Is parenting an art or a science? Too often parents struggle to find the right answer to everyday parenting dilemmas: What’s the best bedtime? Should I let my child cry in the middle of the night? At what age should a child start preschool? What’s the ideal spacing for siblings? Rarely does one answer fit all children or all families.
Maybe it’s time to loosen up and stretch a little. Parenting rules, like school routines, are great for setting strong foundations but the best parenting also requires playful innovation and flexibility under pressure. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, parenting is too important to be taken seriously. So here are 5 tips for being a fun and effective parent using out-of-the-box parenting.
- Act foolish. Give yourself permission to be a kid again. Get silly. Laugh more. Sing and dance as if no one’s watching. Not only will family life be more fun but you may discover potent discipline tools. Dad doing the chicken dance could be a sure-fire way to diffuse boredom in a long grocery line or to release pent-up energy before boarding an airplane. Singing “Day-O” might be the perfect way to catch your child’s attention before she’s swings the cat in the air by his tail. Children often tune into foolishness better than rational arguments or discussions. See these 10 Tips on How to Be a Fun Mum.
- Practice benign neglect. Parents are exhausted trying to plan interesting educational activities, positive social experiences, healthy mealtimes with engaging conversations and politically correct moral choices. However, if parents do all the “work”, children don’t learn. Children need to experiment with all the above independently. They need moments of boredom and natural curiosity. They need to learn playground politics without micromanaging from adults. Children need to see parents cut corners in order to understand compromise. Benign neglect creates space for children to experience real life; just be ready to welcome your child back with a safety net of love and guidance.
- Find 10 ways to do anything. Looking for one right answer creates rigidity and narrow thinking. Make a game of “what else can we do”. You will discover your own problem solving skills and become a more resilient parent – one who is adaptable to changing stages in child development and to parenting anywhere anytime. Make “10 Ways” a counting game to play with your child. You’ll be surprised at how good your child is at this. Like all brainstorming, keep it judgment-free until you list all ten ideas.
- Make nonsense. Imagination lies at the heart of childhood. And therefore, should be at the heart of parenting. Gravity defying, time warping, illogic makes for inventive problem solving. When you shake up the usual order of things, your child is thinking – he plays with mental concepts the same way you move furniture around a room for different effects. Engage your child with stories and metaphors – think of all the things that fly in children’s stories – carpets, Peter Pan, wicked monkeys. Create weird combinations – dogs that moo, pancakes with broccoli. Break the rules. You’ll teach your child the power of “what if…” and open the door to science and discovery.
- Make a mess. Picasso once said “every act of creation is first an act of destruction”. Kids get that. They love crashing cars and stomping on elaborate sand castles. They watch as the easel paint drips into large puddles on the floor. Parents who live out-of-the-box expect mess and mistakes. They even accept their own imperfection as they learn and grow side-by-side with their children. Sometimes the only way to get to the “right way” is to eliminate all the wrong ways.
Parenting is both art and science. It’s knowing when to stay in the lines and when to cut new paths. Be bold. Be fearless. And have lots of fun.