Featured, Parenting

She lets her kids get away with whatever they want!

7 September, 2016

A modern child respecting parent’s job is a balancing act.

In any split second we are juggling body autonomy, the desire to respect people around us, a critical analysis of the rules or the status quo, safety or well being and the fact that our children are actual people with minds and bodies of their own.

To some people this balancing act may look like “letting her kids do whatever they want” when actually it is “letting her kids do whatever they want – because they are free human beings with autonomy and will- as long as it isn’t harming anyone, physically or mentally.”

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa – quick assessment: causing harm, no… ROLY POLYS ARE AGOGO!

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa at GREAT AUNTY SHEILA’S house- quick assessment : causing physical harm, no, challenging normal sofa behaviour, yes, therefore causing mental harm for Great Aunty Sheila, yes… ROLY POLY’S ON SOFA ARE EMBARGOED! Or, we might get that judgment wrong and believe Aunty Sheila’s happiness isn’t dependant on normal sofa behaviour and say ROLY POLY’S ARE AGOGO when really they should have been EMBARGOED and now Aunty Sheila is cross and parents these days let their kids get away with anything!!!!!!


But I think it requires consideration, the mental harm thing. We are standing up for children and their right to be themselves in this strange, rule bound world. But we may need to take time with them to explain that sometimes grown ups don’t cope very well when rules are broken or when things don’t go their way.

(Sometimes we need to tread gently this way, and then sometimes we might need to say to a grown up “This child is doing nothing wrong! She is harming no thing! Why do you desire to control her or this situation?”)

The mental and physical harm goes for mamas and papas too- it’s why the activities I don’t interfere with look different to yours, or even my husband’s. If my kids want to make a potion out of bits of food and mud and soap I won’t stop them because I can’t see the harm in it (but I can see the joy and learning they are getting from it.)

My husband, however, has different parameters and he would say that mentally he is not up to that free style potion making, so he is far more likely to step in and redirect (in an ideal world still allowing that urge to flourish, but in a less messy place/ with limited ingredients.)

Personally, I feel like I have seen urges squashed and joy diminished by breaking a child’s working bee, so I try to just let things flow for them. But I’m not going to judge people’s different parameters – especially if they are working on expanding them! (I feel like that needs a *wink* emoji!)She lets her kids get away with anything!

I wonder what people mean, when they talk about kids getting away with whatever they want? Is seeing a kid in flow upsetting?

I sometimes wonder if grumpy grown ups (myself included) when they try and quench a child’s energy or enthusiasm are being triggered by their own controlled childhood. A child’s exuberance brings up, in a deep unconscious way, all the times we were made to sit on our hands and not make a peep because we were children in an adult’s world.

I love to hang out with grown ups who celebrate a child’s wildness. Who have come to terms with their own childhood oppression and are now able to take full delight in a child’s desire to stick their fingers in a jar, climb on the furniture, pick the petals. These grown ups are the greatest!

I am laughing inside a bit, because don’t you think it’s true that children go wilder when they are in an environment that tries to control them?

A few weeks ago we went to a new friend’s home. It was filled with bits of art and sculptures and beautiful, breakable things I was a little bit terrified inside. I knew one of us was gonna shatter something.

But we were all so welcome. The children were treated with the respect and honour we were given, as guests in their home. They relished it when Ramona reached in and grabbed the last two mussels from the bowl.

After dinner, instead of rushing from corner to corner, picking every piece of pottery up and eventually breaking something, Ramona and Juno curled up on the couch and fell asleep!!! Harhahahahahaha. It was as if they just floated into dreamland on a cloud of welcome and inclusion.

I couldn’t help but compare this to other situations where it seems my children ride a wave of tension… the weight of expectation is so heavy upon their shoulders that they crumple into every bad behaviour expected of them!

But of course… we know really there is no bad behaviour…

There are only children yielding to the urges inside of them, and there are only adults finding these urges an inconvenience.

There are only children with needs unmet, trying to communicate and connect in a way that makes us uncomfortable.

How hard it must be for kids, trying to figure out this ridiculous adult world.

Where saying the word “thank you” trumps a grateful smile, or where even the word “thank you” bossed out of you opens the door to receiving something. This world where you DON’T see adults constantly badgering magic words out of each other…

So I won’t let the children hurt people… (but if they do hurt someone or do something unsafe you won’t find me reprimanding them or punishing them. You will -on a good day as opposed to those grumpy stressed out days that pop up- see me intervene to stop it happening, and requesting that we keep things kind and safe, then you probably won’t see anything. Because the follow up to that is an empathetic conversation and an acknowledgement of needs unmet, it’s decisions made together about how we can make sure everyone stays safe in the future. Long term, punishment impacts well being, compared to an empathetic response that promote the development of empathy… so I’m not gonna forsake their well being even if it looks like they’re getting away with something…)

Where was I?! Ah yes! We won’t let the children hurt people … and I will probably try and stop them breaking precious things… and I will absolutely ensure their safety. Aside from that, I am simply here to help them navigate this strange place, to create space for them to follow up their wishes, to personally, mentally, rise to the challenge of letting kids be kids for a while.

If that is letting them get away with whatever they want….

so be it.

PS If you found this post helpful please consider supporting my work through Patreon. You can support for as little as $1 a month and get access to lots of extra content.

PPS New Youtube video from today; non violent parenting, child shaming and unmet needs…

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  • ThaliaKR 24 August, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Love it, Lucy. Such a helpful, clear, practical description of the inner monologue I have everyday! :)xx

    • Lucy 24 August, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      Thanks Thalia! It’s a tough challenge but I think we can be entrusted with it!

