What Respectful Parenting Looks Like: A Day in the Life
If you’ve never experienced anything but mainstream authoritarian parenting, then it’s hard to imagine different. Autonomy? Freedom? Won’t kids just ‘run wild’?
Well, maybe sometimes, but how boring would life be otherwise?
I get it though. It’s hard to trust when you’ve been told again and again that kids need our control. But, respectful parenting is really much more simple than you might imagine. It’s just living with children, as people.
And so, a day in our life, because sometimes seeing is believing.
We have early risers here! At least a few of the girls are up before us. They turn on the TV and lie on the lounge, slowly waking up. Once we come out, we make breakfast for those who haven’t had any, and then they usually drift off to play. This morning, Miss 4 and Miss 2 are playing in the dollhouse together.
Miss 9 decided last night that she would like to “take responsibility” (her words) for our dog for a week. This morning she’s writing up a schedule for him, including two walks a day, two meals a day, a weekly wash, and lots of pats. Miss 7 is playing a game with her at the same time where she is a spy and makes notes of everything she does. I am cleaning the house and doing the washing! We’ve had a few days out in a row and it’s catch-up time.
They pretty much play happily together all morning, with a few dance breaks, and I start to wonder if this is actually a good time to document a day in the life and if anyone will want to read it, ha!
We often play music at home during the day. It sets a nice tone! I also diffuse some uplifting and cheery essential oils in the morning. You’ll often find us dancing and it’s great for turning around a grumpy day when needed. Not today though, everyone is in a good mood so far.
Dog walk time, according to the schedule. There’s a path over the road and I’m happy for the older two girls to go out there by themselves. I can check on them from the front window. The little girls want to go too though and Miss 9 offers to watch them, but Miss 2 wants me to come.
They spy game is still happening during the walk. I love that their whole day is play.
Tired out puppy! She is really enjoying herself looking after him. Children want nothing more than to meaningfully contribute! We try to make room for that whenever possible.
Time to go home. Miss 2 is currently going through a phase where she really wants to be the one to make all the decisions about her life. Understandable right? It often comes across as if everything I say is wrong though. She goes to put her shoes on and asks me if they are on the right feet. When I say no, she disagrees with me and keeps putting them on. Then she changes her mind and says that actually they go the other way and puts them on happily. It seems like she does want help with a lot of things but at the same time she also wants to be the one to make the decisions and come up with the answers. This is how she does it.
She also likes to change her clothes many times a day and most often wants to wear one of her sister’s dresses. Sometimes they let her, sometimes they don’t and it’s very upsetting for her. Today Miss 4 doesn’t want her to wear her dress. Miss 2 tells me angrily through tears that her sister is ‘stupid!’ and that she really wants her to say yes. I empathise and try to rephrase that from name calling to expressing feelings. I say something like, “You’re so sad. You really wish you could wear that dress. You want her to say yes. It feels frustrating”. We cuddle and eventually she goes to choose a new dress.
She brings me a new dress and changes. I ask her to put the other one back in her draw and she refuses. I explain that I’d really like her to put it back so that it stays clean and we can find it again next time. She still says no. Miss 4 offers to take it back for her and tells me, ‘I just like to be helpful!’
Morning tea outside and some books. There’s an argument over Miss 2 taking a bite of things and putting them back on the plate. They work it out by rationing out some bits just for her that she can do what she likes with.
Some of the girls go off to play together, while I keep reading.
Eventually only Miss 9 is left and I keep reading to her, while she writes more of her list and talks to me about it. She has lots of plans and ideas and really needs time with me and her Dad to tell us about them. She finds one on one time during the day when the others are busy, to get her needs met. I love talking with her.
The others are playing a rock climbing game. Miss 7 helps the little ones. I love that I often hear them responding to their siblings as I do with them. They sometimes fight, of course, but they all really understand each other and have so much empathy.
The big girls decide to play some minecraft with friends for a while. I let them know that I need to go to the shops later and will have to ask them to hop off. They agree and ask me to let them know when it’s almost time.
