the pace of parenting

Now that mother’s day is over, it’s interesting to note that the age of the Super Mom may be over too. In a wonderful overview of this trend, Lisa Belkin notes that they have moved past confessing their failures online to embracing a new philosophy called slow parenting.

The term itself is attributed to Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. He doesn’t actually use the term, but the final chapter of his book is called “Raising an Unhurried Child.” And his next book was Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting.

I’ve read Praise, which has chapters on slowing down practically everything, including sex, and Honore is no new age guru. I get the sense that he is a thoughtful journalist trying to describe a cultural wave, and being changed and challenged by the project. He is also a dad who wants to slow down enough to recover his relationship with his own children. He began exploring the movement because he was tempted to read One-Minute Bedtime Stories to his two year old.

In a separate column, Belkin interviews him for the New York Times and he says:

Slow parents understand that child rearing should not be a cross between a competitive sport and product-development. It is not a project; it’s a journey. Slow parenting is about giving kids lots of love and attention with no conditions attached.

He almost had me. The journey image resonates with me. But as sympathetic as I am to the pressure parents may feel to produce perfect kids, there are conditions attached.

Honore also says slow parents “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.”

Amen again. Almost.

Unfortunately “who they are” is little savages. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. What they want is what we want: our own way. And it’s seldom good for us, or for them. (If you don’t believe in total depravity then you have never seen an undisciplined two year old.)

So while I agree that the goal of super moms raising super kids at great financial and psychological expense is unwise, I’m convinced that the real project of parenting is civilizing little savages. And that take more focus and energy than it takes to be the most over-scheduled soccer mom on the planet.

Teaching them to wait their turn and to say please and thank you is the easy part. The tough part is helping them see a world outside themselves, responding with compassion and generosity, and teaching them to see a God above themselves, responding with humility and obedience.

This requires parents to practice these virtues themselves, and teaches a daily discipline of tough, sacrificial love. And we have to depend on the grace of God to do it. Without this, slow parenting could easily become no parenting.

Consider Tom Hodgkinson’s new book, The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids. The cover shows a toddler mixing a drink for his parents, who are sitting around sipping martinis. He is poking fun, and the art is meant to say chill out, which if often good advice. But ultimately his argument is that parents should focus on their own needs and everyone will be happier.

I don’t think so.

As Ted Tripp points out in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, our kids are going to worship something, most likely themselves. Such children are not happy, and neither are their parents.

I think slowing down is a good idea, in parenting and everything else. The frenetic pace of our lives is neither noble or biblical. Parents would all do well to slow down and spend more time with their kids.

But getting out of the rat race is not the same as accepting responsibility. Paying for lessons is not as important as praying for transformation. The folly of man is not the glory of God.

When we see that glory, and our kids see that glory, then we’ve found exactly the right pace.

5 thoughts on “the pace of parenting”

  1. I’m in favor of slowing down in all areas of life. In that respect, Argentina has been good for us. There’s just one area where I’d like to see them speed up a little: customer service! Especially in restaurants 🙂

  2. Yes…bringing our children to the foot of the cross is essential (and very hard to do while living the frantic, frenetic life of a fast-paced family). Simply slowing down won’t change a person’s heart.

    Great post. A friend pointed me to it because she knew I wrote a book on the topic, Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families.

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