That’s where the slow parenting movement comes in. This new approach to parenting involves taking time to exist in the moment, rather than thinking two steps ahead or being distracted by technology. It means not overloading children with activities and plans, but instead allowing them freedom for flexibility and time to enjoy what they’re doing. And in today’s fast-paced world, it could just be an antidote for putting too much pressure to succeed on both parents and children.
The Problem With Fast-Paced Parenting
With so many ways to feel competitive with other families — or to simply keep up with the Joneses — it’s frighteningly easy to overburden yourself or your children with the need to be the best at everything. Children are pressured to build towards the future today, and their accomplishments are eagerly displayed by parents with Instagram or YouTube accounts. It can all become a little too much for both kids and parents, who quickly lose touch with the idea of doing things simply for the fun of it. Slow parenting, on the other hand, seeks to reignite the idea that children need space to find themselves, rather than have activities and hobbies constantly forced upon them. Says an article at Treehugger:
The philosophy behind slow parenting is exactly what it sounds like – that kids need time and space to explore the world on their own terms; that they learn to entertain themselves, play outdoors, and enjoy hanging out with their families; and that they receive sufficient down time to process what’s going on their lives. – K. Martinko
The slow parenting movement is largely attributed to author Carl Honoré, who has previously written books about applying “the power of slow” to our modern lives. In an interview with the New York Times, Honoré explains how slow parenting has become necessary in order to let children thrive:
Children need to strive and struggle and stretch themselves, but that does not mean childhood should be a race. Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms. They keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together. They accept that bending over backwards to give children the best of everything may not always be the best policy. Slow parenting means allowing our children to work out who they are rather than what we want them to be. – Carl Honoré
Honoré also mentions that “childrearing should not be a cross between a competitive sport and product-development,” and parents should instead focus on loving their children no matter what their accomplishments are. This goes against today’s hyper-competitive parenting culture that seeks to make their kids winners right out of the gate; to say nothing for the strict “Tiger Mom” movement, which seems to be the polar opposite to slow parenting.
When you flip the spotlight onto the parents instead of the children, slow parenting suggests that mothers and fathers unplug from their electronics, no more updating Facebook instead of watching the kids, and instead begin to live mindfully, with a focus on making connections with their children as they grow up. That way, it won’t seem quite like their entire childhoods were a blur of movement from one after-school class to another.
The Benefits of Slow Parenting
If you want to start incorporating the slow parenting ethos, the biggest hint you can take is right there in the name: slow. That means cutting back on the amount of go-go-go attitude that might be ingrained in your relationship with your kids, whether unintentionally or not. It’s normal to want to keep your children busy; it’s not normal to push them to excel at multiple pursuits at the same time. Instead, take a step back and try to find places where you can cut back on activity. It’ll be less stress on both you and the kids if you’re not constantly ferrying them to and from extracurricular activities seven days a week. “Doing too much can be draining on adults, but it can be debilitating for kids whose brains are still developing,” warns the Boston Globe.
Another important thing to remember is to keep things flexible. As your children get older, they may want to take on more activities, and they may ask to register for after-school classes so they can learn and play with their friends. It’s good to allow them some agency over the activities they want to do, but be aware of their energy levels and if they seem overwhelmed by their schedule. In that case, you may have to say no to certain activities, and suggest that they take time away from one thing and focus more on something else.
It might even be worthwhile to consider cutting extracurricular activities altogether, particularly if you’re facing leaner times. In the New York Times interview, Carl Honoré says that although tightening the family belt might be tough transition, it could be worth it to reconnect over cheaper, simpler activities as a family – “spending time together that does not revolve around buying stuff, following a schedule or building the perfect resume,” as Honoré puts it.
The author disparages the idea that “we have to strain every sinew in our bodies, and stretch every dollar we earn to the breaking point, to give them the best of everything and make them the best at everything” and finishes with “but with time I think many parents will feel relieved that they have been liberated from the tyranny of supplying the perfect childhood.” The slow parenting movement suggests that giving your child everything might not mean forcing them into strict identities, but rather, giving them time and space to discover themselves.
Lastly, slow parenting is built on small rituals that connect family members, whether it’s having dinner together at the table without any television or smartphones, quick heart-to-heart talks before bedtime, or saying “I love you” before everyone leaves for school or work in the morning. Even if it seems hard to find the time, remind yourself that slow parenting is about making the time for these moments.
Should You Consider Slow Parenting?
If you find your relationship with your child becoming strained from too many activities or too much electronic distraction, take the time to unplug, cancel all commitments, and just spend a day together. Putting the focus on creating positive lifelong memories is one of the best parts of the slow parenting movement, and it benefits both parent and child to be present and enjoy the moment. You might find that, if you’re taking the time to savor the present day, your son or daughter’s childhood might not fly by so quickly after all.
Have you embraced slow parenting? Let us know in the comments.
Contributed by Christie Hopkins: Christie Hopkins has personal and professional ties to the Family Law industry with a background in alcohol relapse prevention. She has extensive experience working with families going through child custody disputes. Christie approached Family Law with attentiveness and care to ensure both parties feel valued and heard.