Slow parenting is the resistance from the "over-scheduled child" culture. Its primary focus is to reject the notion that children learn only through organized means. In many ways, it's opposing the helicopter parent. A helicopter parent is over the top in dominating their children's every move. The parent's identity relies so heavily on their children that it suffocates the child's individuality, authenticity, and unique perspective. The parent overschedules and over-involves themselves in all aspects of their children's lives.
That said, slow parenting is not synonymous with passive parenting or, in anyways, hands-off. It's not a call to inaction or sitting around all day. It's observational, it's listening, and it's present.
"Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms. They keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together. They accept that bending over backwards to give children the best of everything may not always be the best policy. Slow parenting means allowing our children to work out who they are rather than what we want them to be." - Carl Honoré, Motherlode, New York Times
Slow-parenting is aligned with a slow-living lifestyle because it's resisting the urge of herd thought. Social media makes it easier than ever to compare, contrast, and judge parenting styles. We're inundated with information on "good" parenting, "perfect" children, "happy" families, and "whole" humans. It's easy to see a parent's identity wholly integrated within their child's appearance, performance, and opportunities. Slow parenting asks us to pause and then to examine the "why" behind our excessive need to "control" childhood. Why does Jay need a perfect ACT score or go to soccer practice five times a week (although he's uninterested in the sport)?
Although slow parenting isn't a popular coined expression, some books align with the idea of slow-parenting through the idea of doing our inner-work as parents.
A shortlist of some incredible resources include: - Crazy Busy - Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. - Interviews and books by Dr. Shefali (The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family) - Fare of the Free Child podcast - Parenting for Liberation podcast and book* - The Call of the Wild and Free
*I've read all books above, but waiting on PFL book to be delivered <3
Although coined in the western world, slow parenting has roots in the parenting styles of indigenous people across the globe. For example, "among the Igbo of Nigeria, for instance, Basden (1966: 65) finds that “from the age of about three years, the Ibo child is reckoned as sufficiently advanced to be left more or less to its own devices. It begins to consort freely with children of its own age or company (otu) and to take its share in work and play.” - Cultural information for education and research, Yale
In the same article, another example of creating space for children to unfold is San (hunter-gatherers) in Southern Africa, where "the relationship between children and adults is easygoing and unselfconscious. Adults do not believe that children should keep to themselves: be seen but not heard. The organization of work, leisure, and living space is such that there is no reason for confining children or excluding them from certain activities. Everyone lives on the flat surface of the ground; hence there is no need to protect children from falls or from becoming entrapped behind doors."
Slow-living parenting doesn't look a certain way at all. In fact, in many ways, it opposes the idea of conformity. It's not a one-size-fits-all. It's taking it moment by moment and reflecting on what your family needs. I recently read an article, "How I’m raising my daughter to be 100 percent, unapologetically Indigenous," and reading this mother's journey towards being reflective of her motherhood is ingrained in the thoughtfulness and rhythm of slow-living parenting.
This summer provides caregivers with the opportunity to create a slow-parenting flow. Creating spaces where we counter the urge to overschedule, push back on the need for constant entertainment, and sit back and observe our children. Just watch them. Permit them to be bored. Empower them to lead when in nature. Let them jump in the puddle and gawk at the bug. Give them chores. Listen to them, eyes focused, phones down, and mouths closed - no correction in grammar, no eye rolls, and no hurried pace. Listen to their full thought. Encourage independent play. And from your observations and conversations, reflect on what works for your family. Slow-parenting doesn't happen at every moment, but when you feel your pace quicken or fall back into mindlessness, chaos - just re-center.