I have a parenting theory. That theory is if someone with 20+ years of parenting experience was able to parent their children all over again but with the knowledge they now possess that they would parent differently. They would parent smarter, more efficiently and with more presence. This theory would also mean that as parents get more experience they should become better parents. But is that always the case?
To test this theory I think we need to figure out how many of our initial rules as parents have been broken. I believe that breaking some rules will make you a more effective parent. Why? Because some rules are just too unrealistic. They sound great when they are first spoken but when actual testing occurs, just like in a test laboratory, the real world sets in.
Let's give an example. One of the first rules in our house was "No TV." It sounded great. It sounded noble. It sounded cerebral like I was going to have my kids read all of the time and that I would be calmly reading and playing with my kids. But in reality I was a working mother for the first 15 years as a mom. That rule went out-the-door as soon as I walked in-the-door after picking up my kids from daycare. With my hands laden with bags of groceries, hungry kids at my feet and the aroma of smelly diapers something had to give. What was the first rule I broke? I turned on the TV. It kept my kid's attention while I had a moment to unpack, unwind and prepare dinner. Breaking that rule enabled me to keep my sanity.
My husband and I thought a "No TV" rule in our house would force our kids outside, get fresh air and exercise or read. But ironically we have observed that those households who did manage to maintain a "No TV" rule have some of the most TV-addicted children I've ever met. Just like the "No Make-Up" rule. Those parents who banned make-up or electronic games have created children who can't wait to leave their house to put on their make-up before school or play electronic games over at their friend's house (and watch TV). Those "NO" rules ended up doing the reverse of what they intended.
And while my kids do watch their share of TV they are not addicted to it. They don't turn it on the minute they get home from school; they don't watch more than the national average (which is something around 5 hours a day) and they don't have a television in their room. They are voracious readers. They prefer playing outdoors to watching television. I think when they learned that I did not have a "NO TV" rule anymore, it made them feel they could take it or leave it. Is this what they call reverse psychology?
So the first lesson I learned in parenting is this: Creating a rule with the word "NO" in front of it often accomplishes the complete opposite of what you want to achieve. It's the difference between an "Anti-War Rally" versus a "Peace Rally." Anything with a negative connotation seems to bring about force and hostility. "Pro" or positive rules bring about choice and discussion. I can say that in my 20 plus years of being a parent this theory holds true. Give your children the freedom to choose and make decisions on their own, of course with your wisdom and guidance. But make it a choice so they learn through experience rather than force.
If you don't believe me test it out with just one "No" rule you may have in your arsenal. Change it up so it is rephrased as a "Pro" rule. You may realize you don't need 20 years of parenting to gain from someone else's learned wisdom.
Let me know if this theory works for you, what "No" rule are you going to change today?