Lazy Parents Create Happier Children

July 17, 2012 ( — Helicopter parents, formerly known as overprotective, are frequently cited as a prime cause for neurosis in later life. In addition to the advice of parenting books and scientific studies, we have the life of Woody Allen to serve as a dire warning. Successful filmmaker, yes. Now the bad news….

But just because helicopters (for hovering over children, in case you missed it) are bad, does that mean the opposite is good? Lazy parents, let us call them aircraft carriers to extend the military metaphor, have been just as vilified traditionally. An overly-permissive, laissez faire attitude is commonly cited as the case for Robert Downey, Jr.

However, now aircraft carriers have new evidence to support the roles as parents of choice. The Idle Parent, a new book from English philosopher Tom Hodgkinson, encourages parents to do less in order to help children develop self-reliance. On his website, The Idle Parent Manifesto proudly declares:

An idle parent is a creative parent
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We play in the fields and forests
We push them into the garden and shut the door so we can clean the house
We reject health and safety guidelines
We embrace responsibility.


Hodgkinson said he sees this issue as particularly urgent given global stress levels. “When I researched The Idle Parent, it was fairly obvious to me that [stress through overscheduling] was what was happening all over the world – not just in the Anglo countries but also in South and Central America and Asia,” he explained.

In support of this theory, research from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, released earlier this month, revealed that helicopter parenting results in negative mental health outcomes for adults as well. Undue pressure that parents put on themselves create stress in the family that children internalize. “In reality, intensive parenting may have the opposite effect on children from what parents intend.” The authors concluded.

Perhaps the simple words that pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock penned in 1946 are more valuable than ever today: “Feed ‘em. Love ‘em. Leave ‘em alone.”

Kathryn M. Rizzo, Holly H. Schiffrin, Miriam Liss. “Insight into the Parenthood Paradox: Mental Health Outcomes of Intensive Mothering.Journal of Child and Family Studies, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s10826-012-9615-z

Why lazy parents make happy families (August 24, 2011) Sydney Morning Herald.


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