“Control the environment, not the child,” smiles Bea Marshall as she settles down opposite me at her kitchen table.
Bea Marshall, creator and coach of the somewhat controversial ‘Yes Parenting’ method has just laid out her first nugget of parenting advice.
“Meaning, if you have a child that constantly wants to eat sugar, don’t have too much sugar in the house. If you want them to stop touching that object on the table - move the object. If the kids are driving you up the walls, get rid of the walls and head out to the park.”
We’re sat in the kitchen of Bea’s Walkley home sipping tea in my first ‘Yes Parenting’ coaching session. Bea isn’t a complete stranger to me. I watched with interest in 2014 as she explained her method of ‘never saying no to her kids’ to a dubious Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on This Morning. As I knocked on her door that morning, I honestly didn’t know what I’d find - would her kid be running amok? Would they be eating ice cream for breakfast and doodling on the walls?
In fact it was a very calm and soothing home environment I found myself stepping into. As Bea and I began talking, she explained that, once upon a time, she had been a strict disciplinarian of the ‘super nanny’ variety, but she grew sick of interacting with her kids through a variety of time-outs and naughty step sessions.
“I was doing what many of us do, managing my relationship with my child using small doses of control and fear,” explains Bea.
“I’d say to them ‘if you do that, I’m going to have to do this,’ or ‘if you don’t do this, you’re not getting an ice cream.’ It’s basically offering a consequence that your child fears enough to get them to do what you want them to do. In no other relationship in our lives is that acceptable - so why is it okay with our children?
“I decided I wanted my children to have a secure sense of who they are and why they do things.”
Bea - a self confessed overthinker - did a complete 180 overnight, rejecting her previous parenting style and honing a new own, which she admits came mostly from instinct in the early days.
Yes, she says, her two sons, aged nine and 11, are free to eat icecream for breakfast, stay up all night and even swear at her - but the important thing, she says, is that they rarely do, and that’s their choice.
“My kids have complete food freedom and they both eat really healthily, because nothing has ever been restricted,” says the 37-year-old.
“As for swearing, I realise the knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘don’t you dare speak to me that way’ or ‘we don’t use that word,’ but in doing that, you’re missing out on what’s behind the swearing and I’m far more interested in why my kid’s so angry. Later, when they’re calm, we can talk together about ways they can show their frustration without resorting to swearing.”
And she says there’s nothing to the critique that ‘Yes Parenting’ is lazy parenting, in fact, just the opposite.
“It’s incredibly hands-on,” she reveals.
“Of course there are days when I get frustrated and just want to yell, but I take a couple of deep breaths and try to say yes to whatever my children need of me in that moment - yes to their needs, their interests, their preferences and, as much as possible, to their desires.
“Of course there have been times when I’ve had to say to my boys ‘I’m really struggling to find the ‘yes’ here,’ but we work through it together; they teach me how to be a better parent every day.”
Bea describes another time when her youngest son insisted he wanted to drive the car.
“Instead of saying ‘no’ and ‘don’t be silly’ and ordering him into his car seat, I said ‘that would be great’ and got into the passenger seat. I put my seatbelt on and told him how lovely it was for me to get a break.
“He sat there for a moment looking at the steering wheel, then looked at me and said ‘I can’t drive, I’m not old enough.’
“I asked him if he’d like me to drive instead and he said ‘yes please,’ then went and got in his car seat.”
And that was it; no big argument.
“I allowed him to figure out his limits for himself,” says Bea.
“There are lots of times, just like this, when parents try to manage risks that really don’t exist - I knew he couldn’t drive the car, he didn’t know how and was too small to work any the pedals, but I found a way to say yes to him in that moment.”
Bea says the method, which she’s honed through years of hands-on parenting, has completed changed the way she views children’s behaviour.
“If a toddler snatches a toy from another kid, I know that they’re not being mean or rude,” she says.
“That’s how we perceive it, as adults, but the child just really wants the toy and is probably unaware the other child is playing with it. Rather than swooping in and telling the child off, it’s much better to say ‘you really love that toy don’t you? Well that little boy is playing with it right now so let’s go find you another toy.
“Being a Yes Parent is about understanding your child’s behaviour and, as much as possible, saying yes to what’s behind it.”
Bea began coaching Yes Parenting 18 months ago and now has clients all over the world. She does regular sessions on Skype, as well as in her own kitchen. She’s also been approached by a couple of TV production companies who are interested in working with her on a series.
“I never set out to create a parenting style,” insists Bea.
“But Yes Parenting formed very naturally and has a clear set of principles that have worked really well for me - and could for you too.”
Visit Bea Marshall - Parenting just got easier to find out more.