Lazy parenting has gotten a lot amount of attention in recent years. In part, I think it’s because we’re all more than a little relieved that there are parenting styles that celebrate imperfection. I also think a lot of us have grown exhausted with helicopter parenting. But it’s also because lazy parenting works. It’s a win-win, for parents and kids.
Looking back, I think I’ve been lazy parenting since before I knew lazy parenting was even a thing. Mostly, it was by default. By the end of the week, I'm too exhausted to entertain or make a proper dinner. It's movies and charcuterie for everyone. After learning more about the benefits of lazy parenting, I've realized something: Lazy parenting is my love language.
There is nothing lazy about lazy parenting. It takes a lot of patience and intentionality. Lazy parenting generally means sitting back and letting your child do things on their own. Or at least try to do things on their own. Whether it’s letting your preschooler pour a bowl of cereal in the morning, or your 3rd grader walking to school, or a tween doing their own laundry, lazy parenting is about stepping back so your child can step forward. But this is easier said than done, especially when that bowl of cereal is mostly on the kitchen counter instead of in the bowl.
Experts say that lazy parenting—also called “intentional laziness parenting”—helps children build independence and executive functioning skills, which includes things like organization, time management, planning, thinking flexibly, paying attention, and emotional regulation. With lazy parenting, parents can help their children build these skills.
“Instead of doing things for children, parents need to structure activities or tasks to push the child to take ownership,” Scott Lutostanski, an academic coach and consultant, wrote in the Washington Post. “Rather than jumping in and rescuing a child, parents need to thoughtfully plan a structured starting point and then step back — and be intentionally lazy.”
Lazy parenting doesn’t mean negligence. It means not rushing to look for a lost toy when our child can’t find it. It means empowering our children to make their own snack when they’re hungry. It means having our elementary school-age kids pack their own school lunch. It means not nagging our tweens and teens to do their homework and upcoming tests, even if that means they get a worse grade than they otherwise might have.
Lazy parenting is harder than it seems. I’ll admit that, though I strive to be a lazy parent, sometimes my own impatience gets the better of me. When my kids forget to pick up their wet towel from the bathroom floor, I pick it up for them. When one of my kids forgot their backpack at a friend’s house, we drove to pick it up. When they are running late for school, I might pack a lunch for them even though they typically do it themselves. They’re kids, after all, and doesn’t everyone need some help once in a while?
Kids want to be independent. They want to try new things and be empowered. They want to be given opportunities to do things on their own.
To me, lazy parenting also means giving everyone some grace and cutting ourselves some slack too. There is no bright-line rule, no one “best” way to parent.
I’ll also admit that sometimes my own lazy parenting is less intentional; it’s simply because I have nothing left to give. By Friday night, all I want to do is sit on the couch and knit while re-watching "New Girl." Kids, it’s up to you to entertain yourself. If that means playing a few hours of video games and making your microwave dinner, so be it.
Lazy parenting—despite its misnomer of a name—taps into what parents and kids want and need. Kids want to be independent. They want to try new things and be empowered. They want to be given opportunities to do things on their own. And we parents need a break from doing everything for everyone all the time.
While it might be a bit more work at the outset to show your kids how to do their own laundry or make their own lunch, it pays off in the end. Not just because we’ll be doing less laundry and making fewer lunches, but because we’ll be raising happy, confident and empowered kids.