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.

About the writer

@scarymommy

In addition to being the founder of all things Scary Mommy, Jill is also the New York Times bestselling author of Simon and Schuster’s Confessions of A Scary Mommy and Motherhood Comes Naturally (And Other Vicious Lies)

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sara 3 months ago

If you don’t get this type of articles, then stop reading Scarymommy

Val 4 months ago

I actually sought out reading material on this very subject. I’m a SAHM to a 2.5yr old and one on the way (thank god because this kid needs a playmate). Although I don’t expect her to play unassisted for hours at a time I’m starting to have an expectation to be able to have coffee and do some light reading online in the mornings after she’s fed. I find myself more and more telling her “it’s time to go play now”. I just cannot be her 24/7 playmate. It’s not good for either of us. I feel like I’m going nuts and I don’t want think it’s healthy for her to be entertained by mom all of the time. I’ve found myself falling into the trap of letting her have way too much screen time just to get some relief here and there. Don’t get me wrong I love having dance parties, singing songs with her, painting, etc. We do bedtime stories and go to the park, but I’m feeling a shift of needing to let her alone more. This article was a very nice reinforcement that I’m not a mean mommy for saying “go play”.

sisca 5 months ago

It’s very tempting…but at bedtime,won’t they lose valuable sleep? Did it affect their health?
Thank you

Hallie 8 months ago

Well I agree with the person above. It’s ok to do as long as you find a good balance to where your not neglecting them but they are independent and stuff. My parents couldn’t find that balance and it really screwed my family up! My older sister was neglected & fell into depression cause of it , she struggles with abandonment and depression a lot cause of it . My other sibling , Matt (older brother) started acting out when he was 15 to get my parents attention. He got into drugs, drinking & self harm to get attention. I myself have not talked to my parents in 4 yrs since I moved out because I have a lot of resentment towards them because they raised use that way. The only child it didn’t damage was the baby of the family , because they showed her a little more attention then the rest of use . This tore my family apart! It’s great when there little but when there teens they often get depressed. If u can find a perfect balance go right ahead but please be careful & make sure you are not neglecting your kids, it could tare your family apart. But if u can find the balance go 4 it. Good luck ever buddy!:)

Haily 8 months ago

I’m 17 and me & my 4 siblings where raised this way , it’s a great thing to do it teachs kids how to be independent & they learn how to do stuff in there own & how to end arguments in there own. How ever make sure your not totally ignoring them most of the time it was a great way to grow up but if a parents ignores there kids to much it can cause a lot of issues , such as depression , self harm , abandonment issues & even a broken family or kids refuse to talk to there parents or acting out to get there parents attention. Ignoring them a little is ok it teache’s them independence but totally ignore them is neglect & can cause a lot of issues. You just have to find that perfect balance.

Ems 10 months ago

I love this pos but unfortunately I feel like it is too late for me. I have three kids (5,3 and 1) The one year old is awesome, amuses himself and unless he wants something I honestly barely see him. He has been accidentally “ignored” I guess, I’ve just been too busy with the other two that he has just learnt to occupy himself. The other two are a whole other story, really good kids but they just demand my attention non stop. I just don’t know how to get them to play independently without being a total biatch about it. Usually they ask and ask and ask me to play and I just end up loosing my shit at them. I’ve tried a gentle approach where I say I’m sitting here for 10 minutes if you leave me alone for that time then I will come play but they still don’t play they just bug me or hover around me asking if 10 minutes is up.
For my husband they play like a dream, he is never asked to play and they manage to sort it all out for themselves cause they know he won’t stop what he’s dong to go to them.
So any ideas for how I stop being a helicopter mum and get to be an independent play encourager?

Emily 1 year ago

I wish there was a like button for this.

the observer 1 year ago

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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Molly 2 years ago

I lived 18 years of my life with parents who made a master at the art of ignoring us. Yeah, i think there are terms not really well defined here.

There is a fine line dividing neglect from providing personal space wich i think the article is about. Using the term properly, is not ignoring but respecting personal space and giving freedom to the children, wich i think is not very challenging thing to do for any parent, isnt it?.

On the other hand, we have the parents who intentionally are ignoring their children for the wrong reasons.
For instance, If im ignoring my children because I dont care enough to get involved in their lifes, that goes along with the fact that is more important having time for my own instead, plus i feel good about my selfish ass, because by doing this im actually a “good parent” and my children will turn out strong and independent. Wooohoo!! what a recipe for success, how come nobody thought of that before?!..

say, kids are smarter than you think. If you don´t like your children and feel bothered by them, they will know, they will feel the lack of contact and love at some point. You will become the indiferent parent with the magazine and the coffee who gives a damn. There are no such thing as an easy parenting, the one you hope can be done from a chair and a remote control “most of the time”. The love a parent must give goes with the involvement, with the bond you are able to create and the security given to your children that you truly care about them. You are telling your children how much you love them only by being there, available to listening their “silly” stories, to help and giving advice and guidance when they turn to you.

Remember, ignoring your children is only one end of the rope, at the other end, they will ignore you and let you solve your issues by yourself when older. They will know from your teachings, that you are strong and independent enough to care for yourself in the golden years, is good for you too!!.

Sam 2 years ago

Shut up pinki, you are obviously unable to grasp the meaning of the blogs. The world is full of parents cramming activities into their kids lives. We are all just explaining that this is unnecessary to the contrary not healthy or productive to our children. We are not talking 24 hour ignoring, just during play we step back and let them ( within reason) to get on with it, you don’t have kids, right?

Sam 2 years ago

Thank god there are normal, sensible parents out there who know that being a good parent does not equate to policing our children 24-7 and interfering in every little thing that they do. I adore my four kids but I have always encouraged them to play alone. Sometimes I stand just a little way away from them to listen to them lost in their own make believe world. It’s so special, when I was little my mum used to ignore me very well! Hours would pass and I would be blissfully unaware and totally immersed in my play ( I was a sindy doll fan). Leave your kids alone, any doubters just do it, providing they’re in a safe environment just step back and let ’em play!!!

Pinki 2 years ago

Finally Madge, one real woman, who said it like it is! Why should all these weirdo women reproduce anyways, if they only have to feel good by being cruel to babies. That is really what they are doing “even the compassion of the wicked is cruel” said a famous bearded guy, a long time ago…

streetangel 2 years ago

I just have a ? What do u do when u have a 5 year who is autistic ?? He get pretty loud when playing by himself throwing toys and he is kinda destructive breaking toys his bed frame the curtains …. Should I ignore that I’m honestly asking I’m at a lose with him sometimes ……but his brother does pretty well on this method but last time I caught him climbing out the window he is 3 and is on the second floor omg ….these kids give me heart attacks lol

Deitra Pawley 2 years ago

My great niece who will be three next month doesn’t know how to play by herself, my sister her grandma set up a corner for her, but when she comes over she constantly needs someone to play with her, whether it’s me, her grandma, grandpa, mom or Dad, her parents also just had their second child, so they can’t always play with her.Sometimes I wish my sister would encourage her to play alone instead of always having to have someone to play with because she’s over here 3 days a week (soon to be five ) .

margie 2 years ago

umm, Madge who is Madge

margie 2 years ago

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!!!

Veronica 3 years ago

I totally believe this too. Can I ask though how someone might accomplish this with a single child? My daughter is always coming to me wanting to show me this or that and never just “plays”. I want her to be able to “play” when we visit instead of constantly wanting the adults attention because she doesn’t know how to play with other children. She would rather play with adults.

My son is 6 mths and I know things will get better for her when she’s older when they can play together, but he’s not exactly “very fun” right now.

Jenny Kusters 3 years ago

Thank you!!!
I read this, and put it into practice a week ago with my 2.5 and 1.2 year olds. They are already getting so much out of it!! I really think it’s amping up the learning curve for both of them on so many levels. It was hard to establish, but doable if you try each day!

Missi 3 years ago

Hi.
My sister takes ignoring to new level.
Her 1 1/2 year old is expected to get on toilet all by herself with absolutely no help.

I feel this is one of hundreds of examples of how she neglects her kids.

Tim Jordan 3 years ago

I have this friend who lives in Mt Shasta, CA

Whenever his daughter cries all he does is be there for her.

he never says don’t cry. He says by just letting her cry and let her get that out they learn to become ok with their emotions. So never shun crying, even if they fall down and hurt themselves, just let them cry and hold them.

btw ty for the post.

Kittykisses 3 years ago

I did this the other day not on purpose, but it worked and I WILL do it again. The kids played with toys, all 3 of them for a few hours. I only had to shout once to not tease your sister as my middle child is a boy with a older and younger sister. But they did well. I will be doing it plenty more times to come. I grew up playing with my siblings, or outside. Kids nowadays are stuck on technology or being up there parent’s arses they don’t know how to be kids,lol
Thanks Scary mommy!! Now I know i am not the only person who does this.

laur 3 years ago

and if you cant laugh about what ever your kids get into when your not watching them then you probably shouldnt ignore them

laur 3 years ago

i always ignore my kids when they are off playing… that being said you shouldnt ingore children that still dont know not to get in to certain items… my 6 yr olds arent gonna cut each others hair off but my 3 yr old ya he will. lol

Casey 3 years ago

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

josjos 3 years ago

I have just recently discovered your book and blog! Love this post! My daughter is only 13 months, and everyone compliments that she plays so good by herself and is very social! It is because we don’t cater to her every need for attention! She gets all of the necessities, and we play together often, but she does amazing on her own and I’m confident we are raising a daughter that can figure things out on her own and not need attention 24/7. Love the blog, I’m hooked!

Julie K 3 years ago

OMGoodness! Just last night, both my husband and I were getting tired of our 3 year old son’s whining. We put him in his very child-proofed room with his 4000+ toys and went into our room (about 15′ away) to watch t.v. About 1/2 hour later of peace, I asked darling hubby, “Did you put E to bed?” He said, “No, I thought you did it.” We walked into his room and found him very happily (and non-whiningly) playing with his toys and reading books. He is our youngest of 4 and although we generally don’t forget about our children this way, we have found so many times that ignoring them is a great lesson in independence. If they are safe, comfortable, and well-fed, there is no reason that they can’t be alone to play for a little while. And if one of them is clever enough to get a chair to the kitchen counter and eat strawberry Quik with a spoon while I’m upstairs folding a load of laundry, well, good for them. I have a hand vac.

zumpie 3 years ago

I was raised to be able to entertain myself and have done so with my daughter. We generally don’t get nearly as restless or desperate for “something to do” as my husband does. We do spend a fair amount of time together, but more because we really enjoy one another’s company.

