Google+ Authentic Parenting: When Having Fun Is Mandatory (rerun)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

When Having Fun Is Mandatory (rerun)

written by Murielle Bourbao

We are part of a water-babies association, and we have been enjoying the warm swimming pool with our children (almost) every Sunday morning for 5 years. Almost every time, I can hear a parent expressing loudly his disagreement on his child’s way, threatening her or even punishing her. Some children won’t put their clothes back on as fast as their parents would like, others won’t move their legs correctly in the water to swim. Some children don’t want to go on the slide. And the parent gets frustrated and starts yelling or making demands. This parental behaviour is also noticeable in playgrounds, indoor play centres, attraction parks, or any place/activity designed for children.

Now, when parents take their child to a children-oriented facility, it is supposed to be fun for the child. The parents would not have gone there just for themselves. So why do they start directing their child’s actions?

Probably because they have made an “effort” to take their child to this facility, they made time in their busy schedule, they may even have paid for it, so now the child has to enjoy herself. Enjoying herself is mandatory, and has to be done according to the parents’ concept of having fun. So enjoying herself means taking the big slide even if she is scared. Enjoying herself means not staying on the same swing for an hour but trying all the tunnels and climbing walls of the playground.

Or because the parents are so caught up is the daily routine that they keep pressuring their offspring like they (most probably) do at home, to gain a few minutes here and a few seconds there. Because they are here for the child to have fun, she should not be spoiling the moment by taking an extra 5 minutes to put her trousers back on.

Wait a second. Is a scared child forced to take the big slide having fun? Is the yelled at child who is playing with his socks instead of putting them on having fun? Of course not. Neither are the parents trying to coerce their child. So what is the point of the parents making that “effort” to take the child to some fun place if no-one is having fun?

When we take our child for a children-oriented activity, we should tune in to our child. We have made special time (and maybe paid some entry fees) so our child could have fun. Let her have fun. The time and the money will not be wasted if the big slide is left aside. The outing will not be ruined if she doesn’t want to tie her shoes right now. Let’s organise the whole activity so the child will decide what to do, when to do it, take her time, lead the way.

In the end, the parents will really have fun, too.

About Murielle

I am the mother of three children born between 2005 and 2010, I became a SAHM by chance and I am thriving on my new job : parenting. I am involved in several volunteering organization : the school council as an elected parent representative, the school association which goal is raising money so the children can have fun outside of school with their teachers (educational theme parks, museums, concerts and other shows...), I am training to become a LLL leader and I administer the Eats On Feets France chapter.
Every day, I seek to improve my parenting ways, and I try to achieve the ideal balance between my children and their needs and desires, and my personal goals and interests.



  1. Thanks for reminding us! Let the children be! :D

  2. Amen! This is so wise. Thank you for writing this.

  3. I've been guilty of this on the way to the park sometimes. "Hurry up and stop playing with things so we can get to the park and... play with things." It's good to be reminded to see life from their perspective.

  4. We are really careful to take the needs of our children into consideration when we choose activities for them. If we do not think we will "get our money's worth" then we just don't do it and instead wait until they are older. We had a season pass to a waterpark, but the kids were free. And sometimes our older son would want to do the one big slide that he was tall enough to do; usually he didn't. But we planned outings so that everyone had enough nap beforehand and allowed extra time for things to go wrong.

  5. I mostly agree with this, however, playing devils advocate: sometimes kids will end up having a ton of fun once they get over whatever scared them in the first place (ie I was terrified the first time I went on a roller coaster ride, but now I LOOOOOOOVE them). I think parents just want their kids to not be afraid to try new things sometimes. I certainly would never force my kid to do anything, but I would certainly try to encourage him to try something that he was initially scared of!

  6. Anonymous, encouraging a child to try out a new activity is very different from coercing a child. Parents saying things like "we won't come back again if you don't try this" or "you will go again on the [whatever activity the child loves] once you have tried this, but not before" are using coercion. Parents saying "why don't you try this, I will stay with you if you want" or "look at that child ! he seems to be having such good fun doing that" but then eventually allowing your child to decide to try it or not, is very different.
    Forcing a child is never good, and forcing a child to have fun is ridiculous. If you had not been forced to try the roller coaster by your parents (I assume it was the case), you would probably have decided a few years later that you were ready for it and you would have tried it on your own decision. And if you had never decided to try the roller coaster, would your life be really different ?

  7. Love your post, Murielle. It's so true! We have our own ideas of what fun looks like and we sometimes don't stop to consider that their idea of fun might be different. As the parent of a child who is cautious and observes a long time before jumping in, I have to always be very conscious of this. Fortunately I tend to have the same qualities, so it's not as much of a stretch for me. P.S. didn't know you were training for LLL too! :)


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