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Benign Neglect October 30, 2007

Filed under: parenting articles — paulabrown @ 9:47 pm

You may have come across this term and I’ve definitely written about the concept before, if not in name. It’s a term used more and more by those who work with children and it basically means:

  • letting your kids grow slowly, at their pace
  • giving them time to get bored so they discover how to play and invent, use their imaginations and be sociable
  • have time to think and reflect on activities
  • have time with you
  • they don’t need to be doing something structured and ‘meaningful’ all the time

what it doesn’t mean is:

  • ignoring them while you do that one last job
  • leaving them in front of the TV for several hours at a time (this is just straightforward neglect!)
  • leaving them in a car with a packet of crisps, a bottle of coke and the Archers (see above re: neglect! My sister and I were reminiscing childhood in the days before family pubs and restaurants!)
  • fussing over them and giving them endless suggestions of things to do
  • thinking they need this benign neglect all the time, they will play and invent but when they start nagging about wanting to go out / play a game with you / visit a friend, they’re probably done doing their own thing
  • what it definitely doesn’t mean is plying them with lots of expensive gadgets, electronic books, ‘clever’ music and videos designed to increase IQ etc all the time, doing endless classes and activities all the time (though of course there is a time and a place for all these things)
  • it doesn’t mean that all children will want to do as much of this ‘neglect’ thing as others – my elder son could play for hours by himself, the younger one too to a degree but I know children who, with the best will in the world, find this very hard.

So feel free to let them just be, quite liberating for you too! The resulting decrease in constant stimulation can often work wonders on their concentration, imagination and behaviour.



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