Parenting, unschooling

A day in the life of a family challenging adultism

15 May, 2014

WOW. So I wasn’t expecting THAT!

Yesterday I wrote a post, Could adultism be the concept that transforms relationships between adults and children?

And it appears I left many readers behind. Across Twitter, in the comments, and on Facebook, people were just like “Wha-at?!” People didn’t get it.

I thought it was going to be one of those “lightbulb” posts – where readers go “Aha! Yes! We must extend our love of fairness to our children!” If anything it was a post that threw people into darkness.

And then, this morning I remembered how I felt when I first read about these ideas. The idea that a child should be respected, allowed autonomy, choice and rights. I can remember being at a party and describing to my friend “I feel nervous…  like I am entering a rabbit hole!” I felt like this idea would change our whole life.

And in some ways it has. And in some ways it hasn’t.

I wonder if it will be helpful to go through an average day of ours. To show how we try and interact and respond in certain circumstances. Because I am not sure our day will look entirely different to yours. (Or maybe it will.) The biggest difference is probably the amount of dialogue and the amount of time afforded it.

So here it is, A day in the life of a rights-respecting/ uschooling/ adultism aware family!

Before we begin I need to say how NEW I am to all of this, months in, really. And I still have a real struggle with some areas – I default on control, for example, when it comes to TV. However, I am learning, with my children… It is slow but everyday we are asking questions and discussing and granting more freedom…

7:30 am We wake up, bundle together for morning cuddles.

7:40 am “Can I watch a movie?” Ramona’s request comes earlier than normal as she has spied me sneaking away to check my blog comments. So often she is prompted to watch movies only when spotting the lap top and ipad. I am reminded how one of the crucial ideas for this whole thing is MODELLING our values. If I want her to value life away from a screen I need to model it. But then, it kind of IS my job and passion. But then it is HER passion. But what about how manipulative movies are, how they lump emotions on to people, how they are like the ultimate school. But Ramona might become the queen of code and write world-changing programs one day! And thus begins my first internal monologue about control…

8:00 am The battery on the ipad runs out after only 20 mins of movie watching. Ramona suggests she watches it once it has charged again.  (Having only solar energy imposes natural limits that Ramona finds really easy to accept.)

The morning passes in porridge eating, bumbling about.

11:00 am I had been working on the lap top while Juno (1) has a snooze but I know Ramona and Tim will be back from a trip soon so I pack up and head outside to the mandarin orchard. If I want my children to love the outdoors then I need to improve my relationship with it. When they get home Ramona joins me and Juno and we eat mandarins and follow beetles and play Doctors and Nurses for aaaages.

At one stage Ramona looks through the window of our neighbour’s house (neighbours but they are also like family) and wants to go in. “I don’t think we should go in as they are not there and we need to be invited in.” I say. Ramona replies “But I can see the thing!” She dashes through their door and dashes straight back out with a toy she bought Juno from the charity shop. I consider how I would have gone in their house if there was something in there of mine that I needed and I am glad I didn’t “put my foot down!”

This kind of thing happens a fair bit. It seems a child has an irrational/ strange need or request but actually there is something important behind it, if we listen, or give them space to explore it.

12:00 pm – “I am a bit hungry shall we go in for lunch?” I ask. We start making our way to the house. I am glad I pre-empted my massive hunger pangs as this takes ages. Juno is learning to walk and wants to walk/ fall/ scramble/ crawl the whole way. It is really muddy and she is bare legged but I think she can have a bath in a bit so who cares. Juno pauses by the strawberry patch and reaches for an unripe strawberry. I find her a big juicy red one and pass it to her. (“I know all about ripe strawberries! Let me teach you!”) She takes a bite and discards it, reaching for another greenish- red one, enjoying it much more. It is like she is telling me that it is the foraging and eating that she enjoys and she knows what she likes, right?! We hang about the strawberry patch for a while.

12:45 pm Ramona want eggs for lunch so I crack them in a bowl. She wants to help so I set her up with the whisk and she whisks them. She loves to help so I make room as much as possible for that in our day.  She wants to cook them but I like my scrambled eggs cooked a certain way so I explain that I want to do it my way. (I’m not some kind of unschooling goddess, okay? I like my eggs creamy.)

Over lunch she wants to put her eggs in a tortilla so she does. She makes a messy egg tortilla present all over her bit of the table. She only eats half the tortilla and the chooks get the rest.

We have always been trusting and nonplussed about eating. I want every meal to be only pleasure for everyone, so no rules or coercion allowed! Just lots of yummy goodness and a nice bit of fried stuff too.

1:15 pm I have to head to town before 2pm so I start preparing the way! TIME is one of the biggest factors in addressing adultism, I think. We are so unprepared to give our children the time to choose their clothes, put their own shoes on, pack their rucksack, find a snack, climb into their car seat themselves (etc) that we do it all for them in order to get to the place we need to be on time. And all the while we are undermining their abilities and their desires to pick up the caterpillar they saw on the way to the car. Allowing a buffer of about 45 minutes means we can all get our needs met.

