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. I try to take things at the children’s pace if there is no need to rush. I leave plenty of time on the walk to school to allow them to stop and look. I’m not so good at stopping and watching, I need to do that more.

  2. My four children are grown. We did things without video games, computers, cellphones, and TV — and this was before things went crazy. I was criticized by our low-tech home….but my kids were so creative because we took time to just live. They lived in the trees and woods around our home and we took our time. Sometimes I rushed (I am super impatient by nature) and those are the times I regret. It is over like a whirlwind and this is the only time you get with them. Savor and enjoy it.

    • Abbie says...

      Thank you for this!!

  3. I love this post! I am due to have my first baby in February of 2017. As the time nears, I get more and more nervous about how I will be as a mom. I am so work-oriented, that I find myself getting frustrated if I don’t get something done in adequate time. Worst part about that, I work from home. My schedule is still insanely busy working from home, as I have even stricter calendars to keep. I’m so nervous that I’m going to be this way when our sweet baby girl arrives, but this post honestly puts it into perspective how important it is to slow down and take in the beauty of the little human you formed in your body for 9 months! Thank you so much for this perspective.

  4. Excellent post — really resonates with me! So important to slow down and just enjoy your kids being kids. It all goes so fast and one day they’re grown. Thank you for the reminder to slow down for my younger kids!

  5. Lindsay says...

    Yes! I have recently stopped working and have a full time nanny/domestic worker and I STILL find it hard not to be busy. I am trying so hard to unwind, not hurry my child who is only 3 and be patient with her lack of time sense… Why is it so hard! I will get this right, I will persevere and I will slow down to enjoy precious moments with her. I’ve read all the blogs, I know the things you cherish most on your death bed are the special times spent bonding with loved ones, but to actually apply it daily is another story. I am on a minimalist journey though and I will get there one day. Hopefully soon! Thanks for a lovely article and some more motivation.

  6. Brenda says...

    Me and my husband both read and love this article. Where is the bottom photo taken at? It is a very beautiful place.

  7. Stephanie says...

    Love this! We slow parent here…and it’s hard to find friends that do the same. Mom groups in my area just want to run from museum to zoo every week. My husband works from home full time and I stay at home so we’re always together playing, listening to music, going for slow walks on the trail. We always wonder why doesn’t everyone else do this?

  8. 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.

    • I think the key is spending the time with your kids and conversing, not just plopping them in front of media or an electronic device. I like to remember that “today is their day, too” and sometimes they get to create the spontaneous agenda.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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 :)!

  20. 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.

  21. 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!


  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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.

  25. I will soon have a little boy of my own and I can’t wait to give this a try. Great and inspiring advice remember and cherish the little moments because time really does go by too fast.

  26. Mary Beth says...

    Learning this as a grandparent!

    • Abuela says...

      When my now almost 11 year old grandson was 15 mos. or so, he took a liking to an old suitcase with a broken zipper. The suitcase was sitting on its’ feet upright in a corner of my great room, awaiting a trip to the dump. My grandson discovered that he could open the top like a door, which he did. He then proceeded to sit down on the inside, closing “the door” and opening it over and over again. He would laugh to himself, peek out, giggle some more, close “the door”, open it and see if someone could see him….and on, and on. Needless to say, the suitcase did not make it to the dump until the novelty of it wore off many months later. At some point in my younger days, I might have just pitched that suitcase after the first day of play. If I had, I would not have enjoyed secretly observing my grandson’s many, many moments of delight. Nor would the lesson that sometimes the simplest things can entertain in the most unexpected ways be brought home once again.

  27. Stephanie says...

    We are doing this! It’s wonderful…my husband and I both work at home and love every moment together with our baby and two fabulous dogs. We take daily walks…cook together(even lunch)…even play pinball in the middle of the day in our game room. Life is short…enjoy every last drop :-) This is what it’s about.

  28. Jo says...

    Love this. I work long hours most days but am home with my little sons on a Tuesday. I try not to schedule anything much for Tuesday mornings – my 3 year old goes to nursery for 3 hours in the afternoon but they are often so tired from childcare activities that it’s nice to do nothing in the morning. It’s a fine line between space and boredom though – I love the idea of walking round the neighborhood looking at things! My 15 month old stops to look at EVERYTHING (trying to get him anywhere fast is like herding cats!), so maybe I should try this!

  29. Abuela says...

    All five daughters are grown and gone, with homes and families of their own. I was blessed to be able to stay home with my girls, only taking the occasional job as they got older. Since 2005, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to care for a few of my grandkids prior to pre-school. What I have learned as a grandparent is to enjoy watching the amazing little developmental steps they each make on a day by day basis. What is particularly fun is to observe the facial expressions as they realize they have just accomplished something new and then see how they repeat the action over and over and over again until some inner signal goes off and they move on to another hurdle or milestone. My husband is now retired and I am encouraging him to patiently observe, interfering or injecting himself only when absolutely necessary. That, too, has been fun to experience. Taking the time to observe, delighting in the amazing steps infants, toddlers and young children take in their development forces one to slow down perforce. BTW: It’s tough to do this kind of observation with a cellular appendage.

  30. Awww I love this post! II a hugely guilty of always trying to get my son to hurry up but since reading this, I am going to try a bit of slow parenting today. Would love to hear from any of you that try it too? X

  31. Oh yes, this is something I’ve been working on this year. I’ve got two little boys (5 and 3) and the youngest is particularly slow in doing certain things and wanting to stop and examine every leaf/petal/blade of grass.

    It’s funny, since I’ve slowed down a bit I’ve noticed how much my husband tries to hurry every one up! Working on getting him to begin slow parenting.

  32. Been on vacation, but had to catch up on this week’s posts!

    We definitely slow parent! I am on team anxiety girl so being more chill about our parenting, activities and plans makes life so much simpler! I know so many moms that have their little ones in multiple activities and run around all week, and sometimes I feel guilty and think maybe I should do more with Luna or we should sign her up for a, b,c &/or d, but then I snap out of it! They can parent their way and I’ll parent my way. When I see other parents being so frantic, I think it’s insane and I don’t quite get why they are making life harder on themselves. Our kids feed off of our energy so if we are spazzed out then they will too! No thanks! Ever since deciding to be more slow/chill my days with Luna (all day everyday) are so much happier! I think more parents nowadays definitely need to slow their roll…

  33. Kathleen says...

    You are a wise woman! I love this. My babes are grown. But when I look back on the days when they were growing up we had lots of “slow time” where I would savor the moment (& they would have time to be kids). I have no regrets which I am so thankful for. When you are in the midst of child rearing it can be intense, but then in a blink it is over. Savor & enjoy!

  34. We had dinner ready early last night and ate almost an hour before usual. I noticed that my husband (completely out of routine) was telling our son to hurry up and finish eating. We get so used to rushing the kids that we automatically do it when there’s absolutely no reason for it.

    I’ve been working to “live in the moment” a lot lately, and this is great advice to help us parents be just a little bit more PRESENT in our kids’ lives.