What Is Yes Parenting?

mom and daughter jumping on couch


Helicopter parents hover and lawnmower parents remove obstacles. But it's time to make room for the "yes parents" who take an entirely different approach to parenting. Parents who ascribe to the yes parenting movement don't believe in telling their children no. Instead, these parents go to great lengths to listen to what their kids want and then make it happen for them.

So, if their child wants to jump on the couch, the answer is yes. If their child doesn't want to go to school, the answer is yes. If their child wants to stay up late playing the Xbox, the answer is yes. If their child wants to shred their comforter to see what's inside, the answer is yes.

Basically, "yes parents" attempt to say yes to all of their kids' requests. No request is too crazy or too out of line. And, even when these parents need to say no in order to establish boundaries or to keep their kids safe, they find another way of rephrasing the statement or redirect their kids in order to avoid saying the word no.

Overall, the goal with "Yes Parenting" is for parents to do everything they can to ensure that their kids learn that they are capable human beings. They don't want their kids to be afraid of trying new things—that making mistakes is normal and healthy. They want them to explore the world around them in an unrestricted way.

What Is "Yes Parenting?"

"Yes Parenting" emerged from the idea that parents say no too often. In fact, research suggests that parents on average say no more than 400 times a day. And, saying no too frequently squashes the natural tendencies of kids to explore the world around them. But, while the goal to say yes more often was the initial idea, the "Yes Parenting" movement has taken permissive parenting to an entirely different level.

"Yes parents" believe that parents should rarely say no to their children. In fact, they believe allowing young children the space to do their own thing creates independence and the ability to think for themselves.

In fact, some parents have compared "yes parenting" to that of spotters in weightlifting or gymnastics. They want to allow their kids to not only make their own choices but to also recognize the consequences of those choices without risking injuring or hurting themselves or others.

What's more, "yes parents" recognize that when kids are under the age of three, they do not comprehend what the word no means in the same way adults think they do. For instance, little kids do not really understand why they shouldn't do something. They only know that they will get an angry reaction if they do. This is why you see many toddlers do something you have said no to while looking at you and smiling.

As their kids get older, "yes parents" talk to their kids beforehand about what might happen and then discuss afterward what did happen and how they might do things differently the next time around. In the end, they hope that when faced with peer pressure down the road, their kids will have the confidence to make choices for themselves because they have been making their own choices all their lives.

Pros of "Yes Parenting"

When it comes to "Yes Parenting," life is never boring. Parents and kids alike often find that this type of parenting makes life interesting and exciting. If ever there was a way to live life to the fullest, "yes parents" are hoping this is the way to do it. Here is an overview of the benefits of "Yes Parenting."

Empowers Kids

When kids have "yes parents," they are free to explore the world around them with very little restriction. They learn how to navigate difficult obstacles, tap into their creativity, and explore how things work. Children of "yes parents" are never bored. There is always something they can do because they are not put in a box or forced to follow a long list of rules. So, their natural-born curiosity and creativity flourishes.

Liberates Parents

For many parents, "yes parenting" is liberating. They are able to shed a lot of self-imposed rules about how their houses should look, how often chores should be done, and when bedtimes should be enforced. Additionally, those who ascribe to this style of parenting say they find themselves learning more about who their kids are and how their minds work.

For instance, a "yes parent" allows kids to get messy and step outside of the box. So, they say yes to setting up a lemonade stand even though it is raining outside. They allow their kids to fingerpaint and get glitter everywhere even though they have just cleaned the house, and they say yes when toddlers want to pour their own milk even though they know there is a good chance the entire gallon will end up on the floor.

"Yes parents," may even say yes when their kids do not want to go bed, allowing them to stay up as long as they want. They also may say yes to dessert before dinner and would never think of forcing their child to do something they do not want to do.

Strengthens Families

For families who adhere to "yes parenting," they recognize that their time with their kids is short and that it's important to have fun. After all, saying yes is a lot more fun than saying no. So, they say yes to stomping in mud puddles, making impromptu visits to the park or the zoo, and maybe even say yes to coloring on the walls. And many times, they do these things with their kids, which just strengthens their bond and makes them closer.

The Downside of "Yes Parenting"

But at what point do these parents draw the line? Would they say yes, if their toddler didn't want to hold their hand in a busy parking lot? Would they say yes when their three-year-old didn't want to ride in the car seat? Knowing at what point yes parents need to say no to a child's wants and demands is where the parenting style comes under fire.

Fails to Establish Rules

As with any parenting style, when it becomes extreme, it can become a very unhealthy form of parenting. After all kids, especially young kids, need boundaries in order to be safe. Saying yes to everything, including things that might put them in harm's way, is not responsible parenting. It's also a lot easier than saying no and lets parents avoid being the bad guy.

For instance, one "yes parent" reports discovering that her child cut through a cable in the home. Instead of explaining why this is dangerous, she simply gave him more things to cut. On the one hand, it is great that she recognized his desire to cut things, but on the other, he never learned that cutting through cables in the house is a very dangerous thing to do.

Makes Kids Self-Centered

Kids also need to learn that the world does not revolve around them. Sometimes in life, they will not get their way and that is normal. It's also healthy for kids to learn how to accept that some choices are not good choices. For instance, when kids become curious about vaping or juuling, will they be able to say no, or will they give in to their desires like they have been allowed to do all their lives?

Likewise, when on a date in their teen years, if their partner says no to something, will they be able to accept that? They also won't know how to respond when they don't make a sports team, get into a favorite college, or get the job they want. "Yes Parenting" has the potential to create very self-centered young people who do not know how to consider the needs of others when making decisions.

Damages Resilience and Grit

If kids never hear no from their parents, they never learn how to handle rejection with grit and resilience. Likewise, when their teachers tell them they cannot do something at school, they will not know how to respond. They have never heard the word no or been denied the opportunity to do exactly as they please. So, the first time they are rejected or told no, they may crumble because they have no idea how to navigate situations that do not go their way.

Exhausts Parents

Meanwhile, "Yes Parenting" also has the potential to wear parents out, especially if they find themselves saying yes all the time even when they should say no. In essence, "Yes Parenting" turns parents into people pleasers because they often have to sacrifice what they want or need in order to say yes to their kids.

Pediatricians stress that it is not unkind to say no to kids. In fact, it can be very useful. If kids don't learn healthy boundaries at home, then it could potentially be very difficult for them at school or later in life. They caution that one day, someone is going to say no and these kids are going to have no idea how to react to that. In fact, kids who lack structure and discipline have a much higher chance of getting into trouble later in life.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, the most successful parents often combine several different parenting styles in order to meet the needs of their children and their family. After all, no one knows kids better than their parents. So, while extreme parenting styles like "Yes Parenting," can be useful in guiding parents on what to avoid, they should never be used to label or shame other parents. They should only be used to guide you in your own parenting.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.