Me to Ramona: “Oh, you want to bring turtle?”
Me to Ramona: “Oh, you forgot pony, huh? Better grab him!”
Me to Juno: “Ah, you’re not ready to get in your seat yet?”
Me to Ramona: “Oh, those shoes are uncomfortable. Do you want me to grab your wellies?”
Me to both: “Oops, wait there a sec, forgot my wallet.”
(Sometimes I feel we impose higher expectations on our kids than ourselves!!)

Let’s go!

1:50 pm We are driving into town and I am thinking about all getting our needs met. Once again I turn to Non Violent Communication. NVC works perfectly with this parenting philosophy as, sure, Ramona has needs and wants that must be respected- but so does Juno and so do I and so does my husband. If it ever came to it, would we all stay home for the day so that my daughter could watch television? No. But then it has never come to it – we are nearly always able to come up with a solution together for getting all of our needs met. Ramona will often say “I’ll pause this and watch it later, yeah?”

2:00 pm Uh oh. I am in the gift shop buying a card for a new baby where there are a million precious things all balanced precariously on low shelves and Ramona wants to touch them all. I bend down and talk about how precious everything is and how I want everything in the shop to stay safe. Ramona gets more wild and wants to run around. It is in perfect syncronisation with my increased anxiety! I hold her hand firmly and we leave the shop while I explain to her about my worries. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done this. I wish I had talked to her sensibly before going in. Perhaps I wish I hadn’t even gone in. I guess I do sort of believe that I should only go to places where Ramona can be fully, uncompromisingly herself. More questions….!

Later on, I apologise to Ramona for pulling her out of the shop. “It IS your body, and no one should do things to other people’s bodies that aren’t wanted. I’m sorry.” Sometimes I make mistakes and instead of brushing them under the carpet (“she’s only three! She will forget!”) I apologise.

3:00 pm A cup of tea with a friend in a cafe. Juno wants to climb this wobbly thing. I kneel while she does it. After 10 minutes she does actually tumble off. It isn’t far but I consider the phrase “Better a broken bone than a broken spirit.” But I’m also blushing as I think most mums wouldn’t have let their baby climb. Mostly I try and keep an environment that is fully open to Juno to explore but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes I take swift action if it seems like something quite dangerous. For example the time she ate some berries and I didn’t know what they were. “Juno, I am going to reach into your mouth and take the berries out as I am worried they are dangerous.” The explanation took 2 seconds and then I got the berries out. Even a baby deserves an explanation when we are going to do something to them. We moved away from the berry patch.

3:30 pm “Ramona, shall we go to the loo together?” “No” I am fairly sure she needs a wee but hey, it is her body.

3:40 pm “Mum, I need the loo and I already leaked a bit.” Me: “Oh, I find it a bit frustrating that you did a wee in your pants as now I need to do more laundry!” I think being open with our own negative emotions is healthy as I wouldn’t want the children to think we have to put on a false happy, brave face for the world.

However, as I am putting her spare leggings on (we carry spares everywhere because I will never, ever force her to go to the loo – what does that tell her about people in power being able to do anything they want to her body?) I consider how just that very morning I had been running about, busy in the house, reluctant to interrupt my flow to go to the loo. Yes, my friends, I had leaked too. I wish I hadn’t told her I was annoyed about the leak.

Ramona doesn’t want to leave the cafe when I do. “I want to get home to make tea. When shall we go?” I ask. “In five.” “Okay.”

A day in the life of an unschooling/ child right's respecting family

Juno sits on the toy Ramona is playing with. Ramona shoves her over. “Ramona, I need Juno to be safe around you.” It’s pretty rare that Ramona gets physically agro, but it is one of my limits. I listen into arguments with my ears (not eyes, which can aggravate tension, I reckon) and if I think the kids are fairly matched and could have a little bit of a push and sort it themselves then I leave them to it. However, if it is unfairly matched or I see Ramona really getting enraged, I hover and speak to Ramona,  “I can see you’re mad and it is okay to be angry but I’m not going to let you bite him.” It is Ramona’s right to express herself but it is every kid’s right to be safe.

5:00 pm Home again. “Can I watch a movie please, mum?” Ramona is so polite, and always asks all the time, even though we have never told her to. When it comes to manners I am CONVINCED we just need to model what we want to see in our kids. If we are kind to them, they will be kind to us. And then also, sometimes they will shout. Just like we do.

Ramona is SO EXCITED to find bits of Frozen on Youtube. Seeing her so absolutely stoked with life makes me want to cry a little bit. How I love this wild one.

Mind you, I am glad she has found Frozen and not some other Disney princess crap. I would actually ask her not to watch that, I’d say “Can you find something else as that princess is well annoying.” I am worried about her getting Battered Wife Syndrome as a result of the princess propaganda that is marching stridently into our lives.  This is not unschooling and is probably adultist. I have issues. But then again, I want to provide an environment that promotes freedom and I think that the limited gender roles of Princess world is entirely inhibiting. *Thus begins 50 millionth internal monologue of the day*

5:30 pm The internet isn’t working so Ramona wanders about and finds a tub of my bentonite clay. She opens it and a bit spills “Oh, sorry mum! I’ll get a cloth!”  I am surprised every time when she is all polite and respectful like this. I don’t know where she gets it from, Tim and I are sweary louts. Ha. Just kidding. I sort of think it is just a case of her speaking to us in the way that we speak to her.

