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to not understand the whole 'benign neglect' thing?

(110 Posts)
deliverdaniel Wed 22-Mar-17 18:25:07

I've heard the phrase 'benign neglect' on here a lot, often seemingly as a bit of a boast. As in "you are being a helicopter parent, I just let mine get on wtih it, they entertained themselves by making their own board games out of leaves" or whatever.

I would love to parent in this way, and have tried it in sustained form for a few montsh at a time, but find it very hard. If I don't give my kids attention, they kick off, and continually whine for me, get upset, start acting up or in my toddler's case, start trashing things in the house. I find that the more focused attention they get, the better behaved they are. If not they constantly seem desperate for my attention. So how do you actually do the benign neglect thing? Are your children less demanding than mine? Did you only start this when they were older? Do you play with them at all? Or is it really a case of you getting on with your life while they play around you happily?

Any specific tips or advice welcome. Thank you

Semaphorically Wed 22-Mar-17 18:26:51

I think it's easier to benignly neglect older children. My three year old would behave like yours and stalk us if we ignored her.

IamFriedSpam Wed 22-Mar-17 18:27:54

Surely there's a happy medium where each kid gets some one on one attention and high quality family time but without needing to be the centre of your every waking moment. Kids need lots of proper attention (i.e. time where you're actually interacting without reading your phone etc.) but also have to know they're not the centre of the universe and you have other things to do and other interests.

ViolentDelights Wed 22-Mar-17 18:31:20

Well mine are watching tv while I hide sit in the kitchen with a cup of tea before I tackle the bedtime routine. If they wander in they will gently but firmly be told to sod off go back to the living room.

But I did play with them referee a game involving building blocks and cars until someone ruined someone else's tower at which point I said that's enough, sent them to do some reading while I cooked dinner.

I used to regularly let ds watch tv and potter round the secured living room while I attempted to sleep on the sofa when he was a toddler and would wake me on the wrong side of 6am.

Now he is older he makes cereal for himself and his sister while I summon the energy to get out of bed.

deliverdaniel Wed 22-Mar-17 18:38:29

violentdelights yeah mine watch tv too and that keeps them entertained but I'm wondering g about how people get their kids to be self sufficient without TV. Do they do the benign neglect all the time or is it shuttling between focused attention and benign neglect? I always seem to be firefighting somewhere in the middle

sonlypuppyfat Wed 22-Mar-17 18:38:52

Thing is children who are constantly entertained grow up to be disappointed that the rest of the world doesn't worship and obey them

deliverdaniel Wed 22-Mar-17 18:40:03

iamfriedapam thanks- do you do this? Approximately what proportions of focused attention v benign neglect though? How much focused play per day for e.g.? And how much leaving them to get on with it? How old are your kids?

deliverdaniel Wed 22-Mar-17 18:42:08

sonlypuppy yes I agree with this in principle and thought I would be this kind of parent. But find it surprisingly hard to do in practice.

SomethingBorrowed Wed 22-Mar-17 18:44:22

I am not really good at it except for one time during the day, which I worked on since the DT were around 1yo: after giving them breakfast I sit down in the living room with my cup of coffee and tell them now is time for myself, so minimum intervention: if they fight I don't try to understand and take the toy away, if they ask me to bring them something I tell them to wait, etc. basically I supervise but don't get up.
I started with 15min or so, now they are 3yo and it can last for a good 2h (from 2-2.5 yo they started playing together, which helps...).

deliverdaniel Wed 22-Mar-17 18:46:02

somethingborrowed that is great advice. I guess you ahve been doing it for so long they are used to it now? What do you say to them if they ask you to play/ do stuff/ help out? or if it seems like one is hurting the other/ smashing the other's lego etc or a huge fight breaks out?

SomethingBorrowed Wed 22-Mar-17 18:46:56

One thing I read which made sense to me is if you are trying to let them play on their own, talk to them from time to time to say something positive, not just to tell them off. If not they will think the only way to get your attention is to misbehave.

Lelloteddy Wed 22-Mar-17 18:48:22

Benign neglect = wankery modern bollocks.

SomethingBorrowed Wed 22-Mar-17 18:48:45

If they ask I say "you know now I am having my coffee, we will do x later". Or let's put this toy next to me so I remember to play with you as soon as I am finished.

