07/20/2016 10:10 am ET Updated Jul 21, 2017

My Wife And I Never Said 'No' To Our Kids, And This Is What Happened

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What are the children of 'Yes Parenting' like? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Robert Reiland, who practiced noncoercive parenting and used an unschooling approach, on Quora:

I don't know if "Yes Parenting" is the same as the parenting style my late wife and I used, but it seems similar. What we did was called either "non-coercive parenting" or "taking children seriously." Both ways of thinking about parenting seem be part of "Yes Parenting."

We also used "unschooling." That's of course the only approach to education that makes sense in the absence of coercion.

How did our children turn out? The younger one is still in college after having never been in a classroom or experiencing any formal education that he didn't request. He started with distance learning in a community college and is now going to classes at a major university. He has yet to get anything but an "A" with his junior year done. The remarkable thing is that neither he nor I care much about grades. What really stands out is that he continues to study things in his major and minor and other areas of interest to him when on vacations. In terms of learning, he doesn't differentiate between the time during a college term and vacation time. Learning is self-driven and ongoing.

My older son is through college, and he did get a "B" once or twice. Also, he is committed to constantly learning, and he is gainfully employed.

Both of our sons were treated as if they were adults whose ideas mattered as much as ours from early on. One consequence of that was that they could switch between child-like roles and adult-type roles starting surprisingly early. They were frequently involved in solving family problems as children and often came up with the solutions we followed. They didn't do this under pressure. My wife and I generally expected to solve the problems of the entire family, but we were smart enough to recognize when our children had better solutions, as they often did.

Not wanting to write a book here, I will simplify what we did. We generally let our children make their own choices while we acted like spotters for those in weight lifting or gymnastics. We wanted our children to see the consequences of their choices without risking serious injuries or hurting others. We frequently talked to them about what might happen, what did happen, and how we could all do better.

When our children wanted things that would be difficult to get, we discussed why they wanted those things in order to find out if something else would work as well for them. This is a learning process for the family as a whole and for the children in particular. Our sons quickly learned that we were acting to help them, and they valued our inputs while still learning to think in their own ways. Still, there were times when we found creative ways to get the originally desired things. We never said "no" to anything to start with.

It was amazing how often something that was easy to get or to do turned out to be better than what was originally desired. Remember what I wrote about it being a learning process. This didn't happen perfectly the first few dozen times it was tried, but it almost always worked to some extent, and the entire process got better over time.

By the time our sons became teens we were effectively done with parenting. There was no rebellion. There was only working and playing together or separately, as each desired. My wife is gone but my adult sons still live with me. I can't seem to get rid of them, and I'm not in a hurry to do so. They'll be fine without me if I should leave or die, but for now we are a close family.

I almost forgot to mention that this has nothing to do with so-called "permissive parenting." That's a lazy way of looking at it, as if all parenting must lie along a permissive to authoritarian spectrum. From my point of view, that entire spectrum avoids optimum intellectual and emotional growth.

The writer would like to acknowledge his late wife Janet Reiland, who laid the foundation for this parenting style in their household.

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