Ignoring Your Children


We had dinner at our friend’s house a few weeks ago. Half-way through the evening, one of the other dinner guests complimented our children. She asked what our secret was to having such well-behaved kids who were so content simply playing together, rather than bickering and running upstairs every five minutes like the other kids there. We just smiled and said thank you, beaming inside and exchanging proud glances. But, there is actually a secret and I’m going to share it with all of you right now: We ignore our children. And they are better for it.

Yes, it’s true.

Our kids are night owls; they are often up until 9:30 or 10:00 at night. It sucks to not have everyone tucked in and sleeping by eight, but our solution is to make them stay upstairs and play together while we pay as little attention to them as possible. And, they do. They play for hours and hours and hours while we try and pretend they are sleeping. They play zoo and teacher. They play restaurant and camp. They play babysitter and grocery store. They actually use the million stuffed animals that line their beds. They play and play and play, endlessly. They can play anywhere and everywhere because of it and I think it’s been the best thing we’ve done for their sibling relationship.

It doesn’t end there. When they fight, I don’t run in to break it up immediately and eventually most spats seem to resolve themselves. Some even end in a spontaneous explosion of giggles when they realize how ridiculously they’ve been behaving. I don’t jump up at each and every minor injury and they simply run over for a quick kiss and then they are back to the game at hand.

Call it laziness, call it parenting of convenience, call it whatever. But, it’s been working. Sure, they’re not perfect (at all) and they drive us crazy more often than not, but they really are more capable of entertaining themselves than most kids we know.

The New York Times just wrote about the Effort to Restore Children’s Play. The movement has focused on the educational value of play, with efforts beginning made to restore recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary schools. A coalition called Play for Tomorrow staged a giant play date in Central Park last fall which attracted more than 50,000 people. Scientists and experts are weighing in on the benefits of play verses extra-curricular activities or computer time. But, it’s really not that complicated: Just ignore them and they will play. No computers, no TVs, no gadgets. Just good old-fashioned play.

Sometimes, the less you do as a parent, the more they get. So, go ahead: Leave them alone. Put on some ear plugs, grab a cup of coffee, a trashy magazine and reflect on my guidance.

You’re welcome.


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    • madmommato4kids says

      Good Lord Madge – Leave the kids alone!!

      If you are constantly in your kids face telling them how to play, what to play, when to play, they will become very resentful, dependant idiots.
      My ex (Exes are exes for a reason) moved back home at age 45. WHY? Because his PARENTS DO EVERY FLIGGERING THING FOR HIM! They never left their kids alone. They now have children who are drug users, alcholics, and even lost a child to suicide and another to an alcohol related car crash (drving drunk).

      My kids, all 4, are/were “Ignored” and left alone. My grandchildren, all 4 of them, are sometimes ignored as well.

      They now think for themselves, are able to work out problems without mommy having to hold their hands throughout every little stressful situation that comes along, and are better parents themselves for it.

      Ignoring a child does not require sterilization. They are not being ignored in all matters. Just being allowed to work things out for themselves or play by themselves is not a bad thing. Get over it and I hope you learn to ignore your kids as well (God forbid you should have any)

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      • the observer says

        Might I suggest there is a difference between encouraging childhood independence than “ignoring” your kids? Ignoring means literally means neglecting them, and blowing them off. I had a younger half-sibling who was blown off by both his mother and his father, and he acts out quite a lot, hits others to solve his problems (since he and his older brother both “govern” themselves while their mom wasn’t home), and got held back a grade, because he has mentally not grown since his toddler days (probably due to the obsessive amount of TV watching his mother condoned when he was 1-2 being “ignored” for a trashy magazine). This child-governing and ignoring behavior that was encouraged by my stepmom wounded up sending my little five-year-old brother to the emergency room when big brother messed up his face, with a nasty blow to the head. And might I add, that this big brother attacks the little boy, on the daily basis, chocking him, and strangling him, while their mom ignores them both, to hang out with her friends? Certainly, this isn’t what you mean, by “ignoring” them, so please don’t act like it is. True, children need tons of unsupervised play, but this isn’t “ignoring” them it’s simply, allowing them to explore the world, build confidence, and learn about independence. If your kids are fighting you should intervene, if you are ignoring their fighting and bickering you could be encouraging them to bully others. Your oldest child might be being violent with your youngest child. Children do not learn about morals, fairness and kindness through osmosis, they learn from the guide of other parents. And since your assurance of how well-behaved your kids are, is strictly anecdotal, I honestly cannot count on it, as a good enough reason to blow off my children for a trashy magazine, and block out their screams with earplugs.

