Apparently there's this thing called third-child parenting that I've fallen ass backwards into. If you know anything about my parenting journey you likely know that I seem to fall into accidental parenting techniques all the time. Which actually might mean I've always been a third-child parenting person, come to think about it. Either way, if you're a mom looking to feel more confident, consider the reasons third-child parenting is the parenting style you should try. In fact, I'll take it one step further and say third-child parenting is the parenting style we've all been waiting for.
Not surprisingly, I'd never heard of this style of parenting until reading Mia Freedman's article. She does a great job explaining what my life already looks like. You see, dear reader, I have (you guessed it) three kids. I love my kids to the moon and back, of course, but having three children running around, a business, three freelancing gigs, and serving on two organizational boards doesn't really leave a whole heck of a lot of time to get all hot, bothered, and attached to my parenting style. That, apparently, is third-child parenting. Freedman likens this style to "benevolent neglect."
What I've found is when I stop being so uptight and controlling about everything I have more fun and, most importantly, so do my kids. That, and all these other reasons, makes third-child parenting style the one all parents should try:
Because There's More Time For Living
My accidental shift to third-child parenting has made me realize that when you stop worrying about everything so obsessively all the time, you actually have time to live. I mean, living in this life with my children — as opposed to tailoring their experience — is really what I wanted when I had children anyway. So, when you're a third-child parenting person, everyone wins.
Because There's Less Stress
If I'm being honest I must admit that us moms can sure sweat the small stuff like nobody's business. Third-child parenting is about letting the small stuff sweat itself. Or, better yet, letting the small stuff stop sweating altogether.
Because You Stop Obsessing
It's challenging to obsess about whether or not I'm parenting "correctly" all the time. Are my children going to grow up to be kind, compassionate people? Will they be happy? Or will they grow up to be, you know, not?
All parents must have these worries, too, right? But there is a special layer of fear that comes with being a mom and a psychotherapist.
Getting a graduate degree in all the ways parents mess up their kids is terrifying. Sitting in child development courses makes you realize that there is no way on Earth that any child will get out of childhood unscathed. Before my third child I was obsessively trying to account for all the variables. After my youngest arrived, however, who had time for that? The liberation of no longer obsessing? Best gift ever.
Because Your Children Learn To Be Independent
I think my partner and I were kind of helicopter parents with our first child. Maybe even a little bit with the second one, too. While having an autistic child forced us to hover a bit, we also see the fruits of those well-intentioned but ultimately misguided efforts to this day.
Both of my older kids have moments of, for example, whining for me to get them something within arms reach while I'm three rooms away. Since our third child came into the picture that kind of co-dependence just isn't an option and, quite frankly, I'm so happy about that. Now my 5 and 7 year olds are doing things for themselves before asking me or my partner to do it for them instead. That may not seem like much, but to us it's huge. Plus, it makes me one proud mama.
Because Your Kids Are Happier
Sure, sometimes there's a bit of jealousy that the 15-month-old baby of the family gets all the attention. But, honestly, I think my kids are happier with parents who just kind of let them be. We don't ignore them, of course, but we've also finally accepted that we're not responsible for their entertainment every second of every day.
Because Play Is Less Contrived
When my partner and I were helicoptering and obsessing over not messing up our kids, we tried to do everything "right." Holy hell was that aggravating, not to mention exhausting.
Playtime was anxiety-provoking for me, if only because I felt bad for being bored and pressured to make every experience my kids had magical or educational in some way. Now they have much more free play which experts say is essential for healthy development anyway. And when I do play with them we can just enjoy each other, getting dirty and crazy as childhood is intended to be.
Because You're Still In The Driver's Seat
I'm not sure if my older two kids realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing as a parent when they were younger. (Spoiler: I'm sure they'll tell me all about it when they're in therapy as adults.) They definitely ran the show way more than they ever should have when they were toddlers. Feeling out of control is generally what causes people to get so damn controlling, right?
The third-child parenting style has finally allowed me to step into my power as a parent. Though we've always had rules and boundaries, I no longer have even a sliver of doubt about my right and obligation as their mother to enforce them. And (bonus!) I enforce them with quick consistency because I have a new toddler to keep away from outlets.
Because Your Kids Feel More Secure
When I'm in the driver's seat my kids definitely feel more secure. That's child development 101, after all. Kids need to feel their parents' unconditional love, yes, but they also need firm boundaries to push up against. They need to know actions have consequences. With the third-child style parenting my kids are more likely to give themselves the consequences because it's less, "Please go to your room because you hit your brother," followed by never-ending arguing which I used to feed into, and more, "Is hitting allowed? No? What needs to happen now?" They give themselves consequences while I change a dirty diaper.
Because Boredom Creates Brilliance
Letting my kids be bored is the best possible gift I could have given them. When mom or dad isn't hovering over them, making sure each and every thing is a teachable or entertaining moment, they get bored. Sure, at first there is some plaintive whining about being bored. But if you wait long enough their boredom turns to absolute brilliance. I'm consistently impressed by the limitlessness of their unhindered imaginative play.
Because It Pushes You To Stop Resisting
No question about it, having three kids is definitely chaotic. But resisting the chaos is not only a stressful battle, it's a losing one. Giving into the chaos, accepting it, rolling with it, and laughing about it is kind of what makes your children's childhood memorable.
Then again, maybe that's not true at all and I'm just really great of assuring myself.
All I know is that I'm less stressed, my kids seem to be enjoying their lives more, and even my partner is practicing letting the small stuff go. In this damn crazy time we're living in, where resistance is survival, any parenting style that brings warmth, joy, and ease to your heart (instead of, say, a heart attack subsequent to news-induced stress) is just about the best damn thing around.
Don't believe me? Try it yourself.