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If your parents were of the 'benign neglect' school of parenting, how do you feel about letting them babysit?

(22 Posts)
JesusInTheCabbageVan Wed 26-Aug-15 17:02:38

My mum was the hands on parent, and I think she was just not very good at assessing risk or at being assertive in situations where she did perceive a risk. Some examples:

Was allowed to play with things like knives, fire, electric drills etc unsupervised from the age of maybe 9 or 10.
They once left me and my sister alone all evening when I was 8 and my sister was 3 (dinner party at their friends' house).
I was allowed to continue playing with my Scalextric after the back came off the plug, even though I occasionally got quite nasty electric shocks.

Various other things too, but that gives you an idea.

They now occasionally babysit for my 3yo DS, and have had him overnight a couple of times. The problem is that even though my mum dotes on him, I can't stop worrying that she will put him in danger without realising. I know it has happened at least once when they let him play alongside the edge of a lake by himself when he was 18m. They realised it was dangerous afterwards when they saw the look on my face and have not done it since... but I can't anticipate everything and point out the dangers to them ahead of time.

There is also a separate issue with my Dad being emotionally abusive towards me when I was a teenager; things like abusive/derogatory language, unpredictable rages, and quite controlling behaviour. I think this is less of a risk as he has mellowed now and I always ask my mum not to leave DS alone with him. However, it is another big worry.

How have others handled situations like this? Am I being unwise to let them babysit, or am I overreacting?

JesusInTheCabbageVan Wed 26-Aug-15 17:05:08

NB just to avoid drip feeding:

We were both asleep when left alone for the evening.
With the lake incident, I get the impression that they were close by but not close enough to have stopped him falling in. And it was a deep lake.

Nanny0gg Wed 26-Aug-15 17:43:01

I wouldn't let them do it.

Not worth the worrying.

loveyoutothemoon Wed 26-Aug-15 17:47:29

No don't give them responsibility. They need to have you around at all times, don't leave your son alone with them.

Twinklestein Wed 26-Aug-15 17:47:42

I'm all for benign neglect but they sound irresponsible.

If they weren't your parents would you consider it?

pocketsaviour Wed 26-Aug-15 18:51:57

I always ask my mum not to leave DS alone with him. However, it is another big worry.

Given her poor risk assessment skills, do you think she adheres to this rule?

Honestly that alone would mean I would never ask them to look after my child for any length of time. If one of the people cannot be left alone with your child, that is not a good environment to put that child in.

TremoloGreen Wed 26-Aug-15 19:15:35

I wouldn't let them look after him in those circumstances, no. PIL are the same, no common sense, no ability to assess risk, and also stupid things, like they won't change nappies because 'there was nowhere to do it' (in pizza express!). I don't want them to feel marginalized and I do want to support dcs relationship with them, but I find what works is letting them take her for short, structured trips out with clear instructions.

So they take her to the park and lunch for a couple of hours, but have a bag packed for them with food dd can eat (allergies) or clear instructions what to order off the menu, an explanation of where the nappy changing facilities are and how to mitigate any dangers - she likes to climb trees, but don't let her climb higher than you can reach her down... etc. Would that work for you?

JesusInTheCabbageVan Wed 26-Aug-15 19:22:33

OK, pretty unanimous!

I don't want to be one of those posters who then come back and say 'but but but...'

Based on those examples, I suppose it does look bad.

I do think my mum adheres to the 'don't leave with dad' rule, as he's not brilliant at caring for small children and would probably struggle if left to it for anything more than a few minutes. Plus, the fact that DS loves spending time alone with them makes me think that things have definitely changed since I was young.

I hope I'm not painting my mum too badly. She is and was incredibly affectionate, kind and patient. I think the main issue may be underconfidence and a kind of 'You know best dear' attitude.

It's just very hard. When he has stayed with them in the past he has always had a wonderful time, been spoiled rotten and been returned perfectly safe and well.

I think you all have a point though.