5:40 pm Tea is cooking but Ramona finds the chocolate “OOH LOOK CHOCOLATE I’LL HAVE ONE BIT NOW AND THEN ANOTHER BIT FOR PUDDING” During tea we have a chat about how caffeine in chocolate can keep you awake. I think it is worthwhile chatting to kids about the realities of things and then letting them make up their own minds.

6:00 pm Ramona only eats the kale on her plate. YUM, MORE PIE FOR ME! Juno puts pumpkin in her ear, on her head and squashes it into her toes. I think this way of life is basically like Baby Led Weaning but for the whole of life. Provide a good environment/ plate of grub, trust them with the rest.

7:00 pm “OOH REMEMBER THE CHOCOLATE! WOO! I really want a bit that is bigger than me… but I’ll just have one bit.” Would I have stopped her if she wanted a bit bigger than her? Actually, yeah… maybe.  Because then she would be awake at 10pm and Tim and I would have to be awake with her, even though we go to sleep at 9:30pm and we’d probably be grumpy about it which wouldn’t be nice for Ramona. I would have said “I’m worried this will keep you awake, can we come up with a way that leaves us all happy?” And she would have broken off a bit and hidden it in a secret place for her to have for breakfast. (This happened a few months ago.) When it comes to food… me and Tim LOVE CHOCOLATE AND CRISPS. We don’t often have it about but when we do we eat it all the time and at any time of day or night. So, if it is good enough for us, why not her? Seriously, why not?
(It’s not obvious that I am just typing out loud, is it?! Ha.)

7:30 pm “It is quite cold, do you want a jumper on Ramona?” “No.” Okay. Juno plays with a biro, covering her arm in ink. Ramona has a bath and turns the taps on cold. Would other parents stop their kid running cold into their bath, do you think? Why bother stopping that? “It’s cold!” “Do you want to put more hot in?” “Yeah.”

Ramona wanders about naked in the cold house. I just don’t agree with making kids wear clothes if they don’t want to. What is the worst that can happen? *thinks* Pneumonia? Really?  A cold that they were going to get anyway? Possibly.

8:00 pm “Mum, I want to go to bed!” Ramona has always just asked to go to bed when she is tired – is it possibly because we have never enforced bed time? Funnily enough it is nearly always around 7:30pm these days – classic bed time!

Me: “Shall we put pyjamas on as I am worried it will get even colder in the night and they you will wake us up because you are cold?” Am I imposing my need to not wake up in the night an extra time on her and thwarting her will? Maybe. If Ramona doesn’t want to wear pyjamas, and it seems like a big, emotional issue for her then I will let it rest. But it is always worth expressing my needs because we can so often come up with the answer to both, together.

“I want to wear my superhero suit to bed.”


And thus ends the day of a family living in the middle ground between neglect and control!

Yes, there is a lot of internal monologue and daily discussions with my husband. There are mistakes, where we have moved closer to neglect and close to control at times.  Each day we are trying to find a better balance.  (Read this on finding that balance!)

I believe this journey we are on is an important one. I believe it is the one most likely to further social justice in the world, and the one most likely to result in a respectful child. (Read this lovely account of a mum to a teenager who raised her son this way.)

Now tell me- have I gone so far down the rabbit hole that I’m talking nonsense to you? Or is this not so different from the way you do things?

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  • Beth 15 May, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    LOVE THIS!!!!

  • ThaliaKR 15 May, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    This kind of daily commentary is REALLY REALLY HELPFUL!


    Keep up the great work – the mothering and the educating (of us!).

  • Emma 15 May, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    That’s our way too, not sure why you lost people but hopefully they’ll understand now xx

  • Emma 15 May, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    My baby is only 9mths but this is very much how we do things. I am constantly amazed by how much personality he has already, he really is a human being in miniature, so why wouldn’t he have the same rights as every other human being?

    When I am caring for him and I get frustrated or annoyed, I stop and think ‘how would I treat my partner or sibling if they needed 24 care?’. Hopefully with patience and compassion so why should I treat my child any differently?

    I recently went to a restaurant with no baby change facilities or quiet area for nursing with my son and my parents. My parents couldn’t understand my annoyance at this, but to me this is not too dissimilar to say not providing disabled access.

    It gives the impression babies aren’t welcome, and why? They are as much a part of this world as anyone else. We need to stop seeing babies and children as an inconvenience to be managed, and instead accept them into society as equals. Perhaps then they will grow up feeling a part of society rather than isolated and angry.

  • Bea 15 May, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Lucy, thanks for this. Your account is incredibly interesting and gives a lot of food for thought. I don’t read parenting books really, maybe the odd article on the web. But i have found myself erring toward this sort of approach, but now i think i need to take it further. There are three things that i think affect the independence / autonomy i give my daughter (1.5 yrs), the first being that when they are first born you have to do so much for them (even tho you can listen to their cues) you cant actually ask them what they want to wear etc. So as my daughter has grown (so quickly!) ive found it a challenge to remind myself to be objective about how much more capable she is becoming and to adjust my actions as her parent (hope that makes sense!).

