The coronavirus pandemic has forced me to loosen up on my parenting skills and allow my toddler to get away with things I normally would reprimand her for. Turns out I'm not alone and experts say easing up isn't something to feel guilty about.

The author's daughter.
The author's daughter.
| Credit: Courtesy of Caroline Chirichella

I just sat there and watched as it happened. There she was, my perfect 18-month-old daughter, drawing with her markers on our white leather chairs. I didn't even try to stop her.

In the past, I was relatively strict with my daughter and used my fair share of the word "no." So much so that it became her favorite word. Whenever she would attempt to rearrange the refrigerator or throw laundry on the floor, I reprimanded her. She needed to know what she could and couldn't do. Lately, not so much.

My family and I have been on strict lockdown since March 10 and for the first three weeks, we were doing very well and holding it together. But after that, I could feel myself slowly loosening up. Everything going on has me questioning my parenting skills. I turned to other moms for support and realized I am far from alone.

Krista Ruhe, mom of a 5-year-old, says she completely understands where I'm coming from. "I have a demanding job that requires me to be on conference calls—now video conference—most of the day. When she gets fussy and doesn't listen, I resort to another slippery slope of parenting: bribes."

Other parents have also loosened up on things like bedtime, wakeup time, mealtime, and screen time. "I make sure the kids get their schoolwork done in the morning, but then they are on their iPad for hours," says Dori Bussel, mom of an 11 and 9-year-old, who owns a PR consultancy and has been working from home. "While I feel guilty that they are on screens and I'm not doing activities with them throughout the day, they have been pretty self-sufficient."

As for me, I noticed that my daughter was starting to pick up on the huge change in our lives. I could sense she was having a tough time and boy, could I relate. All that mattered to me was her happiness. Hence the marker incident. I don't want to teach her these habits. I don't want her to grow up thinking she can do whatever she wants without consequence. But as it turns out, relaxing the rules during the pandemic isn't such a bad thing.

"I don't like to think of it as letting children get away with things, but rather realizing that in extraordinary times, we can't always follow ordinary procedures," says Rona Novick, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, dean of Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University, and author of Mommy, Can You Stop The Rain? "I strongly recommend being transparent about the easing up—tell your children that the typical rules are not in effect and provide a reason."

The true reason I'm letting my daughter get away with so much is because I feel helpless. I'm running out of ways to entertain her, while trying to work, run the household, and remain sane. Dr. Novick says parents have taken on a lot more than they can handle at the moment and it's nearly impossible to manage it all. "We cannot be creative, engaged, energetic teachers, playmates, and chefs every minute of every day," says Dr. Novick.

But I do worry sometimes that my parenting skills during the lockdown will make it harder for me long-term. Will my daughter's new behaviors become a habit? Dr. Novick doesn't think it should be an issue in the long run. "To the extent that in these difficult times we engage with our children in genuine acts of kindness, in developing habits of gratitude, then any long-term negative effects will be balanced with how we have all grown," says Dr. Novick. As parents, we should just continue to "be a reassuring, steady, loving presence" in our kids' lives, adds Dr. Novick.

I've decided to accept my responsibilities for my daughter's behavior…when I need to. Now is not the moment. The sad reality is, these are our lives right now and us parents need to do pretty much whatever we can to keep it together.

As long as my daughter is safe and happy, that is all that matters to me. With everything about the future so scary and uncertain, I need to make her feel that everything is OK. As her mom, that's what I'm here for.