I actually DO permit TV, video games and computers—and my daughter’s still creative (though a holy terror according to others). I’m a big fan of not hovering, letting kids problem solve on thier own, though.

When elementary school aged, she’d have friends over for play dates and inevitably, disagreements about what to do would arise. Also invariably, her friends would come and find me, whining that A wanted to play X, while B wanted to play Y (with the expectation that I’d intervene and take their side). My response was always, “okay, if you can’t work it out, I guess I’ll just call your mom to come get you, now.”

Invariably, the kid was fully SHOCKED by my response (and frequently this was the same kid, pulling the same routine), but also went back and resolved their issue. I asked my daughter what SHE thought about all this. She answered with, “it’s sooooo babyish when they do that. I keep telling them not to bother you, but they won’t listen.”

Laura 3 years ago

Brilliant! I have three kids, oldest is 16, youngest is a 2.5 year old nightmare. I was single when I had my oldest daughter, and very young. She was so well behaved and had a great imagination. I have been trying to fugure out what I did so differently with her. You hit the nail on the head! I have been paying WAY too much attention to my little ones! I will begin working on this immediately!

C Kitson 3 years ago

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!’

Tawny 3 years ago

Thank you *scarymommy* I dont feel as bad for how we raise our girls. We relate to most the things I have read from you so glad to know we aren’t alone.. You make me laugh thanx!!

Brandy 3 years ago

Thank you for articulating this so well; I actual got to smile and breathe a bit. I’m guilty of reading too much and not listening to what my mommy instincts tell me, so up until recently, I was worried sick that when I wasn’t involved with every moment of my kids’ activities, they would grow up with trust issues and not be able to depend on me. Being that I do have to fix meals and occasionally shower, I got the pleasure of previewing my imagined future of my children every stinkin’ time, with them lonely because mom was so selfish that she wanted to pee without an audience. While I still feel that infants do still need a lot of attention and don’t feel right leaving them in a playpen unattended for extended periods of time, I think I missed the memo that my kids, 4 and 22 months, can walk, run, yell, fight, and play together, regardless of my attendance. I still enjoy playing with them, but they aren’t infants anymore, and fostering an attitude of independence while realizing that the ol’ safety net Mom is nearby will be good for us all. If I could just stop feeling guilty about everything all the time!

Lm Lmc 3 years ago

I have been doing this… all along over my 20+ yrs of parenting. I just did not know this was a “Skill”. As I read your blog, I remember all those times I heard fighting between my two girls and one boy. I know this works because my children are well adjusted, love each other more than they love themselves, they call on each other, and they are honestly HAPPY. I ignore them when I am cooking because I am in a zone. I ignore them when my fav TV show is on, just because I need an escape. It’s great to know “I AM NOT ALONE!” And more often than not, I am realising that my husband has become a child w large temper tantrums when my plans aren’t his. When I need to leave he is the last out of the house; when he needs to be out the door he is the first as he taps on the steering wheel like we are tying him down. Sometimes I would love to tell my monster-in-law: “don’t tell me how to raise my children, I’m still raising one of yours.”

Jessica Brown 4 years ago

SO true. I have 4 kids and the more you hover over them, the more clingy and dependent they get, it seems. No, it’s not about truly ignoring them–you’re always ready to respond if the screaming or crying hit “that” timbre where you know it’s serious. But by not being there every tiny second, they learn to be independent, to solve their own problems, and to bond with each other. My kids aren’t perfect, but they’re best friends, and they can play together like no one else. They don’t need tv or the computer all the time; they don’t need expensive toys. But they do need each other. And that’s just frickin’ awesome. Glad to know you discovered that little secret, too!

Bekah 4 years ago

In my opinion, paying constant attention to your kids is likely to be far more harmful than ignoring them sometimes, as they will be ignored a lot in the real world and they need to be prepared for it, not given a nasty shock when they suddenly discover that they aren’t the centre of the entire universe…

Well said Scary Mommy, and I have to say I am glad I am not the only one with a self-deprecating sense of humour. There is no better way to handle the stresses of life than to laugh at them!

“Mummy is only naughty when she stops me from being naughty, and Mummy is naughty a lot”

Mommy Needs a Xanax 4 years ago

This is old school common sense stuff that everyone knew before the “experts” came along and tried to make parenting seem complicated. I’m reading a book right now by John Rosemond that suggests the very thing you say here, and more, and it has been very liberating to get back to the realization that my kids don’t need me to be in the floor playing with them constantly to know that I love them and value time with them. This is something I already knew, but questioned it because the “experts” made me feel like I had to be constantly DOING something with my kids.

sweet_archangel 4 years ago

This. I’ve been doing this from day dot and it does work. I have Miss 10 and Master 7 and they get along well enough. Sure, they have their spats every now and then, but they learn to deal and resolve most things.

On the down side, they tend to work together to try to bargain with me *sighs*

They don’t always get to play the DS, PS2 and Wii – those are reserved for when they have been good. Most of the time, they are quite happy to pull out every single doona and cushion in the house and make caves and use all their stuffed toys too. I don’t mind, cause they are using their imagination.

Rae 4 years ago

I hate getting the looks of shock when my son has his friends over, and they come running to me to “tattle” and I say “I don’t care, I don’t want to hear it.” Mostly, I say that because even though I am not getting in the middle of it, I am “scanning” what they are doing for serious offenses.

ElJay Ono 4 years ago

This post is great! Sometimes I feel like a bad mom for letting my son work things out on his own but he always seems better for it. He’s also not a brat like the kids who never do anything for themselves. I appreciate you being normal!!! I’ve just discovered your blog and am so grateful. Thank you!

Ashley 4 years ago

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.

PJ 4 years ago

The important thing to remember is that you give them the tools to solve problems when they are young, then you give them the space to practice using those tools as they grow up. That’s not really ignoring them in the sense that Madge imagines it to be. There is a ton of data that supports this method. It is 100% what parents should do. Understand that not all children are created the same way. They all learn differently; they all function differently. If all adults do not go to bed at the same time, why should children? If all adults do not function the same way, why should children? This is logic. All children are is small adults with less life experience. The fewer experiences they have, the more guidance they need. The more experiences they have, the less guidance they need. Everything in between is practice. Again, it’s logic. If adults are different (have “quirks” as it were), why wouldn’t children be?

Cassy 4 years ago

I do the same thing and my kids play excellently! I have the easiest little girls ever and they barely fight. The only time they fight is if one ruins the others “playset” a name my 5 and 7 year olds have made by themselves. But I do go play with them not nearly enough and find that I miss them just being in the next room. I didnt pay attention when they threw fits and that stopped really quick.

LostThePlot 4 years ago

This is the first time I’ve read anything on here.. And I have to say, I LOVE IT! Scary Mommy is raw, funny and most of all REAL. I only have one son, and it feels like I’m running some sort of marathon every day.. It’s like a 10 for 1 deal. I didn’t want that deal! I was woken so early this morning, my eyes are stinging.

Anyway, I think Scary Mommy is a gem. I ignore mine sometimes too. And I’ve already seen how incredibly independent he is for his age. You definitely need to ‘chuck a Facebook’ and add a ‘like’ button for comments, I find some of them fantastic, almost enlightening. I honestly thought there was only one other mother like myself, and she’s a right bitch. I <3 her. It's good to see that there's other's that cope the same way I do.. They don't!

Dawn McNary 4 years ago

Sooo wish I had seen this post sooner…may have saved me alot of guilt!! Ya know- for ignoring the fact that my lil one takes all his stuffed animals down from the up I put them to ‘get them out of the way’, and he sets them up- often way after bedtime- and refers to them as his party buddies, getting drinks(empty party cups) and snacks and serving them all (I often find empty RITZ cracker sleeves in his room). Apparently these party ‘animals’ have a thing for apple juice and ritz at 1am. He always gets enough sleep, for him, (not me)..after battling this for some time I realized it’s ok to ignore it (oh I call it allowing him to explore his personality and become the person he is destined to be….but it is ignoring it, to be blunt)…You have a great blog!! Thank you!

paige 4 years ago

My 15 yr old son is an only child – I sure wish i would have ignored him a little bit! Now he thinks the world revolves around him, to no ones fault but my own. Oh how i wish i could go back and change things!

Christi 4 years ago

With my first daughter I was a single parent and was working full time while also going to graduate school. Needless to say, she learned to play by herself marvelously!!

Kerrie McLoughlin 4 years ago

I freaking love you! We do late bedtime and dig it. I get my “me” time in the morning instead of at night. Also, I have to ignore the kids to get my writing done and other housework and junk. There are 5 of them; how can they ever be bored? They have each other! I’m an only child, so I tell them they can’t pull “bored” on me!

Kathy 4 years ago

Wow. I just found this website and I feel like I have “come home”! :) I am surrounded by helicopter parents and have always stuck to my guns that the kids need to be able to entertain themselves. I truly believe this . . . and I was just having a low point where I was doubting myself. My “perfect mom-of-the-year” neighbor always has “fun, wholesome” activities planned for her kids 24 hours a day. I have no idea how she finds time to sleep. She is “lovingly and patiently” entertaining her 4 kids ALL THE TIME. So then I start to wonder if I am just selfish and lazy because this would DRIVE ME UP THE WALL!!!! Thank you for reminding me that I do REALLY believe that is not making better kids. That is making them perfectly fit into today’s culture of “entertain me. Now”.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!!

Kirsten 4 years ago

YES! This is brilliant and so, so, so true. You perfectly expressed my philosophy of parenting. We get the same kind of comments all the time and I always wondered *why* our kids can play with each other for hours and hours (with stuffed animals, plastic people, or rocks and sticks!) while other people’s kids can’t….well…duh…it’s because we ignore them! Happy sigh. So glad to have figured it out and so glad to know we are not alone ;). Yay for PLAY!

MomC 5 years ago

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.

Melissa Punchak 5 years ago

Loved this!

Tiaras & Tantrums 5 years ago

good ‘ole benign neglect at its finest Jill (hee hee)

Michelle 5 years ago

I had an only child that was going to stay an only child, so I would make sure she was ‘ignored’ some part of the day from an early age. She has learned how to entertain herself and like the people at your dinner party, I get many compliments about how good she is at entertaining herself. I love doing playing and reading with her, but I also love it when she is in one part of the house doing her thing and I am somewhere else doing mine.

ginny 5 years ago

Too funny…i just saw of my older daughter’s (Sarah@grownupnow) comment after I submitted mine. I’m still chuckling here.