    Second is that my husband works full time and i work part time and so i this imposes a routine. Sometimes we just have to leave the house/eat/get dressed etc at a certain time. But i will consider finding ways to accommodate/compromise having read your post.

    The third thing is that i find myself bowing to peer pressure from family who view my ways probably as being hippyish and leading to poor manners etc. Tho its never been explicitly said, i do hear ‘but she needs to learn that…’ etc. I wonder if anyone has any advice / experience of this?!

    Thanks for talking about such an important topic Lucy, and for sharing your own experiences.

    • ThaliaKR 15 May, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Bea, it sounds like you’re doing a brilliant job!

      I find that I need to have some stock phrases handy for the (frequent!) occasions other people want to impose stuff on my boy, or characterise him in unfair ways.

      If he doesn’t want to say good-bye to someone, I reinforce his decision out loud (perhaps tailored a bit to how offended someone might be!) with ‘It’s hard saying good-bye sometimes, isn’t it.’

      If anyone calls a child ‘shy’ in my presence, I always say something like ‘it’s ok to need some time to warm up to things. We might talk later on.’

      Perhaps a gentle-but-firm sentence that explains why you think your way is helping your little one to thrive might be all you need if you’re ever made to feel defensive?

      Keep up the great work 🙂

      • Bea 15 May, 2014 at 11:08 pm

        Thanks ThaliaKR 🙂 good tips! Yes I think I need to be a bit stronger sometimes. It annoys me that I should even have to explain to parents/grandparents, because surely it is obvious that anything I am doing I believe is in the best interest for my daughter. In fact it makes me feel like a child again! I guess the whole point is trying to avoid our children feeling that way.

      • Laurenne 15 May, 2014 at 11:37 pm

        I completely agree Thalia, my 2 year old has a really hard time saying goodbye recently and I find phrases like that and posts like Lucy’s here really helpful. She announced today when leaving a friend ‘I’m NOT saying goodbye to Lauren’ and I always try to say something like ‘I know it’s hard to say goodbye sometimes isn’t it, especially when we don’t want to go. We’ll see Lauren again tomorrow’ I find it helps validate her feelings then and also explains a bit to the other parent if they are doing that ‘why aren’t you telling them off for being rude’ expression *grrrr* L x

    • Mrs_scholes 15 May, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      Hi Bea/Lucy,

      I’m not sure that broadly I agree with Lucy’s post. However I do agree with having different attitudes to time and choices on days I work and days I don’t. On days I am not at work, I can allow plenty of time for my daughter to e.g. get into the car seat if I want to.

      However sometimes I just want to get on with my day. I have desires and needs too and I don’t think they are any less valid than my daughter’s, and she should treat me with respect as much as I am treating her with respect. So sometimes I help her into the car seat, because I want to get to playgroup, so she can play with friends and I can talk to my friends and not go crazy being alone with her all morning. I take a little bit of control away from her instead of her having a frustrated or even cross mummy for the rest of the morning.

      I think I’m saying you can accommodate on days you are not working, and then say ‘Today Mummy needs to go to work, so I’m going to help you get dressed, and tomorrow we can play for longer’ or something. Also perhaps you can allow her to choose her own clothes (when she can manage that) the night before, so she still gets the choice, but at a different time?

      Of course these are only my ideas and you should run your family however you think is best.


    • Eline 15 May, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      I’m in pretty much the same situation as you, and I find “the third thing” the hardest. My parenting style is totally different from that of everyone else in my family, and my mother especially has no qualms about saying she thinks I’m ‘doing it wrong’!

      It does get to me and especially in the early days I let it affect my decisions. 16 months in though, I am getting more confident. I have seen ‘difficult’ phases come and go without me suddenly changing tack and resorting to more ‘mainstream’ parenting. Some of our choices are getting positive results (like him being far happier about eating than his cousins, who were weaned traditionally rather than just left to get on with it). This is helping me to ignore the comments/attitude.

      I never really engage in discussions with someone who questions what I do. Sometimes I wonder whether I ought to spread the word and all that, but often I a) don’t have the energy and b) it falls on deaf ears anyway. If someone asks in an open-minded way that’s different of course, but otherwise I prefer to just get on with it and let the results speak for themselves. All I say when I get the “but he needs to learn xyz” is “I’m sure he will learn when he’s ready”. I say that to myself too, whenever I have a moment of doubt!

      I know this isn’t really advice – I’m still learning all the time myself – but I just wanted to let you know that we are having the same struggles.

  • Sarah Freethy 15 May, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I find this fascinating as so much is familiar, the internal discussions and the desire to let them find and make their own way, but I hadn’t ever thought of it in these terms before. I totally agree that, unless there’s immediate danger to someone, then almost anything can and should go – the baby led weaning analogy is great! I also like the language you used in talking through your needs too – I think I too often internalise mine.

    Personally, I find that Time is a massive factor for me – I work 3 days a week and then have the luxury of four full days parenting. The days when we have to get out of the house or do things by a certain time are much harder – they can sense when they’re not our first priority, can’t they? On the days when I’m not beholden to someone else’s clock, then things tend go more smoothly, but even then there’s a struggle between my daughters desire for open ended play and my needs to cook, clean, get to places on time (or more usually, acceptably late!) I try to build in plenty of buffer, but still it often comes to a crunch point, which I don’t know how to avoid.

