’s Yes Day. So, we can have whatever we want.

Mikaili: Oh yeah… Mommy, can we have ice cream? Remember, you can’t say no.

Hubby immediately stepped in to remind the boys of the fact that “Yes Day” is not meant to trap us as parents, but rather for everyone to have a good experience. This also went for everything that we say yes to, or do in our home, it should not be taken advantage of. Boundaries are important.

  1. Patience

I think this is the most important point in establishing boundaries. Children are literally built to keep checking how far they can push boundaries. So, patience was a big part of Yes Day. We had to reiterate and repeat the boundaries with them.

  1. Back each other as parents

A big part of Yes Day was spent with my husband and I having moments where we looked each other in the eyes and thought “What did we get ourselves into?’’ then the next minute backing each other on a boundary that is being pushed. To understand trust, we have realized that we must literally model it for our children. It’s in the moments of “I hear you, but what did Dada say? Has he said yes to that?” 

All in all, we had a successful and lesson-filled “Yes Day.” Would I do it again? Not anytime soon! I am still recovering.