Lazy parenting doesn’t sound particularly positive at first: when we think of lazy parenting, we think of neglect, ignorance, and indifference. But far from it! The linchpin of lazy parenting is taking a back seat to let the kids do it.
This gives them the freedom to develop and at the same time protects us adults from being overburdened.
What is lazy parenting exactly?
Laziness is not necessarily one of the qualities we want our children to have. But behind the concept of lazy parenting is a completely different, ingenious idea: we do less to let our children do more. We consciously take a step back in order to give them more leeway to make their own decisions and to learn to take responsibility. So lazy parenting is not at all – as one would think – in contrast to respectful upbringing, but rather fits in wonderfully with it. 8 tips on how lazy parenting can really work:
#1 Don’t intervene immediately
Things don’t always go smoothly for us either, quite the opposite: My two have quite a lot of quarrels. In the beginning, despite good intentions, I couldn’t help but panic to prevent something worse from happening. And here, too, lazy parenting goes hand in hand with respectful upbringing: We remain mute observers and let the kids settle their conflict among themselves first. Only when someone wants to hurt the other do we calmly intervene and block the action. The advantage:
- Our children learn to communicate with each other and to pay attention to the reactions of others.
- We’re not busy talking our heads off all day and have more time to sit back and relax.
- Our children can follow their flow of play and find a way together that is fun for both of them.
By not jumping in too quickly, we also don’t force our kids into perpetrator and victim roles that make it difficult to break out of in the long run. You know what I mean: We often instinctively come to the rescue of the little ones while scolding the big ones. This quickly becomes a pattern that is difficult to get out of. The same applies to playing with other children: first, see how they get along together. Important: Lazy parenting does not mean looking away or not being present. Rather, we contribute less of ourselves when it is not absolutely necessary. That’s why lazy parenting is often seen as the counterpart to the notorious helicopter parents.
#2 Just let it go
When we come home from daycare, we have two rules: take off our shoes, wash our hands. After that, the kids can decide for themselves what they want to do while I have time to put everything away – and make myself some tea. My two can decide among themselves whether they want to play together or withdraw, get their Lego out on their own or do something tinkering. So we have no schedule, no list of activities. And that means three things:
- The kids have the freedom to make their own decisions about their afternoon.
- They learn to deal with their boredom. This builds resilience and promotes creativity.
- The pressure falls off me to be directly available and “on call”.
Of course, I still keep an eye on my little ones and if you need me, I’ll be right there. And I love playing with them as well. But that’s not a must for either side and a clear “no” sets a healthy limit if it gets too much for your parents. And so we are back to one of the basic ideas of respectful upbringing: setting limits not for our children, but for us, in order to continue to treat our kids mindfully and positively instead of losing control at some point.
#3 Set up a yes space
The so-called Yes Space is of great importance in the Montessori philosophy as well as in respectful upbringing and attachment parenting: It is a room or area in the home where your child can play safely and freely. Means: You don’t have to keep saying “No!” go in between. A child-friendly and child-safe play corner or a children’s room in which your child can access all age-appropriate toys on their own is great. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of your child. But rather, you both can relax because as parents you hardly have to intervene or help. And you create such a wonderful, positive environment for your children!
Our insider tip for lazy parenting: Especially in spring and summer, it’s great if you set up a child-safe play area in the garden (or even on your mini-balcony!). So you can relax in the sun while your offspring works in the fresh air. Magda Gerber in particular, one of the founders of the idea of respectful upbringing, emphasizes how important and relaxing it is for children to play independently in the fresh air. This is how you make your balcony safe for children.
#4 Go for natural consequences
Relying on natural consequences is a very effective parenting style and helps to bypass discipline and punishment. Children learn the principle of cause and effect from completely natural situations. And you, dear Lazy Parents? That’s right, you’ll save yourself a lot of arguments, tantrums, and gray hairs because you don’t know how you can “get your kid to do something.” Instead of trying to influence our children’s behavior or feelings, we can bet that they will naturally learn to handle the situation differently the next time. That will definitely take some practice. But at the same time, you free yourself from the role of always having to “swear”. Natural consequences are not imposed by us parents but simply arise out of the nature of things. And this is neither your fault nor that of your children. Examples are:
- Your child does not want to eat anything, so they will be hungry later.
