I felt an uncomfortable prickle today as I watched some mums defend their children’s right to play however they wanted in the park. My discomfort arrived because I disagreed with their parenting – and it made me feel all judgey and like a traitor to The Motherhood.
Have you read much about this modern approach to parenting that children should be allowed access to everything and dictate their day? It’s called Yes Parenting.
Here’s what happened today. It feels like an example of it.
I train in the park on Thursdays. It’s pretty much the only exercise I manage to do, but it’s so wonderful to be out in the fresh air and (occasional) sunshine.
Anyway. The ground where I train is pit-holed with little dodgy lumps sliced out of it, making parts of it a little unsafe to run on. Recently, my PT discovered why the park is so cut up: a regular group of young children troop in with their mums, each handed a little spade and free to set about and dig up the ground. Last week, he challenged them about it. This week, it happened again just as I was leaving and he challenged the mums again.
The mothers, of course, thought their children were innocent, despite having tripped over the holes themselves. They defended their children’s right to dig wherever they want, saying that digging is ok because it’s educational. And, anyway, they said angrily, they’re children! If they want to dig, they can dig. If we have a problem with it, we’re unreasonable people who don’t care about learning.
I used to be a teacher. I can see how lovely digging is (I’m a grown up and still enjoy a good dig). But I can recognise that teaching children that they can dig *wherever they want* is poor education. What is it teaching them? That their needs are more valuable than anyone else’s? That messing up a public park ground is totally ok?
But, as a mum myself, I can also recognise the mothers’ defensiveness. I can empathise with their feeling that their children should be free to explore and discover and have a fantastic time in the park.
As I walked home, I started to wonder about it and the fashionable ‘Yes Parenting’ philosophy that people are now talking about because it appeared that I had just seen it in action.
Yes Parenting is, from what I understand, a permissive style of mothering. Instead of saying “no, don’t pull the cat’s tail!” you would distract them and say “here are some other things to pull.” Perhaps you’d explain why you shouldn’t pull the cat’s tail. Yes Parents allow their children to set their own boundaries.
But here’s where I disagree with it – and, incidentally, those children digging in the park – we’re all citizens of this world. We have to learn to get along together harmoniously. We clash. We figure out what’s ok, and what’s not, those first lessons coming from our mothers and fathers. (As an adult, for example, it would be deeply inappropriate for me to head over to the park and start digging up the grass wherever I fancied.)
So if we don’t teach our children boundaries now, they’re going to crash sharply into them later, on their own. And are they going to be equipped to deal with that?
I don’t want to casually pass judgement over other people’s parenting. We’re all just trying really hard to have a good day. But, at the same time, I have to wonder if this modern Yes Parenting approach is bad for society. An uncomfortable thought. Sorry, The Motherhood. I hope I haven’t betrayed you.