I suspect that a lot of the parenting I do looks more like "indulgence" and "spoiling" than "flexibility," as I like to call it.
It is true that Scooter gets much of what he requests. And, although I started typing a list of the general categories of his requests and why we fulfill them, I've decided that I don't need to do that sort of justification. The long and short of it is that we tend to fulfill those requests, within reason, that are food-related or strike us as "it won't hurt anything and it will make things easier for everyone."
The first affirmation that I received for this parenting style was when I read Elaine Aron's The Highly Sensitive Child. One of the things she advocated for children with food-related issues was to offer primarily those foods that the child would eat and not to push new foods too aggressively. We had pretty much been doing that anyway, but it gave me permission to feel fine about doing it.
More recently, the developmental pediatrician told me that the best way to determine if an parenting approach works for Scooter it to consider his reaction. Not in a give-him-everything, hop-to-it, he-shouldn't-ever-cry way, but in a trust-your-gut, you-can-read-him-best way. He even gave as an example an exchange from the beginning of the appointment.
Scooter had been rolling a toy truck on top of one of the plastic chairs before the doctor arrived. Once the doctor had come in and we'd made introductions, Scooter started up again. I turned to him and said something like, "Why don't you play with the truck on the floor now?" To which Scooter responded, "Uh... no." So I switched from a question to a request: "Scooter, please play with that on the floor." Again: "Uh... no." I pondered for a bit, determined that the noise really was too distracting for me and took a new tack. Maintaining as even a voice as possible,
I said, "Scooter, it is very noisy when you roll the truck on the chair and makes it hard to hear the doctor. It would be helpful if you played with it on the floor." He paused and looked at me, then pleasantly said, "OK," and moved down to the floor.
Not exactly an amazing moment, but a good illustration of what works. Scooter is stubborn and generally doesn't want to change what he's doing just because someone tells him he should. (I can clearly picture Trillian saying, "Gee, I wonder where he gets that?") But, he is interested in the way things work and cause-and-effect; additionally, he does like to help. So presenting a simple explanation and appealing to his ability to improve a situation goes much further than a command.
Today was one of those days that walked the flexible/indulgent line. After a slightly late start and a short debate with Trillian about letting him stay home (cough and a low-grade, but not exclusionary, fever), which Scooter decided by saying he wanted to go show his stickers to his friends, Scooter and I made it to daycare. But things were a little off from the start. Free play was ending early since there was going to be a fire drill. So not only did he miss out on the time that would have served as a gentle transition, but he got worried once he knew the alarm would be going off. (My bad for telling him.) I stayed for the drill, carried him down the stairs--the stridency of alarms overwhelms him enough that he can barely move--while I helped marshal some of the other kids. He cried the entire time and got more worked up when we headed back in since I got stuck holding a door while he was swept up by the other kids going up the stairs.
And so we sat on the side of the room for a while as he cried and told me that he wanted to go home. And we sat and sat and sat. And then we went home.
He mostly played by himself and watched DVDs. No, I didn't get quite as much work done as I might have otherwise. But truly, my one regret is that I didn't bring him home sooner. The shift of events had been such that his day had veered off course. And it just so happens that Trillian and I both had days that were light on scheduled items.
So I bent, but not over.