JesusInTheCabbageVan Wed 26-Aug-15 19:23:55

That is helpful Tremolo, thanks.

Topseyt Wed 26-Aug-15 20:46:34

There is benign neglect and there is irresponsibility. Leaving an 18 month old to play alone by a lake is irresponsible.

I am all for benign neglect myself, but there does have to be age-appropriate supervision.

Mine are no longer of that age-group. I was and still am of the benign neglect school of parenting in as much as I would have left my toddlers watching TV in the living room while I cooked dinner in the kitchen, etc.

I would not, however, have left them alone by water, in the bath or sat in the buggy outside shops (I know it was common in the past though, as my own mother did it with us).

Chottie Wed 26-Aug-15 20:48:18

Sorry, but tbh I would not be able to relax if I left my DC with your parents.....

Wando Wed 26-Aug-15 21:04:35

Shocking and not just the scalextric. I would just not feel comfortable with them with my children.

Wando Wed 26-Aug-15 21:32:00

Reading this again it's amazing you're alive. It's a catalogue of potential disasters!

Smilingforth Wed 26-Aug-15 21:36:30

I guess maybe they have changed. But do you want to take that risk. If the little ones are fast asleep it might be more acceptable as there is less that can go wrong!

JesusInTheCabbageVan Thu 27-Aug-15 19:03:51

More luck than judgement Wando. Just remembered the time we all went for a walk along the train tracks (rural area). This would have been when I was around 5, I think, and my mum was either still pregnant with my sister or had recently had her. We were on the bridge over the road when the train came. No exaggeration (and no, I wasn't in Stand by Me!) I remember very vividly my mum pinning me against the bridge wall with her forearm while the train clattered past.

Also once my dad ran over my sister's foot in the car when she was a toddler. Will have to ask her if she remembers that.

experiencedhider Thu 27-Aug-15 22:18:44

I am in a similar situation OP. I am seen as slightly mad for e.g asking for the IL's pond to be covered for toddler DS. There are many individual examples but, as with your case a lack of ability to properly risk assess lies underneath, bolstered by the"nothing fatal happened to my kids, therefore the way I do things must be fine" mentality. It's a shame, but that fundamental mismatch inclines me to NannyOgg's viewpoint-the worry isn't worth it-certainly not while DS is so small.

QuiteLikely5 Thu 27-Aug-15 22:25:06


I must ask if your parents have a learning disability? Nobody would let their children play with live electrics!

Low IQ combined with abuse? No I just wouldnt do it.

JesusInTheCabbageVan Mon 31-Aug-15 19:06:30

Quite No, it's not that. If I'm honest, I'm not 100% clear on the thinking behind some of the things they let me get up to. It may often just have boiled down to "Well, she didn't die the last time she did it, so..."

TRexingInAsda Mon 31-Aug-15 19:24:00

I'm all for benign neglect as well, but live/broken electrics, deep lakes and just fucking right off for the evening isn't quite benign! I wouldn't let them look after a young child without me at all. Maybe an older child, or preferably two older ones, if I was massively desperate for childcare on the odd occasion.

fiorentina Mon 31-Aug-15 21:21:00

My mother in law fails to appreciate any danger and for that reason I just cannot let her look after DC. She would also drink too much and just cannot relax. I'd feel this way with any friend ,if I couldn't trust them fully I wouldn't leave DC with them.

Atenco Tue 01-Sep-15 03:25:09

Sounds like it would be safer if you visited your parents more with the children and put a stop the babysitting. I too practiced benign neglect, but not at the level your parents did.

Skiptonlass Tue 01-Sep-15 07:12:44

Benign neglect is more 'leave them to it with a watchful eye' in my opinion. We certainly had that growing up, and it was good, but mum would keep a vice-like grip on our little paws by busy roads and water... There's a big difference between letting kids do their own thing within a boundary and exposing them to danger.

Go with your gut on this one, I think. I'm all for kids learning the consequences of, say, pulling the cat's tail, but deep water/live electrics etc is just too far.

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