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Yes, You Still Have Permission to Parent

If you’ve been letting a lot of things slide, learn how to reintroduce the rules

A woman sitting on the floor talking to a child.

Before the pandemic, you weren’t budging on the household rules. Chores needed to be done in a timely manner, bedtime was non-negotiable and dessert before dinner was always a hard pass.

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Months later, chore completion timelines are a little lax, bedtime has crept towards summer vacation hours and pre-dinner dessert might fly depending on the day…or the tantrum. Making exceptions for your kids right now doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. You might just be a very exhausted parent who’s doing whatever it takes to keep the peace at home during a very trying time.

Many parents seem to be struggling with a little thing called “quarantine permissiveness” these days. And while it might seem like your parenting game is growing weaker by the hour, it’s not too late to turn things around. Keep reading to find out why it’s still important to have boundaries with children and how you can bring them back to reality in a reasonable manner from psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD.

What is quarantine permissiveness?

Dr. Albers says the pandemic has helped many of us learn how to relax. It’s also helped us understand that we need to be much easier on ourselves. However, as parents have embraced a more laid back way of life, some have started ignoring established rules or not expecting as much from their children.

“Many parents have been struggling with what is known as quarantine permissiveness. Basically, this is bending the rules a little bit or lowering expectations of their children during the pandemic. This could extend to eating habits, study habits or bedtime routines,” says Dr. Albers.

Since none of us have lived through a pandemic, Dr. Albers says it’s only natural to struggle with keeping things balanced during these demanding times.

“It’s a very stressful time. There’s no rulebook or handbook for quarantine parenting. Often, parents look to their own parents to get a sense of what to do or what not to do. No one has been through this experience so we don’t have a reference for how to parent during this time,” explains Dr. Albers.

How can you reinstate the rules again?

If the rules have been pretty lax at home, there are some things that you can do to prevent a major power struggle once our routines start to become somewhat normal again.

Dr. Albers offers these practical tips.

Pick your battles

“Know what is really important to you. Make a list of the issues and the rules that you feel are very important. As you do this, think about how this behavior will affect your child in five weeks, five months and five years. If it won’t make that much of a difference in the long run, that might be a rule that needs to be adjusted.”

Let the kids help create the rules

“Get your children involved with making the rules. They know at this point what is realistic for them and what is not. And it’s not so much that you have to keep the same rules. What’s really important is consistency. Whatever rules that you make, whether they’ve changed a little from prior to the pandemic, are fine as long as you’re consistent in enforcing them”.

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Remember that it’s OK to say no

“Parents are often afraid to say no, but kids need boundaries. And you’re not being mean by doing so. Kids really appreciate when they know what the limits are.”

Be a good role model

“Don’t overlook your own responsibilities, or say, ‘Well, it’s a pandemic so I’m not going to do X, Y or Z.’ Your kids are listening and if they see you giving yourself an out because of the pandemic, they’ll follow your lead.”

Make the rules really routine

“If your kids know what the rules are and they follow them without having to think about them, that makes things a lot easier for everyone. If the rules change from day to day, kids will get confused often or learn that the rules can bend and sway depending on what the circumstances are.”

Don’t beat yourself up

“Recognize that these are hard times for both parents and kids. So, don’t be too hard on yourself as a parent. If this is something that you’re really struggling with, reach out to other parents to see what kind of rules they’ve put into play and find out what they’ve fined tuned in the process.”

How to stick to the rules despite objections

When you have rules, the challenges aren’t too far behind. We’ve already seen the pushback against masks, social distancing and sheltering in place. So, there’s a chance that your child might question why they have to do things that others aren’t doing. Dr. Albers says in these cases, it’s best to just explain how the rules that you have are designed to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

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She explains.

“There will always be challenges as kids are observing that people are following different kinds of rules. They may look down the street and find that their friends or neighbors are doing things differently than you are. When this happens, redirect your kids back into your own household. Explain why you’ve created the rules that you have and how they may differ from someone else’s. Also, let them know that you set up the rules for their safety, their health, their well-being — and what works for one family may not work for another.”

Your kids are stronger than you think

You might have the urge to coddle your children even more right now because you want them to be happy and feel safe during these uncertain times. Dr. Albers suggests not caving in though. Having your kids stick to the rules will now will only make things easier when we can safely return to life as we once knew it.

“You want to protect your child and you don’t want them to struggle or hurt at all. So, it can be easy to say, ‘Yes, you can have that extra cookie,’ or ‘Yes, you can stay up an hour or two later.’ But really, these are the times that we need to hold firm to some of our expectations and know that kids are going to be resilient — and they’re going to get through this.”

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