"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids by Tom Hodgkinson

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Summary: The best way to be a parent is to relax and do as little as possible.

I tend to be an uptight parent, worrying that my kids will act as brats in public, which will lead to vandalism, promiscuity, drug use and anarchy.

This book didn't quite inspire me to embrace every concept the author espouses, but the overall message that kids learn by doing and are more competent than we give them credit for was quite a healthy one.
Paradoxically, the idle parent is a responsible parent because at the heart of idle parenting is the respect for the child, trust in another human being.
This is a lovely sentiment, and one that seems directly to contrast with the new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. The author quotes heavily from A. S. Neill, the founder of the Summerhill School. I often felt like I should be reading A.S. Neill's book, instead of this one. He also darws from Rouseau and Locke and even D.H. Lawrence.

Banish the TV, sleep in, give the kids peas to eat, music to play (ukuleles are great) and let them have pets. All very sensible, normal advice that seems radical once he delves deeper into his reasoning. It turned me off a little when Wilkinson said,
My idea of child care is a large field. At one side of the field is a marquee with a bar serving local ales. This is where the parents gather. On the other side of the field, somewhere in the distance, the children play. I don't bother them, and they don't bother me. Give them as much freedom as possible. 
I am always stunned when people who have more than one child seem to resent being parents. How can the work and joy of one child be forgotten when you decide to have a second? If you see kids as a bother, then yes, be an idle parent. You'll likely be happier.

Part of the freedom that Wilkinson praises is the freedom to let them play with their arseholes in public. Whoa, kinda lost me there, buddy.

Even a broken watch is right twice a day, so I can't totally dismiss this book as the writings of a neglectful crackpot, nor can I recommend this book to American parents who are searching for guidelines on how to raise happy kids.

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