        Lastly, I know magazine articles are suppose to gain attention by being scandalous, sassy, and sarcastic, but YEESH! Can we have one non-sarcastic, controversial article, with people who write like regular informative others sharing information, instead of condescending sass-mouths? :[

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    • Jesika says

      This is the craziest comment I have read on a blog like this! Do you even have children? Have you read any of the other posts on this blog? I think any regular reader would agree that clearly ScaryMommy isn’t a bad mother; her children are fed, protected, loved unconditionally, and cared for. I would argue she is creating self-reliant, independent, thoughtful children that don’t need a helicopter parent hovering over them their entire lives. I’ve worked with people who were clearly catered too as children. They suck. Really. Royally suck. Kudos to you, ScaryMommy. The rest of us out here in the real world thank you for creating little people that we can actually work with and actually want to be around! Wow, what a concept. ;)


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        • Michelle says

          I totally agree my kids are very wel behaved. They dont play video games much or computer, they do what my siblings and I did play with eachother, with our dolls, stuffed animls and whatever. Most people ignore their kids anyway because they are on the computer or cell phone. People over parent today. Let them breathe and be kids.

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        • C Kitson says

          This is the first of all your posts that I have ever read and even I knew how you meant it. Shesh!
          Good points all of them, and it makes me feel better about the times I don’t run to fix every problem and the times I tell them to just ‘go play!’

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    • Avon Seattle says

      Madge: You have clearly missed the point entirely. You must not read Scary Mommy’s post often enough to see her type of humor either. She isn’t “ignoring” her children in the sense that you have clearly taken her post. You probably shouldn’t read or subscribe to her post if you can not see the everyday humor it.

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      • Mara Shapiro (@chickyMara) says

        I think that you are taking a bit of a ridiculous stance by talking about sterilization. I call it parenting to the needs of the children, as well as the parents. Those children’s body clocks determined that their bedtime is a bit later. But the parents are right that they shouldn’t be entertaining their kids at night, nor should they battle them every night to go to bed. There is nothing wrong with letting them play independently upstairs until the predetermined bed time arrives. Maybe Madge should get sterilized so she won’t create neurotic overly dependent children.

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        • MomC says

          So happy to hear that there are other parents that do this. I get so tired of others acting like there is something wrong with my parenting because I don’t force my children to be asleep by 7:30. If I leave them alone, they generally fall asleep by 9:30 and I don’t hear from them again until morning. They do well in school, are healthy and just happen to be kids that aren’t tired as soon as dinner is over.

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      • Loralee says

        Dude, Madge is a well-known here as resident troll, and is pretty much the equivalent of that habitually unemployed loser guy that lives in his mom’s basement, plays endless rounds of D&D in his underwear while swilling Mt. Dew and has perpetual Funyon breath.

        She has nothing better to do with her life but be bitter and hovel in a corner, stroking all the outraged responses to her inflammatory commentary from people that love Scary Mommy and muttering, “MY PRECIOUSSSSSSSES!!!”

        Ignore her.

        She’ll eventually either choke on her own bile or get annoyed and go off in a huff or

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        • Casey says

          Hysterical! I’m all about the “let em be” method. They really don’t need us barging in on every conversation and problem. They will learn how to problem solve better without us doing it for them constantly. :) WTG Scarymom

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    • PreggersStepMom says

      Children today have NO imagination, no ability to self soothe, no ability to solve conflict BECAUSE THEY DON’T PLAY TOGETHER WITHOUT PARENTS HOVERING. Way to go Scary Mommy for not being a helicopter, and if you should be sterilized, trust me, so should I. I doubt anyone wants me to further pass on my genes, let alone the way I encourage independence, not following the crowd, and being responsible for you actions, GASP, I’m the worst Mother, Step~Mother, and Aunt, EVER, huh?

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    • Ashley says

      wow. Madge. i feel bad for your kids. YOU would be a real scary mommy. its called letting kids be kids. you dont have to stand over them at all moments of the day. stuff happens.

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  1. Gigi says

    Makes sense to me – I seem to recall that when I was small we didn’t have a lot of interference from our parents and we played and played. No computers, no video games, tv didn’t have cartoons on 24/7 – only for an hour or so after school and on Saturday morning. When children aren’t glued to a screen or being overwhelmed with “activities” it’s amazing how easily they can entertain themselves – and they can, and will, learn from “playing.”

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    • Jane says

      When we were kids (ALOT of years ago) our parents had to leave us alone; they were busy running a family business. We had to play and get along. We didn’t have good tv, – two channels, terrible reception, no computers, or anything like that. There was one phone in the house, and it was the business phone; you know what that meant.

      We had to amuse ourselves, though the parents knew where we were. We played with dolls all afternoon, we had tea parties, we made forts out of card-tables and blankets inside, or we played board games. We made forts outside in the bush, we went swimming, we caught frogs for hours, we explored the woods for “neat stuff”. We played hard, and played well. And we’re the better for it.

