Benign neglect and bored kids….

Its that time again… Thoughts for Thursday!

I have many moments in which I feel like a total slacker parent. 

I have days where I spend way too much time cleaning the house.

Hours where I spend way too much time surfing the internet from the couch. 

Mornings where I get Porter out of bed, hand him a cup of milk and a bagel, and crawl my own butt back into my bed and let him entertain himself for another hour in the morning.

I guess I could refer to these days as "lazy parenting for self preservation", but so many times I feel guilty and horrible for ignoring him.

It just seems like so many days I think to myself "Oh my word, can I be any further stuck up this kids rear end???"  "I just want a little ME time!"  On these days I feel like he’s constantly at my heels, whining to me to play with him or pick him up or read to him or get him a toy or… or… or….

Where does it end!  I find myself thinking of how much I wish I *wasn’t* at home.  And I hate feeling/thinking that way. 

Here are some questions I’d like you to think about… then read the article on Benign Neglect Parenting…

  • Is it wrong for a parent to expect their child to play alone when they’re clearly home and able to play with them?
  • If the parent stays at home, should that mean that every second of the day that they’re home should be devoted to playing/entertaining the kid(s)?
  • What about when parents work?  When they’re away from the kids more often, does that mean that the time that they’re home should fully be devoted to spending time with the kids?
  • Is it beneficial to give your child(ren) alone time… do you feel that this teaches them that you value your own "alone" time… that your time is valuable too?

I found this article on Benign Neglect Parenting from the Partners in Parenting website/blog (I love it… recommend it!) while I was searching for advice on toddler tantrums.  It had some interesting things to say about "purposefully ignoring your children" (I guess you could put it that way)….(while I highlighted some great parts, you really should go read the whole thing!!)

"……I remember tea parties, with mum …. Lots of story-reading. Long walks.
But she never, as far as I could tell, felt guilty for saying, "Go
along and play now." Playing was something children did. …….She could and did play with us – when she felt like it. And
isn’t that what play is? Something you do because it’s fun? As soon as
play becomes an obligation or a demand, it’s not play any more, is it?
She wasn’t an aloof parent, by any means, but what she practiced, and
what I have perfected, is the much-neglected and ESSENTIAL parenting
tool of Benign Neglect."

"……Children who are scheduled and stimulated for hours a day never learn
the skills of boredom-avoidance. Entertainment is something done
to and for them, it isn’t something they’ve ever done for themselves. By our hyper-involvement, we create
the child who will whine of boredom 90 seconds into a quiet moment,
because that child simply doesn’t know how to cope with free time! When
the constant barrage of stimulation ceases, something feels wrong, they
don’t like it – and they haven’t a clue what to do about it. Oh, except
"Mom! Mom? I’m bored!"

"…….Small children need a lot more hands-on care. There is no denying this.
But they don’t need your attention over their every waking breath….As a parent, you have the right to expect that your child
entertain themselves some of the time. You have the right to a quiet
cup of coffee……You have the right to read or talk on the phone (or blog!!) while they
play. You have the right to say, "Mommy finds that game boring, hon."
You have the right to do all this without guilt, and you can achieve it by introducing to the children a little Benign Neglect.

Start today. Your kids will thank you."

A lot of what this article/author had to say transferred over to how easily children are able to entertain themselves. I’m sure we all remember being kids and whining during the summer to our moms "I’m BOOOOORRRED!" (or, those of you with bigger kids at home, this is probably something you hear!).   Kids who were encouraged (err… given no other choice) to play and think and create on their own were able to more easily entertain themselves, able to think of something fun to do to pass the "boring" times.  I remember when my sister and I were younger we’d go out and build stick forts in the woods, or climb trees or go on adventure hunts in the corn fields behind the house (no, we didn’t grow up on a farm LOL).  We were "forced" to think on our own and find fun stuff to do, and we did.  Sure, there were plenty of times I can remember whining to my mom saying "I’m BORED!" but I remember plenty of times we were left to our own minds to find something fun to do.

So, maybe I’m just trying to justify my need for "unplugging my head from my childs rear end" on a daily basis, maybe I’m just trying to justify my lazy involvement in playing with my child every second of the day, but I guess I’d like to think its a step in a positive direction.  A step towards raising a somewhat independent thinking child.

I guess it just seems like we, as parents, are always trying to do whats best for our children.  And, in the end, thats what we all want right?  We either feel inadequate as parents because we don’t/can’t spend as much time with our kids or we absolutely smother them with our attention and overschedule them.  Just a few weeks ago I was feeling like a slacker mom (as usual) and thought "Oh I should schedule our day… wake up, breakfast, play with puzzles, read, play outside, storytime at library, lunch, park, nap, etc etc etc…"  OH MY WORD!  I mean, seriously.  It sounds good, in theory, but is it really best to have all our attention on our children at every second of the day? I actually heard about a mom that doesn’t even allow the tv on when their child is awake… its sort of ‘frowned upon’ for either of the parents to watch a tv show of choice while the kiddo is awake… as its "the childs time to spend with them" when they’re home.  Of course they are wanting whats best for their child, and of course it sounds like the best thing to do, but is it? 


What are your thoughts?  How do you feel about this article?  What do you think about time spent with your children… should every available minute be spent with your kids, or do you spend part of the time you could be with them doing what YOU want to do?

And, just for fun… a little poll…


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And, when you’re done commenting here… visit the other TFT Bloggers…
Heather Swinigan

  1. Hi! I am Heather’s new friend who live just a couple of miles from her.

    Anyway, I often have those days when I feel like I haven’t spent enough time with my girls. Norah – 3, plays very well by herself, but after about 30 minutes she usually asks me to play with her. How can I turn her down when she asks, “Mommy, would like to join us for a tea party?”

