Monday, March 25, 2013

Is Minimalist Parenting The Answer To Over-Parenting?

Minimalist Parenting, ‘Manimalist’ Style makes references to being a "laid-back" parent, as opposed to "over-parenting" and trying to provide the latest and “best” of everything for their children.

Are those really the opposite sides of the parenting spectrum? While there are clear downsides to being a neurotic, stressed out parent, being "laid-back" has its consequences as well.

Children benefit from an amount of discipline and consistency that is often lacking in "easygoing" parents. Being adequately thoughtful and determined does not result in overloading a child with activities, or always providing them with the best and latest toy, gadget, or enrichment opportunity.

On the contrary, a mindful parent sees the long term benefits of saying "no" to providing their child with everything, with occupying every moment of their free time, with solving all their problems, or with eliminating every obstacle for them.

A mindful parent seeks a well balanced environment of opportunities and challenges. Among all the activities that engage and challenge a child is having them deal with down time, and time to let their imagination and creativity take over for a while. A mindful parent sees the benefit taking time for themselves and others, and letting their child know that they are not always the priority. Children cannot reach their potential if they're never left to solve their own problems and overcome their own adversity. Children will benefit from learning to deal with disappointment and consequences early, which will never happen if they're every request is granted.

By conflating "over-parenting" with any amount of mindfulness and effort a parent may put into their child raising and development we introduce the risk of discouraging such thoughtfulness, which is never a good thing.


  1. Hi Eric -- Asha Dornfest here, author of "Minimalist Parenting," the book to which Andy referred in his writeup. I really appreciate your thoughtful post and wanted to offer my thoughts on the "minimalist" label. To my co-author Christine and me, "minimalist" simply means identifying and doing less of the stuff you and your family doesn't value so there's more room for the stuff you do. Ideally, when you are able to clear the clutter from your schedule, home and mind, there's more time and space to be a mindful, present parent. How that *looks* will be different for each family; we all have out own unique baselines, We don't purport to tell people how best to parent -- in fact there are many "right" ways to raise kids. But we do believe that when our lives are too crowded with stuff, obligations and guilt, it's that much more difficult to be a mindful.

  2. Asha Dornfest, Thank you so much for the clarification. I don't think that was evident from Andy's write-up, and I hope you can appreciate my concern that the idea could be misinterpreted.

    Based on your response, it definitely seems like something I would endorse. I've never been a fan of constantly shuttling my kids from activity to activity, and I've long ago recognized that one of the biggest factors in controlling my own frustration with my kids is simply making sure that the time I spend with them is actually dedicate to them.

  3. Absolutely! I loved Andy's writeup because it was reflective of his experience. And I loved your response, because in many ways it underlines what C & I are hoping to encourage with Minimalist Parenting...that what's right for us as parents is *unique* to us because of our own upbringing, culture, values, and the temperaments of our kids. The problem is when we feel we have to adhere to someone else's "perfect parenting" list. Bottom line, we can ALL benefit from prioritizing and trusting ourselves. That you care enough to write about it is wonderful.


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