The Antidote to Helicopter Parenting

March 28, 2012

Mom & Baby, in New York magazine 4-4-10

A couple Fridays ago, I posted a link to an article in Time by Nancy Gibbs called “The Growing Backlash against Overparenting.” I couldn’t help but notice that Gibbs uses the term “slow parenting” to describe the antidote to “helicopter parenting” — the tendency to over-involvement, over-protection, and over-investment in our kids.

A slow approach to parenting hardly means one is disengaged, laissez faire, or unconcerned, of course, but it seems that more and more people are waking up to a need for common sense, getting back to basics, prioritizing relationships, and letting go of unrealistic expectations.

Not surprisingly, Carl Honore’s book Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting is leading the conversation about slow parenting. (I haven’t read it yet, but when I do I’ll be sure to tell you what I think.) Honore’s best-seller, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, remains the leading book on the slow movement and why it’s revelatory for our times.

One of the interesting things Gibbs mentions in her Time article is how the recession has helped parents to step back and reassess their priorities. So many have been forced to scale back on extracurricular activities for their kids and the usual amount of toys; they’ve had to do less, downsize, and simplify. And according to Gibbs, a CBS poll showed that most parents actually like the results — they’re happier and believe their family life is better.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

If there’s a problem in parenting today, perhaps it’s the pressure so many parents feel to be perfect and to find the right formula. But there is no perfect formula for parenting, only principles that can help guide the way. And the application of those principles will look different from family to family, because every kid and adult and situation is different.

Do you agree? And do you think it’s possible to relax and really enjoy parenting, or is it something that’s simply bound to be full of angst and pressure?

Image: Jessica Todd Harper for New York Magazine

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