Guest Post by Jon Williams

Improvisational Theatre.  In my mind, there is truly nothing more exciting than watching two to three performers take a couple of completely random suggestions from an audience and make a complete story right in front of me.  As an audience member, I feel like I am on stage with them. It’s agony. It’s fantastic. It’s improv.

So, how do performers make up stories on the spot and create these massive story lines right in front of your face? Are these performers master actors with years of training? Very rarely. They are able to do all of this by learning one very valuable statement. The statement is simple. It’s “Yes, and…” The “Yes, and…” is a very powerful tool. Very simply, it’s never saying “no.” It’s difficult. It’s challenging. It’s improv.

In an improv situation, everything that comes out of another actor’s mouth is considered gold. Now, it might not actually BE gold, but it is your job as a fellow performer to treat it as such. And the only way you can do that is by saying “Yes, and…”  Let me reiterate. EVEN IF IT’S A BAD IDEA AND EVERYONE IN THE ROOM KNOWS IT, you still treat it as gold. It’s power. It’s grace. It’s improv.

So, why am I taking up very valuable real estate on a parenting blog talking about improvisational theatre?  Because, if we stop and think about it–as parents, we improv everyday. And the people we seem to find ourselves on stage with most of the time are our own kids. They are the players on stage with us. And, if we aren’t careful, we have the ability to stop our kids’ stories dead in their tracks. We have the ability to make them feel self-conscious. Afraid to try. Afraid to fail. If we negate our children all the time, one day, they’re not going to want to get on stage. They aren’t going to be curious. They aren’t going to wonder. They’re not going to dare to dream. Because, in the back of their minds, they might always be saying, ”What if I’m wrong again?”  They’ll be scared. They’ll feel defeated. They won’t want to improv.

If we parent with a “Yes, and…” attitude as opposed to a “no” attitude, we give our children the freedom to really search for things.  We give them the support and permission to discover their own stories. Will they make mistakes? Oh, yeah!!!  But, if we “Yes, and…” those mistakes and if we “Yes, and…” those poor choices, often times they can go from being a punishable offense to an opportunity for our kids to move forward in their story and in their relationship with you and with God.  It can reduce fear and encourage a sense of wonder in your child’s life. And I dig that. I don’t want my kids growing up scared. I want them growing up with passion, and drive, and the ability to take risks–especially when it comes to their faith.  Raising bold, courageous children. There’s no script. It’s improv.

Jon Williams works for Orange and is a writer/actor/producer for 252 Basics Curriculum.  He and his wife Sunny are proud parents of Dora and Bobby.