9 Parenting Rules You Can Break

Do you try to follow best-parenting practices every day, to raise your child right? If yes, then, for a change, break a few rules, relax and lighten up — it's good for both you and your child.

By Moina Memon

9 Parenting Rules You Can Break

Most of my friends are moms but the way we parent our children is very different. Each of us has a unique way of dealing with a situation or problem, while keeping in mind what’s best for us and our respective children. But, all of us moms do follow a set of rules as this helps us get through a typical weekday in a controlled and smooth manner. For example, having a routine that requires the child to finish breakfast by 8 am or, getting the child to brush her teeth before going to bed.

However, at times, depending on the situation, we parents need to be flexible with rules, rather than rigidly adhering to or enforcing them. For example, if your child's cousins have come over, then it's okay to let little one stay up past her usual bedtime. But, whenever you relax a rule, point out to your child that it’s an exception. Make it clear that she will have to follow the routine after the special occasion comes to an end.

As far as I am concerned, I am someone who likes to set rules and religiously follow them. So, after I had my firstborn, I came up with a set of rules and adhered to them. However, when I became a mother-of-two, I realised it isn't easy following all the rules! I also realised that, as my children grow older, as a parent, I need to do away with some of the rules. 

But, how can I decide which rules to discard and which ones to relax or revise? To find the answer to my problem, I performed an applicability assessment. And, I concluded that, over time, we can do away with the following nine rules:

1. Breastfeeding is best: Almost everyone from doctors to lactation consultants to books say that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for your baby. Yes, it is true. However, nowhere is it written in stone that a mother must breastfeed her baby even when she's not up for it. Kong and Lee published a study titled, 'Factors influencing decision to breastfeed' in the Journal of Advanced Nursing (2004). They found that "Personal, cultural, social, and environmental factors are common influencing factors in the decision to breastfeed." 

2. Potty-train as soon as you can: I am surprised at how some moms are able to do this early on. I’ve tried and failed. For my second daughter, I used diapers and switched to the pot every few days when she showed signs like a dry diaper. I believe that most moms can rely on their famed 'motherly instinct' to assess what's happening with their child. In her article, 'Among healthy children, what toilet-training strategy is most effective and prevents fewer adverse events (stool withholding and dysfunctional voiding)?' published in Paediatrics and Child Health (2008), Mia E Lang says, "Parents often want to know when to start TT (toilet training) and how long the process should take. On average, neuromuscular development of bowel and bladder control is present by 18 months of age; however, other factors amenable to TT (communication and gross motor skills, and temperament) may not yet be appropriately developed." So, take it easy moms. Let things take their course.

3. Not more than an hour of TV or gadget time: Let’s accept that we live in the digital age and that our children are bound to be digitally inclined. So, at times, I break this rule and let my daughter have the tablet to keep herself engaged, usually when we are traveling. And, while she is having a good time, I get to enjoy a break from parenting. It’s a win–win situation! Such exceptions can be made for older children as well, especially if your child is keenly watching educational shows. So, this rule definitely requires revision from time to time.

4. No junk food: Come on, Mama! What is childhood without some sugar, candy and tonnes of popcorn? Personally, this rule has been difficult for me to break. My children have a sweet tooth and I do control their sugar intake. So, I came up with the 'no junk' rule. However, I learnt that breaking it brings smiles to my children’s faces, and I wouldn't trade that for a rule. So, say ice cream for breakfast once in a while. See a great day unfold before you.

5. Never let your child skip a meal: Break this rule if you’re force-feeding your child or feeling frustrated at why he isn't eating dinner. Perhaps, your child will wake up hungry for breakfast and then have a good meal. So, don't stress yourself out. Remember, if your child is over five years old, he will know when he feels hungry.

6. A daily schedule for holidays: It is important to ensure your child gets enough playtime. But, while you allow your child to play, don’t make a schedule for him. Children are very creative and will always find something to do. Also, unstructured play is the best way to go forward. A 2005 study by the American Medical Association says, “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play out-of-doors.”

7. Pushing your child to pursue an activity: Well, if it means a lot of whining on the child's part and convincing on your part, then it’s not worth the effort. You can bring up the same activity in future, to see if your child is ready for it. I would like to share my own experience here. My daughter doesn’t enjoy sports. Despite her reluctance, I signed her up for skating classes. And, life became a struggle. I had to put in all my effort to convince her to attend the classes. So, finally, I broke the rule. And, nothing made us happier. In fact, she has gone on to pursue skating on her own.

8. Your child shouldn't talk back: Why not? If your child has an opinion, why shouldn’t he express it? As long as views are put forth in a polite and respectful manner, I think we can do away with this rule, especially for older children.

9. Always be your child’s cheerleader: Although I don't like breaking this rule, it does children a lot of good when parents break this rule time and again. As children grow, they need realistic and honest opinions from their parents. It’s best to engage in constructive criticism because that’s what we want our children to be able to take when they walk out into the big competitive world. So, it is best to begin breaking this rule, early on.

To conclude, rules are made to make our life easy. At the same time, there is no rule that cannot be changed or modified, depending on the situation. Also, when a rule stops serving its purpose, then do away with it, altogether. You will be happier. Your child will be happier. 

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