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5 min read

Heather Shumaker, the author of “It’s OK Not To Share”, speaks about a more unconventional approach to parenting that includes 29 “renegade rules”.

These rules are designed to help children develop independence, confidence, and empathy, among many other benefits. 

Her golden rule is that “It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property". While she applies this to most situations, the book discusses more specific parenting ideas, like sharing, lying, swearing, and excluding other children. 

Even if you don't agree with everything in the book, it's certainly an interesting read and one that might challenge some of your current parenting beliefs. 

Below are our 10 favourite Renegade Rules to give you a better idea of what you'll find inside the book. 

You can also check out the full book if you're interested in reading about all 29: https://themontessoriroom.com/products/its-ok-not-to-share-and-other-renegade-rules-for-raising-competent-and-compassionate-kids


1. It’s OK Not To Share

Sharing on demand interrupts play and concentration, as well as teaches false generosity. Take turns instead and allow for "long turns".

How to follow this rule:

  • Protect a child’s right to play uninterrupted
  • Teach children to say “I am not done yet.”
  • Comfort a waiting child. You can show your understanding with words like, “It is so hard to wait!”
  • Allow child to decide when they are done playing with a toy

2. “I Hate You!” Is Nothing Personal

Harsh words only mean that your child is temporarily upset. Focus on helping them work through their big feelings, rather than escalating the situation by getting angry at them.

How to follow this rule:

  • Keep calm and acknowledge/accept your child’s big feelings without overreacting. You can say things like, “I know you’re angry right now. I love you even when you’re angry.”
  • You can allow your child to physically work through their feelings by pounding a pillow, ripping paper, drawing feelings, counting breaths, or go outside
  • Once the child is calm read books about feelings, listen to songs about feelings, use puppets to recreate the situation and find solutions, ask child what they need in those situations

3. You Can’t Play = A-OK

Children are not magically all friends just because they are all the same age. Children will play with some and not others. That's perfectly normal.

Free play includes the right to choose whom to play with. Let children choose whether to include or reject a playmate. 

As an adult, you don't like everyone you meet. It's unrealistic to expect a child will too.

How to follow this rule:

  • Teach your child they don’t have to like everyone or play with everyone
  • Teach your child that they DO have to be decent and respectful to everyone. Teach them language like "I don’t want to play with you right now. Maybe later."
  • Say to the excluding child: “Is there something you’re worried about?”
  • Say to the rejected child: “That makes you sad. You wanted to play with ____.”
  • Allow your child to experience both sides of social rejection. This is valuable for social and emotional growth.

4. Love Your Kids' Lies

When children lie, it's not malicious. To preschool-aged children, lies are like wishes. They're only really saying what they wish was true. Children four and up may know they are lying but still don't fully understand complex concepts like honesty. 

How to follow this rule:

  • Remember your child is not lying to anger you and is not being "bad." They are doing it because they want to change their reality - they wish they hadn't broke the lamp or hit their sibling. 
  • Punishment doesn't stop lies. Instead, show your child that you like the truth, and they will alter their behaviour to please you.

5. Boys Can Wear Tutus

Play that crosses gender roles is creative and harmless. Let kids play. It won’t change who they are.

How to follow this rule:

  • Support gender-based play
  • Understand that playing different roles helps a child develop empathy (experiencing things from a different perspective)
  • Control reaction and gender stereotypes (pink is just a colour, boys like pink too)

6. Pictures Don’t Have To Be Pretty

It’s the process of making art, not the finished art "product". For young kids, art is doing.

How to follow this rule:

  • Follow the child’s lead and don’t focus on the finished product.
  • Avoid creating models of art for children to copy. Models impose a fixed idea and create an expectation of perfection.

7. Stop Saying “Good Job!”

Acknowledgement is better than praise and it's better to focus on persistence and effort.

How to follow this rule:

  • Offer descriptive words based on observations rather than judgements
  • Instead of “good job!” try “You’re pumping on the swing by yourself.”
  • Instead of “you’re so smart!” try “you know a lot of numbers now. You can count to 12.”
  • Focus on persistence, taking risks, and keeping at it: “you worked hard at solving that problem.”

8. Kids Don’t Have To Say “Sorry”

Teaching pre-school aged children to say ‘sorry’ when they don't truly mean it teaches them they can quickly say a word and move on. Instead, take action to set things right.

How to follow this rule:

  • Understand that eventually children will say “sorry” and really mean it
  • Action and observation help children develop empathy, i.e. get a tissue or ice pack for someone they pushed down,

9. Let Your Kid Swear

Most kids love to say banned words, so let them - in the bathroom.

How to follow this rule:

  • Understand that completely banning words may backfire. Instead, you can allow them to say the words in their bedroom or the bathroom. Giving children this option, takes away some of the word's "power".
  • When they do say a word you don't like, keep your face calm and give no reaction
  • Explain to them why it's inappropriate rather than just telling them not to say it - “That’s a word grown ups use when they’re very angry. If you want to say that word, you need to do it in the bathroom/bedroom.”
  • If you don’t want your child to swear, don’t swear yourself.
  • As an alternative option, you can make up powerful or strong words with your child that they can use when they are really mad.

10. Sex Ed Starts in Preschool

Young children are curious about birth and bodies. Honest answers help kids develop a healthy body image and begin a lifetime of open, parent-child talks. 

How to follow this rule:

  • If a child is old enough to ask, she’s old enough to get an honest answer. Don’t shy away from sex ed. Think about it as a biology lesson and open communication. 
  • Speaking about sex ed earlier is easier because it comes with less fuss
  • Clarify what child is asking and answer only the one question. Don’t get too complicated and follow their lead. 

While the book is not a Montessori book, many of the ideas areMontessori aligned. 

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