I find Miss 4 sitting on the lounge by herself, looking sad. When I ask her what’s wrong she says she’s missing Daddy and wants to know how long until he comes home. Everyone misses him during the day. We have some snuggles and laughs until she’s ready to run off and play again. Everyone plays for a while, and I keep cleaning up, until it’s time to go to the shops.
Miss 2 takes off her clothes again and this time when I ask if she can put it in her drawer she says ‘yes’ happily.
But now when she is looking for something new to wear, nothing seems right. She can’t find anything she wants and everything I suggest she says no to. I sit and wait with her for about 10 minutes until she finally works it out, but she’s upset and crying. She doesn’t want to have naps lately but I can tell she’s feeling tired and needs a bit of rest time, even if she doesn’t sleep. We sit and cuddle for a while until she is calm. She tells me she feels frustrated and that she still wants to wear her sister’s dress. She is ready to go now but wants me to carry her.
I get everyone else ready to go out while cuddling her at the same time and it’s not the easiest!
First stop, post office. One person doesn’t want to wear shoes and that’s ok with me! Honestly, who cares? We’re only going to one shop and back and they’re her feet.
They look at all the things on the shelves while I wait in line. I see so many people here getting angry at their kids for not standing still and silent and I think if we all just relaxed a little things would be much more pleasant! The toys are aimed at them and at their level, of course they’ll want to touch them. They’re not breaking anything or being extremely loud, so everything is fine in my opinion. Miss 7 is hiding behind a shelf because the spy game is still in full swing.
On the way back to the car I’m carrying a heavy package and, noticing this, Miss 2 offers to carry my purse for me. There have been many moments throughout the day when all of them have offered me help. I hear so many people going on about how ‘ungrateful’ children are and how they have to nag them constantly to do their chores. We have no chores, we don’t force them to help, and yet, they are helpful. When we’re so focused on forcing them to help in the ways that we think they should, we’re likely to miss all the times they want to contribute in ways that make sense to them. Isn’t that such a shame? They are so helpful! Give them a chance.
The little ones fall asleep on the way home in the car and I transfer them to bed. A win for breastfeeding. It makes successful car transfers with toddlers a breeze.
The little ones are happier after a nap and we spend the afternoon outside! They want me to watch them do lots of tricks.
Miss 9 feeds the dog according to her schedule.
Daddy is home and is bombarded with all the thoughts about their day! It’s a bit of an overwhelming time with everyone trying to talk at once and grab his attention first.
Miss 7 wants to help with dinner, and so she does. That helpfulness again! It would be easy to brush her off and say ‘not today’ because we’re in a rush and hungry, but something tells me we’d regret that decision in the future. The happiness on her face makes it all worth it too. It’s just her and her Dad in the kitchen together. The kids each seem to find pockets in the day for that one-on-one connection time when they need it.
Dinner is being made, but two of the girls eat a kebab left over from last night while they’re waiting. I remind them that dinner is on the way but they still choose to eat now. I don’t really see the point of telling someone when they can and can’t eat. I can remind them of what’s happening but really it’s up to them. I’d be pretty annoyed if someone tried to tell me I couldn’t eat when I was hungry. We can always save their dinner for later. Afterwards, Miss 9 even eats some of her Easter chocolate. I let her know that dinner is super close now and she says ‘Oh I know, I am only eating a few pieces’ and continues eating. I know this would make a lot of parents cringe. Chocolate before dinner, *gasp*. Chocolate is chocolate whenever you eat it.
While Miss 7 is cooking dinner, Miss 9 and I sit outside and watch the little girls jump on the trampoline while she tells me more about her plans.
Dinner is served and they eat it, because they know their bodies.
After dinner the girls start playing an imaginary game. Miss 9 seeks out some one-on-one time with her Dad to chat about a day they have planned together coming up.
We have no bedtime. All the kids sleep when they’re tired. They keep playing quietly until Miss 2 comes and tells me she is tired at about 8pm. I ask if she wants to go to sleep and she says yes. Miss 4 quickly follows, along with the big girls. Only Miss 4 wants a shower tonight and that’s ok, no one got super dirty. I feed Miss 2 to sleep and hubby lies with the others until they drift off.