    The second factor, for me, is Fear – I’ve been somewhat instinctively trying to respectfully and gently parent, but often worry that my choices might be “bad” or have unthought out repercussions. I think I fear that by letting my daughter make her own choices, it seems like I’m copping out of parenting in some way. Or maybe that other people might think I am. Could it be that we’re programmed to feel that parenting is more about actively doing / teaching / leading than consciously not doing something? It’s the spectre that you might be “spoiling” your child, which even as I write it I realise is the language of CIO creeping in!

    Sorry, a bit stream of consciousness but I haven’t thought about it in these terms before. V interesting concepts though and will try to apply this thinking and see if it kicks some of the fear out!

  • Anna 15 May, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    It seems very sensible to me! 🙂 And your last comment about not using bed enforcement I really find inspiring. I do believe that kids should not be trained to fall a sleeep by them self! It just doesnt’t make sense to me. I do belive as they get older, they will have the ability to just fall a sleep by them self, when they are tired. I have a 5 months old girl and I nurse her to sleep every night. She sleeps in our bed and I guess that she will stop nursing to sleep when she is ready for it? I (a Danish mom) have been following your blog for a while and I love that you never have a fanatic attitude. And I always get a good laugh from your post 🙂 Keep sharing! And I would love to know more about your non enforcement sleep approach! What have you been doing and not doing? Kind regards Anna

  • Rach 15 May, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I don’t have kids, but I love this.

    I spent so many years doing youth work, seeing children and young people reacting to the strongly controlled, or neglected environments they live in that it makes perfect sense. If I have children I hope I can respect their values you in the way you do with Ramona and Juno. Because, it’s flipping brilliant!

    Also, I’m so glad I’m not the only one that LOVES chocolate.

  • Gill 15 May, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    I just wrote a reply to this on the iPad and it died as I pressed send – gutted! Try again…

    In principal, I am SO with you on this. It’s something I think about a lot, many times a day, although I hadn’t heard the label before.

    However. Our lives are pretty structured. My son goes to school. 3 times a week, all four of us need to be out by 7.15am. It’s a bugger getting us all ready in time, but we all love the places we leave for (we’re lucky) and wouldn’t change that for the sake of our son spending the day in his pyjamas. I want them to have independence and freedom of speech and ownership of their bodies and an awareness of what’s around them in the world and minds which are open to question and explore and challenge. I also want them to understand boundaries and manners and responsibility and social context.

    The challenge of achieving all this blows my mind sometimes – it’s such a fine line. Even the stuff I’m sure about, I get wrong all the time.

    I suppose that ultimately, you are describing my parenting ideal but I struggle to make it reality.

    On my phone now so hoping that makes some sort of sense.

    • Gill 15 May, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Also, and this has come from reading some of the comments above more carefully so does echo what others have said…

      Balancing the needs of the whole family is so tricky. My daughter needs my attention almost all of the time at the moment, my son sees this and wants it too, and sometimes you really do need to load the dishwasher or get yourself dressed. Which is usually when my daughter begins her Tour of Dangerous Things. And while etching our TV screen with a pencil might not put her at risk, I really don’t want her to do it and that’s entirely valid too.

      We have baby-proofed but she’s pretty creative!

      Equally, times like when my son needs to get out of the car (which is parked over the road and a few houses down) FAST because he needs the toilet, but my daughter currently will not be prised willingly out of the car without climbing into the seat of every other family member first and then insisting that she unlocks the front door (she’s not 2 yet, this all takes much longer than my son’s bladder can bear and there is no sense of reason).

      So despite the amount of love and quality play time and autonomy I give to my two, there are still many occasions each day when limits need to be set and tantrums ensue and it feels like I’ve taken a big step backwards.

      • Lucy 15 May, 2014 at 9:32 pm

        I will reply to all of these but no power left- will respond as soon as sun rises!

      • Catherine Kilgour 19 May, 2014 at 10:29 pm

        My eldest sister found that her young daughter always needed her as soon as she got on the phone or in some way tended to her baby brother. Even if only two minutes ago she had been playing happily.
        So my sister came up with the strategy of giving her daughter 100% of her attention just before she needed to do a job. If she was doing something and could hear the baby stiring, rather than trying to finish the job before getting the baby up, she would stop and fill her daughters need for attention so her daughter wouldn’t need her when she couldn’t be there for her.

  • zehra 15 May, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    We are heading the same way Lucy, my parents for a while thought i was being a bit odd but keep saying we are raising her well. Some people kind of scoff at me when I mentiom autonomy and child in the same sentence! I’ve been told my child will manipulate me and needs boundaries for security blah blah blah, biyt I think its far worst when you end up with a child or teenager who feels they have no say or power and in turn don’t trust themselves …..

  • Janine 15 May, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I didn’t read your first post yet but this is pretty close to how we do things. My husband isn’t always on board as much as I’d like. He does a good job when he’s in a patient mood but seems to expect immediate obedience when he isn’t in a good mood. Still, I’d say we are respectful of our kiddos much more than not, and sadly much more than the average parents. Sometimes I imagine how other parents would react to situations I’m in and it makes me extremely sad.