Thanks again :)

ginny 5 years ago

I really appreciated this post–so much. When our kids were younger, my husband and I said goodnight to them at 7:30pm. We walked with them to their rooms, read a story, tucked them in, and then went downstairs. As they got older (and didn’t really need the 7:30pm bedtime), we just told them that my husband and I needed “mom and dad” time. So, we told them as long as they stayed in their room, they could read or play, but we just asked that they give us our time. They were fine, and my husband and I were fine, too, just having time to talk and wind down before we went to bed.

The other thing that I connected with in your post was your approach to squabbles. If our daughters bickered, they knew that if they came to us to get us involved, we would say first, “you need to go work it out with your sister,” and then also, “What did you do to make things better?” Not every squabble was worked out this way, but quite a lot of them were. They knew that we knew they were capable of resolving their own issues and we gave them the first opportunities to try. When it things got too heated for them, we would intervene; and then those times they usually wished they’d worked it out for themselves.

Your approaches sound great and now that my daughters are both grown, I can safely say, it all worked out just fine. :)

Thanks again.

Dani 5 years ago

Reading this, I realize that although I enjoy playing with the kids, I am finding myself more and more resentful that I can’t just turn away and do something for a time and let them explore their world. I just feel so guilty. I need to step back because I don’t remember my Mother hovering. But every time I hear Ryan saying, “Mooooooom! Look at me!” because I’m doing something, I feel awful. You helped me feel okay about trying it a little more.

SydneyHouseHusband 5 years ago

My wife and I always ignore our kids. We will hear the screams of the children as they enter a full blown argument and we will look at each other and I will ask “Do you hear anything?” She will simply look back blankly and state “no”. Usually they work it out by themselves – conflict resolution skills achieved!!
http://sydneyhousehusband.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2011-01-01T00%3A00%3A00%2B11%3A00&updated-max=2012-01-01T00%3A00%3A00%2B11%3A00&max-results=1

Sarah@grownupnow 5 years ago

My parents employed this exact technique, and the result what exactly what you described, my sister and I learned to play and entertain ourselves, and also learned to sort out our own problems. I don’t resent my parents for ‘ignoring’ us, but rather, I’m grateful that instead of trying to intervene all the time and do everything for us, they gave us the chance to learn and discover things on our own first.

Lady-like Pervert 5 years ago

That’s totally my seniments exactly! It’s true… my girls are all the better for it!

Sarah Rate 5 years ago

“if no one’s bleeding and nothing’s on fire, it’s not an emergency; work it out.”

Brilliant way of putting it.

We tend to find that they don’t fight unless there is someone there to observe it. Basically attention seeking. The more attention you give it the more trouble seems to occur.

As soon as they understand that there will not be any reaction from us, all is peace and friendliness.

QandleQueen 5 years ago

I must be guilty of lazy parenting, but I gotta tell you, I have two that made it to adulthood as fully functioning, stable, capable, productive citizens. And get this, they are currently sharing a house together. Voluntarily.

Our job as parents is not to SERVE our children hand and foot, but to teach them to serve themselves.

Zeemaid 5 years ago

I couldn’t agree more. I try to let my kids play and work out their problems on their own unless they get physical then I step in. As a result my 3 year old, when he’s home alone with his big sisters’ gone to school, he doesn’t demand my constant attention. Which is quite the opposite to when child #1 was an only child. So I do think we’re getting there.

Erin I’m Gonna Kill Him 5 years ago

Neglect is such an ugly word for the relief it provides. Honestly, moms of 1 have it rough in this realm. Their kids look to them for all play. When G took one away for a weekend, it was the longest goddamn two days of my life.

Nancy Davis Kho 5 years ago

Just coming across your blog now thanks to GDRP’s Empress…but I’ll be back, since we obviously went to the same school of mothering. (To wit, I have an upcoming blog post titled “The Four Lies I Gladly Tell My Children.”) My older and wiser sister schooled me on this – we follow a policy of Benign Neglect in parenting, and everyone is better off for it. Thanks for making me feel like part of a club!

Erin 5 years ago

only ScaryMommy could inspired an entire INTERNET of mommy’s to BRAG about ingnoring thier children – I LOVE IT – I love the “Un-Helicopter” mothering that I am a part of –

It is good and healthy and RIGHT! Love it, love you – LOVE the new blog look – very snazzy!!

Erin 5 years ago

Get it, got it – you ROCK!

Lizzie @ Infectious Chatter 5 years ago

ohhhh PURDY page face lift :)

and i am currently ignoring my kids, watching E! drinking a beer :) go mama’s!

BaltiMommy 5 years ago

Wow – Love at first read! I just discovered your blog because Baltimore Mag featured you on Facebook… So glad I found you! I think that our lives are crazy enough and parenting is such a hard job that having other Mom’s insight is so important. I’ve also found that my life / schedule is so demanding that I don’t really have time to socialize so I find that I’m dependent on Social Media to feed my inner social butterfly…
Thanks for this post… (Madge is clearly an idiot -by the way) You’ve actually inspired me to institute an independent hour… My kids will play on their own, but I’m not sure enough….
I remember when I was young, my step mom started a “fend night” where we had to make dinner for ourselves… LOL.. I haven’t thought of that in a while… anyway…
Looking forward to your posts…

Jennifer 5 years ago

My two pretty much play with each other with very little intervention from me or their Dad. But they do like to be in the same room with us. Which is fine because then that give me the feeling that I’m actually spending time with them. I guess it is a good thing I’m already “sterilized” so I don’t to run right out and make that appointment.

Martina 5 years ago

How refreshing! I couldn’t agree more! The longer I’m a parent the more I get annoyed with parents who mingle in every minor dispute and fall for even most fake tears, yet at the same time let their five year old watch “Dark Knight” just to get an hour without being interrupted by their kids. I try to never question other parents’ style because I feel it’s not my place and I’m not an expert in parenting (only in the respect that my kids are happy and creative and very able to entertain themselves as well as solve most of their siblings conflicts – yes, they’re perfect :)), but sometimes I wonder whether or not I should say something about when I see that there is too much TV, computer, etc. and an obvious lack of leaving kids be so that they can come up with their own creative solutions.

Lady Estrogen 5 years ago

I can’t remember where I saw it, but it’s stuck with me: I ignore my children; I’m teaching them self-reliance. LOVE it. Lucky for me, our twins entertain each other – fantastic.

adventuresinestrogen.blogspot.com

aimee @ smiling mama 5 years ago

Love this! My son will beg and beg for TV but as long as I say no about 3 times while continuing to do what I am doing, he starts playing on his own, and usually some elaborate game!

Lana | RaisedbyPoker 5 years ago

We started with 3 at once, so I was never going to be a helicopter parent. I do wonder what I might have been like with only one baby, but the whole ignoring them thing came a little later to me. I wonder if it wasn’t driven a bit by the guilt of not being able to be available to so many babies at once.

I was saved by a friend who understood the whole game and then peeled my children off me. She was appalled by how I made myself accessible to them all the time. Then she looked at my kids and said “I want you to leave your mother alone. Go and play. Now.” And they did, because they read police report in her eyes. I love her. She is my best friend.

It’s wonderful to see so many other people are on board with it. Remember in the 50’s and 60’s when the mythical American dad would come home, say hello to the kids and then they would be evicted from the room for cocktail hour while the parents visited? That’s when things were really civilized in my opinion.

Julie {Angry Julie Monday} 5 years ago

Once again, I have confirmed why I am friends with you, Jill. We have similar parenting styles. And shocking I have only one child and he knows how to entertain himself. If you are constantly up in your kid’s business, well they don’t learn to deal with situations and things by themself. You give them life lessons, and guidelines…and they thrive. My son is polite, has manners, he asks for things, but also knows how to get himself food, drink, etc. He built Lego structures all morning while I did laundry, cleaned up, and got ready for work.

Liz @ Peace, Love & Guacamole 5 years ago

Amen. And when my kids say they are bored with their toys, I tell them to dig through the recycling box and make something cool. That usually buys me another hour.

deborah l quinn 5 years ago

So true. My mom used to send us upstairs at 8, no matter how old we were. She claims that by 8, she had nothing left and didn’t really want to hear anything we had to say. I thought at the time it was the HEIGHT of injustice but now? Genius.
Leaving kids alone to do their kid thing is the best we can do for them, I think; running constant interference only renders them incapable of doing anything without us. I’ve noticed that those parents who complain the most bitterly about “my kids won’t leave me alone” are those parents who can’t/won’t leave their kids alone.

Tina @ Life Without Pink 5 years ago

I completely agree and really needed to hear this! When my oldest was younger I always played with him, interactive with him and never really let him “play on his own”. Now my two boys don’t know how to play by themselves and it drives me crazy…but I think that it’s partially my fault. So now I just ignore them. If they look bored, or if they are just sitting in their playroom staring at their toys instead of going over to them I just walk right by…never saying a word. And I agree it works! They need to use their imagination…I mean I had an imaginary friend at this age!

liz 5 years ago

I’m a big advocate of play, too. Along with the “letting kids figure things out for themselves.”

After TV during breakfast, it goes off and I turn on some music and tell them to go play.

Hell, I admit to having heard my husband tell my oldest, “Go play with your sister; that’s why we had her!”

Pam Dillon 5 years ago

When I was a kid, the grown-ups used to tell us to go play in the traffic.
We did — have a blast, left to our own devices.
Thanks for the reminder! Ignorance is bliss.

Meghashyam Chirravoori 5 years ago

Wow – that was a fascinating read. :) I am not a father yet – in fact I am only getting married soon – but this is one article that I’ll remember – about letting children just be…

No need to scold, scream, alter, mould, change, clean always.

Sometimes its good to just let them be. And be happy.

Its very very beautiful – how that idea makes me feel. Thank you for making me feel that way.

Michelle 5 years ago

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.

Moomser 5 years ago

Ignore kids. Check.

Moomser 5 years ago

I agree, playing outside is definitely better than being involved in the chores!

Moomser 5 years ago

I love that, from here on out I’ll be taking all the credit for the behavior I like, and I’ll ignore the rest!

eventheniceone 5 years ago

I really love your comment about “The less you do…is more.”
After 11 years of parenting, this really has been a big of a lesson for me as “Choose your battles…” I was sort of a helicopter parent for years and didn’t like the result. So I’ve laid off a LOT more in the last 5 years, since I learned about “natural consequences”.
My kids do the same thing at night as yours. I agree about the sibling relationship, too. Often times I go in to wake them in the morning and find them sleeping with one another. “But mom…she was scared of spiders….” Helps me remember they don’t hate each other.

