"a little benign neglect is good"

I watched this on ABC last night, which was very insightful and confirmed for me why I am reluctant to put my three and a half year old in structured dance classes. I often feel like a bad parent for not enrolling her in everything available in our area. Ballet, jazz, physi, music classes etc. Firstly since I work during the week, it means missing out on a chunk of our weekend. But I was also reminded last night that it is also beneficial to my children to let them play freely and not impose too much structure on them.

At the moment they each go to day care for 2 days a week each. Their centre has a wonderful learning philosophy which centres around self directed play and discovery, while they still learn to be part of a larger group. When they are home with me I am quite often working. I feel guilty that I am at my computer while they are trashing the house. The thing is that they actually really enjoy themselves. Of course they want me to take notice of what they are doing and sometimes take part, but for a great deal of the time they (especially Scarlett who is having a wonderful impact on Xavier) enjoy creating their owns imaginary games with objects from around the house or yard.

While I have often thought that this has been terribly convenient for me, I also know it is really important for their development. I want to raise children who are confident in their own decisions, who are resilient and thoughtful. It’s easy to be idealistic when they are still so young. I hope I have the conviction to live up to my intentions when they are older. The program featured Lenore Skenazy’s talking about her blog post Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone. I admire her for her attitude and hope that I will able to  trust my children enough to let them be so independent at such a young age. That said, I sometime have this strange fear of other people taking my children which will obviously have to be addressed!

My favourite quote in the doco when Hara Estroff Marano when she said “a little benign neglect is good”. That just made my day!

On an outing today, Xavier was unleashed from the pram! He enjoyed his new found freedom and completely impressed me by staying near me and holding my hand when I asked him too. I had expected his to run off and make my day a misery (I was there alone with the two kids), but he didn’t. It taught me a bit of a lesson. If I let them, they might just surprise me! 

2 thoughts on “"a little benign neglect is good"

  1. Agree agree agree!Sapph went to childcare four days a week until school started and it taught her to share; socialise with others, help her friends and carers and to wait her turn. At school the teacher once confided in me that the kids who'd attended childcare (for any length of time) were the ones who coped better with school.We didn't enrol Sapph in any extra-curricular stuff until she was at school and it was just swimming classes for the first couple of years. Even now it's only ever two things so that she's not so busy and over-stimulated that she she's exhausted and assumes that there'll always be some formal structure to entertain her. Shes' been a champion at self-directed play, sewing, art work, reading, imagination, hosting friends and even just a good old laugh with me.

  2. I missed the program, but it looks very interesting, I hope they re-run it. I must admit that my kids spend a lot of time entertaining themselves around the house (and subsequently 'trashing' it. I'm usually busy with housework, or with the baby. I try to do at least one activity with them each day (play dough, craft, drawing, puzzles), but sometimes just don't get the time, and I always feel really slack. Maybe I don't need to!

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