Trying Out Slow Parenting


After work and on the weekends, I often take our boys on neighborhood adventures — to the playground, to the carousel, to the bookstore, to the deli to get popsicles. And, even though these outings are fun, I’ve found that, en route, I’m constantly calling after them: “Hurry up, sweetie!” “Let’s go!” “Keep walking!” “Come on, honey, follow me!”

One recent evening, I even challenged myself not to tell them any instructions for the next minute. And it made me realize how often I did — 60 seconds was hard to get through! The funny thing is, usually we’re not even in a rush. As an adult, I just move at a faster pace than they do, and I’m also not great, generally, at relaxing, even on my own time. So, when Anton stops to examine a bicycle pedal or spots an ant on the ground or Toby walks slowly and dreamily down the block, I instinctively tell them to c’mon and come along.

The other day, I read a Boston Globe article about slow parenting, and it really resonated with me:

“I encourage parents to take some time to just watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack,” [John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent] says. “Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace”…

“We don’t overschedule ourselves. My husband and I spend lots of time at home. My kids dig in the dirt and ride bikes, we blow bubbles and go to the beach,” says [Lindsay Miller, a mother of three boys, ages 2, 4, and 7]…

“These days when everyone is so busy, we need to be intentional about making space for family time…” Family time, says Contey [cofounder of Slow Family Living] is different for all of us. “You might say, ‘we’re all here on Thursday mornings, so let’s make a leisurely pancake breakfast’; or one night a week take a walk in the dark before bed. Something like that can feel really special and the kids will remember it as they get older”…

I loved that line about simply watching your children. The other day, the boys were taking a bath, and instead of cleaning up the room or scrubbing them down, I decided to just look at them. I noticed how Anton’s hair sticks out to each side, making him look like Doc from Back to the Future. And Toby was softly humming a tune, which I didn’t recognize at first, but then realized was “So Long, Farewell” from the Sound of Music. (“And you and you and you!”) And their round bellies and soft cheeks and serious focus on bath toys broke my heart from the sweetness. And I could have just as easily missed it!

My approach has typically been to squeeze in fun outings with them, especially if I’ve been at work all day. But maybe it’s nice sometimes to not do anything.

This month, I’m inspired to slow down and let the boys take the lead. Maybe we’ll skip a carousel excursion and instead just walk around the block as slowly as they’d like. Maybe we’ll take an hour! We’ll notice little things (like those fascinating bike pedals) and say hi to neighbors and maybe turn around and sit on a bench and NOT, under any circumstances, hurry up.

What about you? Do you factor in slow-paced time with your little ones? It’s not a groundbreaking realization, but it feels like it in the moment.


P.S. An outdoors challenge, and our vacation on Fire Island last summer felt like slow parenting, as vacations sometimes do!

(Top photo by Kendra Smoot; bottom photo by Stephanie Congdon Barnes/Little Birds)

  1. Love this post! Now I don’t feel bad for the days that we just hang out doing nothing in particular. To be honest I love this slow parenting but sometimes I get worried if I’m just being lazy not wanting to do more.

  2. rita says...

    It is interesting that the more older my son is, the more he needs slowing down. We rarely do something special after preschool and on weekends: maybe some playground, or some short playdate, but usually we just go home and hang out together. And it feels great!

  3. Sally says...

    Love this post! Thanks for reminding us how special doing nothing can be! My kids are now in their late 20s, but some of my most treasured memories are of watching them do — well, nothing! Those sweet moments were always full of innocence, imagination, playfulness, laughter, and surprise. This post also reminds me of two lovely children’s books: “Nothing to Do” by Douglas Wood and Wendy Anderson Halperin and “Let’s Do Nothing” by Tony Fucile. Very fun to share with kids.

  4. Annette says...

    This a wonderful! I will pass this along to my daughters who are raising my grandchildren. The best advice I ever received as a young parent came from my mom who told me “you don’t need a lot of money to have fun and raise happy children”. She told me to do things they will remember, like going for a walk in the dark, looking at the stars and watching the boats go through the drawbridge. These are the things, she told me, that your kids will remember. And she was right.