Kathleen 5 years ago

Loved this book! Well, most of it…

Kathleen 5 years ago

Yes!! I read The Idle Parent last year and it really was mind-opening about this issue. I really think it helps to leave kids alone most of the time. They certainly come up with ways to entertain themselves and resolve problems. Of course, kicking and punching requires parental involvement–well, most times! (kidding).

debi9kids 5 years ago

SOOOO nice to read about someone else who does the same thing I do!
I have been doing that for YEARS and I have 9 great kids to show for it. (I am ALWAYS complimented on how well-behaved my kids are and how content they all seem to be. – They are!)

By allowing them to entertain themselves, we’re growing independant kids who don’t need us to hold their hands every second of their lives :)

Jennifer 5 years ago

I LOVE IGNORING MY CHILDREN!! It’s so easy to do… thanks for reinforcing an age old practice that really needs to be practiced more. :)

OHN 5 years ago

For some odd reason the kids in my neighborhood (or rather, their parents) all have subscribed to the “go outside and play and come back before dark” theory. My boys and their friends are now in their teens and 20’s and are great guys. They are creative, kind, respectful, smart and yes, I do think much of it has to do with them being “left alone” to their own creativity. The countless hours building dirt mounds, hammering together a fort (it took an entire summer and was structurally inspected by a parent before occupancy), the hours “racing” bikes….the list goes on and on and on. Granted, we don’t live in a crime ridden inner city where the leave ’em alone attitude would be safe. I do think that the kids that are smothered with parental influence when not absolutely necessary, will be the kids that will go off to college and mom or dad will be helicoptering right behind.

alex 5 years ago

I agree with you and Gigi. As a kid with two younger twin sisters, I don´t remember having my parents interfering everytime we had a fight.
we played and fight together and played again for long hours. And we were perfectly fine with it.
Why did parents get so neurotic nowadays?

Zoeyjane 5 years ago

Agreed. 100%. My (only) child is one of the most flexible and independent kids I know of – and I’m not one to hand out bs my kid if awesome lines – and I owe it largely to putting my feet up, sipping tea while reading a book. She puts herself to sleep after she plays and reads, for an hour after I tuck her in. She may get into fights with other kids – she is a stubborn, tempestuous little thing – but because it’s never been my habit to patrol her interactions with her peers, she’s learned how to either work things out or walk away.

All because I *stopped* believing when she was around a year old in the ‘you must spend 100% of their waking hours providing supportive, affectionate, creative learning time to your children, lest you become a terrible mother, with a future drug-addicted prisoner for a child’ paradigm.

dysfunctional mom 5 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Excellent post and I couldn’t agree more. Kids should be playing outside, running around, and using their imaginations, not sitting there waiting for their parents to entertain them.
And, my kids know that if I have to intervene in their arguments or disagreements, it’s not usually pleasant. For example, if they can’t play the Wii together or take turns, I set a timer and no matter what they’re doing, what level they’re about to conquer, what reward they’re about to win as the mostest bestest Wii player in the universe, when the time goes off THEY ARE DONE. And they do not like that system, so guess what? They don’t fight over the Wii.

lesil 5 years ago

27 years ago when my first was born, i called my parenting style “benign neglect”. same idea.

Nicole (Ninja Mom) 5 years ago

Brava! You’re speaking my parenting lingo. No, wait, my love language. As in, I love the language you’re laying down.

I have 4 under 6 and it’s either “Go to the playroom and entertain yourselves!” or I would never eat. I, too, have enjoyed the benefits of letting them be their own people, resolve their own issues, and only fetch me when there’s bleeding or an overflowing toilet. And my kids, giant pains in the arse the are? They enjoy each other. And that’s a heck of a good thing.

Amanda 5 years ago

I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I try (emphasis on TRY) to get my kids into bed by 8:30 or 9:00 and they read in their beds until they fall asleep.

Shawnnita 5 years ago

Love this post! I think our kids need to be ignored more often! I think, like yourself, it gives them to opportunity for them to enjoy each other as siblings and it gives them something to remember when they are adults. I remember the great times my brother and I had, doing nothing more than pretending our life was exciting.
I haven’t seen him in 6 years but I have those awesome memories we created as kids.

Good on you :)

Galit Breen 5 years ago

Amen, Jill! We’ve found ourselves loosening up one baby at a time. I heard somewhere that the main goal of parenting is to “parent yourself out of a job.” Love that & love this!

GunDiva 5 years ago

Amen sister!

OHmommy 5 years ago

Good Lord woman – how many comments do you get on average? LOL.

I read somewhere that children who can play for hours by themselves turn into independent and creative adults. I am 100% behind you and parent the same way.

Nora 5 years ago

love this post! Too funny…

dusty earth mother 5 years ago

Amen! Un-helicopter parent thyself!

Sheryl 5 years ago

Sorry to laugh but I remember those days. My husband used to baby sit in the evening and I waitressed part time in the evenings. When they were two and three I came home from work and headed straight to their room like I normally do and my hubby said, ” I already tucked them in they are fine.” I knew right away something was wrong. My husband had ignored them for a while since they were being so quite and good. Well my three year old cut off all the 2 year olds hair and she even managed to give her a few bald spots in the process. To make matters worse we were leaving for a trip to the beach the next day.

Jane 5 years ago

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.

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic 5 years ago

I totally agree! Sometimes I feel guilty, leaving Nelle to play pretend with her toy animals and toy people … but then I hear her repeating things I’ve told her. “Stay away from the road!” “Don’t talk to me that way, please” and so on. Great stuff! And then I know it’s getting into that toddler noggin of hers :)

melissa 5 years ago

that’s how i was raised. and that’s how my kids are raised. my youngest one tells me that when his brother (my stepson) is home, he doesn’t need a playdate. my daughters are best friends, they are up all hours of the night giggling and gossiping. my oldest son…he kind of keeps to himself but he is perfectly happy doing so.
it’s just SO MUCH EASIER.

Shell 5 years ago

The problem with this is that I ignored my kids today and my youngest poured grape jelly over his head and then painted the kitchen walls with it.

Then he and my 4 year-old cut each other’s hair.

Monica 5 years ago

LOL! Shell, I’m sorry to laugh but the grape jelly brought to mind the time my now 13 year old took the big bowl of grapes out of the fridge and spilled them on the floor (It was a HUGE bowl and it was filled to the brim with plucked grapes!) The second I came around the corner she thought to “hide” the grapes by slamming her body down upon them! Yes, you guessed it – grape goo everywhere! LOL!

As for the haircuts….I learned the hard way – no igonoring until the area is TOTALLY kid proofed! Don’t even get me started on the sharpie incident!

Hang in there mom!

Sheryl 5 years ago

This has been my style of parenting for a very long time. My children are now 18, 17 and 12 and very happy and very well adjusted. They too were always night owls and I would pretend to believe that they were sleeping as long as they were in their rooms. My daughters beings so close in age played great together and had great imaginations. I do remember a time when my husband and I stood at the door laughing though. They had gotten into a fight about something and you could hear them yelling at each other in whispers. It was over faster than it started though.
Madge, you really need a life. Go join the WOW forums or something where you belong.

Evelyn 5 years ago

Good point, Samantha! I would pay attention to fire, lol!

Rebecca 5 years ago

I’m clearly a day late and a dollar short since everyone and their mother has responded to this post but I had to tell you that your post and Nina’s guest post yesterday have inspired me to do more of what I instinctively know is right —- leave my kids the fuck alone! Awesome, awesome posts.

Alicia @MommyDelicious 5 years ago

Haha! This is so funny. But so true. I gotta tell ya, I do it too. Although my son IS in bed by 8:30pm most nights (like when I don’t have class or something), as a single mother, I just can’t play with him all the time. And I don’t like for him to watch too much TV, so he plays. Alone. Sad, but true. And man, does he have a great imagination. He cooks, he completes his jigsaw puzzles, he playa with his animals and farm house, he becomes a fireman and a cowboy and a construction worker. And he loves it. And so do I. But most of all, he learns. And he becomes more independent.

Jenn 5 years ago

I’m with you on this one – especially after we discovered that our kids get along MUCH better on vacation, where there is less access to tv, toys to fight over – anything of that ilk.

Now, when they start to mess with each other, I’m making them try to work it out (i.e., I’m not jumping in and taking sides) first. They don’t have computer access or video games of any kind (unless we play MY Wii, together). Now, to figure out how to cut back on the tv…

The Flying Chalupa 5 years ago

Yep. I’m taking your advice as I write this. Since my 28 month-old won’t nap anymore, I’ve been doing A LOT of ignoring. I just don’t have the energy for one-on-one interaction and playing with them all day and while it’s taking the guilt a while to subside, I’ve reached the point where I could care less.

Great post. Great point. Here’s to benign neglect.

Beth 5 years ago

Glad to see so many parents who give their children the freedom to play. We need more loving parent who provide support, but knows when to let children play. I really enjoy Lenore Skenazy’s <a href="http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/"Free Range Kids. Many of us who are a part of the play movement are working with in low-income communities where children need not only play spaces and time for play, but love and support. Let’s tell the kids to go outside and play until the street lights turn on so we restore that culture of play!

Crystal 5 years ago

All kidding aside..it’s totally ok for kiddos to be (gasp) bored every now and then. Trust me, they’ll find something to do. My kids are most content when we DON”T have a schedule full of “stuff”. To just let them play. I ignore my kids, too!

Momlissa 5 years ago

That was a great article. Your post is a great reminder that sometimes leaving them alone to play equals the best result. My kids have all gone to play based preschools and they thrive there. My daughter started Kindergarten this year and while she is reading now and learning more every day, she cannot WAIT to go to aftercare every day for a few hours. There, they play dodge ball, kickball, art projects, etc. and she loves it. She is truly thriving.

Thanks also for the NYT article, it was great.

~Melissa

ZephNor 5 years ago

In our family – immediate and extended – whenever the kids start fighting, the adults don’t interfere as a rule. I can’t remember the exact saying but it goes something like: They are kids, they’re going to fight. It’s between them and they’ll resolve it.

Always works.

Kristy 5 years ago

Love this post. Love it love it love it!!!!!

Beth 5 years ago

My mother had the tattle tale rule as well! We were not allowed to tattle on each other (unless someone was bleeding), or we got the time out (which was ten minutes in the BATHROOM of all places! No fun, there). Perhaps our parents read the same parenting book.

Making It Work Mom 5 years ago

Some of the best times of OUR day is when I ignore my children. Sometime they don’t like it when I am always “up in their grill” encouraging, correcting, mediating, etc.

I also adopt the ignore philosophy when it comes to arguing. Until there is blood or extreme bullying “Let It Be”.

