What is Slow Parenting? Parenting with Simplicity

Slow parenting, also referred to as simplicity parenting, is a movement that advocates for a more relaxed and unhurried childhood. This style of parenting is a reaction to our fast-paced culture that often values quantity over quality.

The slow parenting movement is a great deterrent from our fast-paced, digital lives. It encourages families to clear their calendars and revel in unstructured time and activities.

The Opposite of Slow Parenting

The opposite of slow parenting is concerted cultivation (expression attributed to sociologist Annette Lareau). It describes a parenting practice typical of the white, mid-to-upper socioeconomic classes.

Proponents of concerted cultivation are eager to fill their children’s calendars. Especially with activities that translate to sharpening skills, improving sociability, and annotating college applications.

Parents do this (often unconsciously) in an attempt to firmly anchor children in their current socioeconomic status or to move them on up the socioeconomic ladder.

It’s like the Gossip Girl kids getting fencing lessons and whatnot. It’s why I got ten years of piano lessons. Give me a room with a piano and I’m sure to charm possible mother-in-laws and mid-level bureaucrats alike.

slow feral children sign

Slow Parenting Synonyms

  • Conscious Parenting
  • Free Range Parenting (not quite, but the two styles get conflated)
  • Idle Parenting

Slow Parenting is about bringing balance into the home. Children need to strive and struggle and stretch themselves but that does not mean childhood should be a race. Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms, to play without adults getting in the way, to get bored even. After all, that is how kids learn to think, create, socialize and take pleasure from things; it’s how they work out who they are rather than what we want them to be.

Carl Honore, Slow Parenting advocate

Slow Parenting Involves

  • Walking and cycling as a family as much as possible, in order to encourage time to wander, gaze, and explore
  • Decluttering the house with a focus on nixing reactive toys
  • Being an “Open House” to the neighborhood kids as opposed to scheduling revolving play-dates
  • Avoiding sugar and processed foods (as that stuff literally speeds kids up)
  • Waiting until 8th
  • Completing household and outdoor chores as a family
  • Taking frequent social media breaks
  • Paying attention to how often you say “c’mon!” “hurry up!” and “keep walking!” and then try to say those phrases less

Pros of Slow Parenting

  • Don’t have to spend money on electronic gadgets
  • Makes intentional space for interactive family time
  • Cherishes the art of being in the moment with children
  • Children explore options and mindfully choose the activities that are important to them
  • Less pressure for everyone, really

Cons of Slow Parenting

  • It can be hard to withstand the pressure of modern parenting that preaches structured play dates, early learning classes, etc
  • Slow parenting requires mindfulness, and it’s hard to be mindful when stressed
  • Can be a slippery slope to just straight-up lazy parenting
slow down neon sign with woman staring at camera

How To Start Practicing Slow Parenting

Slowly, of course!

Slow parenting is all about taking things slow, both figuratively and literally. It’s about slowing down to really connect with your child, and it’s also about slowing down the pace of your everyday life to allow for more family time.

The best way to start practicing slow parenting is to take things slow in your own life.

(This is me giving you permission to start wildly cancelling things.)

When it comes to interactions with children, be patient, actively listen, and respond thoughtfully rather than reacting impulsively. And when you make a mistake, apologize and try to do better.

It’s also important to model healthy behaviors for your kids. Eat nutritious food, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. No one can be mindful or patient when they’re hangry and tired.

Getting Comfortable With Boredom

Let’s not kid ourselves (ha!), adults have a low boredom tolerance.

We have an even lower tolerance for our kids being bored. They whine, complain, and we perceive them as unhappy. 

And no one wants their kids to be unhappy. 

As a result, we feel the pull to fill up all the free time with soccer practice, art classes, and tickets for kiddie concerts.

Slow parenting invites caregivers to stop equating boredom with unhappiness. 

Slow Parenting Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do get outside as much as possible
  • Don’t schedule back-to-back activities
  • Do cut back on screen time (adults too!)
  • Don’t give in to parenting peer pressure (we don’t need all those photo shoots, fancy first birthday parties, letter boards, curated imperfection)
  • Do schedule traditions (weekly brunches, monthly outings, yearly get-a-ways)
  • Don’t use electronic learning games
  • Do encourage learning through play/open-ended play
  • Don’t prioritize things over experiences
  • Do prioritize quality over quantity (when it comes to spending time with children)
  • Don’t skimp on sleep (as much as possible)
  • Do have a few hours per day of free play

Education and Slow Parenting

Slow parenting argues that children can learn just as much traditional schooling from unstructured activities and time spent exploring their natural surroundings.

This hands-off approach may be a foreign concept to some (hi, it’s me), but slow parenting advocates argue that it’s the best way for children to develop at their own pace.

no wifi zone sign for slow parenting
Pretty much

Technology and Slow Parenting

Slow parents are rather anti-technology. Or, at least anti-screen.

“Where children are concerned, right?” the chorus exclaims.

Well yes. But if parents want to normalize screen absence, that means parents have to lessen screen use, too.

That means adults have to mindlessly scroll less. It’s really hard, and it kinda sucks, but we cannot scold children about technology use without curbing our own.

(Also, stop buying toddlers and preschoolers ipads. Just stop it. Those are little kid versions of slot machines and you’re introducing a probable addiction awfully young. I said what I said.)

Slow Parenting and Discipline

Slow parenting is nonviolent. Besides that, there are no strict protocols when it comes to discipline. Some slow parents use no discipline (or rewards) at all. Some employ time-outs, or use sticker/reward charts.

A non-reactive approach is ideal for slow parenting styles as it requires parents to take a step back and think about what their child is trying to communicate with their behavior. It also asks parents to consider what they can do differently to prevent that behaviour from happening again.

This can be a challenging; it requires a high degree of self-control. In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to think rationally and respond in a way that will actually promote positive behavioral change.

Practice makes perfect. Or, easier, at least.

Slow Parenting Multiple Children

It’s both harder and easier to slow parent multiple children.

On one hand, calm times are harder to come by with more kids. On the other hand, three kids can amuse each other in a dirt pile better than one.

Also, siblings left to their own devices can either play wonderfully imaginative games or work together to destroy something. It’s one or the other.

A Day of Slow Parenting Looks Like

Getting up whenever you feel like it and doing whatever you want all day!

Ok, not exactly. Remember, slow parenting isn’t permissive parenting.

It’s common sense that we’re all at our best with enough rest, physical activity, and eating (mostly) well. Even the slow parent that escews schedules will have to abide by someone else’s at some point (having to pay taxes by a certain time, for example).

Slow parenting suggests parents structure their time to accomplish those foundational adulting goals and deadlines. Slow parenting just asks that we not twit out about it.

Slow down and breathe neon sign in foliage
Wooooo Sah

Conclusion

Slow parenting is about making space for important things in our lives, even if (especially if) it means saying no to other commitments.

It might mean going to bed a little earlier so we can get enough rest, or taking a few minutes each day to take a stroll around the block. Whatever form it takes, slow parenting is about creating a foundation of health and well-being in which to parent from.

It’s not always be easy, but slow parenting is worth the effort. It allows us to show up for our families in the best way possible.

When we’re rested, nourished, and feeling good in our bodies, we’re able to show up for our kids from a place of strength and calm. So let’s give ourselves a break, Slow Parents, and remember that taking care of ourselves is one of the most important things we can do.

Happy slowing down!

Love,

megan imhoff
Megan

Megan

Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

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