Are you a YES parent?
With my laissez-faire parenting approach, you may be surprised to learn that I do have the same worries and fears as other parents; when Rose was a baby I checked and rechecked if she was breathing while she slept. As she got older, I scoured the floor of our home and homes we visited for little bits she might put into her mouth. Baby led weaning scared the life out of me as I thought Rose would for sure choke on anything that wasn’t blended beyond recognition. However, I refused to buy a baby monitor, I still let her play on those unknown floors, and I didn’t let my fear of choking stop me from giving Rose finger food. So, I know how difficult it is to come up against those fears and chose not to listen to them, not to let them take control. This is the hardest part of Hands-Off Parenting for many. I spoke about fear in a previous post and how it takes hold, especially regarding our children; we will do anything to keep them safe.
But we also want our children to have fun, to live their best life – and to not let fear rule their choices and ambitions. We want to raise strong, resilient children who will embrace challenge and bounce back from failure. I recently asked a parent on Instagram how she encouraged her children to play happily in the rain. She said what helped was embracing all weather, but also being an overall “yes” parent. That stuck with me - being a “yes” parent. I thought about whether I was a yes parent and if not, how could I change my outlook to help me to say yes more.
As above, just because I am a Hands-Off Parent it does not mean I don’t worry. Safety is so important to me, and to anyone wanting to give their children that extra bit of choice and freedom; if your babies and children are in a safe space then there is much less chance of you denying their requests. So a safe home is essential to being a yes parent; putting locks on cupboards with dangerous chemicals or heavy plates, glasses etc, using stair gates or blocking access to stairs and steps until your children can use them confidently, getting rid of toys that small babies might choke on (if it fits through a toilet roll insert chances are it could be dangerous).
Next, I thought of times when I refused Rose’s requests and analysed why I did this – often it was because what she wanted to do was either not safe (for example play with my hairdryer while plugged in) or would make too much of a mess. Let’s tackle the first reason first – when are our children not safe? I know everyone’s idea of safe is different. I am happy to let Rose climb structures at the playground without my assistance, I allow her run up mucky river banks and crawl under tables and chairs. The reason I do this is because I figure if Rose can get herself into a mess, she can get herself out of it. In fact, often children are naturally good risk assessors - if left alone! My own daughter seems to know her physical limits or at least what she is comfortable with. Rose cannot climb anything too high by herself, she cannot crawl too far up that mucky hill and she can usually gauge how much space she needs to manoeuvre under a table. If not, the worst that can happen is, she falls off the structure, she slips down the hill or she hits her head off the table. None of these conclusions result in Rose being permanently damaged so I let her go ahead. And that’s it – I assess the risk and if I conclude Rose won’t get much worse than a bump on her head, I let it happen.
Now, onto that second reason; making a mess. Ugh, why do we care so much about making a mess? What’s the worst thing that happens with mess? I mean, most messes can be tidied up. And if not, then maybe I can find a way for Rose to make the mess in a place where I don’t care if it can’t be tidied up. For example, if Rose wants to play with paints instead of letting her play inside where I’m going to have to heavily supervise and keep saying “no, no NO!” as she paints, I will instead set it up outside where it doesn’t matter if paint gets everywhere. And when it comes to bad weather, and playing in the rain and puddles, I will know to dress her appropriately so she is protected as much as she can be. And I also must let go of those preconceived notions I have about rain, and getting wet, and how uncomfortable and annoying it can be. Rose doesn’t have those feelings about rain and if I can help it, she never will.
Hands Off Parenting is not so much about ignoring fear or anxiety – it is about facing those fears and deciding which ones are worth keeping, and which ones can be worked around.
Are you a Yes parent? If not would you like to be one? My parent/infant guidance classes will help you put measures in place that will encourage resilience, independence, and build mutual respect between you and your baby. For more information please email email@example.com or leave a comment below.