When Bea Marshall found that her three-year old son had cut through the wire of her mobile phone charger, she did not react as most other parents would.
Instead of being cross with him and telling him never to do such a thing again, Marshall simply said: ‘Wow, you really do want to cut through things!’ and give him a bag of other things to chop up.
A week after the head of schools inspection body Ofsted said that all young children should be able to understand the word ‘no’, self-styled parenting expert Marshall went on This Morning to defend what she calls ‘Yes Parenting.’
This means that she routinely lets her children Peep, nine, and Jos, seven, set their own bedtimes, decide whether or not they want to do their homework and even swear at her.
They can watch television all night if they want to and eat ice-cream for breakfast.
‘I was a supernanny type of mother to begin with,’ said mother-of-two Marshall. ‘There were lots of rules and regulations and I was always saying no. Then for six weeks I didn’t say no to them at all and it was just so different.’
This was too much for This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby, who is currently pregnant with her third child.
‘I dread to think what would happen if I said yes to my children all the time!’ she gasped.
When Marshall’s child cut her phone charger wire, she simply went and collected a whole load of things with a similar shape and feel for him to cut through in future.
‘But didn’t you tell him that he shouldn’t ever cut through wires in future?’ asked Willougby. ‘It’s incredibly dangerous.’
‘They could die,’ added Philip Schofield, looking concerned.
‘I don’t think I did,’ replied Marshall. ‘My response is instead to be there all the time for them. I think instead of saying no to children all the time we need to equip them with the knowledge of what boundaries are appropriate.’
However parenting expert Liz Fraser said that children needed boundaries. ‘It is not unkind to them to say no and can be very useful.’
‘If they don’t learn discipline and boundaries and the word ‘no’ at home then it’s going to be very difficult for them at school or in later life. One day someone’s going to say no and they’re going to have no idea how to react to that.’
Marshall admitted that she might have been too harsh a parent before and might have now gone too far the other way. ‘As a personality I tend not to find the middle ground,’ she said.
However she claimed that her children were very well-behaved. ‘People tell me they are a joy to be around,’ she said.
But Fraser pointed out that children are too young to set their own boundaries.
‘We have a culture of society which is scared about letting children be children,’ she said, ‘but statisically children who lack structure and discipline have a much higher likelihood of getting into problems in life with drink and drugs.’
Some viewers took to Twitter afterwards to condemn Marshall’s lax attitude to parenting.
One person wrote that Yes Parenting was ‘just an excuse to be a bad parent and not care’ while another said that Yes Parenting meant ‘more work for teachers and the police later on’.