Julie 5 years ago

How many times has a helicopter mom thought I shouldn’t have children? TONS! We live out on fourteen acres, my kids know their boundaries as far as which fences can be climbed, which ones are hot wire, where the road is and when the snakes come out. I often am inside, working, while my explorers are out on about forty total acres, poking in abandoned farmstead, digging to the center of the earth and catching toads. They come in when they are hungry. GASP! I make them drink from the hose.
Let me make it even juicier….one of them is autistic!
And when the weather is lousy….playroom! They love their freedom, it would be cruel and WRONG of me to structure them until they were dependent and resentful.
ScaryMommy, I am so with you!

CLO 5 years ago

Oh Marge… I feel so sorry for you, your children and husband for having a humorless helicopter mother/wife, for every teacher, coach or instructor your children will ever have and for sure the future spouses of your kids! They’re going to be a handful!
Please read Scary Mommy’s post again with some levity in mind and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get it.

Best if luck to you and yours… I think you might need it.

Aimee @ Ain’t Yo Mama’s Blog 5 years ago

I only have one child, but I ignore him during play time just the same. It’s very valuable for kids to have free and uninterrupted play – whether it’s with other kids or alone. As for conflict resolution and how to play well with others, well I hope he gets enough of that at preschool!

And while we’re talking about ignoring children, let’s ban together and ignore the mommy-blog trolls, too! Sometimes, it’s the best way for kids of all ages to learn how to respect others and play nicely.

-Aimee

Diana @Hormonal Imbalances 5 years ago

Oh sweet Moses, I have been waiting for this post. I am SO glad you wrote this, because at 14 months I’m having trouble being a SAHM and ignoring my kid sometimes. I mean, it can’t be healthy for her to have me entertain her 24-7. But then I feel guilty if I’m not. But she needs to learn to entertain herself – that’s a life skill.

Love. Once again, a wonderful, honest post.

Julia’s Child 5 years ago

Yes!!! I have the very same philosophy, and it came to me when my younger child was a toddler. When the two were playing productively together, I tried very hard never to interrupt them.
In fact, I don’t even make eye contact.
And when little disagreements break out, I don’t rush in to settle things. It only creates dependency.
And I certainly never feel guilty about my children playing alone together. That bond with a sibling is a lifelong gift.

MommyTime 5 years ago

Though you have articulated it so much better than I ever have, this is my parenting philosophy too. I like to think of it as giving them the gift of potential boredom. If they’re never bored, how will they ever learn to entertain themselves? And if they never learn to entertain themselves, how will they survive as adults?

Ashley Randall 5 years ago

Awesome! my husband and I ignore our children too!!!! Now of only I could ignore my husband too!

Jack 5 years ago

The only issue I have with letting the kids stay up late is that getting them to school in the morning is a bear. But I am in agreement with the overall message here.

My children have no problem playing together or by themselves because we have taught them how to be ok with it. We stimulate their minds but also know when to step back so that they are not over stimulated.

It reminds me of when they were still young enough to take naps. We didn’t tiptoe around the house for fear of waking them. We did our normal stuff so that they would learn how to fall asleep if it was noisy, and they did.

They can sleep under any conditions. It is great.

bitethebedbugs 5 years ago

So awesome. My kids are night owls too. My god, the struggles every.single.night as we shout, GET INTO BED, YOU’RE GOING TO BE TIRED IN THE MORNING, BE QUIET, STOP TALKING. On and on it goes, to no avail. They aren’t ready. I don’t know why, but they aren’t. So I’m going to give this a shot. Everyone upstairs at 8. Do what you want but don’t want to see you. Thank you!

Charlene Long 5 years ago

It is funny that you say this. My son who is Autism Spectrum Disorder has trouble with play. While he wasn’t playing with other children I did find him talking and playing by himself and he made a bus out of a chair and bucket. This is big!!!! Happy dance I tell ya, so I can see where leaving them alone can help them learn to entertain themselves.

Florida 5 years ago

I am soooo trying this with my kids!!

Holly 5 years ago

you are soooo not alone sista.

Nina 5 years ago

Jill! This is right up my alley and I love the other comments too except for Madge–obviously. I couldn’t help responding to some of the comments. I got carried away! Anyway, you’re the best at just telling it like it is. And the NYTimes article was spot on, too.

Nina 5 years ago

Ha! I love that!!

Nina 5 years ago

Perfect said “From Belgium”

Dana 5 years ago

I. COULD. NOT. AGREE. MORE!
Well said.

Amanda Maule 5 years ago

I just today took all my kids toys and put them in a storage unit for lack of takin care of them. Toy pieces spread thru the house, games that cost $50 and more for play station outside in drive way ??? I did it what I always said I would do if they dont take care of it ! GOT RID of it. They are gonna be earning there own toys back! I think puzzles and uno will stay but most all in staorage. My hope is thats will learn to use their wonderful minds for a change.

Jeannie 5 years ago

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Seriously. Also, all the commenters (with the exception of Madge) also get a thanks from me. I am forever feeling guilty about the amount of times my kids (4 and 2) play without me. I responded to this post with one of my own on my blog, typing out my post on the subject was rather liberating!

mommyk8 5 years ago

I ignore Kid all the time. She has a great imagination and frequently spends her time playing with her toys, by herself! Though, she has taken to Shhing me like the Dog Whisperer if I try to talk to her when she’s playing. She WANTS to be ignored.

Anthony 5 years ago

Yup, this is exactly it.

Megan (Best of Fates) 5 years ago

So I’m gonna ignore the topic of the post, as I have no response that isn’t just reiterating other people’s – you know, the nice ones.

Instead I’m going to say – I am freaking obsessed with your newest make-over. Seriously, I came to your blog last night just to stare at it.

(That is definitely as creepy as it sounds.)

The pink? The footer? The font changes in the footer? How the subtitle goes on the side of the header?

LOOOOVE.

Rebecca 5 years ago

Letting my kid be has given him the most amazing imagination. I love listening/watching him play.

I am all for ignoring the kids!

But I’m also the parents who doesn’t even flinch when my kid falls or trips. And I don’t RUN to my baby with every whimper he should utter.

Not to worry though. We are ‘sterilizing’ ourselves at the end of the month.

monstergirlee 5 years ago

I totally agree with everything you’ve said. More parents need to figure this idea out, seriously.

Sometimes my son comes home from school and tells me he’s bored. My response? Sorry bud, I’m not the entertainment director, besides if you really need something to do, your bedroom is a mess.
That turns him around pretty quick. Still working on my girl, but she’s definitely getting better.
Also? I get to sleep in until 8:00 every morning even tho they get up at 7:00, Heavenly.

Loralee 5 years ago

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

Natalee 5 years ago

You are a genius.
I try to ignore mine as much as possible. My husband doesn’t quite get it yet, but now I can explain that other scary genius moms do it too.
Thanks for the validation!! :)

Bella 5 years ago

It’s true. Playing, away from tv and video games and such is so valuable and so many kids today are incapable of entertaining himself

Shellie Ward 5 years ago

At least this way they will responsible for their own therapy!

Natalie 5 years ago

Yeah, our parents weren’t at our beck and call, nor did they run in every 5 minutes to pull us off each other.

Loving your new look, by the way!

Katherine at Postpartum Progress 5 years ago

Umm, no. I’m done. Too old for that shit. (Love you babies!)

Kim 5 years ago

This is what I do too. I ignore as much as I possibly can. And when I can’t ignore…I go to a different part of the house where I can’t hear them anymore 😉 heehee!
But really, my kids have AWESOME imaginations, play with their toys and really do love each other (despite how they act sometimes). And I am so grateful for this.
I am a firm believer in the less is more ideals in parenting. Works for us.

Rachel {at} Mommy Needs a Vacation 5 years ago

I have actually noticed this to start work with my kids. They are still pretty young (youngest won’t be 2 until March) but I ignore them…a lot and they just play and do their own thing. This way I get to get read blog posts, Tweet & sip my coffee (AM) and wine (PM). Thank you for your words of guidance…I almost thought of playing with my kids today, but alas…I will not.

S Club Mama 5 years ago

I actually just got one of those Pampers emails that tells you developmental things about your kids. This one said to NOT break up fights right away – something I’m seriously working on. It’s hard especially with a little(r) one (18 months) but he’s tough and can take on his brother most often. So I don’t have to. My husband has this art of ignoring the kids down pat. I’m a work in progress.

And besides it’s not really ignoring your kids; it’s teaching them to be independent! Our parents didn’t helicopter us.

myevil3yearold 5 years ago

Brilliant!

Everytime my son runs to me and says, “Emma hit me.” I think…I wonder if you were annoying her as much as you are annoying me right now because I might take a smack at you too.

Your way is probably better.

Although,hubby seems to be way ahead of me on this parenting technique.

Samantha Whitten 5 years ago

That’s my rule too — “if no one’s bleeding and nothing’s on fire, it’s not an emergency; work it out.” Glad I’m not the only one!

Alicia 5 years ago

Bravo, Scary Mommy! Nothing wrong with ignoring your kids for their benefit :)

Victoria KP 5 years ago

I COMPLETELY agree with you. How can kids learn to solve problems if we step in every five minutes? When my son was home for summer break after being in full-day kindergarten, he would follow me around the house asking, “What are we going to do now? Are we going to go someplace?” This was a boy who would spend hours keeping himself occupied when he was 3 or 4. After being in a structured environment all year he wanted me to tell him what to do. Fortunately, I ignored the problem and it went away :-).

CharmCityMa 5 years ago

Totally agree with the concept and practice the same with mine. They need to learn how to work out their disagreements without me or hubby interfering (though we do if it turns for the worse, and it can). The phrase “go play” was one I heard all the time as a kid, which I think helped foster imagination and independence in my sibling and me. And I’m pleased to say we are seeing the same results with our kids. I will admit, though, that I do eavesdrop and hear some pretty funny stories!

Trace 5 years ago

Thanks, so nice to know I’m not at all mad for trying to ignore my daughter :) may live long enough to pass on your brilliant thoughts wuth generations to come! the world would raise better children, and be a better place.

x

Mary 5 years ago

Glad to know I’m not the only one who lets my child play by herself sometimes. Love this!

And I’m betting Madge feels pretty dumb right now, as she should.

Jen 5 years ago

This is totally my parenting philosophy. Its not only good for them but for me as well.

Kim 5 years ago

I love your new font/layout here!
I think you are spot on – especially about play with no tv., computer games, etc. And running to them every single time they have a little scrape or little argument only teaches them that Mommy is here and will handle everything, all the time – how can that be good?

Ethan, Zach, and Emma’s Mom 5 years ago

I agree. I don’t spend every waking moment playing with my kids. As a result, I’m not running around after they go to bed trying to do laundry and clean the house. They do their thing, I do mine. And it works well.

