Manifesto of the Idle Parent

CC BY 2.0. Stefano Mortellaro -- Let him be. He's with his thoughts.

Lazy parents are good parents, and summer is the best time to develop that attitude.

Ah, summer! It’s that glorious time of year that children love and parents dread. When I was a kid, my friends and I did nothing. I know this because nothing interfered with those long, lazy days. We spent a lot of time together, playing outside and swimming in the lake. Now, as a parent to the next generation, I see how things have changed. No kid is given the luxury of boredom. Summers are chock-full of activities – everything from soccer practices to year-round music lessons to circus and art camps to vacation Bible school. The stay-at-home parents I talk to appear to believe, quite sincerely, that their children must be kept busy all summer long.

I agree that children need to be kept out of their parents’ hair. Two months is long enough to drive anyone batty. But I’d like to suggest an alternative approach. Instead of handling the ‘problem’ of summer vacation by adding activities to one’s roster, what about removing them? Then, take it a step further by refusing to play with your child and (gasp) leaving them alone. Shocked? Read this quote from D.H. Lawrence’s essay, “Education for the People,” published in 1918:

“How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.”

Children benefit from being left alone, and so do parents, for whom it means much less work, time, and money spent on providing entertainment. (What’s not to love about that?) And so, I’d like to introduce you to the wonderful “Manifesto of the idle parent,” written by Tom Hodginkson, editor of The Idler, and published in 2008 in a delightful article for The Telegraph. (Read it.) This is the foundation for my parenting philosophy this summer – and every month thereafter.

Manifesto of the idle parent

• We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
• We pledge to leave our children alone
• That should mean that they leave us alone, too
• We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they're born
• We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
• We drink alcohol without guilt
• We reject the inner Puritan
• We fill the house with music and laughter
• We don't waste money on family days out and holidays
• We lie in bed for as long as possible
• We try not to interfere
• We push them into the garden and shut the door so that we can clean the house
• We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
• Time is more important than money
• Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
• Down with school
• We fill the house with music and merriment

While some points may have an element of tongue-in-cheek humor to them, the basic message is clear: Children do not need the constant coddling they’re given by most parents in the U.S. and Canada these days, and parents will benefit by stepping back. Lounging in bed? Saying a flat-out no to shopping for new toys? Kicking them outside for indeterminate lengths of time? Yes, please!