Nothing promotes the value of idle parenting like a slipped disk and strict instructions from my doctor to absolutely not pick up my twins, who were about to turn two, for two weeks. While do I try to limit my “helicopter parenting” to an amount appropriate for my kids age, I am not idle by nature. Fortunately a new book by Tom Hodgkinson showed up on my door the following day to explain how it’s done.
In The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids, Hodgkinson, parenting columnist and father of three (ages 3, 6 and 8), shares his simple philosophy toward child-raising: leave them alone. The theory is that by doing so children will be happier, confident, independent and self–reliant. While parenting styles are typically viewed as either helicopter/smothering or idle/neglecting, this new book explain that “the idle parent is a responsible parent because at the heart of idle parenting is respect for the child.”
In this thought provoking new book Hodgkinson presents an interesting and appealing case for idle parenting. He emphasizes the importance of being available for your child when they need you (let them come to you), and when they don’t… have a beer, enjoy yourself. The book explains that in order to enjoy life, parents need to let go of any resentment they feel toward their children. In other words, idle parenting is about sometimes putting your happiness first because the happier the parents, the happier the children.
The Idle Parent makes a number of practical observations. It suggests replacing “coercion and authoritative rule with joint voluntary action.” For example, instead of telling your kids to sit down for dinner, invite them to join you at the table. It also notes that we should make our children more useful (bring back child labor) because “whining and complaining arise from powerlessness.”
Hodgkinson uses the parenting theories of several authors including John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau to justify his arguments toward idle parenting. He also uses his own experiences as a father. His naturalistic approach can some times seem a bit extreme, and is also very anti-consumerism and anti-establishment.
I enjoyed The Idle Parent as a thought provoking exercise on theoretical parenting, but in practice… I am still on the fence. Will it make kids happier? Of that I have no doubt. But what children raised by this approach toward parenting will be like as adults, only time will tell.
While it wasn’t the hilarious book it is described as (that may have been due to pain killers and lack of alcohol), there were several extremely good points made and I am trying to be a little more hands off.
More information about Tom Hodgkinson can be found at http://idler.co.uk/
Cate Burke is the very busy (but very lucky) mother of 2-year-old boy/girl twins. Happily married for 10 years, this California girl now lives in Iowa, where she freelances as an independent marketing consultant. She is an avid reader (when time permits) and has a professional background in marketing and public relations for non-profit organizations.