Evan’s Mommy 5 years ago

Thanks for opening my eyes Jill! I have an 18-month old son and as our only child, I think that we tend to get so caught up in him and think that we have to supervise every little thing he does. But in doing so, we are also doing him a disservice in the long run. Plus I think that we are probably thwarting his creativity.

Kris 5 years ago

I don’t think I have ever agreed with you more! I only have one child (3 years old) and I implement the same strategy with her. My daughter has been well socialized and has no problems playing and sharing with other children. However, put her in a room with a bunch of toys and she could play by herself for hours. I know this because she is a night owl too. We put her in bed at 8 and then it is mommy and daddy time. She has a brigade of imaginary friends that keep her company until about 10pm and then she passes out without a fuss. The same tactic has helped her learn the many things she knows. I am proud that my 3 year old can not only entertain herself, but she can also count to 30 and knows and recognizes her alphabet like a pro….and she learned it all by herself. All we had to do was buy the appropriate toys. She will play and play with a toy until she masters it and then move on to the next.
My parents think I am crazy to parent this way, especially when I only have one. I think it is the most efficient way to parent MY child. I don’t think it works for all children but it certainly does for some.

Tiah 5 years ago

I think you are doing your kids a big favor. Teaching children how to be self-reliant is one of the most important things we can teach them. And I totally agree with letting them work out their fights. They are not babies anymore, its time they learn.

Jacki 5 years ago

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.

Yuliya 5 years ago

You did no such thing, some people are night owls some are morning whatever annoying bird I can’t remember.

Only take credit for the behavior you like in your children, never apologize for the ones you don’t.

Look I’m all sage and crap.

Grammy 5 years ago

Really, Madge? Why in the world do you continue to read this blog when you have stated in the past that you would never read it again. Shut the fuck up already!

Nicole 5 years ago

Can I be your new best friend? Please? I’ve always struggled with guilt because I felt like I wasn’t paying enough attention to my kids. Sure, I play with them and tend to their needs but I don’t hover over them like all “good” mothers are “supposed” to do. Thanks for helping me see things in a different perspective. Maybe I’m better at this parenting stuff than I thought!

AMarketingMama 5 years ago

I am always amused by people who clearly don’t read a blog every day and take the writers’ words completely out of context.

Your post is hilarious and TRUE. Kids need to learn how to function on their own….and better to play than drooling in front of the TV.

Jamie Bishop 5 years ago

Love it!

mamarolf 5 years ago

I had no idea this was revolutionary! Or something that most mothers don’t do. I absolutely expect that my children will play (relatively well) by themselves because, well, because I have stuff to do, dammit! I interact with my girls sometimes, but the rest of the time… they gotta figure it out. In fact, when they refuse to go to sleep, I have been known to do exactly as you do (except without the upstairs part because our house isn’t fancy enough for stairs).

As for the woman with the outlandish suggestion: me thinks her Mommy played with her too much and now she desires constant attention. She’s certainly gotten some here. Unfortunately, she seems to also lack and sense of humor. I feel quite sorry for her actually.

Love what you do here! And in case you don’t hear it enough… I think you are a perfectly wonderful Mother – even if you do ignore the kids 😉

Alisa 5 years ago

Thank you for this post! I have one child and often am complimented on how well he plays by himself. I often respond with (in a joking manner): “we neglect him a lot.” In the meantime feeling a bit of guilt for doing so. But I find that it works not only for him but for my husband and I. We make time to play with him, but in the end I think it is more beneficial for all of us.
And Madge if you are not ignoring your children every so often then you are over controlling their lives! So like someone else said, maybe you should get sterilized!

Nichole 5 years ago

Wonderful post and I completely agree! My husband and I differ on this perspective as he feels that he must pick EVERY single battle and he absolutely MUST get to the bottom of everything. Thankfully, he isn’t home most of the day! Letting them settle their own problems makes them – Wonder of all Wonders – great Problems Solvers!

Each child has a different side of the story. If I don’t see it, how can I point the finger? I don’t. When I hear, “Mommy, Benny hit me.” I say, “No hitting” and carry on.

Joanie 5 years ago

I love this post!!! Letting kids play without adults breathing down their necks is a good thing. I found that if I wasn’t right there, my kids got along well. As soon as I was in earshot or could see them, the bickering and fighting began.

Actually, what I’ve learned is this: kids who have hovering parents were the brattiest kids in the neighborhood! The parents jump in when their kid isn’t winning (hello!!! baseball and soccer parents!), call you to complain that their kid wasn’t invited to a party or things of that nature.

I’m speaking from experience. We had the family from hell living behind us. They were always in their kids’ business, and as soon as their backs were turned, those kids were monsters! Nothing was ever their child’s fault. It’s actually scary to think that those kids will probably reproduce some day. I’m just glad they won’t be reproducing with my kids!

My kids are all grown now and all are self-reliant.

Amanda 5 years ago

We have a very simple check list for our five kids. 1. Is there blood? 2. Is there fire? 3. Is there vomit? No? Then handle it amongst yourselves and leave Mommy out of the equation. Works great!

Holly 5 years ago

As the mom of a three yr old; keeping him alive is my main goal. Entertained is a whole different country. Having an only child is tough and unless you want to be the constant playmate, you have to be firm and gently say: Go play with yourself!!
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to toddlers.

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

I’ve heard great things about that- it’s on my list of must-sees.

Diane 5 years ago

So true. My two boys are frequently getting grounded from the t.v., computer and video games and when they are, they get so creative and I love it!

Susanna 5 years ago

I would call it brilliant! I also have realized how few things they really need to play well (I have two boys, 3 and 6). We hastily left for a trip a day early ON Christmas afternoon. In their excitement they barely packed any toys, including new ones, to take with. I think they ended up with a few Hot Wheels, a Bakugan a piece and some stuffed animals total. They made stuff, they invented new uses for what they had and engaged in imaginary play.

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

LOL, go us! Shall we go and get knocked up just to spite them?

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

Yes, that is the best reason to have multiple children, for sure. When Lily plays babysitter and “takes care” of the boys and does chores at the same time, it’s pretty much heaven.

missblissindc 5 years ago

Sounds like the way my siblings and I were raised…and we’re the greatest of friends to this day!

Jen 5 years ago

Yay! I just linked to the same article yesterday. It made me immensely happy.

I completely agree that letting kids just play is one of the greatest things we can do for the next generation. But if it’s something you haven’t tried before with your kids, go in knowing: it takes time before everyone acclimates themselves to it. So don’t give up if the kids start bickering right away or are on you every 5 minutes asking you to play with them.

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

Yes, yes and yes. We barely baby-proofed our house and refuse to put every fragile thing away. The kids need to know that things can be broken and to be careful.

The only time I come close to being a helicopter parent is at the pool. I’m a nightmare there.

Mesh 5 years ago

I have four children. I must say, they are well adjusted. I love this post and what it means. I prefer this to those whiny irritating kids that climb thier parents like a tree.

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

Your friends are jealous! They must pee with children at their feet.

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

I would trade playful kids for ones who actually sleep in a heartbeat! I botched their sleep patterns right from the start.

Brandi Cortes 5 years ago

Fucking brilliant & Madge needs to get bent.

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

Exactly!

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

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. :)

Scary Mommy 5 years ago

Thank you, all. It’s nice to have people who get me. :)

syrena lore 5 years ago

I commend you for doing this. My husband and I have a nine year old and twelve year old and we have done something very similar with them since for the last five years.
We call it quiet play time but all it really means is no t.v. or video games. It gives the kids a chance toplay together ans use their imaginations. Also, when they fight we are not quick to intervene. They have to be able to work through conflict, it’s part of being in the real world.
Good for you!

PreggersStepMom 5 years ago

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?

hokgardner 5 years ago

I was just talking about this with some friends the other night. One was asking how I managed to get through my days without having to constantly entertain my kids. I answered that I never had done that, so they didn’t expect it. I turn my kids loose to play in the yard or in their rooms or wherever they’re in relative earshot. And they’ve learned to use their own imaginations and negotiation skills.

It’s worked very well so far.

Sara Plays House 5 years ago

Madge is so awesome. Best troll EVAR!
I will say that I agree 100% with this post. I play with my kids, sure. Lots. But it’s always been important to me that they are content with themselves. I think it’s taught them greater self-reliance and given them a security in themselves that they might not have were I hovering over every little game.
And the letting them work out their fights on their own? Yes, yes, a hundred times yes. How will they learn how to handle conflict if Mommy and Daddy swoop in to figure it out every time?

Sunday 5 years ago

Good ole’ Madge. We can always count on her to take everything out of context.

I LOVED your post. You and my mom definitely came from the same school of parenting. Heck, I’d ignore my 2 more if it weren’t for there special needs and the fact that they could seriously hurt themselves if I didn’t watch them like a hawk!

Metoo 5 years ago

Yeah, duh. The people posting negative comments here… so called “helicopter parents” have no clue. People have been parenting this way FOREVER, and in most other cultures, they still do. It builds fortitude as they get to test, learn, and implement successful methods for dealing with their own problems THEMSELVES. Often, parental intervention is necessary, but if you don’t ignore your kids sometimes too, you’ll still be solving their problems for them when they’re 35, obese, jobless, and living in your guest room.

neena 5 years ago

I agree completely! My children have the best time when I removed myself as the entertainer. They rediscover toys, imagine all sorts of things, and sometimes they play for hours because of it!

Andrea 5 years ago

My kids, from the time they were 2 years old, always had a reading light attached to their headboards… and they were told that if they couldn’t sleep, feel free to turn on the reading light & thumb thru a book or color or play Barbies or whatever else they felt like doing… until they felt tired enough to fall asleep. We homeschooled for 19 years & both my kids & I are night owls so (honest to gawd) we’d “do school” from 9pm-3am. If you think you’re getting guff for what you’re doing, you haven’t lived until you get the crap from the anti-homeschooling crowd about how you’re abusing your kids… and then when you tell them your school “day” hours…. omg!! We never had child protective services called on us but I’m REAL surprised!!!!

Write on~ Andrea
xoxoxoxo

Keely 5 years ago

It’s harder when you only have one child, but I too subscribe to the theory of what my mother calls “benign neglect”. How else will they find out who they are in this world?

Great post.

Felicia 5 years ago

As I sit here reading this amazing blog, being shocked by Madge and replying I am perfecting the fine art of ignoring my child. Because of this she is currently having one My Little Pony get onto her Shaggy toy that he must go pee-pee NOW! And she is even making him say yes ma’m. Now that is parenting when the kid makes her toys have good manners. I think my job as a parent is done today. Although I guess at some point I should feed her.

