Last year, the Guardian newspaper held an experiment where several families gave up the rules laid down by parents, and handed the power over to the children.
It’s a fascinating read, and there are many parallels with what children and young people have been telling me via the How to Speak Child interviewing project.
The majority of adults found it surprising that so many of the children’s rules were geared to spending more quality time with their family, including bans on mum’s and dad’s technology in order to get some un-split attention.
The children in the experiment ranged from the very young to the upper end of the teenage years, but no matter what age, it was apparent that they felt all but powerless in their day to day lives. It was obviously novel for them to be in charge, and they mostly responded to the challenge in ways that surprised and delighted the rest of the family.
On the other side of the story, the adults found that if they ‘gave in’ and went with the flow of the project, not only did they find themselves behaving in a less didactic and more playful manner, but they learned more about their children along the way.
One parent said that although she knew she told her children she loved them on a daily basis, during the experiment she had to ask herself how much she showed them. Her children banned her from saying “No” for the weekend of the project, and it was only when this happened that she had to face up to how often she did so in their ordinary day to day lives.
The same mother realised that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d said ”Yes” when her children had asked her to play with them.
I am not being judgemental here, it’s incredibly hard to run a household and keep everything ticking over, whilst not only bringing up children but giving them precisely the right amount of protection and autonomy.
However, it can be easy to slip into a never-ending cycle of bossiness and resentment. Perhaps letting go of that control for a couple of days during the holidays might be an exciting learning experience for all involved.