Yes, and … (a better way to listen)

photo via NIH-NIAAA

photo via NIH-NIAAA

As parents, we all have a set of mantras for use with our kids. It’s verbal shorthand that lets us direct and/or re-direct our children’s thoughts and/or behaviors.  Think back to the last time you were out with the kids:

  • Gently you say to your hyper-rambunctious daughter prone to pushing and tugging.
  • Use your words you say to your easily frustrated son prone to action rather than conversation.
  • I like it when you say please to the kid begging to push the cart in the grocery.
  • Whoa Slugger you say to the kid as s/he races down the aisle in the grocery in a madcap dash to the Cap’n Crunch.


You’ve got a few of your own, I’m sure. We all do. They all are directed at the kid; to modify a behavior, to remind, to reinforce, to praise.

Today’s lesson, however, is directed at us, my dear comrades in parenthood.  Today, we learn a two word phrase that will teach you, and by extension, the kid, how to listen attentively. This two word phrase reinforces the notion, to you and the kid, that what your child has to say is important.

Yes, and…

That’s it.

Yes, and…

If you’ve done any improv, you already know this phrase. Yes, and… In the world of improv, one never turns down an invitation. If you’re uncertain about invitation, check out this clip from Whose Line is It Anyway? which stars the usual guys and the late Robin Williams. Every action is built upon 1) paying attention and 2) the previous action.

When you use Yes, and… with your child, you invite them in. You already know to never ask a question that can be answered in one or two words:

“How was school?”

“ Meh.”


“Say, tell me one funny thing that happened at school today?”

“Well, at lunch Billy went to sit down, and he stepped on a thing of ketchup. It was really funny.”

“Yes, and…?

“Okay, so he was like right next to Lisa and she was wearing this white shirt and the ketchup thing burst and got all over her.”

“Yes, and…”

“So she ran over to the lunch room lady and she was kinda screaming and her shirt was all red, and the lunch room lady freaked out ‘cause I guess she figured it was blood or something ….”


Yes, and … Invite them in, listen to what they have to say, and never turn down an invitation to participate.

By the way, I hear it works really well with spouses and significant others.

Let me know how it works for you in the comments of the #DadsRT Facebook page. You can also tweet to us on the Twitter with #DadsRT.

Remember, I’m rooting for you. Rooting hard.




The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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