The Domestic Goddess 5 years ago

There is NOTHING wrong with ignoring your kids. There is NOTHING wrong with letting them be. You don’t have to be involved in every freaking facet and every freaking second of every freaking moment of their lives. They will eventually resent you for being so involved and so into what they are doing. They also need to learn to occupy themselves. Don’t be such a control freak and think that you are so necessary in their lives that you have to hover and be a helicopter parent (or a humvee parent, as I affectionately refer to some people I know!).

Seriously. They need to learn to do something themselves. There is nothing wrong with it. Even my severely disabled child knows how to keep himself busy once in a while.

Kelly 5 years ago

My three will play, play & play! Thank God! Sometimes you have to do other stuff! I feel like my mom when I say – “Are you bleeding? Ok then go away!” Working from home I have to sometimes put a “bubble” around my desk and say, “Mommy is at work right now…pretend I am not here.” It works until one is trying to kill the other. I can tell real crying when I hear it and know when to step in. Luckily our house has an ancient intercom system and it is an awesome monitor. It is fun to scare them with! They forget all about it and then I’m like…”WHAT ARE YALL DOIN’!” and they’re like…in unison…”Nothing”. Good times. I even have a voice changer and it is really fun…:o) Thanks for sharing these tips with us!

Trina 5 years ago

I forgot to mention that I just saw this movie called Race to Nowhere, not sure if you have heard of it but it’s worth checking out http://www.racetonowhere.com basically it’s about how we are over stimulating our children and how they are getting burnt out.

Mara Shapiro (@chickyMara) 5 years ago

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.

Erin Breagy Gross 5 years ago

Oh my gosh…LOVE THIS. We have an only and have been working on ignoring him for YEARS to get him to play by himself. I think it takes longer with onlies to learn independent play..or maybe I just cave too often. LOL Ignoring is also great for diffusing tantrums, whining and interrupting. It’s a great tool. Poor Madge is going to have an adult child living with her until he/she is 30.

Trina 5 years ago

I love this…finally someone had the guts to say everything I was thinking. We have 2 boys ages 3 and 5 (born on the same day) and we too let them play for hours downstairs. At times the basement is a complete mess but they use their imagination and discover new things to do with their old toys all the time. It forms great independent skills and makes them responsible for themselves in the long run.

I also think that sometimes we over stimulate our kids with play dates, sports etc. so everything is ALWAYS planned for them. When my oldest would ask (after we have done days of play dates) “what are we doing today” or “Can I have a friend over” I say…”you have toys downstairs and a brother to play with so have fun”!

Keep doing what you are doing :)

Leslie 5 years ago

Love it! I need to do this more often, especially let them work out their arguments.

Also, Madge’s comment- Hilarious! All kinds of crazy on the interwebs…

Ms. Crabass 5 years ago

Absolutely, Jill. We do the same thing.
And I also do something I learned from my own parents as a child: anyone who runs downstairs to tattle gets the time-out/punishment. No tattle-tales allowed! Just another motivation for them to give a second thought to bothering you.

~Kerry

Eve 5 years ago

I love this post! I have a 9.5 month old boy. I ignore him and he’s awesome for it! People are always telling me he’s such a good baby and he’s so content. Well, it’s because I taught him to self-soothe, put himself to sleep and play quietly on the floor while mommy reads or blogs.

I think you’re right on and Madge can go back to the cave she calls home!

Andrea 5 years ago

Great post.

Hard for me to believe that you are being criticized for giving your kids the opportunity to develop their autonomy, self control, self-discipline and good manners…. but what do I know? I think they ought to be allowed (even ‘expected’) to work for things and *gasp* even FAIL at something once in a while….

Brittany at Mommy Words 5 years ago

I am mastering this art myself. If only I didn’t keep having these babies who can’t play by themselves! We are close though. With all the gates up, even my almost 1 year old plays with her 2 and 4 year old siblings. We are like you – no TV, no video games and yes, we will watch the nightly shows they put on but we are not there through the entire preparation. It is awesome to hear them planning their outfits and lining up their audience and getting the “snacks” ready for the VIP guests (that would be me and Ross – I taught them this and it stuck ;)) Play play and more play and without us they actually use their toys!

Thanks for saying it out loud. They do not need us for everything. Their little imaginations need to do some hard work on their own and I really believe their brains work hard when they play.

BTW I can’t wait for our kids to actually meet. And play alone. While we have a drink.

Evelyn Cooper 5 years ago

Our sons are 12 and 14. They get along great…purely because of my “if you aren’t bleeding, then you need to figure it out” parenting philosophy. Never a problem at school or in public – which obviously makes me a horrible parent. I love this post. I AM this post.

karen 5 years ago

Madge is clearly clueless.

A little benign neglect is a very good thing. Sure beats helicopter parenting when it comes to raising confident and self-reliant kids.

Shash 5 years ago

I agree totally, I am so not a “helicopter parent”! – love that term & @Belgium, you’re right, it’s teaching self-reliance but also conflict resolution. Too many kids think they are the center of the universe – only to be devastated when they find out that they’re not.

When I was a kid, we left the house in the morning and returned when it was dusk. If you needed to come home before that, Mom would bellow from the front porch, in all directions, hoping to hit the zone we were in. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say, everyone in my generation (about to be 40 and up) grew up this way and we’re all just fine…. right?! ;-P

Liz 5 years ago

We do a bit of the same. Our house was insanely loud last weekend because we have friends who will not do this. What this meant was 4 children under the age of 5 running around our very small downstairs, when they could have been upstairs in the carpeted (with the thickest padding they had to cut down on noise) kids’ room. It was a very loud, distracting day.

Elaine 5 years ago

Agreed! I’m actually doing this AS I type my comment. 😉 The two littles are playing together beside me and even squabbling a little but most of the time (and as long as they are not hurting each other) I let them figure it out on their own.

And now I’m reconsidering a two-story house. Would be nice to just send ’em upstairs once and while!

Also, I’m glad to live somewhere with a warmer climate where my kids can definitely get outside almost every day in some way to have some play time. It’s good for ALL of us. :)

Happy New Year, by the way…

Blair@HeirtoBlair 5 years ago

oh, the days of being locked outside in the backyard with my brothers so my mother could do chores.

Honestly? Greatest memories of my life.

Ally 5 years ago

What? Kids that don’t need constant adult entertainment? That don’t need electronics or television? How dare you raise children that can use those brilliant little minds for imaginative PLAY (as a child is SUPPOSED to do!) Applause to you!

Nikki 5 years ago

I love this post. I “ignore” my child too in the evenings, he is the only child but when he goes upstairs with us he will go in his room and play by himself. My hubby and I will check on him or he will run in and show us something he is doing and run back in. I think all kids need that alone time…or brother/sister time…just like us adults need a break too! :)

Kristen Shear 5 years ago

Ha ha! Great post. So glad I’m not the only one in this boat. Kids need time to themselves and I’m more than happy to give it to them.

Kelley 5 years ago

“FLIGGERING”! LOVE IT! Gonna use it! Thanks!

alyson: common sense, dancing 5 years ago

You are so spot on.

We’ve got four, and although they are older now, when it was bedtime we said goodnight, put them in their rooms and left them alone. Sometimes they would scurry between each others’ rooms, sometimes they wouldn’t — they’d just hang out and play, or do whatever….

I’m a Parent Educator for a program called Redirecting Your Children’s Behavior, and parents would say to me, “But you’re children aren’t sleeping!” and I’d say, “I do not care what they are doing in their rooms as long as they are relatively quiet. They could swing from the ceiling fans, it doesn’t matter as long as they are in their rooms.” Because really, who among us goes to our bedrooms, says goodnight and turns off the light to go to sleep? More than that goes on in my room before I go to sleep!

Self-calming, self-reliance, negotiations, refereeing — all great stuff that don’t get learned if we as parents don’t ignore them now and then….

Amen.

Erica M 5 years ago

I call my ignoring/teaching self-reliance napping, drinking and watching The Wire. It works so well, I should write a book. Thanks for validating my parenting!

Miranda 5 years ago

This is so what I’ve been doing with my child! I’m glad to know I’m not alone. I’m a teacher, so when I’m home with him on breaks, we spend a great deal of time together. Some of that time is spent with him playing alone while I watch out of the corner of my eye. He is happy and content and very often does not want to play with me anyway. His blocks are WAY more entertaining than his Mama. He’ll bring me books to read and I’ll read them to him, but when the toys are out? Yeah, I cease to exist. And I’m okay with that.

Avon Seattle 5 years ago

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.

HaB 5 years ago

I have one child. She plays quite well on her own and is very good at entertaining herself. Which, is a GODSEND some days after a very long 8 hour work day and 25 minute commute.

Oh, and I’m not ignoring her – I prefer to say that I am fostering creative independence.

Rachel 5 years ago

I started ignoring my son once I discovered that when he was quiet and playing well the longer I did my own thing the longer that happened. He isn’t a tattler, he doesn’t require my help often and he plays for hours uninterrupted.
I have friends who complain that their children can’t play by there selves my advice is ignore them. They think I’m crazy. Jokes on them because I’m writing this comment drinking my coffee while its still hot and my kids are happily playing.

Kate Coveny Hood 5 years ago

This makes me feel better since I do many of the same things…

Everything you say here is almost like the modern day equivalent of locking the kids outside for five hours while you clean the house and make dinner. While the locking children outside thing doesn’t really work for me, the idea of making them fend for themselves a little bit more and develop some creative play skills is something I do think about (when I’m feeling guilty about ignoring them).

I also think it’s important to let them take some risks. I hear way too much “careful – that’s very dangerous” on the playground. I advise caution and act as a “spotter” just as often as any other mom – but I also try not to instill fear and anxiety. This is actually good for gross motor skill development. Apparently – my children have freakishly good gross motor skills for their age. I always say that other mothers sit at tables with their children doing intellectually stimulating crafts – and I just let mine climb on the furniture…but there is some value in letting them run a little wild.

AND I think it’s important to teach your children to respect your belongings. Keeping some breakables out and explaining that certain areas are not for play teaches them to NOT treat the world as their personal playground, They also develop more of an appreciation for nice things (which I admit, may not be a huge priority for everyone even though it is for me). Maybe the heirloom Limoges should stay tucked away while our kids are very little…but they don’t know the difference. Pretty but replaceable objets work just as well.

And now I’m talking about something completely different…Sorry. I liked this one a lot!

Bonnie 5 years ago

Oh and confidence, independence, self esteem, social skills, conflict resolution, responsibility, all things I am confident have developed from having the opportunity to just be your unstructured self.

Beth 5 years ago

Good thing I am already sterilized.