    Lucy, however, cannot be left alone. As soon as I turn my head she is climbing on top of tables or desks! Ugh! Thankfully, she takes a great afternoon nap and sometimes a morning cat nap!

    I think it is important that kids learn to play a little bit without mom. It helps when there is a sibling so they can entertain each other some.

    I am really trying, though, to spend more time everyday just playing. Isn’t that why I’m at home – to enjoy my children? I still get my house straightened up and dinner on the table, but I am not obsessive about it. I’m a work in progress, though!

  2. I love that article. Maybe just to relieve some of my “do I ignore my kids too much?” guilt??…

    I am trying to play with my kids more. But like the article said… when it’s fun, when they need a little distraction, when it’s not taking away from other things that need to be done. They don’t need me to play with them all day long. (Isn’t that why I had two of them? haha) Yes, I’m around, I know (most of the time) what they’re up to almost every minute of the day, but they are getting better about not having to BE entertained by me. It is much nicer now that Sawyer is getting older and they can play together. It is so fun to watch or listen to the games and pretend that they come up with. I think their together play is much more imaginative and whimsical when I’m not involved. Sure, it’s fun for me to join in a picnic or a Little People town or sit down and work on some puzzles or some coloring or craft time… but for a lot of their day they play mostly with each other.

    I remember when Savannah was the age Sawyer is, I started feeling overwhelmed at her needing to be played with or entertained all the time. Not that I don’t mind playing with her; I don’t think I felt (most of the time) robbed of grown-up or me time, but it was more a feeling of I really wanted her to not depend on me for entertainment. More of the independence thing where she needed to learn to use her imagination herself and come up with things she liked to do on her own. Anyway, it is much easier to have siblings now. And of course, it’s always easier to have a playdate or two thrown in there!

  3. I think kids need to learn some independence. I’m teaching Max to go to sleep on his own if I just lay him in his crib, and he’ll hopefully learn to play on his own as well. Obviously he’s only 3 months old and I have no idea at this point what it’s like having a toddler (eek), but I definitely think parents need time for themselves. ESPECIALLY moms.

    I just read recently that in most other cultures around the world, it would be looked at as very strange for an adult to get down on the floor and play with a baby/young child… that is ‘child’s play.’ I thought that was interesting… sometimes it seems like our ‘parenting culture’ here in the U.S. is all about guilt! I’m not saying I don’t play with my son, but in my honest opinion… putting your child above EVERYTHING else in your life is not the way to go. I think that mindset is producing a lot of failed marriages and extremely spoiled children. THIS IS JUST MY OPINION… some people get extremely touchy when you suggest that your child is not your whole world… I’m not trying to get any hate email here. 😉

    My sister and I used to play in the woods and build forts too! We would get together with the neighborhood kids, put on plays for our parents, play ‘store’ and ‘school’, etc. I don’t remember my mom ever playing dolls with me – maybe she did? But mostly I remember entertaining ourselves using our imaginations. I can only hope Max has half the childhood I had!

    I guess I practically wrote another post on your blog. Haha. 🙂

  4. Thanks for posting this Nicole. This is something I have struggled with a lot lately. When Gavin is born, we weren’t the type of parents to hold him all day long. Not that we didn’t want to, but I knew that going back to work would be an adjustment for me and his grandparents that would be watching him. I didn’t want him to be so used to being held all day that his babysitters couldn’t put him down to play without having to entertain him all day. So, luckily it worked and Gavin plays very well by himself and I’m happy for it. The part I struggle with is having the energy to play with him after I get home from work all day. I want that to be his time to be with us…to help him develop, grow, thrive, etc.. but truth be told, somedays Matt & I are just plain exhausted. Not to mention we can’t spend every waking minute we are home playing with him. We need time to clean the house, do laundry, yardwork and take time for ourselves. It’s a hard balance, but I would say more often than not I don’t feel guilty for letting him play. It’s a struggle right now where he can’t crawl or talk yet, so I do feel like I neglect him at times but I can honestly say that when I really stop and think about it, he is okay with the time he plays on his own. He doesn’t cry for our attention and we by no means ignore him. I think every child needs to learn to play on their own…explore and expand their imaginations and know who they are. In turn, parents are given their free time to do what they need to do and I think when you have your “ME” time it makes you a better parent. Okay, this has turned into a novel. Thanks for the great topic though – very interesting.

  5. THANK YOU!! I SOOOO needed this to read!! It’s an on-going argument with my own Mom about how much time is enough time with my children. I think that Grandparents forget that a lot of the time, we kids came up with our own things to do because (in my house at least) if you went up to your mother and said to her, “I’m bored.”, you would be told to go clean your room, go outside or go find something to do because it was not her job to entertain you!! My kids all have more things to do in this day and age than my siblings and I ever did, so I don’t have them coming up to me as much saying that they’re bored. For the record, as a SAHM of a 10, 8 and 5yr old, I play with them more often than not because it is ME who is bored and because I WANT to. Usually, though, they have their friends to play with and don’t want to be up their Mom’s butt!! Kudos on the post this week. WOW!!

  6. I think kids should have time to entertain themselves without mom or dad always coming up with what to do next. That is where they learn their creativity and how to get along with others….Moms and dads need breaks too so I think they shouldn’t feel bad about taking some “me” time and doing something for themselves.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Aaaah, you don’t know how wonderful it was to read that! I often feel guilty if I’m not devoting every waking hour to my children. But hey! It’s good for them. Who would have thought? I do agree, I grew up entertaining myself, did I get bored? Yes. But I learned to cope. Hopefully we can raise independent and creative children, and this seems to be a great way to do it!

  8. Amen Sister… read all of this to my dad (who I am visiting)… I feel so empowered just realizing I am not alone in my approach… posted on my blog about the same topic… THANK YOU for sharing

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