Like most children, my own brood complains constantly about my style of parenting. "You’re always saying 'No'," they complain, as I tell them they can’t have yet more mayonnaise on their dinner.
"You say no to everything,"says Leonard, aged eight.
He and his younger siblings — Jerry, six, and Ottoline, three — then list everything I have said ‘No’ to since they got home from school. Sweets, playing outside with their uniform on, biscuits, getting stuff out from drawer, painting?…
I’ve always considered myself a pretty easy-going parent, and yet here they are telling me I’m a nay-saying harridan.
According to the currently fashionable idea of ‘free parenting’, though, what I should be saying is ‘Yes’.
It’s particularly interesting to me because I recently decided to try an experiment. In the style of ‘free parenting’, I would say yes to everything my children wanted for an entire week — and see what happened.
The only rules were not to let the children know what I’d decided to do, and to ensure that I alerted them to the consequences of their actions, so they could make their own well-informed choices.
But what if they wanted to swing on the curtains and to paint the walls red? What if my teenage son, 14-year-old Raymond, wanted to bring girls home every night and smoke? What would I say then?
There was only one way to find out?…