Last summer, some of my Creative Writing students always arrived in class nearly falling with exhaustion and were unable to concentrate. Their work standard too suffered as a result. On being asked about it, they explained that they had been enrolled in various kinds of summer classes and activities, back to back, from 8 am to 2 pm, and then again, after lunch, from 3 pm to 7 pm. Vedic Maths, Creative Writing, sports, art, dance – their parents wanted to ‘utilize’ the vacations to the fullest by cramming their kids’ days full to bursting with random activities, without stopping to think whether they suited their kids’ interests or not. As a result, the kids were attending most of them unwillingly, and were so harried and tired that they were not able to do justice to any of them, nor did they understand where their own interests actually lay. I strongly felt that these poor, confused kids seriously needed some Slow Parenting.
However, in today’s world of hustle and bustle, dynamism and ‘go get it’, the very term ‘slow parenting’ seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? In a highly competitive world, where everyone is urging you to be a ‘helicopter parent’, to make your children ‘buck up’ and arrange back to back classes and readymade solutions if you want them to ‘get anywhere’, there comes this concept of selective mentoring – of letting your kids be, and of letting them find their own pace, their own space, and their own equilibrium. And you, as a parent, are left confused about which style of parenting is right for your kid. Right?
Well, just remember the story of the tortoise and the hare and how the tortoise, the slowest of all animals, won the race against the hare, who is one of the fastest because the hare stopped to rest and fell asleep just short of the finishing line. In real life too, tortoises are likely to win in the long run, because the hares, having too much to handle at too fast a pace, are liable to burn out early.
But, you might argue, the tortoises rarely have cases full of high achiever trophies and a string of accomplishments to their credit. The number and range of their trophies and medals can usually be counted on the fingers of one hand. How can they compare with the brilliant hares? I’d say before you make up your minds about which style of parenting to adopt, just take a look at some of the advantages of slow parenting, or ‘simplicity parenting’ as it is also called:
1. Selective Activities
The philosophy of slow parenting aims at reining in the breakneck pace of life which, some schools of thought believe, is to some extent responsible for the increasing incidence of neurological conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, and autism. It advocates in-depth nurturing of children through appropriate modes of play, toys, access to nature and scheduled activities so that kids can be immersed in the learning processes at their own pace and according to their own inclination.
Just consider: cows, goats, horses, elephants and ducks have their own unique qualities and their own unique contributions to make. But if they were all to be raced around a track with a stick to their backs, everyone except the horses would end up with mental confusions and dysfunctionalities, for being made to do things against their natural abilities and inclinations. Thus, slow parenting is about taking the time to identify your kids’ unique talents and interests, and nurturing them at a comfortable pace for the greatest benefit in the long run.
2. Reordering Of Priorities
Slow parenting aims for the goal of allowing children to be happy and satisfied with their own achievements, even though this may not make them the wealthiest or most famous. Such parents focus on providing extra classes and other support systems with a view to nurturing their child’s true personality and talents, instead of solely material success. The opposing view is that such children are disadvantaged because their parents do not provide as many learning opportunities as helicopter parents do. However, proponents of slow parenting suggest that children of helicopter parents remain confused about what they themselves want in life and are unable to cope with the unpredictability of the real world. They expect readymade solutions to everything or end up complaining about unfairness.
3. Focus On Healthy Play Habits
Healthy play habits are a cornerstone of slow parenting. Playing with peers is one of the greatest joys of childhood and is, besides, an excellent way to explore and discover life and their abilities at their own pace. The necessity of playing for children is also derived from its interactive nature. Unlike television and other electronic gadgetry, which usually occupy much of the kids’ time without constructive input, play encourages human contact and evolution of ideas as well as social, emotional and cognitive skills. Getting your kids off the television and onto the playing field is what slow parenting advocates.
4. Safety And The Importance Of Facing Risk
It is unarguable that everyday life does contain risk. Thus, proponents of slow parenting maintain that children must be allowed to face risks, as this would enable them to develop a healthy understanding of risks and uncertainties and develop attitudes and skills to deal with them. Recent studies have highlighted how a fast-paced and consumerist lifestyle has emphasized the fear of physical harm and the subsequent emotional and social damage to children.
5. Family Bonding As The Basis Of Resilience
Slow parenting, by seeking to help kids develop in an intuitive way, in line with their own nature, helps kids to grow into resilient individuals who can handle most situations in life and are centered and grounded in their own capabilities and confidence. Family bonding – eating dinner together, spending time together on a regular basis – is an essential practice as it gives the kids a core of strength that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives!