My Personal Parenting Style: Benign Neglect
People often ask me what parenting style I teach, but I don’t teach parenting.
My work is about caring for mothers, not caring for babies. Ultimately I believe that happy, healthy mothers make happy, healthy babies, so my mission is bringing about a renaissance of ancient postpartum care practises that can support you in being the mum you want to be, whatever parenting style works for you and your baby.
Having said that, there is one thing I’ve learned that is too good to keep to myself.
Some parenting advice might work for babies in the short term, but makes mums miserable or exhausted or isolated, which is not ideal for babies in the long run anyway. But what I’m about to share with you not only makes happy, healthy babies, but also makes happy, healthy mums. Which is why I’m going to break my own rule and give you one tiny piece of parenting advice.
I call it benign neglect.
Here’s an example.
I rarely play with my children. We have a small house on a huge block and our weekends usually involve me doing what I enjoy doing - listening to music, cooking, gardening… And my kids doing what they enjoy doing - making cubbies, climbing trees, riding their bikes…
The exception is when I enjoy it too, for example I love lego and reading. But you’ll never find me building cubbies or playing imaginary games!!
It’s like our parents and grandparents used to do it. Go outside after breakfast and don’t come back 'til lunchtime! Free play in nature; uninterrupted, undirected, unscheduled.
Another way of understanding benign neglect is to give your children only what they need, not what they want. And by needs I’m including their emotional needs, not just physical needs.
The surprising thing is that this works for babies too, depending on your baby's temperament of course. And the best bit is it buys you a tonne of time!!!
My baby and I often work and play side-by-side. I’m folding the washing whilst he is lying on the floor learning to put his fist in his mouth. I’m writing a blog post whilst he has some tummy time on a rug in my office. I’m reading a book in the garden whilst my son lies in the pram watching the sunlight through swaying tree branches.
The joy is that perhaps your baby will grow up to expect less entertainment, and become more creative and independent in their play and learning. I adore the way we co-exist, side-by-side; there for each other when needed but free to engage in our own interests.
I want to stress as always that no advice is 'one size fits all'. Some babies are more cuddly or more extroverted and need more from you. Some mums are more cuddly and extroverted and will enjoy engaging with their babies more.
Always listen to your baby, not me, and do what makes YOU happy.