Slow Parenting - The New, Old Way of Doing Things

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mother childDoes life feel like it's flying by too fast? Do you find yourself constantly telling your kids to hurry, hurry, hurry? Has it been days since you just sat and talked to your partner or children? What you might need is "slow parenting." It's a new term for an old way of dealing with life.

At breakfast one day this week, my six-year-old sat groaning into her Cheerios. "I love to dance, Mama," she said, "I love it almost more than anything." I nodded, knowing what was coming next. "But I really don't like Wednesdays. I don't want to rush around, I just want to come home and play."

I couldn't argue with her; I've come to dread Wednesdays too. She's got exactly a half hour between school and her two hour dance class, and exactly an hour between dance class and bed. If there's going to be a tantrum -- child or adult-generated -- it's going to happen on Wednesday night.

Parenthood is full of surprises, and one of those surprises has been the lesson my kindergartner is teaching me this spring: Slow down. She's an old-fashioned kid who wants an old-fashioned childhood -- time to lay in the grass and look for pictures in the clouds, dig in the mud or start a rock collection. This kind of childhood is hard to come by these days, though, as author Carl Honoré recently told the "New York Times." He's written two books on the subject of slow parenting (though he doesn't use the term himself).

Honoré says that a perfect storm of workplace competition, a consumer culture that demands perfection, smaller families and parental anxiety have created an atmosphere where parents feel compelled to push their kids (and themselves) harder than ever.

"The bottom line is that parents in this generation have lost their confidence," Honoré tells Lisa Belkin, Motherlode blogger, "That makes us easy prey for companies hawking unnecessary tools for childrearing (helmets to protect two-year-olds from toddling injuries, anyone?). And very vulnerable to pressure from other parents ("What, you mean your child doesn't have a tutor?!?")."

Slow parenting can be compared to the slow food movement. Taking time and care to nurture, love, prepare, and cherish, valuing quality over quantity. "Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms," says Honoré. "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." (Emphasis mine.)

My girls will be allowed to dance in the fall, if that's what they really want to do. But we're cutting it down to one half hour class per week and keeping extracurricular activities in general down to one activity at a time. That should leave plenty of time for board games, family hikes, and for daydreaming too. If you feel like your child's schedule is controlling you, rather than the other way around, read the entire interview with Honoré.

When it comes to parenting, I'm:
Slow. My kids have lots of down time and we spend quality time together.92 (66.2%)
Fast. Kids need lots of experience to survive in today's culture.5 (3.6%)
Somewhere in the middle. My kids are busy, but I don't push them.41 (29.5%)
I'll tell you in comments.1 (0.7%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.