- If you don’t want to wear rubber boots, your feet will get wet and you’ll have to go home sooner.
- If you don’t want to go to bed at night, you’ll be tired in the morning.
- Does your child not want to do their homework? Then there’s trouble at school.
Important: All situations have nothing to do with penalties. Don’t be bitter or sardonic when your child experiences these things. But help him to learn from them.
#5 Give agency
This approach is also not made out of thin air, rather one of the basic ideas of Maria Montessori can be easily recognized: create independence. And that works really well with lazy parenting if you let your children make age-appropriate decisions themselves. This can be easy at times (“What socks do you want to wear today?”), but it can also take practice in many situations (“Ok, if you’re not hungry, you can go play.”) But it’s an effective way to take the stress and pressure out of many, often emotionally charged situations. And can help reduce your mental load and at the same time make something easier. It’s best to ask yourself: Is the situation worth the power struggle right now? Or is it even better for your kids in the long run if you deal with the topic calmly? Also, could you possibly better put your energy into something positive that is more important to both of you?
#6 Waiting for reactions
Who does not know it: Your child jumps happily on the sofa and suddenly falls backward. Or the long-awaited ice cream cone lands on the dirty sidewalk after the first bite. Of course, we want to quickly express our sympathy (or maybe even scold a little, after all, they could have guessed it…) But our children don’t need a (well-intentioned) lecture, nor an equally well-intentioned ” Oh no, you poor thing!”. In lazy parenting, the rule is: to wait and see what the kids really need from us. Does the little expression really twist into tears or maybe a smile? Is a hug announced or a laugh together? By (over)reacting less, we save ourselves a lot of stress at the same time.
#7 Let kids help
This is where lazy parenting REALLY lives up to its name: make up your mind to do less around the house and get some help! It is important that we bid farewell to the idea that everything will go perfectly. But ultimately, the responsibility for the household does not only lie with our parents, but also with our offspring. Ask yourself: What can your kids take on where they learn something? Where is it not so important if everything is not going smoothly? And as real lazy parents, of course: where can they help you? Loading the washing machine, feeding the cat, and setting the table are e.g. B. Possibilities where the children can get involved in a playful way. And you see: The Montessori idea is not neglected here either. Win-win!
#8 Do less
And here we get to the heart of lazy parenting: lowering your own expectations. Find ways to make your everyday life easier and spend more carefree time with your children. Sounds impossible? Here are a few tips from tried and true lazy parents:
- Let the laundry be laundry: Do you hate having to constantly lay out clothes? Ask yourself, if it really puts you in such a bad mood, is it worth it? It’s not perfect, but we’ve lived straight out of the hamper for months, too. And believe us, your kids won’t mind.
- Cooking food: In my own childhood, the best dinners were when we ate sandwiches on the sofa in our bathrobes. And my kids also love “dinner picnics” made of everything that can be quickly put together from the fridge and kitchen cupboard. You REALLY don’t forgive yourself by keeping it simple.
- Free weekends: Of course, family trips and playdates are nice and important. But it is just as important that you refill your empty stores. Letting the kids jump around while you take a break on the sofa/bed/kids’ room floor is totally fine. You will be surprised how much fun your kids will have. After all, mom and dad are not always so close to the action, but often with their thoughts somewhere else.
Why lazy parenting works
You probably know that moment when you collapse after a long day while the kids really crank it up to calm down. We often feel weak, inadequate, and guilty that we don’t have the energy to engage with our children. Or cook a healthy dinner. Or to keep your eyes peeled… This is where lazy parenting comes in.
What if doing nothing is even good for our children? And if we’re honest, we might feel bad in such situations, but our children are fine. In my family, these are exactly the moments when my kids seem happiest. And when we think about it, we can think of many important qualities that lazy parenting supports:
- individual responsibility
- sense of responsibility
Sounds too good to be true? Give it a try, take a break and follow our 8 tips above!