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The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids Paperback – May 13, 2010

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Daily Telegraph parenting columnist Hodgkinson, author of How to Be Idle and editor of The Idler magazine, argues for the primary parenting principle of "leave them alone" in this witty, welcome guide to raising happy, self-sufficient children. Beginning with a 21-point manifesto ("We try not to interfere"; "An idle parent is a thrifty parent"; "We reject the inner Puritan"; "We embrace responsibility"), and quoting extensively from such unlikely parenting authorities as Rousseau and D.H. Lawrence (the source of "leave the children alone"), the married father of three explores a range of child-rearing issues, from sleeping and mealtimes to whining, and repeatedly makes a convincing case for the power of letting children be. Citing damage done by overzealous parents, he's critical of television, the Wii, scheduled activities, all toys but the most basic ("simply pluck a branch from a tree"), and anything else--including school--that gets in the way of a child's imagination, sense of freedom, and independence. While his suggestions may seem disquieting, or put well-meaning parents on the defensive, they're grounded in a solid sense of reality, a sincere interest in fulfilling children and parents, and experience: "We wasted hundreds on absurd devices, like the thing that they sit in and use to walk around the room. No: they learn how to walk on their own."
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"The most counterintuitive but most helpful and consoling child-raising manual I've yet read."
--Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrow of Work

"The most easy-to-follow-without-being-made-to-feel-inadequate parenting manifesto ever written. Hodgkinson is right on almost everything"
--The Sunday Times

"Add liberal doses of music, jovial company and deep woods to play in--all central to idle, not to say Taoist, life--and you have a recipes for bright, happy people who with need of neither television nor shrink. Who could ask for more?"
--The Evening Standard

“If you wait long enough, you will find a parenting book that endorses your style of mothering. Mine was just published … the book that argues why laid-back parents raise healthier and happier kids. Appropriately titled, The Idle Parent is a refreshing change to most of the parenting books on the market.”

"Wise, funny, practical and personal, The Idle Parent puts the fun back into parenting."
--Oliver James

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; 1 edition (May 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585428000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585428007
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Writer and editor Tom Hodgkinson cofounded the Idler in 1993. He is the author of two books based on this attitude to life: How to Be Idle, published in 20 countries, and How to Be Free, which takes an anarchic approach to the everyday barriers that come between us and our dreams. He lives in Devon, United Kingdom.

The Idler team created the best-selling and widely imitated Crap Towns I and II.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tom Hodgkinson's "The Idle Parent" is a frustrating mix of refreshingly anarchic parenting advice (relax, leave your kids alone, enjoy the journey) and weirdly didactic philosophical manifesto (quit your job, don't buy anything plastic, reject most societal norms) -- with plenty of tongue-in-cheek satire sprinkled liberally throughout. Hodgkinson is profoundly pro-environment and anti-capitalist, and believes in living a life as carbon-free and detached from The Man as possible -- yet the extent to which he foists his radical beliefs upon readers quickly becomes an irritant. Despite claiming that all Idle Parents should find their own way and create their own rules when it comes to parenting (yahoo!), his rhetorical style doesn't follow his own mandate -- instead, chapter after chapter outlines the way he's creating his own Idle Family (by getting rid of the dishwasher, eliminating "Family Days Out", growing a garden with his kids, etc.) and strongly intimates that unless you do the same, you're not following The Rules of Idle Parenting.

Indeed, by drawing almost exclusively upon his own experiences (which affords him plenty of opportunities for humorous self-denigration), he alienates readers who don't live on a farm in England with easy access to animals and wilderness; ultimately, he fails to provide readers with a balanced sense of their options. Living in an urban environment, for instance, I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to take my kids outdoors to a nearby park -- yet Hodgkinson roundly labels all man-made parks the devil's work (!).
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Englewood Review of Books on June 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
[ This review originally appeared in

I'll admit that I was a little skeptical when I first heard about Tom Hodgkinson's newest book, The Idle Parent. I have appreciated Hodgkinson's work in previous books (e.g., How to be Idle and The Freedom Manifesto) and will occasionally read The Idler, the magazine for which he is the editor, but the idea of idle parenting didn't sit well with me at first, as I have seen far too many self-absorbed, idle parents here in this urban neighborhood who don't care at all where their kids are or what they are doing. However, by the time I had wandered leisurely through the pages of this new book Hodgkinson had won me over.

The roots of this philosophy of idle parenting lie not with any of the familiar parenting gurus of the hour, but with noted enlightenment philosophers Locke and Rousseau (though Hodgkinson is quick to note his points of disagreement). Freedom lies at the heart of Hodgkinson's approach - freedom from the oppressive forces of television, toys, school and other cultural expectations - and indeed one gets the sense, though Hodgkinson himself wouldn't likely use this sort of language, of what a sabbath-infused way of life might look like for families. In a world where the struggle against the oppressive powers of greed, isolation and consumption too often grinds us down, Hodgkinson suggests a life of joy that is marked by virtues that resonate with Christian tradition: simplicity, rest and community. Many readers might prejudge this book, as I admittedly did, as driven more by the vice of sloth than by any virtue, but what Hodgkinson is advocating here is not complete apathy, but rather freedom from over-parenting.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ready Mommy on March 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
Tom Hodgkinson presents a fascinating contradiction: on the one hand, his "idle parenting" school of thought involves minimizing parental burden on a day-to-day basis (e.g., "The problem is that we're putting too much work into parenting, not too little."); on the other, he urges parents to base major life decisions on their children's development ("Better to be penniless and at home than rich and absent, certainly during the first three or four years of each child's life. There will be plenty of time for hard work for you when they grow up."). This seeming ideological conflict permeates his practical advice as well. Designing games that you can play without getting up off the couch sounds great for parental relaxation, but how does getting pets decrease the workload for any parent but the most rural? And therein lies the answer: Hodgkinson lives on a farm. His ruminations about what decisions have worked for his family aren't the value offered. Rather, he suggests that each couple reason to their own policies by applying his overarching ethos: "[l]ower your standards" and encourage children to do things for themselves (brilliantly combined as "[d]o not suffocate them and do not allow yourself to be suffocated").

Unfortunately, this message could have been much better communicated in one tight, funny article - rather than a rambling, uneven book. In particular, I could have done with fewer quotes from Locke and Rousseau; less anti-consumerism and technophobia (I'm also an anti-brand, anti-TV gal, but, "everything that a computer can do can be done with more pleasure by the old ways," really?!?!); more of the dry wit for which Hodgkinson is apparently famous (my favorite line: "You have to have rules, otherwise they will mess up your house.
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