There are a few inviolable rules of parenthood, like don't let your kids play in the street and teach them not to talk to strangers—and then there's a whole lot of gray area, which every mom must judge for herself. It all depends on her children, her neighborhood, local standards and her own personality and experiences. Here, moms confess how they've gone against the grain when it comes to parenting—and how, more often than not, it's actually helped their kids learn and grow.
"I let my kids eat pizza for breakfast" —Pauline
"I have two sons, seven and three-and-a-half. We usually have a traditional breakfast—eggs, bagels, cereal, waffles. But every now and then, they want something atypical and I just let them have it. They've had everything from pizza bagels, salami and chicken soup for breakfast. I think all food is good as long as they are getting a balanced meal."
"I don't limit my kids' screen time" —Bess
"I let my kids—two boys, ages three and seven—watch as much TV as they want. Sometimes on Saturday morning or rainy days, they'll watch as much as four or five hours at a time. Mostly it's so I can get things done. But I also know they'll get tired of it themselves and ask me to do something else. And I think that if I'm not enforcing screen time limitations, it doesn't become a 'forbidden' thing, just a normal thing that they'll learn to police on their own."
"I let my seven-year-old go to sleepaway camp for a month." —Elisabeth
"When I enrolled my daughter, who was going into second grade, for a camp two states away, I definitely got some negative feedback. But I had gone to camp when I was eight and loved it, and my daughter was extremely self-sufficient and outgoing. She ended up loving camp and went back for two months every summer for seven years. I think learning to be independent at an early age really helped her. She spent a year living with a family and attending a local school in Lima, Peru when she was 16. She came back so much more mature, inquisitive and worldly than most of her friends."
"I let my daughter eat candy ... in the morning" —Maureen
"Like most kids, my daughter, who's five, asks for sweets at all hours of the day. She once asked in the morning at breakfast, and I realized I was going to be brushing her teeth right afterwards before she went to school, so I said yes. Now it's become a tradition. I don't let her have sweets other times of the day, but I don't feel bad about her breakfast treat because I know I am brushing her teeth after."
"I allowed my stepdaughter to have a TV in her room" —Elizabeth
"When my stepdaughter came to live with us in eighth grade, she asked if she could have a TV in her room. I hesitated—I was afraid she would be watching it 25/7 instead of doing her homework and participating in school activities. But she was one of the top students at her school, she was a voracious reader and she never had to be asked to do homework, so we decided to give it a whirl, knowing we could always remove it. Fast forward six years: She got a full scholarship to a great college and is on the Dean's List. I think letting her have a TV in her room allowed her to relax and zone out when she needed to, and also taught her how to regulate her viewing in a mature way."
"I let my kids drink alcohol" —Christine
"Since they were little, whenever my daughter and son asked for a sip of an alcoholic drink, I let them have it. I lived in Italy for a year when I was a kid, and children there drink a little cup of watered-down wine starting at about age five. I've never thought it was a big deal. My kids are now 15 and 11, and they are not even curious about alcohol at this point."
"I let my teen go on a ski trip with people I had never met" —Chris
I let my 15-year-old go on a weekend ski trip with a friend from school. I had met the friend, but I had never laid eyes on her parents and I didn't call them beforehand. In fact, I didn't even get a phone number. I just trusted my daughter's judgment and choice of friends. And she came back safe and sound."
"I let my sixth-grader stay up until 10:30 to watch The Daily Show" —Anne
"My husband loved Jon Stewart, and my older daughters also liked to watch it. During the 2008 election, my 12-year-old daughter got really interested in politics and started to outright refuse to go to bed when The Daily Show came on. I wasn't happy that she was staying up so late, but she loved it and was so interested. Getting her to go to bed while it was on became such a struggle, that I sort of gave up. Soon after, she started reading Time magazine and then The Economist to find out more about the issues discussed on the show. Four-plus years later, she's still incredibly interested in current events, so I think being more lenient about bedtime was a good tradeoff in the long run."
"I let my preschooler go to school in mismatched clothes" —Joanna
"Once my three-year-old started to dress herself, she also insisted on picking out what she was going to wear. Most days that meant a flower shirt and striped pants, or a purple dress and green tights. She usually looked like a total ragamuffin, but I thought it was more important that she got ready by herself than that she pick a perfectly coordinated outfit."
"My teenage daughter doesn't have a curfew" —Beth
"My daughter and I live in Manhattan, and starting when she was in high school, I let her go out alone with her friends, anywhere in the city, as late as she wanted. I knew she and her pals could just pile into a cab, walk or jump on a bus at any moment, so I didn't worry about them getting in a car with a drunk driver or being stranded somewhere. My suburban friends were horrified and insisted on telling me about all the awful things that could happen to teenagers out on their own. But I knew my daughter, I knew she had a good head on her shoulders, and I knew the city, so I never worried about anything happening."
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