Having ice cream for breakfast, no strict bedtime and free run of the house – it sounds like every child’s dream.
And it’s actually a reality for a growing number of children whose parents have converted to the new trend of ‘Yes Parenting’.
The very idea of it might cause many mums and dads to shudder, but apparently allowing your children to do whatever they like can help to teach them independence and how to deal with their own needs.
We challenged mum-of-two Sally Windsor to be a ‘Yes Parent’ for a whole week. Check out her diary to see how she got on…
My daughter, Mabel is much of a sleeper and it’s a 4am start to the sound of, ‘Mummy, I want the potty’. After that’s done, she’s wide awake. ‘Can we go downstairs?’ she asks. ‘Yes,’ I say dutifully, whereas I’d usually say, ‘No, straight back to bed.’
Downstairs, I’m met with a question that comes up daily and is always followed by a no. But not today; it’s all change. ‘Can I have noodles for breakfast?’ ‘Yes, darling,’ I say. It’s not the most nutritious start to the day and I already feel like I’m being ‘played’ when I see Mabel giggle. But she eats the entire bowl and quietly watches cartoons for the rest of the morning.
I read up on the science behind this parenting trend; it turns out that Yes Parenting is an absolute phenomenon. Bea Marshall, the expert behind the parenting trend, believes that young children should be able to do their own thing, including making their own decisions. This is so that when they get older, and start to feel the usual negative influences of their teenage peers, they’ll have the confidence to make mature, sensible choices. ‘OK,’ I tell myself, ‘this is for my children’s future.’ So, when Ruby, 10, wants me to bring her a Fanta when I pick her up from school, and Mabel wants to sleep in my bed again, both get a yes. My kids can’t believe their luck.
Sally’s daughters, Ruby, 10, and Mabel, three
It doesn’t feel like I’m parenting at all at the moment – just being a pushover. Ruby’s asked to have her TV on in her room for 30 minutes after bedtime because she ‘keeps hearing weird noises’. I reluctantly agree on the condition that she doesn’t moan when she has to get up for school the next morning. I know she’ll be tired and I worry it will affect her concentration in class. I’m tempted to change my mind, but I resist and go to bed wondering how watching cartoons will benefit Ruby’s future…
When Mabel asks for her own cowboy ranch, like the real ones she’s seen on TV, I laugh and tell her of course she can have one… when she’s older. ‘That’s a lie,’ Ruby scoffs. ‘You’re just saying that because you know Mabel will forget about it.’ She’s right. I’ve been outsmarted by my 10-year-old and vow to take Yes Parenting a bit more seriously from now on.
I’m exhausted from being so amenable, though, and the kids are grumpy from going to bed so late the night before. Surely there are no advantages to staying up until 9.30pm on a school night? And how can a 10-year-old honestly be expected to make responsible decisions on things like this? She can’t even shampoo her own hair yet. I’m starting to wish I’d never started this challenge.Then comes a moment of joy.
‘Can we play Lego, just me and you?’ Mabel asks me after dinner. I immediately say yes rather than pacify her with ‘in a minute’ and I don’t regret it. We have a wonderful hour building things together and I tell myself that this must be the good bit.
I’ve already said ‘yes’ to Ruby making his bed ‘later on’ rather than in the morning, and I even said yes to a quick bit of painting that Mabel asked to do at 7am this morning. It was saying yes to sweets before dinner that was the tough one, though. I don’t think that I’m a strict parent. In fact, I’d consider myself fairly liberal, but this is just too laid-back for me.
If my girls could spend their entire lives in their pyjamas, I think they would. This means my weekends generally begin with me trying to coax Ruby into getting dressed and then physically pinning Mabel down long enough to drag a pair of leggings on her. ‘Mum, can I stay in my pyjamas all day?’ Ruby asks. I have to say yes, but this puts paid to my supermarket trip.
In contrast, Mabel is keen to get ready today and ‘help make scrambled eggs’. The egg she’s supposed to crack over the bowl ends up smothering the kitchen floor. But I did say yes to letting her help me.
Thank goodness this week is over. I actually think the kids have missed having a bit of authority. ‘What should I have for breakfast?’ Ruby asks. ‘Whatever you like,’ I tell her. To which she sighs, and rolls her eyes. ‘Can you please just tell me what I can have?’ She is clearly fed up with all the decisions she now has to make. By the evening, I think we’re all looking forward to ‘normality’ again, and I’m happy to resume my role of authority.
Words by Sally Windsor