In our home: the time is different (late afternoon afters school-homework-around dinnertime until my husband gets home around 7PM) and there are certain things that do require my intervention such as making dinner and checking homework. But other than that, I am working at my kitchen table and they are playing unsupervised.

Jenifer 5 years ago

Obviously Madge never learned the art of ignoring because she’s still adding her 2¢ after she promised she’d never again read Jill’s blog.
I say from now on we treat Bitter Betty, I mean Madge as we would our kids and IGNORE HER..period!

Sera 5 years ago

@Madge may I suggest getting a life? We don’t ignore our kids, she merely is pointing out that sometimes the less interference kids have when it comes to nurturing their imagination and their willingness to play is to ignore them. You’re a huge bitch for even mentioning serialization who says that????

Great post I ‘ignore’ my 15 month old because he’s much happier playing trucks by himself and babbling away to me while I get my housework done

Zee 5 years ago

I have seven children. My boys are 18, 15, 13 and 4. My girls are 17 and 13 (twins). If I was one of those helicopter parents I’d never find time to use the bathroom, never mind cook, clean, read, shop, spend time with hubby, or the million and one other things that we parents do on a daily basis.

MyDiaperDiaries 5 years ago

Hey SM,

We do the same thing… They are only 2, 2 and 9 so it has to be supervised downstairs… However, I suspect over the next few years, it will morph into upstairs alone playing. Have another baby due next week and I am looking forward to the time in 4-5 years when the little ones are able to play as yours do while mommy has her BABA downstairs. LOL WIne time is an coveted hour at our house and with 3 almost 4 kids- it’s a busy household. NO one goes to bed before 10-11 in our house. We get a lot of shit for that but quite frankly, I have the healthiest, happiest, most beautiful children – must be doing something right! :)
Great post, nice to hear a mom of like mindedness.
Tracy
http://www.mydiaperdiaries.com

Holly Taylor 5 years ago

OH MY I love this post! Thank you for that! I 100% agree with everything you said and my gutt always tells me to go with that. Leave them alone, stop engaging in everything they say and do, and for heavens sake when they are playing quietly with each other just BUTT out and take some much needed time for yourself. But my guilt and comparsion to others often wins and I half hearted, somewhat resentful do engage and butt in.
So thanks for the reminder. I read a great article in Time mag a year or so ago about helicopter parents and why we should all try not to be. It was a wonderful reminder sometimes great parenting is simply taking a few steps back.

Bonnie 5 years ago

Three kids here, 11, 7 and 5, and I completely agree. We do enforce lights out at bedtime for the most part, or ours really would play ALL NIGHT, but the general premise of jut letting them be kids is so true. They hardly watch TV or play video games, and most of what they do and play with is “unplugged”. Not because it’s militantly regulated, but because it’s always been a here and there activity, and they’re not dependent on it or even really interested. We have never heard any of them say they are bored. This morning before school, one gave her stuffed horse a full grooming including perfume, one sang and drew pictures, one read. They play, together or separately, all day long, pretend play, with toys at times and often without any. They help themselves to the tools and supplies available for creativity too, playdoh, drawing and coloring things, some craft supplies, puzzles, etc. Anywhere we go, they are happy and content and entertain themselves with whatever is around. They each have a structured activity once or twice a week in addition to school, but other than that, they’re free to just be kids, be creative, use their imaginations, and have a whole lot of fun!

Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer) 5 years ago

YesYesYes. Well said. There is indeed an art to it, and I actually don’t want to ignore my son (not most of the time, anyway) — my personality is more naturally the helicopter type. I have to make a conscious decision, but I think knowing I raised an independent, fun, capable human being will make it worth it.

Sterilization, indeed. Gotta love a troll.

Jesika 5 years ago

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. 😉

http://sixdegreesoflove.blogspot.com/

Debbie 5 years ago

I have a one year old son and I let him play in the same room as me but often I am ignoring him. As I am right now :)

I use his play time to do things on my computer. He will sometimes come to me with a book or an owie but most of the time he plays on his own.
(he is currently sitting the wrong way on his car and trying to move)

I have been doing this since he was a couple months old.
I need his nap time to do other things around the house that he just get in my way when I try with him awake.

We already have been getting a lot of compliments on how well he can play on his own or with other kids.
I think this is due to my ignoring him :)

Vinobaby 5 years ago

I have a “lonely only” and none of my friends can believe I don’t have to entertain him all day long. In fact, there are some days when he is off school that I actually forget that he is home for a while as I am reading or writing away because he is playing with himself. Oh wait–that doesn’t sound quite right–he is playing BY himself with Legos and Lincoln logs, blocks and empty toilet paper tubes, creating his own universe out of his growing imagination. Because I make him. My friends think I’m mean. But I’m usually not the one about to tear my hair out because I can’t have one second to myself to have a pee in private. Ha ha.

Monica 5 years ago

Great post. We do the same and the kids are better for it. They are well behaved, interact well with their peers, and are amazingly creative and inventive without me telling them “how” to be so. *Gasp!*

I am glad that Madge posted because she proves the point of this post so well. Madge is clearly one of those hovering helicopter moms who have to “tell” her children how and what to play, direct their activities minute by minute from morning to night, and who lets her children interrupt adult conversation incessantly because they “need” her attention every second of the day. Her children are most likely crying that they are bored without constant adult input and stimulation.

Or she just doesn’t get humor. Who knows?

Samantha 5 years ago

We ignore our children too. Lately, however, there have been riots at the dinner table …it must be their ages or something (9,7 and 3) and those cannot be ignored. I think having them workout their differences among themselves is an important life skill. Fortunately for me, my kids go to bed when we want them to, and they sleep. My 9 year old reads for an hour before going to sleep though, which is okay with me! :)

Life with Kaishon 5 years ago

I think that is the absolute best kind of parenting. I wish I had someone for Kaish to play with! : ) He plays with the neighbor kids and they play weird fighting games. I love it : ) You know, I promote violence whenever possible!

RubberDucky 5 years ago

Cool way to put it! I guess I should get in line for sterilisation too…

SoMo 5 years ago

I think it is ridiculous that we have to reintroduce play to our kids. Leave them the hell alone.
FTR, my husband thinks I’m not paying enough attention. Evidentally, when I gave birth I became a schoolteacher & our house became a classroom. This is only because our kids arent reciting the Declaration of Independence at 2 yrs old, like his friends claim their kids are doing.
And I call ignoring their fights learning conflict resolution.

madmommato4kids 5 years ago

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)

Bridget 5 years ago

My parents had four girls.. I can remember my mom telling us ALL the time.. GO PLAY! And we did! My son is eleven and an only child and I use the other method my mom used to keep her sanity when we complained of ‘being bored’.. I tell him “If you’re so bored, I can find something for you to do.. but you’re not going to like it!” And then I tell him he can do the dishes, vacuum, or some other type of chore.. it works like a charm! He rarely complains of boredom. I think my mom was a genius. And I do spend a LOT of time playing with my son too, but if I have stuff to get done or just want to relax, I know he’ll find something else to do.

Pua 5 years ago

Glad to know I’m not the only one who does this! With my 22 month old I will occasionally play building blocks with her, finger paint or have tea parties, but for the most part we turn on tv for background noise and I let her do what she wants. If she wants me to play, fine, but if not that’s fine too. I find that she is better at playing by herself than some kids who constantly have activities planned for them.

Vinobaby 5 years ago

I have a “lonely only” and none of my friends can believe I don’t have to entertain him all day long. In fact, there are some days when he is off school that I actually forget that he is home for a while as I am reading or writing away because he is playing with himself. Oh wait–that doesn’t sound quite right–he is playing BY himself with Legos and Lincoln logs, blocks and empty toilet paper tubes, creating his own universe out of his growing imagination. Because I make him. My friends think I’m mean. But I’m usually not the one about to tear my hair out because I can’t have one second to myself to have a pee in private. Ha ha.

http://www.vinobaby.blogspot.com

Leslie 5 years ago

I have an 8 yr old who was on only child until just last year. the only time he “plays” with anything is when i send him to his room so he will stop saying “mom” 1000xs. I keep asking myself when he is going to get to the age when he’ll lock himself in there and start ignoring me…. :)

SM 5 years ago

Play is the work of children. I think it is great to develop such independence. But this of course must be balanced with playing with your kids and showing interest in what they love and how they think.

MamaBennie 5 years ago

Dear Madge, you are obviously a miserable human being. If you don’t have something nice to say…..keep it to yourself.

Anyway, even when I do try to interact with my girls….they want no part of it. They enjoy playing with each other. They will be 1 and 3 in March and are each other’s best friend. The only time I worry is when things get extremely quiet because I know there are dangerous shenanigans afoot. Otherwise, they come for me to kiss their boo boos and are on their merry way. I am sure it will be 10 times louder around here once the younger one can talk, but I look forward to watching their imaginations blossom as they grow. I don’t ignore my kids on purpose, they ignore me LOL.

Katherine at Postpartum Progress 5 years ago

I join you in having received comments this week that perhaps I should have been sterilized. Cheers!

And, I completely agree with you.

gossip mom 5 years ago

Isn’t that why your supposed to have more than one? So they can keep each other entertained/free sitter? Or am I doing that wrong also…

Jess 5 years ago

Madge – go crawl into a hole or visit another blog! Fostering a healthy sibling relationship is exceptionally important. They will be better for it – socialized, independent, self-reliant and able to self-soothe. Children pandering for adult attention is both annoying to others and stifling for the child.

TeacherMommy 5 years ago

Amen, sister. Good to know I’m not the only one who thinks this is a damn good idea.

Blair@HeirtoBlair 5 years ago

Amen.

I struggle with this because I get so little time around Harrison, but on weekends, I try to back off every now & then & simply let him be. Let him explore & pretend & figure things out for himself.

By Word of Mouth 5 years ago

Dear From Belgium
Please don’t be shy, we all love you already.
Madge, well, there is little to say to Madge … in fact only very short words come to mind …
Dear Jill – imagine having your kids play with real toys and playing together … and this imagination thing of which you speak … pure genius.
Love
Nicole
xxx

Dolli-Mama 5 years ago

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! :)

Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) 5 years ago

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!

Jessie 5 years ago

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 :)

Monked and Fifed 5 years ago

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!
a.

Cathie 5 years ago

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.

Cat 5 years ago

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.

I’m So Fancy 5 years ago

I say, “let em be!” Of course, when my children are in another room and it suddenly gets very quiet, I get very, very nervous…

From Belgium 5 years ago

You are not ignoring them you are teaching them self reliance. Which is very important.
Ignoring is what you do with Madge.

Gigi 5 years ago

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.”

Madge 5 years ago

Why would you have children, only to ignore them? May I suggest sterilization.