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My Wife And I Embraced ‘Yes Parenting’ And Our Kids Turned Out Better For It

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What are the children of ‘Yes Parenting’ like?

I don’t know if this “Yes Parenting” is the same as the parenting style used by my late wife and me, but it seems similar. What we did was called either “non-coercive parenting” or “taking children seriously.” Both ways of thinking about parenting seem be part of “Yes Parenting.”

We also used “unschooling.” That’s, of course, the only approach to education that makes sense in the absence of coercion.

How did our children turn out? The younger one is still in college after having never been in a classroom or experiencing a formal education he didn’t request. He started with distance learning in a community college and is now going to classes at a major university. He has yet to get anything but an A with his junior year done, and the remarkable thing about that is neither he nor I care much about grades. What really stands out is he continues to study things in his major and minor and even other areas of interest to him when on vacations. He doesn’t differentiate between the college term and vacation time in terms of learning. Learning is self-driven and ongoing.

My older son is through college, and he did get a B once or twice. Also, with him, learning is something that is always happening, and he is gainfully employed.

boy sitting on a bench in a park
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Both of our sons were treated as if they were adults whose ideas mattered as much as ours from early on. One consequence of that was they could switch between childlike roles and adult-type roles starting surprisingly early. They were frequently involved in solving family problems as children and often came up with the solutions we followed. They didn’t do this under pressure. My wife and I generally expected to solve the problems of the entire family, but we were smart enough to recognize when our children had better solutions, as they often did.

Our sons quickly learned that we were acting to help them, and they valued our inputs while still learning to think in their own ways.

Not wanting to write a book here, I will simplify what we did. We generally let our children make their own choices while we acted like spotters in weightlifting or gymnastics. We wanted our children to see the consequences of their choices without risking serious injuries or hurting others. We frequently talked to them about what might happen, what did happen, and how we could all do better.

When our children wanted things that would be difficult to get, we discussed why they wanted those things to find out if something else would work as well for them. This was a learning process for the family as a whole and for the children in particular. Our sons quickly learned that we were acting to help them, and they valued our inputs while still learning to think in their own ways. Still, there were times when we found creative ways to get the originally desired things. We never said “no” to anything to start with.

It was amazing how often something easy to get or to do that turned out to be better than what was originally desired could be found to the satisfaction of all involved. Remember what I wrote about it being a learning process. This didn’t happen perfectly the first few dozen times it was tried, but it almost always worked to some extent, and the entire process got better over time.

By the time our sons became teens we were effectively done with parenting. There was no rebellion. There was only working and playing together or separately, as each desired. My wife is gone but my adult sons still live with me. I can’t seem to get rid of them, and I’m not in a hurry to do so. They’ll be fine without me if I should leave or die, but for now, we are a close family.

Almost forgot to mention that this has nothing to do with so-called “permissive parenting.” That’s a lazy way of looking at it, as if all parenting must lie along a permissive to authoritarian spectrum. From my point of view, that entire spectrum avoids optimal intellectual and emotional growth.

Robert Reiland spent 33 years teaching at Shady Side Academy. Read more from Quora below: