Five golden rules of idle parenting

Laid-back ways to rediscover the pleasures of a simple life

Five golden rules of idle parenting

1. Treat yourself to a lie-in
If you are accustomed to leaping out of bed in the morning in order to get your children dressed and make them breakfast, then you must stop immediately. By doing these things for your children, you are making them dependent on you. You are also in danger of becoming exhausted. The answer is to lie in bed a little longer in the morning. At first, this may not come naturally, so start with something easy, say five minutes. In week two, you can try ten or even 15 minutes. As the time span lengthens, you will find that your children start to learn how to get their own breakfast, find their clothes and dress themselves, thereby decreasing your workload.

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2. Have a good book to hand
Too much infantile company can drive you crazy. You will long for some adult input and crave some intellectual stimulation. The simple solution is to keep a good book on you at all times. You will find that there are lots of little spaces in the day when you can grab a few minutes on that wonderful invention, the park bench, where you can feed your mind with a few lines of choice prose or poetry rather than tales of Thomas The Tank Engine.

3. Train children to serve you
Rather than the parent serving the child, it should be the other way round. As soon as possible, say from two years up, your child should be encouraged to help you around the house. Children can easily hoover, dust, put toys away, lay the table and dry up. It is depressing that the adults of today cannot do half of these things, addicted as we are to the wasteful culture of throwing away and buying new, let alone children. So deprive them of new clothes and new toys and train them to fix the old ones.

4. Keep a hip flask with you
Sometimes a discreet and fortifying sip of brandy is needed to keep up your spirits, particularly during those dull trips to soul-destroying children’s playgrounds.

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5. Have a do-nothing day
Once a week, most probably on a Sunday, follow the custom of the olden days and do as little as possible all day long. Just sit at home. Resist the urge to fill the day with long trips in the car to the zoo, or to visit relatives or some dreaded theme park. Just sit at the kitchen table and see what happens. Preferably, you should switch off the computer and television, too. You will see your children’s resourcefulness start to emerge. They will make things, they will chatter. You will play cards, make models out of cereal boxes, sow seeds in trays.

Tom Hodgkinson is the author of The Idle Parent (Penguin, £8.99)