Rule-breakers: Why the best childhood memories are made when parents loosen up

Kinderling News & Features

Being a parent is a serious job. You’ve got small humans to keep alive: you need to keep it real.

And so, like every good parent, you have your rules.

They differ from house to house, but we all develop our own procedures for what we think will guide our children into a healthy adolescence and adulthood.

We have set bed times, preferred food-groups and limitations on things like screen time and how much wild behaviour is a-okay.

But sometimes, we need to loosen up a little.

Breaking the rules is not only an immensely cathartic experience for an adult who is well versed in the art of "no", it’s also a lot of fun.

This is what happened when I broke my rules

Hold onto your hats people, this is going to blow your mind.

Last Saturday night my four-year-old son and I stayed up late watching Jumanji 2. And by late, I mean 9pm. And it was PG!!

While this is a fairly tame example of breaking the rules, it did make me think about that old saying “rules are made to be broken”.

I’m pretty strict when it comes to bed time. Not just because it gives my husband and I down time, but because I’m a huge believer in the benefits of sleep.

But it becomes just another thing that defines our lives. Another deadline to race towards. Something that I’ve imposed on our family without giving much room for movement.

I don’t get a lot of alone time with my son. That night we snuggled together on the lounge, laughing and talking through the movie.

Sometimes breaking the rules is what our children remember most

Fifteen years ago, Pip Lincolne had just emerged from a hectic morning when she decided it was time to cut loose.

“After a particularly feral birthday party, we put the four-year-old's birthday cake on the lawn and gave all the kids a spoon - and turned our backs. It is now a favourite birthday memory and was much more fun than the usual ceremony (this was about 15 years ago, and the kids still talk about it!).”

Some rules may have to do with healthy eating, other rules have to do with a healthy mind.

How many times are we told as parents that it’s important our children experience disappointment? Ella Walsh is not a parent to pander to her children’s every desire, but one year when she had to cancel a trip to the Easter Show, the rules went out the window.

Her son was devastated at the change in plans. While it was pouring rain outside she decided to take her three children on a trip to the local shops.

“I took the kids to the supermarket and gave them their own baskets and let them loose in the lolly aisle so they could make their own lolly bags. They’re adults now and it’s still the thing they remember best.”

We all need to embrace 'brinner'

How much of an ordeal is dinner? Trying to make healthy meals that your children will actually eat can be the like winning the lotto.

It can be expensive and you only ever get small wins. They ate one carrot. They had a bite of chicken before pushing it away in disgust.

The big win? You keep hoping but it never happens.

So why not embrace 'brinner' - breakfast for dinner - occasionally? Lana Hallowes says it’s her son's favourite meal, he even requested it for his birthday.

And why wouldn’t you? A bowl of cereal can have more nutrients than that bowl of white, sauce-less pasta, and much less time consuming than all the many options you try to give them.

If you’re really brave you can throw out “no” as well

Denise Catt surely wins the award for “Most Crazy Brave Parent”. Last year she did 'kids in charge day' with her eight-year-old.

“For 24 hours she got to decide everything we did (except buy toys) and I had to say yes. The day started with cake served in bed for breakfast whilst she watched YouTube and finished with ice skating. It was exhausting but really fun to not say no for a change.”

The thing that I’m learning from all of this is what happens when we allow ourselves to loosen up a little. When we put the rules aside and try something different. The world doesn’t end. Great memories are created and fun is had.

I might even do it more now!

What parenting rule have you thrown out for the benefit of all?

Listen to Kinderling Conversation: