I am right in the thick of becoming an unschooling parent and learning what that means to me. A lot of USers seem to be opposed to setting limits (specifically for screen time and foods) and using punishment or coercion. In many ways, I am all for that. DH and I both come from a pretty traditional/mainstream upbringing, and both want better/different for our children.
I occasionally limit screen time if I see it is affecting DS's mood/attitude. He's 4.5. But we don't have a specific, universal rule about screen time, per se. He will sometimes grow bored of TV and start doing something destructive or disrespectful instead of just turning it off. That is when I ask if he's done watching. If he says yes, I suggest we turn it off and find another activity. Often, video games/TV will be a privilege to lose when his behavior is repeatedly abusive or destructive. I wish I had a better way, so as not to use punishment, but I don't.
I do not limit general food or adhere to a set eating schedule. Kids can eat when hungry, or choose not to join at mealtime if not hungry. I do, however, set some pretty universal limits on what kind of food and when. No jam on toast (or sweet food) until a protein and/or veggie is consumed, no refined sugar in general, can't just eat fruit all day without some veggies and protein. This is entirely for the harmony of the household. My son will go bonkers and make me crazy if he has too much sugar/imbalanced diet. I have a toddler, so it's also for her safety and the protection of the house. I feel like that is a very reasonable limit, and it is met with only a little resistance at times. Sweets are also considered privileges that can be lost for certain behaviors, but mostly are not used as leverage for behavior/cooperation)
Lastly, DS is the type of child who will often start lashing out or getting "crazy" when he needs to use the bathroom. It is quite literally as though his brain shuts down in certain areas. For some reason he won't readily admit this need, but time has shown this to be an irrefutable pattern. So I will occasionally refuse to start a new game or allow a new activity to begin until he tries to use the restroom. This is sometimes met with resistance when he's acting out toward others or getting destructive, but not such an issue during the aforementioned transition between activities. I definitely see how my insistence that he go pee is controlling and coercive, but I can't figure out another way. The same goes for naps- he rarely admits to needing a nap or easily agrees to it, but there is a marked decline in his ability to stay "sane" after about 3pm without a little sleep. Since I lie down to nurse his sister to sleep, he usually joins with little or no fuss to avoid having to stay isolated outside the bedroom during that time. My rule is no interrupting or loud noises when I am putting her down for nap.
It looks as though my limits are pretty much just to keep a safe, healthful and peaceful household. But I still wonder if I'm somehow "doing it wrong" in these areas. If you, dear reader, are of the mind that my ways are wrong, would you please explain your perspective? I am not interested in starting a debate, but want help seeing other ways and reasons. I know every child is different, but do any of you who do not set limits or use punishment find trouble in those areas at times? How do you handle those issues without limits, coercion, or removal of privilege?