    One example from just now: I just saw a friend-of-a-friend’s Facebook post where someone complimented her daughter’s hair bun. The mother’s response was: “Thanks! She was begging all day to take it out.” And my heart just sank because THAT IS NOT YOUR HAIR TO BE THE BOSS OF. I would LOVE it if Sebastian let us pull his hair back into a ponytail – He would also be loads cooler this summer – but he doesn’t like it, and doesn’t want his hair cut, so we have 623 photos of him with raggedy hair covering his face instead. Worth it for him to have the autonomy and feel respected.

    I am still working on it with the littler one. It feels too easy to just scoop him up and move him where it’s convenient for me, etc. I’d love some more tips on that subject!

  • Lucy Lumm 15 May, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Love this Love this Love this.

    I love that you’ve told us a typical day with every bit of detail just like I love.

    I love that you share your inner monologue with us, that’s my head and inner thoughts every day. It’s exhausting but needed!

    Thank you for sharing yet another great post!

    X x

  • siobhan 16 May, 2014 at 2:54 am

    I loved reading this article and so much respect to you for doing what you feel is right for your family. It reminded me of two instances in my own childhood, and I’m now 43. One being made to eat toast after not eating for a while due to a sore throat, took years before i could eat toast again!! Secondly, being made to eat cauliflower which i really don’t like unless in cheese or curry. I was very little but knew what i wanted to do and why not. There is a line between neglect and control. I believe we should guide but not force unless a good reason, safety, deadlines or suchlike, we are after all the grown ups allegedly! Thanks for writing this article

  • Bettina 16 May, 2014 at 9:17 am

    You know, the longer I read your blog, the more convinced I am that I’m just going to be a terrible mother and I should probably not have any children at all. You seem to have endless amounts of time and think about everything so much that I feel I’ll never be able to live up to such a standard. For instance, I love my career and would never dream of giving it up, but I also want children. I can already see it coming: I’ll have to be out of the house (and my partner too, since he’s equally devoted to his career) and the child will want to choose their clothes and it’ll take forever and I’ll snap (I’m afraid to say I’m not just a career-loving selfish lady but also an impatient one).

    It seems to me like this sort of thinking was also behind many of the comments that made you think people didn’t “get” your first post. A lot of the ones I read were related to the everyday practicality of parenting like you do. Not all of us can or want to live in a yurt and not have a 9-5 (or even longer hours) office/other job. I really don’t mean to be harsh, and I know you just want to pass on the knowledge of something you’re absolutely convinced of.

    But I can see how ordinary human beings can feel judged, you know, those of us who get in a rush and flustered and don’t have ten arms to carry extra food, jumpers, and leggings in case someone who didn’t want breakfast gets hungry, someone else who didn’t want to put on a jacket gets cold, and a third one who didn’t need the toilet takes a wee in their trousers. I’m not even a mother yet but reading this kind of stuff makes parenting seem like such a daunting task and makes me feel so inadequate that I lose all appetite for it.

    • Lucy 16 May, 2014 at 11:47 am

      ARGH, Bettina. I apologise that it comes across that way. Thank you for articulating so perfectly what I think I may have been missing.
      I wish you really knew me. I am ambitious! I love social policy and have worked in an office for most of my life.
      I am also rubbish in so many ways – if you were to look at my children you would think they were neglected!
      My kitchen need a bloody good scrub.
      I am learning about not trying to do too much.
      The biggest help in all of this has been deciding with my husband to share it. This way I can be ambitious with my other plans yet still have time to parent the way I beleive to be right.
      Also, before I had kids I thought I would do things a certain way, and then they popped out and I was like “WOAH HOW AWESOME ARE THESE PEOPLE!” and so much of this stuff came naturally to me, to just treat them as people.
      In fact, this whole thing can be boiled down to that. Just treat children as YOU want to be treated – with the same kind of respect. WHowever you are, whatever you do, whatever career you have, whatever personality, just treat them like they are a full person.
      *hopeful face* does this help?

      • Bettina 20 May, 2014 at 9:13 am

        Thanks Lucy! I’ll certainly try to treat my kids like I’d want to be treated. But I’m quite sure that I won’t be as mindful as you are, even if I try hard, and that makes me sad and angry… because I know I’ll be measuring myself up to the very high standard awesome people like you are setting and I won’t be able to meet it. Apologies for the harsh tone in my first comment. I just wanted to honestly tell you how your posts made me feel.

  • Ross W 16 May, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Sorry – I now seem to be a serial commenter!!!

    I read this and was proud and surprised to be able to go “Yep. Yep. Yes, we do that. Aaaw, Isaac does that and it’s so cute. Yes. Yes. Yep…”

    And then I got to the bit about bedtime.

    And…well…I pretty much cried and shouted “WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING?!?!”

    I think bedtime might be VERY different tomorrow. And if Sally will let me I’ll be writing a post of my own about my recent, quite transformational, experiences.

    • Tasha Batsford 16 May, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      And I seem to be a serial responder to your comments lol

      We had a similar epiphany about six months ago and I can confirm life is SO much sweeter now.

      I can highly recommend it.