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  2. Cat says

    I agree all the way with you. I have one child and he acts like I have ten. He has very high energy and may possibly have either ADD or ADHD. I have to ignore him most hours of the day he isn’t in school, this way he is occupied with the toys he hardly plays with, and thus in return my apartment is quieter. We find ourselves constantly in yelling or screaming matches with our son, but when we sit back and ignore him the peace is restored-such heavenly moments. The only time I ever disturb him his when he needs to eat, use the bathroom, sleep etc…otherwise I’d rather let him use his imagination.

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  3. Cathie says

    LOVE IT! I have three and this has been our parenting theory for years! Too many helicopter parents in this world today and I’m happy to be part of the movement that stops kids from having to live every part of their life in a parent controlled bubble.

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  4. Monked and Fifed says

    Holy geez woman, this is completely us! I would love to have more “child free hours” in my day, but it’s not happening! But I’m with you, as long as the kids are chill, I don’t mind as much. My littles are super well behaved + pretty low maintenance… they know what we expect their behavior to be like, we let them work tiffs out, I don’t go running to them every 2 seconds {mama’s can SO tell the difference btw a whine cry + a real cry}…and they don’t need me to entertain them every minute of the day! I end up spending little time yelling, getting more accomplished faster, yielding more happy family play time…so no, not a lazy parent…more efficeint I’d say!

    As a college professor, I have to do alot of work from home…and there is a certain amout of tuning out of shenanigans that needs to happen. I had a couple of girls in my class who talked ALL of the time, and one day they kind of awkwardly stopped realizing that I had stopped my lecture + {along with the class} was looking at them. I said, “Oh, please, go ahead and finish…I have 3 children, I can tune out anything.” They shut up ater that!
    Love your posts!

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  5. Jessie says

    I am so laughing at how you put this but you know we sort of do it too. I am usually around but there is seldom a tv on in our house and my girls are going to be horribly behind on computers because I rarely let them play the PBS games I found. When the fighting starts at our house and doesn’t seem like it will end well I send one to her room and the other to the playroom and make them clean for around 5 minutes. I like it better than time outs or constantly yelling at them. Bonus is that the normally crazy messy rooms then at least get someone other than me to clean up a little. I love how you wrote that you pretend that they are sleeping, that made me laugh this morning :)

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    • Jacki says

      I am so going to have to use the cleaning idea. Although, we also do a lot of “ignoring” and rarely have to worry about the kids misbehaving. The biggest issue is table manners. My son has to leave the table every time he has an issue, which means multiple trips from table to room throughout a meal. But he is getting it.

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  6. Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) says

    Well…I absolutely love this post. I have long been in favor of ignoring my children and they have managed to grow and flourish in spite of that. Two of them are home from college right now and have been for weeks and I’m still desperately trying to ignore them. I hope to wake up on Monday and discover that they’ve taken the hint and headed back to school. I’m VERY optimistic about this. They hate my blog and say that it’s just another way to ignore my kids. Yeah right, like I needed more ways!

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  7. Dolli-Mama says

    I find that Mr. Mischief needs his space and his alone time. If he is around too many people for to long he has to go in his room and play by himself for a while.
    Also, what do you do when you get comments like the one above me? (Madge) Obviously both you and I know you don’t ignore your kids to the point of neglect, you just give them the space they need to grow. You put a “Scary” spin on this to be funny. So how do you handle it when people don’t get it? I would love to see a post about this, it would help those of us just starting out. Thanks! :)

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    • Scary Mommy says

      Eh, I just let them roll off. If everyone slammed me like that, I would probably curl up and cry, but one rotten comment out of so many people who relate? Par for the course.

      And, nobody in my real life has ever criticized me for this– I think they are too impressed at how self-reliant the kids can be. Plus, I don’t really ALWAYS ignore them. Just sometimes. :)

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      • margie says

        Scary Mommy,
        I have a hard time ignoring my son. He doesn’t have a father that really cares about him and he has no brothers or sisters.That is thanks to his dad going in and out of out of our life ..mine for the past 13 and Bryer my sons who is 11 has rarely any father son time.The counselor at school now tells me he has depression and anxiety. I never saw this coming. I mean I knew we had issues and I do the best I can explaining things to him. He is an A&B student, very intelligent,and is good about intertaining himself.All this other clinical stuff has me feeling guilty and scared as hell.Please if u have anything to say to ease my worries, I welcome every word!!! I thought I was doing a good thing staying with his father ,also I was in a horrible accident..a head on collision.Long story short I am now disabled and can’t do the physical things with him that I use to do I can’t now.Well I could go on and on but yes anything you have to say I welcome it!!!

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