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Applying Improv Concepts to Parenting: Say Yes

After having two babies 19 months apart, I felt overwhelmed as a mom. I looked for rules and phrases to give me sanity.

One phrase I started using was “If I can, I will say yes.” It was a wonderful way to approach parenting. In fact, this inspired a huge connection between parenting and improv. Let me explain.

The first rule of improv is to say, “Yes, and…”. Improv is more fun and easy when we say yes! It progresses the whole scene, strengthens team unity, and improves entertainment value. It is fun to perform in improv scenes where my teammates agree with my reality and support my ideas. It can be frustrating and annoying when improv partners deny my reality or reject my ideas onstage.

One of my favorite improv memories came from saying yes. I had an improv scene that called for a dog. I supported my teammates and became the dog. It was fun. Then someone suggested I was a rapping dog. Now, what if I had put on the brakes? What if I was embarrassed to act like a rapping dog onstage? What if I had denied their reality and no longer played the dog role? What if I had refused to rap? The audience would have been very disappointed and my scene partners would have felt betrayed or abandoned. I summoned all my hip hop moves and collected simple rhymes. I rapped my heart out. The audience loved it! My scene partners were satisfied and the scene progressed.

Little did I know the best was yet to come. My husband happened to be in that scene with me, and the next suggestion was romance. Were we going to say no? Absolutely not! We could agree to the reality of romance, despite the fact that I was still a dog. I crawled back onstage, ready to support whatever idea was presented. I expected my partners, the humans in the scene, to bring on the romance. I was thrilled when my husband said, “oh what a beautiful dog,” and gave me a big kiss on the lips! It was my favorite improv moment. I am glad he and I both said yes!

What works on the improv stage translates into real life. Just like saying yes to your scene partner improves morale onstage, saying yes to my children improves morale at home. I tried to remember the rule saying yes when the kids asked for things big and small.

“Mom, can I have a cookie?”

“Yes, when you eat your vegetables.”

“Mom, will you roll the playdough with me?”

“Yes, when your jobs are done.”

“Mom, can we go to Legoland?”

“Yes, when we have enough money.” And we did. Twice!

“Mom, can I do laundry?”

“Yes.” That is a no brainer.

“Mom, can I eat this medicine?”

“No.” I still had to set boundaries. That’s why I had the phrase, “if I can,” before the “say yes!”

So much progress, happiness and humor comes when we simply agree. It works when your 4 year old wants you to play with playdough, but also at other times in life. You still may have to set some boundaries, but if you can, say yes!

I found that this practice helped me and my children be much much happier. I got my kids to do what I wanted without hounding and complaining. They had a mom who was not saying no, no, no all the time. I was more positive and open-minded. I actually sat down and played with the playdough. There was a lot less fighting, a lot more progress, and many more smiles.

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