Anyone who peruses articles about child development and education with the fervor we do here at Compositive is bound to notice the recent proliferation of writing on the inadvertent damage caused by helicopter parenting. Here we explain the benefits of so-called “lazy parenting.”
While it’s trendy to decry such overly-hands-on parenting, many parents who think of themselves as well-balanced in their approach to child-rearing in fact do significantly more hovering than they might realize.
That’s why articles like this one from The Washington Post is such a breath of fresh air. It offers concrete examples of how parents can help their children plan and make smart choices, without doing all of the work for them.
Writer Scott Lutostanski, an academic coach and consultant, promotes what he cleverly calls “intentionally lazy parenting.” Here’s how he describes it:
Essentially, it means to deliberately be disengaged. This may sound counterintuitive, but it gives children the independence to try, do, and maybe even fail a little, on their own. And intentional laziness parenting is not actually lazy at all. It’s difficult and requires both mental and physical determination from the parent.
Helping children develop executive functioning skills is a key component of education at school and at home, Lutostanski says: “The skills are mainly controlled by the frontal lobe of our brains — the part that allows us to set and work toward goals, regulate our emotions, solve problems and make decisions. Recent research suggests these skills can predict success as much as, if not more than, an individual’s intelligence.”
While educators are trained in strategies to help children develop executive functioning, parents receive no such guidance. That’s why Lutostanski promotes the “intentionally lazy parenting” framework.
Most people don’t think of organization and time management as skills that can be practiced and improved, but they are. Intentional laziness parenting allows children to practice and develop those skills. It means that parents can’t function as their child’s frontal lobe. Instead of doing things for children, parents need to structure activities or tasks to push the child to take ownership. Rather than jumping in and rescuing a child, parents need to thoughtfully plan a structured starting point and then step back — and be intentionally lazy.
Rather than buy a child’s school supplies at the beginning of the year, for example, Lutostanski suggests more indirect guidance.
Outline the tasks for the student: First, go on to the school website and print off the supply list. Second, I’ll give you a ride to Target. Third, I’ll meet you at the register in 20 minutes and pay for the supplies (a budget number can be provided). In this scenario, the child does almost everything. Is there a chance that they mess up? Sure. Would that be annoying for a parent? Absolutely. But let’s focus on the positives. The student has printed out a list, become familiar with it, navigated the store, chosen supplies, been given freedom, probably had to interact with a store employee and carried out a multistep task.
The article offers several more concrete examples, as well as a more in-depth description of the “intentionally lazy parenting framework.” It’s well worth the 10 minutes it will take to read.