  • Cathy 24 August, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    I love the sentiment but find it hard in the real world and always end up coming down really hard on my son.

    Mainly because he disrupts classes (he asks to go to) because he wants one on one attention from the coach.

    But my biggest worry is he’ll end up like his completely free friend who last time he visited broke at least 4 treasured toys, but worse deliberately ill treated my cat to the stage where it made the cat afraid of my son (who did nothing, he was afraid of his bigger friend so didn’t stop it, but refused to be cruel) – he beat a 13 year old cat with a metal toy golf club among other things – how do you prevent this kind of behaviour without discipline (the child is 6 and knows he is cruel but he doesn’t care.)

    I don’t think my son is capable of such cruelty, but then this little boy’s mum feels the same.

    • Lucy 25 August, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Hi Cathy- it’s hard when we think we are looking at the embodiment of a sentiment! I wouldn’t say your friend is though! What you describe is all stuff where adults need to step in and stop happening. So you are not describing what I have said should happen. This boy sounds like he needs safety and connection himself…

  • Katy 24 August, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Do you have any suggestions about points of friction where there is an overlap of autonomy? We have very few disagreements about movement, clothing and showing affection but how about when kids have opinions about how I spend my money (on food I don’t believe is healthy or toys I feel are creating too much waste)? Or how do I compromise when I’m trying to get to work but they feel like playing?

    I’m really struggling with the feeling that my autonomy comes second which raises my feminist hackles!

    • Lucy 25 August, 2016 at 8:23 am

      Hey Katy, yep I can understand that! 🙂 At times when I anticipate a clash I try (on my good days) to make it a game, ala Playful Parenting (such a good book) to help us all move along to where we need to be. When it happens in a surprise way (yesterday we had a clash over data as I needed it to work and Ramona wanted to watch a movie) all i can do is explain “I’m so sorry mama needs this. It’s really important but you just feel frustrated cos to you your thing is really important” – I just keep accepting their feelings and validating etc etc
      Regarding whose desires trump whose…. I like to think adults are better able at seeing the resources around them and getting their needs met – children are often utterly reliant on us to do that for them. So that’s why I don’t think we need to feel like our children are tyrants 😛 There is a book Winning Parent Winning Child and that basically sums up what I feel we should aim for 🙂

      • Katy 25 August, 2016 at 8:59 am

        Thanks, I’ll check out those books!

  • Sydney 25 August, 2016 at 12:32 am

    Thank you thank you! So well articulated. So many parallels to my beliefs and parenting practices. Why is it that we have to live in opposite hemispheres? Sending love and positive parenting from El salvador.

    • Lucy 25 August, 2016 at 8:17 am

      El Salvador! Wow! Much love to you x

  • Jess 25 August, 2016 at 1:00 am

    I was verbally abused by a woman in a shop the other day for crediting my almost-three-year-old with having an opinion on what card he thought my aunty might like for her birthday – I mean full-on proper “you are being so ridiculous – as if he cares or has any idea what you are talking about, get out of my way” type abuse. I had to be calm because of the child in my arms so after a bit of verbal to-ing and fro-ing (me: what on earth are you talking about? her: YOU. You’re so stupid to think what you’re doing matters etc etc), I responded with my best diplomatic “my child is a human being and and of COURSE I value his opinion (ps you are quite horrible)”. I am teaching my children to be kind and empathetic and have manners but I am shocked by some people’s belief that because they are little they just don’t get a say…. !

    • Lucy 25 August, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Oh my golly Jess! This is horrendous and awful! I feel a bit like crying on your behalf! You are doing an incredible job with your three year old- you are raising someone who knows their voice is valued and that knows you want to connect over even small things. It’s beautiful and I am so sorry this happened to you. I hope you had a supportive community (online or anywhere) who could assure you immediately that you are an awesome mama and not stupid!!

      • Jess 26 August, 2016 at 12:58 am

        Thanks so much for the vote of confidence Lucy! I am really big on hearing a child out so a problem can then be discussed and solved … (it doesn’t a-l-w-a-y-s work this way of course) … from an early age my children knew the words “tricky” and “frustrated” so they had a way to communicate if something was driving them nuts/making them feel angry etc. Likewise with their opinions – how can we teach them empathy etc if they don’t ever get to say what they think? I will put this aggressive woman’s shouty rant down to her having a very bad day/attitude and will definitely carry on asking my kids for their opinions on things!

  • Sarah Rooftops 25 August, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Yes, yes, all of this. I spend almost every toddler group we venture to thinking, “But… why are you shouting at your child for THAT?”

    • Lucy 25 August, 2016 at 8:13 am

      Oh me toooooo!!!! The rhetoric in my head! “Please just let that baby touch that, he wants to hold it and it doesn’t matter!!”

  • Kate 25 August, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I love this! I often ask my lil one when she is getting cranky – “are you feeling…” and name some feelings. Then if she doesn’t know, I ask if she wants a cuddle and 9/10 times she stops and says yes and falls into my arms. I suppose it is all about active listening and seeing the deeper motivations.

  • corinne 25 August, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Yes. Yes. 100% yes.

  • Joanna 28 August, 2016 at 1:59 am

    I just looove u! will subscrible, will follow, will spread the word! 😀

  • Joanna 28 August, 2016 at 4:12 am

    hello 🙂 Have you read Jesper Juuls,s books? Or Isabelle Filliozat, Alfie Kohn, Thomas Gordon, Adelle Faber and Elaine Mazlish? I like “Child behaviour” as well 🙂

  • Janice 10 September, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    I like how you take other people’s mental health into account. My problem is that I know at some point the couch rolling usually ends in someone hurt, so I tend to stop it before it starts. How do you counterbalance that instinct?

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