That title may have got your attention, and I’m already bracing myself for the hateful comments, but please read the full post before you think I’m telling you it’s OK to neglect your kids! Neglect is NEVER OK. That is actually a crime that can cause you to lose your parental rights. However, ignoring your kids at certain times is actually very healthy. Maybe it’s the opposite of “helicopter parenting”, maybe it follows a “free range” type of lifestyle, or maybe there is no label for it and it’s just something ya gotta do from time to time! I think there are certain situations when its OK to ignore your children in order for them to grow and gain certain life skills that they simply cannot learn if parents are constantly hovering and interfering. Here are a few of those situations.
Ignore your kids on the playground.
Playgrounds are great for kids to build motor skills, gain confidence, test limits, try new things, and make new friends. If you are constantly standing in their shadow and helping them with every ladder or slide they will start to think they can’t learn how to do it themselves. Of course monitor toddlers learning to climb and by all means intervene if someone’s about to break an arm down the twisty slide….but feel free to step back every now and then. If you’re nervous, stand at the bottom and be there to catch, but let them do it! Let them play tag with the new kids they don’t know. You don’t always have to be the playmate, yes you can actually sit on a park bench and read or chat it up with a mommy friend guilt free! Of course you can play sometimes, but remind your kiddos they can make new friends, introduce themselves to other kids, ask to join in on others imaginative play.
Ignore your kids during squabbles with friends or siblings.
Kids start to develop social skills from a very young age. My one year old already knows how to push her big sister’s buttons and she hasn’t been around that long! Things like sharing, bickering, tattling, and entitlement happen at least a hundred times in the course of a day with kids. If you don’t want to be constantly refereeing your kids then let them work it out. Early on let them know if someone’s not being nice to them they have the choice to stop playing with that person. If someone is annoying them they can use their words to tell them to stop and then walk away. If someone has a toy they want, remind them they can have a turn when the other person is done. If they come a tattling, say the phrase and then let them work it out! By no means am I endorsing physical violence or bullying, there are times when stepping in is absolutely necessary and appropriate, but for most of life’s little squabbles among children, let them figure it out on their own with some coaching techniques from afar.
Ignore your kids when they say they can’t.
“I can’t tie my shoes, I can’t buckle my seat belt, I can’t find my toy, I can’t pour the milk, I can’t wipe myself”…seriously when CAN they wipe themselves?! I digress though. Go back and reread those phrases and make sure you add the whine that usually accompanies them. Imagine even the limbs and head being thrown on the floor in an attempt to gain your sympathy. Let kids struggle with something a bit, it’s how they figure it out. I’m not endorsing you let them go shoeless everywhere or have horrible hygiene after a number 2….but let them try for a bit before you come to their rescue. Sometimes ignoring them may lead to a mess like spilled milk on the counter or yogurt on the floor (they actually can help clean too!), but the confidence they gain when they get it right is worth the mess! So ignore those “can’ts” for a bit, then help out if need be.
Ignore your kids during rest time.
Yep, I went there. It’s nap time, do you know what your kid is doing? It’s quite possible you do because you might be watching a video monitor of their every move. Technology can be nice, but what’s nicer is ignoring that screen and letting go of the obsession of knowing what your child is doing every second they are out of your sight. Because someday they will go to school, or a Bible class, or a friends house, or on a date (gasp!) and they will in fact be out of your sight. Start practicing now. I know there are certain times or health reasons that might call for extra attention or video surveillance, but I’m not talking about those times. An added bonus to ignoring your child at rest time is your child will learn to play by themselves, which is a very important skill to learn. (Be prepared as a mom though for some childproofing, from baby powder spills or climbed bookshelves, think ahead!) Imaginative play abounds when children can play alone with no screens! When they are nearing that age where you can’t contain them in crib or bed, remind them during rest time if they can’t fall asleep, they can at least stay in their room and play quietly. This seems like a dream come true for them, because they think they are avoiding a nap…sometimes they actually do…but sometimes they fall asleep playing blocks on the floor. Either way it’s a win win because a quiet child during rest time lets mommy have a rest too!
When do you think it’s an appropriate time to ignore your child in order for them to figure something out on their own?