I’m often oblivious about what parents of young children “should” be doing.
It’s only when I read an article, and its many accompanying comments, that I realize how little value I place on the things that parents are told to care about.
Maybe I have different priorities, maybe I’m lazy, maybe it’s both.
Here are five things I just don’t care about:
1 | Screen time
There are so many differing opinions on screen time, and this controversy seems to conjure up more parental guilt than almost any other issue.
Moderation is my mantra. We spend lots of time playing outside, and we love to read books. If I need to use YouTube so I can make dinner, so be it.
2 | Sugar Intake
I had a friend in high school who had very strict parents. So strict, in fact, that she wasn’t even allowed to cut her hair. Predictably, she went wild as soon as she got to college, spending too much time drinking, and not enough time studying. Within a year, she was back at home. She’d never learned moderation and self-control because her parents had never given her the chance.
This may seem like a circuitous way to explain why I let my kid eat sugar, but the idea is the same. My son will only learn how to regulate his eating habits if I actually give him the opportunities to do so.
Also, c’mon, sugar tastes good. Why would I deprive him of one of life’s greatest pleasures?
3 | Being Kindergarten Ready
Full disclosure: I don’t even know really know what this means. I just know I don’t care.
My four year old has never seen a flashcard, and I’ve never purposefully set out to teach him the alphabet. He has over a decade of school ahead of him; I see no reason to burn him out on formal learning before it’s even begun.
4 | Capturing Every Moment
I have an old hand-me-down phone. I don’t have any apps on it, and the camera is so scratched that all my pictures come out looking like I used a crazy filter. If I want to take high quality pictures, I have to dig my camera out of the junk drawer.
On the rare occasion when I do hunt down the camera, the battery is invariably dead. I rely on family members for pictures, and the rest of the time I try to just savor the moments in real time.
5 | If My Kid Looks Put Together
My kid has a crazy mop of hair and wears a lot of hand-me-downs. He’s never going to look like a model for Gap Kids.
This is in no way a reflection of how much I love my child or attend to his emotional needs. What is does suggest, however, is that I just can’t be bothered to worry about how dirty my kid gets, or how that makes me look as a parent.
Here are the things I do worry about:
Some families value grit, others value intellect. What’s most important to me is to raise a child who exhibits kindness unapologetically and without prejudice. I hope to raise a son whose empathy and compassion inform his life decisions.
EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is more indicative of success in school, business, and relationships than IQ. Being able to communicate effectively, identify emotions accurately, and express them appropriately are critical life skills that are seldom taught in school.
I don’t use punishment to shape my son’s behavior. I’ve never spanked him and he’s never had a timeout. Instead my husband and I work to maintain a close, meaningful connection with our son.
When he feels close to us, he naturally wants to cooperate. When we truly listen and give his thoughts and ideas the weight they deserve, collaboration becomes not only possible but also far easier than using punishments.
If my son learns nothing else from me, I hope he always understands the importance of consent. He’s never been forced to offer physical affection against his will, and I’ve spoken explicitly to him about appropriate and inappropriate touch since he was a toddler.
I can’t eliminate the risk of sexual abuse, but as a parent, I can respect my child’s right to consent. In that way I’m empowering him to set his own boundaries with confidence.
I’m a fervent supporter of my son’s free play. Play is the way children synthesize new information, how they process difficult experiences, and how they make sense of their emotions.
Research confirms that play improves classroom focus, decreases disruptive behaviors, and is correlated with higher scores in reading and math. Play also enhances creativity, problem solving, social skills, and emotional intelligence.
As researcher Dr. Sergio Pellis states, “The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain…And without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed.” In other words, play is necessary in developing self-regulation and reasoning.
I refuse to let anyone tell me what I should care about. We all have to decide for ourselves what aspects of parenting are crucial, and which we can let slide.
So, if you need us, we’ll be over here eating cookies and watching cartoons.