“Is this lazy parenting?”
The woman who asked me this question is an exceptional parent. She somehow manages to drag a three-year-old and a 15-month-old with her to school to pick up her daughter and, even more incredibly, manages to keep them all happy for however long our kids decide to hang out at the playground.
My son HATES to leave the school grounds, and so does her daughter, and on this particular day, her three were off playing, some distance from us. They were still within eyesight and what we saw was a bit of a train wreck.
The kids did not seem to be getting along super well, but there were no punches thrown.
“I think that lazy parenting and great parenting look an awful lot alike.”
This was my response to this incredible mother as she watched her children almost fight.
I am, sadly, a helicopter parent. When my son was born, it was just me and him all the time and so I got used to ALWAYS being there to make sure that he never got hurt and never wanted for everything. Unfortunately, he got used to it too.
He doesn’t like to be alone and almost entirely refuses to play by himself. I warn him of EVERY CONCEIVABLE danger. He can’t move ten feet without me warning him that he might slip or trip or slide or fall.
It’s not good.
Sometimes lazy parenting and great parenting have a lot in common. Sometimes great parenting is when you sit back and wait and see. Sometimes that means you look utterly disinterested in what your kids are doing. Sometimes that means that someone is going to end up with a black eye or a skinned knee. Sometimes that means that somebody cries.
A lazy parent does these things because they don’t want to deal with it. A great parent does these things because they don’t want to deal with it over and over again.
You see, there’s significant evidence that when we fight kids’ battles for them, when we are constantly holding their hand, when we are always leading them in the direction that we think they should be headed.
One night, as a child, I told my mom that I wasn’t going to bed. I sat down in the middle of the kitchen floor and told her that I wasn’t tired and that I wasn’t going to bed.
My mom turned off the lights and told me that she was tired and that she was going to bed.
And she did.
Did I stay up all night like I told her I was going to?
Of course not.
I sat in the dark in the kitchen for about seven minutes and then I went to bed.
It wasn’t lazy parenting. It was great parenting. Lazy parenting would have been to walk away because you didn’t want to deal with it. Great parenting was walking away because you knew that you’d have to deal with it.