    • Lucy 16 May, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      Well, bedtime isn’t a dream for us- Juno gets mad while Ramona is going to sleep with me. But this is my philosophy>

  • Tasha Batsford 16 May, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    You know we agree on so many of the approaches you have mentioned in these last two posts.

    I find that my Achilles heel is frustration, and I really need to work on shutting the hell up sometimes.

    We have a big issue with Alfie getting up super early (like 4.30/ 5am) and raiding the kitchen for food. The issue is not that he’s hungry and wants food, we leave him out a bowl of cereal to eat if he gets hungry, it’s that he climbs almost to ceiling height and steals things that we have specifically asked him not to take because they belong to all of us (treats mostly).

    This morning I woke up to him sitting at the table with a bowl full of the last coco pops (we hadn’t had them in years and Keith had got them as a treat for us all earlier in the week). My head was saying “wow, he managed to get the box down from the top shelf that I can’t even reach, got a bowl, set his place at the table, poured the cereal and sat eating quietly”. My mouth was not so generous because I was just so damn frustrated that he had made the choice not to share.

    I’ll talk to him when I get home from work tonight about why I was so upset this morning but it raises a question for me that you also raised about how we bring in the balance of our own needs.

    • Gill 16 May, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      It’s the frustration which gets me too.

      I have the internal monologue too, my own needs are absolutely definitely at the bottom of the pile (but mostly really because I am happiest when they’re happy) and I try so hard to be creative in the way I respond and approach things. But the fact is, sometimes I just need my daughter NOT to do stuff (she is in to absolutely everything!) and my son to just do. what. I. ask. him. to. do. And the frustration can be overwhelming because, well, I’m normal 🙂

      Our bedtimes work well because they are structured but in a way which means they are everyone’s favourite time of day.

      When I first read Bettina’s post I thought it was pretty harsh, I don’t think I’d be a great deal more patient if I lived in a yurt (in fact, I suspect I might be less so). But many of the points made in that comment do reflect my own feelings of, not failure exactly, but inadequacy about my own parenting.

      • Bettina 20 May, 2014 at 9:09 am

        Sorry for not coming back earlier! I sort of realised when I wrote my comment that it might sound harsh. But on the other hand, Lucy had been wondering how people came to feel a certain way about her initial post, so I just wanted to be honest, and I was feeling quite anxious about all the mistakes I’ll certainly make once I become a mother after reading it, and I did want to express that.
        Of course people who live in yurts aren’t more patient by definition… but it does sound like they may have a lifestyle that’s more adaptable to the kind of parenting Lucy and her husband are doing than, for instance, mine. Sorry for talking about you in the third person here Lucy :), and also for completely interpreting what it is you’re doing! So please do correct me if I’m wrong!

        • Gill 2 June, 2014 at 7:32 am

          Hi Bettina, sorry, I thought I had email alerts on and didn’t see this.

          It makes for a more interesting discussion when people are honest! I didn’t mean to talk about you in the third person either, sorry about that.

      • Lucy 20 May, 2014 at 10:31 pm

        🙁 I wish you could see all the ways I fail!
        I like to think non-compliance is the sign of a brave and mighty world changer 🙂

  • Teeny 16 May, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Lucy, I don’t see anything wrong with this way of parenting at all. I cannot see how your babes will not become as well adjusted and independant and loving as they can be – and maybe even without the neuroses that so many of us have as a result of the type of controlling parenting that was popular at the time alot of us were children (spanning decades!). I think it takes an amazing amount of patience and mindfulness to do what you’re doing. It might come naturally to you? I don’t parent the same way as you, but that is mainly because I had never thought of it until it was too late, I do think that you make sense, but is really is too late for my 10 and 6 yo. I generally follow a rule of not arguing about anything that really doesn’t matter in the long run. I nodded along with you about the pj thing; my girl goes to bed hot and wakes at about 3am cold and YES I do have to jump into bed with her at that stage – no we don’t co-sleep. But she is 6 and I’m not going to force her to be uncomfortable. We’re pretty strict on sweets (treats only), and i do wonder if we had been relaxed about it earlier on if they’d be able to self-regulate now – which they don’t, they are sweet fiends. Things like not going into breakable shops? THere is no way in heck I would take mine in when they were little unless they were in slings or backpacks or strollers – that was just stress and crazy waiting to happen. Now, they are pretty good with an explanation before we walk in, and they’re gentle if they touch stuff ….it’s when they start to play wildly in there that we have to move out. Wow, I guess my way isn’t so vastly different after all. Maybe the motivation is different though? Anyhow, just my thoughts. I look forward to reading more about your journey x

