Have let my child go to bed without a bath after playing in the sandpit? What’s a bath?
Let my child eat mud/eat random food off the floor/drink the bath water. Check. (Wait- baths? Do we take those?)
If you can relate to any of the following, perhaps, like me, you’re a “Yes Mom”.
When we both listened to the parenting podcast by Jen Wilkin, Kate and I had a chuckle that we are probably a stereotypical “Yes Mom” and “No Mom” — and being neighbours is God’s sense of humour. While Kate has given you a glimpse into “No Mom” world, I want to give you a glimpse into “Yes Mom” world. For you other “Yes Moms” perhaps it can encourage you that you are not alone, and help you think through spots where you can grow. For those of you who are “No Moms” wanting to say “yes” a little more, perhaps you can borrow some “Yes Mom” tips.
One thing I’ve learned is that God created each of us unique (just as he created each of our children unique) and there is not one right way to parent. The God who made me love fun doesn’t expect that to suddenly turn off now that I am a parent— he understands that will shine through in the way I do this mom-thing. (In the same way, perhaps, your own love of order, or creativity, or unity, will shine through). The fact is, though, while we have uniqueness, we also all have our own unique sins and, when our children don’t fit into our agendas, we experience the friction that comes from difference – it can be difficult. But God uses that friction to make us more like himself, conformed to the image of his Son. And really, as we are conformed to Christ’s image, our own personalities he’s given us are not erased, but refined. But, to repeat, the way I reflect Christ is going to be DIFFERENT than the way you do- so keep that in mind. You don’t have to parent the way I do 🙂
So, one of the ways God made me is that I love FUN. It’s a top-priority value for me. My inner critic often goes off in situations, and it doesn’t say, “Oh, this could be so much better organised!” Or “This could be better prepared!” It says, “WOW. This could really be more FUN.” My life mantra is Mary Poppins’ “Spoonful of Sugar”. YES, we’ve all gotta adult. We’ve all got to clean, and go to work, and brush our teeth, tidy our rooms, and do homework…but we’ve got options, people! It can be boring, OR we can find the fun and SNAP THE JOB’S A GAME!
(The irony is, my first child actually does not mind peace, quiet, or the very routines which I find boring! So God is using that to sanctify me.)
Mischaracterisation of “Yes Moms”
1. You’re just lazy
Maybe it looks lazy to an outsider not to stop your child from rolling down a bank that looks kind of steep. Or not to stop them playing in the mud. Or to let them take all your cooking pots outside (or upstairs), or to eat whatever they find on the floor. But actually, I think my child will learn from natural consequences a lot better than me giving them a rule and then having to police it. Let them cry at the bottom of the hill; they’ll have learned it was too steep. Let them get filthy; I’ll just wash the clothes (or will I? Let’s be honest). It might look like laziness, but it’s intentional laziness. I want the environment to teach the lesson much better than I can.
2. You’re indulgent
“Yes Moms” tend to value relationships over control (either can become an idol!) But some of my “indulgence” has to do with the research I’ve done in child development and their ability to emotionally regulate at certain ages as well as their ability to take in new information. We know from science that kids can’t take in new information when they are hyped up on adrenaline in “fight or flight” mode. So lots of shouting and harsh discipline does not put them in a frame of mind to receive information they can actually absorb, internalize, and act on. “Parenting for the long-term” means that right now, I might be a bit embarrassed because my child is having a melt-down in the grocery store, but if I were to harshly discipline him like all the grannies who are making scary eyes at me want me to, he wouldn’t actually learn anything. Once he’s out of the situation and calmer, I’ll be able to help him learn the lesson that he should think of others even when he’s upset and not disrupt the whole room by screaming. There can still be consequences, but they don’t have to be given in the heat of the moment.
