Whether it’s supervising playdates, trotting off to soccer practice or packing adorable bento box school lunches, modern parents are expected to run their asses off. The list of things a “good” parent is supposed to do gets overwhelming fast.
In the nine years I’ve been a parent, I’ve learned to say, “Enough already!” I’ve let certain things slide and steadfastly refused to feel guilty about it. Turns out, some of my laziness may actually be scientifically supported as good for my littles.
Science is catching up to what many of us have suspected for years: trying too hard as a parent is bad for your kids. May I present five ways we can all quit trying so damn hard, and actually help our kids in the process.
- Back away from the bathtub: We don’t go in for this bath-as-part-of-bedtime routine at our house. My mother may look at me sideways, but my kids get baths just once a week. Actually, it’s even less frequent for the baby. I simply don’t have the energy to manage a bath every night with all the soap inspection, drowning monitoring, and clean up it entails. Now science tells me that I’m totally justified. Frequent bathing can increase skin irritation and even increase a kid’s risk of eczema. There is simply no need for kids to bathe everyday. Up until puberty, that is. Then washing the stink off regularly becomes very, very necessary. But by then they can do it themselves.
- Forget early reading: Ten years ago, I would not have bet on this one. But now that I have a daughter in a Waldorf school, I can truly say delaying reading until age seven is brilliant. And the data is catching up with this attitude, even as (sadly) mainstream education is now headed in the opposite direction. Turns out, there’s no scientific basis for the push for early reading. Rather than increasing their skills, it can lead some children to have anxiety around reading, as they are not cognitively ready for the challenge. Read to your little kids often, but don’t force the ABCs before age six.
- Stop with the structured activities: Some parents run around on weeknights and weekends from soccer practice to ballet to trapeze lessons. Not me. I realized early on that my little introverts need downtime and tons of time for free play. Not to mention the thought of driving all over town on such a hectic schedule makes me crazy to even think about. Turns out, I’ve been doing their executive function a big favor. Recent research shows that kids who spend less time in structured activities perform better on tests that demonstrate planning and decision making skills. Parenting in the seventies had some issues (baby in a basket in the front seat anyone?), but they got at least one thing right: setting the kids loose to simply play by themselves is critical to their development.
- Quit with the cleaning: Put the mop down, friends. I’ve been a working mom throughout my kids’ lives. When we’re together, I’d much rather spend the time rolling around on the floor with them, playing dress up or reading stories than making sure my house is immaculate. Research on the “Hygiene Hypothesis” says that children today may not be exposed to enough germs. Apparently, without clear enemies, the immune system gets bored and starts attacking itself. No bueno.
- Make tucky-time earlier: Though you can justify being lazy when it comes to the items above, there’s still plenty of parenting work to be done. The good news is, you can knock off early. Experts have recently increased recommendations for the amount of sleep kids need. Children under 5 need anywhere from 10-17 hours per day, depending on their developmental stage. And many kids aren’t getting enough. Maybe it’s on account of all those weeknight lessons and then having to go home and hop in the tub before bed. Since you’re not doing that nonsense anymore, send them to bed at 7:00. Then reclaim some time for your smart, lazy self.
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