Big fight/violence unfortunately I habe to get up wink

KanyesVest Wed 22-Mar-17 18:50:06

We've got to the point in the last year, since DC turned 4&6 that I can do this a bit more. Tbf, they get on pretty well which helps. I tend to throw them out into the garden when it's dry, or up to their bedrooms when it's raining. They have Lego and various toys in their rooms to play together, and they are good for doing that when they wake early. Ds, who is the younger, can get a bit whiney when DD won't play with him, but I find starting something with him, then leaving him to finish (eg, building Lego at the table then I'll move over and start dinner) is training him a bit. It does take them to get to an age of a bit of self sufficiency before the magic happens though.

BeyondThePage Wed 22-Mar-17 18:52:05

I think a lot of it depends on if you work as well. If you are out all day you want to spend time with the kids when you can - leaves less time for them to bounce off each other, more time as a family.

Some parents do full time "benign" neglect - I hate that, verges on actual neglect - my friend calls it building independence - hmmmmm, or from the outside could be seen as "I'll sit on my butt watching crap TV whilst the kids see to themselves."

arethereanyleftatall Wed 22-Mar-17 18:53:54

I have no qualms saying to my children 'it's my peace and quiet time now. Go and play and I'll be with you when the big hand gets to 5' or whatever. They know they haven't done anything wrong, I'm not cross with them, I just want a cup of tea in peace. I've done that or 'play, chore, p&q' since then we're old enough to play on their own unsupervised (around 18mths I guess when they stop putting stuff in their mouths).

deliverdaniel Wed 22-Mar-17 18:54:14

yes - think teh work thing is def an issue. I pick them up from preschool aftercare at 3.30-4pm and they seem desperate for my attention at that time (and I want to spend time iwht them too)- but then it never seems to transition to that magical independent stuff.

nuttyknitter Wed 22-Mar-17 18:58:23

The transition from dependence to independence is a very gradual process. Children only acquire independent skills if they have as much attention as they need in the early months and years. The more time you invest early on the greater the benefits in the long term.

Sundance01 Wed 22-Mar-17 19:01:59

Benign neglect is really just the way all children were raised until 20 - 30 years ago. Leave them alone to get on with things and only intervene when actions get dangerous, annoying or have longer term consequences.

But also remembering most children played out unsupervised most of the time.

MatildaTheCat Wed 22-Mar-17 19:02:01

Benign neglect was coined as a phrase about the sort of parenting I received in the seventies. Parents did all the basics and more but not involved in the minutiae of daily lives, especially as we got older.

I was way more involved as a parent and took far more interest but compared to some of my friends I'm actively negligent!

However, allowing DC some space to have their own thoughts, choices and even their own fights is no bad thing.

thethoughtfox Wed 22-Mar-17 19:03:40

Benign neglect = wankery modern bollocks.

It's more old style parenting where children aren't the complete focus of family life and are given space to learn how to amuse themselves. It's modern parenting that makes children the focus of everything and isn't always good for them.

It is easier if you have always given your child time to play themselves so it's not something they have to work at.

RupertsMum2 Wed 22-Mar-17 19:04:36

Mine are a good bit older but I find the best way to get some peace is to ask them to do something I know they won't want to do first. So if they say can you do this or that with me I respond by saying "oh yes, no bother, but could you do your piano/cello practice, tidy your room/the other toys first please. Strangely they just drift off and leave me.

deliverdaniel Wed 22-Mar-17 19:06:11

yes- def the way I was broought up too, in the seventies. But for some reason it seems to be really hard to do. Everyone talks about- "oh why are you putting so much effort in- you are helicoptering etc' but actually seems harder to leave them alone than to keep going. Not sure why!

PlayOnWurtz Wed 22-Mar-17 19:11:55

It helps that I like my own space. From when they were small I had no qualms in leaving them on the floor on their play mat while I did other things. Ive always encouraged them to do their own thing, have their own interests and be their own person. Ive also rewarded alone time with mum time. Seems to be working ok.

RhubarbGin Wed 22-Mar-17 19:20:53

Independent play is a really important skill to develop in our children. I have a friend whose 11yo cannot play independently for more than 15 minutes at a time. He has to have an activity planned for him for every waking moment of the day. She is run ragged taking him to clubs after school and at the weekend (two an occasionally three in a day sometimes), or arranging play dates, or getting him to call his friends, and so on, and finds it impossible to have any quality time with her 8yo without the elder child whining.

For me personally, I've always happily carved out some quiet personal time in the hours when my children are around precisely so they know I am not there to serve their every whim, and so that they learn slowly to amuse themselves, but as others have said it's a gradual process that takes years to come to fruition!

In terms of the how, exactly, like others I started with gradual withdrawal - get them started on something and then leave them for ten minutes or so, getting longer each time. Then you can move to delaying tactics, 'yes we'll do x, but in 15/20 minutes after I've done y' e.g. Just keep going, it will come eventually.

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