  • Rachel 17 May, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Hi Lucy,
    This is the first time I’ve commented on your blog but have been reading it for a while. I really enjoyed this blog as it was so simple to understand and gave so many great examples of day to day things that come up and how you handle it. A great insight into your life. To be completely honest when I’ve read some of your other posts I’ve not really got it and felt it was a bit crazy!! (Sorry) My first reaction months ago was really defensive – I felt like you were a perfect parent that was so sorted and never got angry or frustrated or shout and your blogs just made me feel a bit crap to be honest like I was failing really badly and you were telling me what to do. I found myself saying stuff like “that sytle only works if you stay at home all day, I go to work, I’m busy, I have times to stick by – if my son doesn’t want to get in his car seat it’s a little bit tough as we HAVE to go to nursery/work” etc etc. Also prior to this post I thought what you were doing was a million miles away from how I parent but after reading this I realise that we’re not so different – all the talk on human rights etc previously has jus went right over my head and I couldn’t imagine at all how your day went, sorry to say but I imagined your children just running riot and being allowed to do anything they wanted with them believing what they said goes – for example “I don’t want to go out now, I want to watch this movie that lasts 2 hours then I might want to go out but I might want to watch another movie and it’s my right so you can’t leave the house!” (Huge extreme example sorry) but it’s not!!! Ta Dah I’ve got it!!! It’s about compromise and realising your child has a voice! I do this, I do this I’m not a bad mother woohoo!!! I’ve never understood why parents make their child do something they would never do like eat more food when your full or keep your coat on when your hot. I’ve often said to my parents when discussing my awful teenage years and how bad I was that I wasn’t actually bad the reason we stayed up all night arguing was because I wanted your permission to do something and you were saying a straight no! No meeting in the middle and I didn’t just wake up on my 18th and by a miracle be “good” I stopped being told what to do! I said to my mum the other week if you told me now to go to bed when I wasnt tired you’d prob get the same reaction as when I was 17!!! I didn’t change that much I just got given room to grow!
    I’m not at your level but I’ve realised I do need to change some things I do and I hope I also try to compromise and listen!
    Thanks for the post and by the way I’m really good friends with your cousin Laura Tribble, I met you and your family at my friend nick wards wedding and my parents are Salvation Army officers so not so different 🙂
    Posted with love xx

    • Catherine Kilgour 19 May, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      I started piggy back rides on days when I needed to get a child in the car and they didn’t want and I didn’t want to fight them. First I would get myself ready, pack the car and then help them get ready and in the car. Some days they could climb in by themselves but some days you can sense it isn’t going to work so there is a need to step up and reduce the stress and find some fun.

      When my older children were little we found out the hard way that if we tried to get them to eat as soon as they got up out of bed it would take forever. If we let them take 20mins to play they ate their breakfast so much quicker when we let them do it when they were ready.

    • Lucy 20 May, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      Wow, thank you!

  • Sally 20 May, 2014 at 8:42 am

    What are people’s experiences of transitioning from more “traditional” parenting to what Lucy’s talking about here? Particularly around different approaches to sleep. Our 2.5 year old has never been good at recognising when he needs to sleep. You know those kids whose parents post photos of them falling asleep over dinner. Or on the stairs? Or any other manner of strange places? He is not one of those children. Heck, he even struggled to sleep in the sling. He just gets increasingly wired.

    Maybe that’s because we have always been too hands-on and never really let him find his own way?

    Anyway, I’d be fascinated to hear if any of you have had experience of trying out the principles we’re talking about here with a child with a similar disposition. I really, REALLY want to take this approach… but am struggling (after a few days of attempting it and finding it really hard and frustrating) to see how/when Isaac will “get it”.

    And yes, I know a few days is not a long time compared to the habits of a lifetime (even a short one) but at the moment it feels like a long way from the freedom that Lucy talks about.


    • Lucy 20 May, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Sandra Dodd has a saying something like “Do a little, watch a little, wait a little” – rather than shifting in one big lot ie “Isaac, you can now do ANYTHING as it is your RIGHT!” – just focus on saying YES more 🙂 have asked your q on FAcebook page so keep eyes peeled 🙂

  • Ali 18 June, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Ouch, battered wifesyndrome?? Really??

    • Lucy 18 June, 2014 at 11:17 am

      You’re right, totally insensitive, sorry 🙁

  • Informed Winging It – 3 Gentle Parenting Myths | Mel Wiggins 14 July, 2014 at 10:01 am

    […] times, we are confident that keeping him close and fostering his security is right for us.  Lucy did a great post about the kind of thought process and daily rhythm of thinking that goes into this way of doing […]

  • Anna 17 April, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    I’m interested in how you would manage a less day-to-day situation with this particular parenting style. My daughter is very strong willed and we regularly struggle to get her to eat more than breakfast on an average day. She was recently hospitalised with a fairly rare immune disorder which destroyed her platelets, preventing her blood from being able to clot. She had such a low platelet count that if she had fallen she would most likely have suffered major internal bleeding AND Drs would have been unable to operate safely to help her. She is thankfully getting better and the illness is unlikely to recur, but while she was in hospital she required a drip, blood tests and medication which made her nauseous and gave her headaches. Towards the end of our stay she was adamant that she didn’t want to eat, go to the toilet, have anyone touch her, help her or give her any medicine despite the fact that she was clearly in pain. How can you respect her wishes in this regard, when respecting those wishes could potentially have life threatening results? And how can I balance her right to choose vs. my right to see her not in pain? I know this may seem random and out of the blue, but I had a difficult day with her today. She is safe and on the mend but is naturally frightened of becoming ill again and I am seeing a lot of the resistant behaviour from hospital returning. No matter what I tell her, I can’t seem to convince her that she is nearly better, especially when we will continue to need to monitor her blood with fairly regular blood tests. I feel like I’m starting to ramble a bit. Any advice would be appreciated!