And that’s it! I hesitated to share it because it was such an ordinary day and nothing major really happened! But then, a normal day is kind of the point right? This is what it looks like for us. I hope it was still helpful in some way.
How was your day?
This sounds so much like our life it’s scary! We went out with friends and played, walked on a beautiful nature trail, looked at the river and played in the creek nearby. It was a muddy mess, and everyone rode home naked. A successful day!
This sounds a lovely and calm day full of learning to share, play, co-operation, problem solving, kindness and being helpful 😊
I love the point about kids being helpful! It’s so common to brush kids off when they want to help, then complain when they don’t immediately do what the adults have decided they should. Can I ask, do your younger girls have much interest in computer games and if so, how do they coordinate sharing computers?
You had a wonderful day!!!
I love these peeks, though with just one child I imagine the flow is very different than with four… One of my favorite things to hear is my nearly 3 year old say ‘I want to help you!’ usually followed by her hauling the kitchen tower to where I am. Sometimes, it’s not helpful in the strictest sense of what needs doing, but it’s helpful in the sense of connection and contribution. And sometimes, like with breaking up mushrooms, she’s the best person for the job in the house!
This sounds wonderful … ordinary is wonderful🙂. I love all the spontaneous, heartfelt pitching in that happened throughout the day. We never had “chores” either when our kids were young but I was never short of help and now I have older teens who I will hear immediately doing the dishes if my husband or I seem busy or tired and when my oldest guy is on his way to his job, he will always bring in my next to oldest guy’s newspapers for his paper route before he heads out … just simple, considerate stuff. Authentic helping.
I really enjoy your posts like this. Although I may not be ready to give my kids that much freedom, it really encourages me to try to let go a little more and see what happens. I know I would at least feel less stressed!
Your blog has actually really changed my views on parenting. I had only seen two kinds of parenting before this one: mainstream authoritarian type and basically the lazy version of that (just not caring what your kids are doing until it really affects you or someone complains about them, then you scream at your kids)
My oldest just turned two and has all of the stubborn independence that comes with it, and my husband and I have recently come to the realization that there has to be a more peaceful way to parent than what we’ve been doing. There’s just so much yelling that ends up happening on all sides, and then everyone gets upset afterwards. No one is happy with the situation.
I’ve never actually really heard of or looked into respectful parenting or peaceful parenting until someone showed me your blog in a local unschooling group. So, thank you!
I have an 18yr old & 20yr old. I did a form of respectful parenting – no time outs, but yes bedtime (nothing strict, with lots of books cuddles etc) & constant…all day… explanations of life. I wish I had a community to support me with my parenting methods. Most times I was told I “spoil” my kids. We live in a fast paced city, with a lot of pressure, academically & socially etc. I honestly can’t imagine how it would work in a 2 bedroom apt & 4 people. It would be wonderful to see how a “city family” functions. How old a kid should be allowed to play solo in the park? Or walk around the block…? We did it at 8yrs, to the neighbor’s apt around the corner.
I LOVE this and learned so much from reading about your ordinary day! Thank you. Really, I just need to keep pecking my way out of the mainstream parenting norms that I’ve known all my life and practice more of what feels right. Thank you. Thank you.
May I ask more about the naps and miss 2? Do you follow the same premise as bedtime? She naps if/when she wants? Do you find she is a hot mess of emotions? I’m
Trying to transition my almost 3 year old to more sleep autonomy and she has been starting to naturally nap want to nap. I’m trying to trust her but it’s so hard to get the “she’ll be overtired!” Popular info out of my head that I feel like has been pounded into my head since becoming a parent.
Reading through this article, the way I run my house and the way you run yours is the total opposite. But I can see why it works for you guys and it truly makes me want to loosen up my grip. I know I need so much work because I do get triggered, I don’t have enough help or support from their father with my kids. But man, I just want to give them a peaceful childhood and I’m doing everything, BUT giving them that.
Respectful parenting– living with children, as people. ❤️
Everything is on point– and beautiful can indeed be found in the ordinary. Thank you for this.