Your toddler comes up to you with a handful of used tissues from the trash, how do you react? This innocent act by your child can either be met with shock and disapproval or seen for its goodness and met with playfulness and positivity. “Oh! You brought some trash! Let’s put that in the bin together. Thank you.” Most likely your child will meet your enthusiasm and be happy to help you. Now, your next act is to put that open trash can where your little explorer can not get it again.
Using a popular improv technique called “yes and” will get you very, very far with your children. We actually worked with this in improv classes when I was in teacher training. It’s a very powerful tool for connecting and moving along with your children…adults too!
(simplified) RULES OF YES AND…
1) Say “yes’and!”
2) Add new information.
3) Don’t block.
Here’s a picture. Your child is living in point a and you want him to get to point b: your objective. It will be frustrating and end up a battle if you shift suddenly to what you want without acknowledging the place they are living in: the moment!
First you acknowledge where they are and add on: “look at all of these block towers you’ve made in your room! You have been very hard at work!”
Next you can start the transition to your point: “hmm, we are going to the grocery store soon, what should we do with these towers while we are gone?” your child may or may not know this answer but giving the choice will be important to them.
Now finally you get to point B: “yes, we should leave them for you to play with when you get back” or “yes, let’s clean them up together and just pick our favorite to show daddy later.” Most likely small children will now come along with you. It’s not that we are ‘tricking’ them to do your will, it’s allowing them to feel ‘seen’ and acknowledged.
Practicing the technique of yes and will grow on you if you start now and will only help you in the future. This will help build a relationship with your children where they feel that their activities and opinions are respected as much as your own. You have an important agenda and you are willing to work with them to meet theirs as well.
And who knows, if you get in this practice with your children you may find it seeping into your adult life with your partner, family and peer which will only be for the better.
I would love to hear your stories of using yes and. For some this is easy and for others this is a challenge. What are your experiences with this magic word?