Toby and Anton

Six years ago, I heard some parenting advice, and it changed everything…


Funnily enough, I can’t remember who said it or where I heard it, but those three words have run through my mind every few days since then. (That’s approximately 712 times.) The idea is that there are certain rules kids need to follow — say, try hard at school, be respectful to others, go to bed at bedtime, eat the odd vegetable, etc. — but outside of that, if they want to try something out, just say yes.

For example, here are few recent scenes at home:
Toby wanted to wear his bathing suit in the bath
Anton wanted to jump from one sofa to the other
Toby wanted to mix milk and water
Anton wanted to wear pajamas to the grocery store
Anton wanted to lie down on the skateboard
Toby wanted to wear shorts on a chilly day
Anton wanted to sleep upside down (feet on pillow)

My knee-jerk reaction is sometimes to say no — I mean, just hop in the bath, just drink your milk — but then I think: why not? If it’s not hurting anyone, and they find it exciting or enticing for some reason, who cares? “Aim for yes” runs through my mind, and I say go for it. They might feel cold on the walk home, they might not love the flavor of their drink, but they will feel free and curious! And that’s worth it, right? Side note: It’s also funny for me to see all the random stuff they come up with.

I just wish I could thank the person who said those three words.

Thoughts? What’s the best parenting advice you’ve gotten? Anything that still sticks with you? (My runner-up would be “babies be babies.”)

P.S. Trying out slow parenting, and 20 surprising parenting tips.

Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years (!) so we’ve decided that every week, we’ll be highlighting one of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on April 30, 2018.