Benign Neglect

Lately I have been receiving emails from mothers who are frustrated with their children’s behaviors and can recount every small thing their child does (or does not do!)  The cycle seems to be a difficult one to break as mother and child get locked into battle positions.

May I suggest something to try? 

Benign neglect.  A tad of benign neglect.  Benign neglect is that art of discernment in parenting; in knowing what really needs your full attention and truly needs to be addressed, but in also knowing what needs to not be seen and what should  have a blind eye on the part of the parent!   It is being fully present yet knowing that the best way to respond at times is not to respond.  For example, the discernment of knowing that your child can come up with a cure for their own boredom, for example,  when you stop drawing such consciousness to it and keep on with your own work whilst being fully present.

Therefore, based upon that, I think one of the best ways to work with benign neglect is rhythm and real work.  Everything does not fall apart when one child falls apart.  That child is loved, but dinner is still served, joy is still there and life is happening, come back and join us, small child.

The other place where benign neglect starts is through your own inner work.   You must carry your own confidence and know that putting every behavior to psychoanalysis is not only unnecessary, but also harmful.   I see so many mothers today putting out fear and anxiety in their parenting.   Sideways parenting through just planting the small seeds of things is ever so much more effective in the long run of parenting.  Think stories, think your own work and space and time.

Give your child space to breathe.  Give them room to make mistakes and to fix those mistakes.  Laugh and find the joy and humor.

Live your life and enjoy it.   Here is a rather old post on the topic of letting go, but I think it still stands:

Many blessings,


10 thoughts on “Benign Neglect

  1. OK, I’m 60 and never had a child to raise, but Thank You for saying this. I remember many times that some little thing was promoted to something bigger by being analyzed and suggestions made to fix it. If left alone, I wouldn’t have felt pressured, and would have continued happily making the occasional mistake.

    Now that I tried to agree, I don’t think I hit it on the head… I think I will re-read your post – it was said much better there.

    My Thanks, Hank

  2. Oh, Carrie, this is so great. This is right where I am, trying to figure out how deal with many annoying behaviors that come up in the day and really just blaming myself for them happening and feeling pretty low. This post gives me many reminders. Especially, “Think stories, think your own work and space and time. Give your child space to breathe. Give them room….” I think this is going to change everything. I feel it inside of me. Thank you and blessings to you, Elizabeth

  3. Hi Carrie
    I love reading your posts.

    I feel as if motherhood is like circling a mountain, I keep on learning (what feels like the same lessons) but when I want to despair I realize that actually the perspective has shifted a little, I am higher on the mountain. Then I know the inner work is paying of. Benign neglect and letting go has been some of my challenges. Here we go once more round the mountain 😉

  4. great! =) I was a perfectionist until I became a mother and realized an uptight spirit reflected in my children. Now I help my two year old manage those same OCD issues in her life! I find myself saying, “It’s OKAY honey” to accidentally spilled milk which used to cause a flood of tears. The other day I spilled my tea and she said, “it’s OTAY mommy! it’s otay!” and proceeded to pat me on the arm. Then she dashed off to the kitchen to get a rag! =) Room for mistakes and learning from them is a life skill!

  5. I thought I was pretty good at benign neglect until high school arrived. I have such a struggle to stand back and let go. She continually demonstrates that she is quite capable when I let go and focus on my own thing. It os hard.

  6. Hi Carrie. I’ve been a subscriber of your blog for a little under a year now and just wanted to thank you for your thoughtful posts. I look forward to reading them each day. I have been especially moved by your posts on the book “Hold Onto Your Kids”. I just purchased the book on Amazon Kindle. It is a book that resonates so deeply with me and I am so grateful that you have brought it to my attention. I’m off now to find the joy and humor today. Many blessings to you.

  7. Another great one Carrie!! I think it is so easy to get pulled into their conflicts and if we don’t get a handle on it when they are young then we won’t have a handle on it when they are teens. They need to resolve things on their own and we need to give them wings, a bit at a time, but wings none the less!


  8. I don’t remember where I saw it first, maybe on a t-shirt for API or something – that a child who feels right, acts right…

  9. Pingback: Benign Neglect in Positive Parenting «

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