3. You have no boundaries
While I might have less boundaries, I like to think I still have some! I know that kids thrive best with freedom within boundaries. I just perhaps have less boundaries than a “No Mom”! 🙂
4. No Moms” work harder at parenting so they are more spiritual/doing it right
I tend to get a bit resentful about martyr complexes in Christian parenting books: this idea that to be a good parent we must be constantly suffering. Could it not be, that when we are following the lead of the Spirit as we parent our children, there is joy and peace and life? And perhaps if we’re constantly grumpy, constantly fighting with our children, constantly upholding a million rules we’re exhausted of upholding (because we feel we MUST follow all these rules or we are terrible parents) that in fact we are upholding things that are idols and are not a burden God is asking us to carry? Perhaps the invitation is not to shame the “Yes Moms” for enjoying their parenting, but rather to let go of some rules and find our joy again? I don’t like having false guilt placed on me by “No Moms” who think there is virtue in staggering under their own rules. So much of what all of us do (“Yes Moms” included!) is not biblical, it’s just preference. It’s just culture. It’s just personality. And it’s not bad… but if it’s weighing you down, just let it go. If you’re training your children to love the Lord, even if they destroy the house in their curiosity of how things work, you’ll be okay.
How to Say “Yes” More
If you’re feeling weighed down, and want to say “yes” more but don’t know how, here are a few tips from a “Yes Mom”:
SO much of saying, “yes” is deciding what your values are. Decide on your top 5 values, and arrange your life around them. I hate cleaning. So I have a tiny house. LITERALLY. It’s 8 by 2.4m. I never spend more than 20 minutes a day cleaning. I never have to fight with my child to get him to entertain himself quietly while I clean. I never mind* (*honesty check: usually don’t mind!) if they track in mud or if they have toys everywhere… because it takes 2 seconds to wipe up the mud, and they only have, like 7 toys. That’s a rather extreme example. Perhaps you’re not going to move into a tiny house, but if you’re tired of picking up toys… stop your battle and just give 3/4 of them away. It will take your child 5 minutes to tidy them. I’ve decided I don’t waste time matching socks. So I’ve bought my husband only black socks, and everyone else can just wear whatever comes out in the wash. I’ve decided the amount of fun that can be had climbing on the couch FAR surpasses any money we’re going to save in preserving the Mr Price discount couch. So, jumping on the couch, no prob. I can say “YES” to that.
2. Create an environment that lets you say yes
If I can’t walk past a piece of cake on the counter without taking a nibble each time, why do I expect my baby to keep his fingers out of those tiny little perfect sized holes in the socket? I’m a grown woman and I can’t resist temptation that well. Just cover the plug. No more battles. Or, make dinner in bulk and freeze it so you have time at “melt down hour” to say “YES” to reading books to your nagging child.
3. Do it together and make it a game
Obviously there are levels of responsibility that increase as kids get older. But for little kids, it’s much more pleasant to get down on the floor and turn tidying up into a game of dump trucks loading up the Duplo TOGETHER, than to be standing, peering down at my child and pointing out all the Duplos he’s missed. Our Father in Heaven gives us his Holy Spirit to help us follow his commands – the least I can do is help my child follow my own.
4. Tell a story from your life
When things are hard, and turning into a battle, a magic trick is to get down on the floor at eye level and tell them a story from your OWN childhood about a similar situation you faced. “Do you want to hear a story about a time Mommy didn’t want to obey Gran?” PING. Tears stop. Whining stops. Screams stop. “Yeah, tell me.” Tell the story, how you felt, how it turned out, then turn it back to them and talk about the cooperation and obedience you need right now. This is probably my favorite tip from the book “No Drama Discipline”.
What I Need to Change
1. Are there places I’m prioritising peace now for conflict later?
Sometimes my drive for, “Let’s all just be happy and have fun and get along!” means that I let things slide because I don’t want to deal with the conflict in the moment. I know my child was disrespectful or not polite, but rather than addressing it, I just carry on because I don’t want to “rock the boat”. Are there areas where I need to allow God to give me the perseverance and patience to deal with conflict now (again and again until they learn the lesson)?
2. Are there places I am robbing my child of the chance to persevere or develop self-control?
There is definitely something to be said for making more “yes-friendly” environments (especially if you’re a “No Mom” :D) but self-control is like a muscle that needs practice. So there must always be boundaries and rules that give my child chances to practice delayed gratification, patience, and perseverance.