Why I Let My Son Play Barefoot In The Snow

My son is strong willed…actually strong willed is an understatement. It has turned out to be a great yet difficult to manage quality.  It was NOT a great quality when he was 3-years-old.

To say age 3 was a challenge would be like referring to a tornado as a little wind.

He would get ideas in his head and no amount of distraction or persuasion could deter him from his focus. Think of The Terminator movie. When the terminator locked on something, NOTHING could distract him from his mission.

My son’s mission was going outside in the freezing cold snow with bare feet. I said no. I tried to redirect, “Honey don’t you want this toy, candy, movie, etc.” I tried explaining how cold it was and he could get sick going out there in bare feet, “Darling I love you and I don’t want you to get sick.” I tried laying down the law, “I AM THE MOMMY AND YOU ARE NOT GOING OUTSIDE!” But my 3-year-old Terminator had locked on his target and nothing would change his mind.

I was reduced to wrestling him away from the door, kicking and screaming in hysterics any time someone came or left our home. I’m not kidding when I say I would end up on the floor trying to drag him away (he also had inhuman strength at this age) because I didn’t want him to get his feet cold. I still cared what others thought of my mothering at this point so this display in front of friends and family was particularly humiliating for me.

I was ready to have a nervous breakdown after a few weeks of this. “Why wouldn’t he listen to me?” “Why can’t I control my child?” “Why am I a terrible mother?” “Where did I go wrong?” These were the questions running through my head and the thoughts I KNEW were going through everyone else’s mind as they saw these tantrums. One friend told me I needed to hit him. One friend told me to put bars on my windows now so he’d get used to a life in prison.

One day he pulled this in front of my ex-military father. I was ready to get berated by my dad for allowing my child to act that way (we never made a peep in from of my father growing up). Dad watched the scene and asked calmly, “Why don’t you just let him?”

“W-w-what?” I asked astounded, “Because it’s cold out! A kid shouldn’t be outside in the snow in bare feet!”

“Why? What’s the worst that could happen? He’ll get his feet cold.” my father answered.

I considered what he said. I wanted my child to have a magical perfect childhood. My plans for him involved matching snowsuit, jacket, and boot sets from Land’s End on snowy days. I wanted warm socks, mittens, and homemade hot chocolate, not bare feet in the snow as if no one loved him.

I could think of no rational reason why he couldn’t go outside so I told my son with my insides in knots, “Fine, you can go outside.”

My son looked shocked and suspicious but I opened the front door widely to show him it was really allowed.

He stepped out and look back at me, his eyes smug and filled with triumph at winning the war with his mother. The look was quickly replaced with horror as the cold from the snow registered. “Cold!” He exclaimed.

I smiled like the grinch before his heart grew. “Do you want to come back in?” I asked sweetly, the triumph now mine.

“MOMMY! MOMMYYYYYY!” He screamed as he threw his arms in the air desperately asking to be picked up.

I grabbed him up and wrapped my warm hands around his cold feet as his arms gripped my neck.

I brought him in to sit next to the fire on my lap and I held his feet in my hands under the blankets until he was warm.

He never tried to go outside with bare feet again. He learned his lesson through experience which is how most of us learn thoughout life. Had I let him make the mistake in the first place it would have saved me about a month of horrible behavior while trying to control him.

I still use this powerful parenting technique now. I let my child make age-appropriate choices. I let my child make mistakes. I warn him first of course but once the mistake is made there is no “I told you so.” I just help him fix the mistake and we discuss how he can handle the situation differently the next time.

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