5 Reasons It’s Okay to Indulge in ‘Lazy Parenting’

Sometimes parenting can feel overwhelming, so one parent is here to say it’s okay to be a “lazy parent”. James Breakwell, author of Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not-Quite Ruining Your Child, shares five things you can do to slow down and enjoy the adventure of parenting. So go ahead, indulge in “lazy parenting”!

There’s an abundance of resources—from books and magazines to Facebook and parent groups—to turn to when seeking advice on how to raise the smartest, highest-achieving, and most successful children. We all want what’s best for our kids, after all. But James Breakwell, professional comedy writer and self-proclaimed amateur father of four girls (and two pigs), suggests it’s simply a waste of time. “In the long run, we all work out to be average,” he says. “Your child would be better off if you just relax and do a little less for them, rather than stress yourself out and push them as hard as possible.”

Breakwell, author of Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not-Quite Ruining Your Child, shares advice that proves it’s okay to be a “lazy parent.” 

Say no to (parental) peer pressure.

When the mother of a boy in your son’s Boy Scout troop makes comments about the Kit-Kat you put in his lunch or your daughter’s field hockey coach asks why she’s not on a travel team yet (in fourth grade), it can be difficult to stick to your own parenting ways. But if every parent thinks they’re right about how to parent and you’re wrong, then everyone is wrong, according to Breakwell. “If someone tells you you’re a terrible parent, who cares,” he says. “They can’t stop you from giving your kid that candy bar. We’ve been raising kids for hundreds of thousands of years before Facebook and online forums. Don’t let parent-shaming control your decisions.”

Show up sometimes, but not all the time.

“Raise your kid to think they’re a member of the family, not the entire family,” Breakwell suggests. By dropping everything, leaving work, and traveling far and wide to go to every single one of your son’s lacrosse games, you’re teaching him that he’s the epicenter of the universe and he should only do things in search of your validation, not because he loves them. Instead, Breakwell suggests showing up when you can, and when you do, take him out for dinner after the game. “After all, your kids aren’t going to remember the games you weren’t at, but they will remember the one time you took them for pizza after,” he says.

Speaking of sports, are you spending all of your time and money to fly around the country, pay tournament fees, and book hotels so your child can potentially get a scholarship to college and you can save money? Breakwell compares that to spending $1,000 at a claw machine for a $5 stuffed animal. “Why not take all of that money you’re wasting and save it for college?” Breakwell suggests. Plus, it’s likely your kid won’t become a professional sports player.

Convince your children they had a great childhood.

When parents post pictures on Facebook, Breakwell says they’re lying to their friends. “You post your best picture, I post my best picture, and we create an echo chamber of lying where everyone thinks the other is telling the truth,” Breakwell says. “Use this to your advantage.”

Due to the strange phenomenon known as childhood amnesia, kids can only remember events that occurred before age 3 when they’re little, according to Popular Science. By the time they’re 7, these early memories are almost entirely gone and what they “remember” is a product of what you tell them and the photos they see. “If they don’t remember anyway, why are we stressing out?!” Breakwell asks. “Save the pictures that frame you in a good light and tell your kid she had a happy childhood, and, when she grows up, she won’t blame you for all of her problems.”

Stop worrying about preschool (and middle school, high school, college…).

“Overachieving parents say that all they care about is their child getting a good education and that education is all that matters. Honestly, I don’t think education matters all that much as long as your kid somehow gets one somewhere,” Breakwell says. “Nobody has secret math. Math at one school will be the same as it is at another school even if the other school has a swimming pool and a polo field.” If a parent is saying she wants her son to go to the best school, does this mean the school that will make him the happiest and feel the most fulfilled, or is it the one that will ensure he makes the most money? Instead of focusing on getting your kid into the school with the ‘best reputation,’ focus on helping your child make the most of his education.

Gently shove your child out the door.

The first benchmark of successful parenting is if you raised your child to ultimately support themselves, according to Breakwell. Now, no one is suggesting your 7-year-old live off of lemonade stand money. However, when the time is right, if your child doesn’t get a job, he will certainly never leave. While every parent ideally wants to encourage his child to follow her dreams of becoming a freelance traveling poet, money does ultimately matter. If she’s not making any, it’s coming from you. While you don’t have to explicitly discourage your child from choosing a “fun but impoverishing career,” it can’t hurt to not encourage her to choose a career that will lead to her living in your basement.

Main image: James Breakwell (middle), author of Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not-Quite Ruining Your Child, with his family
David Van Deman