  5. Thank you for the reminder! I am one who easily gets sucked into the “GO!GO!GO!” and forget to enjoy all the precious moments along the journey. I need to print this and hang it on my fridge!

  6. Lily says...

    As I am reading this article I am exactly doing this, I watch and hear my daughter play. I’m a rather lazy person by nature and being a parent I see it as an advantage. I am also blessed for not having to work and I am a stay at home mum for almost 5 years. Of course I have things to do and nobody can do what he wants all the time but I understand myself as a slow parenting mum and I am grateful for all the tiny moments I notice.

  7. Sondra stepp says...

    I love this article. I have 2 small boys and feel as though I am always rushing. It nice to slow down and watch their cute little faces and realize how blessed I am to have two gifts from god.

  8. Lisa C says...

    i really hope that you are still blogging by the time i have kids! i’m still far off, but your posts make me so excited and calm about babies. I look forward to savouring every moment when the time comes, and you do a good job at reminding moms to do just that.

  9. I always felt like I was quite a chilled mummy, but I did this the other day, I took notice of everytime I said ‘come on, hurry up, we’re going to be late’ and most of the time we’re not going to be late, I just want them to go faster! I do have a few hang ups with slow parenting. If I did everything at the kids speed, I and i’m sure most people would get nothing done, which on the odd day is lovely.

  10. yes. yes. yes.
    When I had my children, my manhattan life became al but unbearable which its structures playground outings, enrichment classes, and bags of packed snacks. We embarked for the “suburbs” of Ditmas Park brooklyn and now our weekends consist of opening the back door and having adventures in our back yard. That shift from herding kids around on my schedule to allowing them to take the lead has transformed our lives. My precious weekends feel expansive rather than harried and we are much closer as a family.

  11. I love this article!
    I read it a few weeks ago and it’s been bouncing around inside my head since then.
    On the weekend my girls and I were walking back from the park and they were wandering off the path to pick up branches and look at different plants and my first reaction was to say “Keep on walking” “Let’s get home”, but then I thought of this article and just let them continue at their own pace. It took us forever to get home, but we weren’t in a rush and they arrived home more excited to tell their Dad about the things they found on the return journey, than what they did at the park.

  12. Debbie says...

    I love this! I did not practice this as a parent. I am now a grandparent to 4 children age 2 and under. This is how I grand parent, and I LOVE it. Maybe that is why grandparenting is so fun without the worries that I had as a parent. I just enjoy that bug as much as they do! What a precious discovery you’ve had :)!

  13. This article was sent to me 7 times in a day. People loved this post I did for though I was very scared to share it. My business is challenging people to get back to slow everything….or at least closer to it. I will send you an email as well but cannot wait to hear how this month of just being bored and wandering makes you and your family feel. Bravo!

    • Natalie says...

      life is a moment and watching your children grow is the most precious moments. We are so busy to warry and plan for tomorrow then tomorrow comes and we plan and worry for the next tomorrow. The truth is life and most memories are made of today’s and now we just have to remind ourself this every morning.

  14. Prudence Yeo says...

    I don’t have any children yet but I think it’s really cool to be able to slow down and truly enjoy the children, even if there is nothing we are doing in particular! Thanks for sharing this inspiring post!


  15. What a brilliant piece! I’m a mum to three little boys under 5. Life gets quite busy, often just hurrying them along to do basic things so we can get on with something productive for that day. My husband & I end up so flustered even just getting them dressed & fed due to tantrums, objections etc…. I truly feel blessed to have read this post as I now feel responsible to soak in all that craziness & mania. It’s not going to last for ever and I know one day I’ll long to experience it all over again when they boys are too big. Thank you so much. A simple but important skill so many of us will be applying thanks to you.xx

  16. Needed this. I’m always dragging everyone along, worrying about getting somewhere quick enough. Going to try and drink it all in. Thanks Jo x

  17. Raymona says...

    When picking my 2 year old up from daycare sometimes it takes quit a while to get down the stairs in the front of the building. This is where she likes to stop and play peek-a-boo, climb, jump and count, or yell bye to teachers on a playground near by. I learned very quickly to enjoy this time with her and not rush. There isno hurry to get home. I had everything I needed right there.