I remember reading this term once in Mothering magazine when they published a feature article praising “benign neglect”. I don’t think it’s online, but a Google search turned up a bunch of references to the article, so it must have struck a chord with a lot of other moms as well.
This is what I want to ask:
Where did we get the idea that hovering around our kids all day was good mothering?
I agree with a lot of what SuperNanny has to say: avoiding physical punishments, spending lots of time with kids and using positive discipline (physical touch, praise, etc). But calling a mom lazy because she cleaned her house instead of doing crafts with the kids all day?
I don’t think so.
I think there is a balance. I don’t particularly enjoy crafty type activities. I also don’t really love playing dolls and stuff like that. If my 5 year old asked me to play with her I would – but she rarely does. And my boys are usually busy with their homeschool work and Legos and playing ball and the oldest has his nose in a book for much of the day, so they don’t really need me to “play” with them either. Although sometimes the oldest will want me to play a board game with him, and I do enjoy that.
One thing I do love to do with my kids is read out loud with them. So that’s something I do every day with them, sometimes several times a day. I don’t do a lot of “playing” with my kids. And I don’t think my kids suffer for that.
For one thing, they have each other. The boys play together a lot, the girls play together, the two in the middle play a lot …. they have their own little playmates built in, which is one of the nice things about having a whole bunch of kids!
Another reason I engage in a little benign neglect is because I’m with my kids all the time. Perhaps too much if that’s possible. Lately I’m making an effort to get out more and socialize with people my own age.
Seriously though, because I both homeschool and work at home, I’m with my kids 24/7. We eat together 3 times a day and talk, tell jokes, etc. The kids do schoolwork while I’m at my laptop nearby, we go outside for walks or to hang out… they are not lacking for time or attention from me, that’s for sure.
I think benign neglect makes kids more independent. My kids very rarely ever say the dreaded words around me (I’m bored). Probably because they know I always assign some chore when they say that. LOL!
Because they aren’t accustomed to me entertaining them all the time, they are creative and learn how to keep themselves entertained. (yeah, the chore thing helps!)
I think it’s a positive thing for kids to see the adults around them engaged in their own tasks and lives. Keeping the house clean, preparing nutritious meals, and earning a living – my kids see me doing this stuff all day long. They know it’s important, and they know Mommy has to do important adult stuff, stuff that sometimes doesn’t include playtime with them. Am I silly to think they will benefit by this – learning what it means to be a grown up with responsibilities?
When my babies were babies, they sat in a sling close to my body all day and watched me do stuff. They were entertained, but I didn’t spend hours playing with them then either. Of course, I don’t recommend plopping kids in front of the TV – I strictly limit all forms of “screen time” so my kids are doing more important things. That’s different from the kind of benign neglect I’m talking about. Even when I’m working, my kids are almost always free to interrupt me and ask questions, get help with something, show me something they’ve done or built or what have you.
What do you think? Do you engage in a little benign neglect with your kids? Or are you the Martha Stewart of Moms?