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The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids

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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,019 ratings  ·  193 reviews
This wise and funny book presents a revolutionary yet highly practical approach to childcare: leave them alone.

"The Idle Parent came as a huge relief to the whole family. Suddenly, it was okay to leave the kids to sort it out among themselves. Suddenly, it was okay to be responsibly lazy. This is the most counterintuitive but most helpful and consoling child-raising
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Paperback, 263 pages
Published May 13th 2010 by Tarcherperigee (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  1,019 ratings  ·  193 reviews


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Karen
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone. Especially proudly hardworking people.
I'm giving this 5 stars, not because it is some groundbreaking work of genius, but because I think everyone should read it. It isn't just about parenting; it is generally about breaking out of our Puritan ideals of what life should be like. I enjoyed this because it gave me a sense of validation about my own world view and how I live; others might think this is the worst book ever.

Every time my mother snarks at me about my life being so "easy", as if it is some badge of honor to have made
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Jarkko Laine
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: minimalism, parenting
You don't have to agree with everything in a book for the book to be amazing. In fact, often, the best books are ones that present a mix of strengthening your values by describing them in a clear way and new ideas that force you to question your ways.

Tom Hodgkinson's The Idle Parent does just that -- and after finishing the book, I can't help but love the concept of idle parenting. No, it's not because I want my kids to bring me breakfast to bed, and I'm not even that much into drinking
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Melissa
Mar 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
Initially, I thought to myself, I am going to totally agree with this author. After all, I'm a huge "unhurried child" fan and advocate. I loved the chapter title, Bring Back Child Labor. Funny!

Then, I started reading.

What I couldn't understand is why the author is so fixated with drinking! Hodgkinson continually brings up drinking with good parenting - drink more, give baths tipsy, and on and on. It's almost pushy and it got very weird. Is it okay if parents don't drink? I would say, not for
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Joel
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Expectant Parents
Recommended to Joel by: Mother
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robyn
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I loved the premise - encourage your kids to be more independent, don't overschedule them, make life more enjoyable for them and for you... But most of the suggestions in this book were so unrealistic that reading it began to feel like a waste of time. Many families have two working parents. Most don't live on farms, or start their own local schools in order to encourage a form of "anarchy." And though many of us enjoy a good drink, we don't plan our days ...more
Tanya W
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Great Book!. I'm certain the application of some of the things I'm learning can add to my daily happiness as a parent. This is very well written and easy to read and quite often funny. Tom Hodgkinson draws much of this wisdom from the writing of John Locke (Some Thoughts Concerning Education) and Jacques Rousseau (Emile).

The notes below are for my benefit.. the things that apply to me... quotes, thoughts, and I guess you could say "spoilers".

They're happy because we're happy... Do not suffer.
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Danine
Apr 12, 2013 rated it liked it
It turns out I'm already an idle parent according to Hodgkinson. This book is pretty much common sense. I agreed with some of his perspectives and was like WTF are you thinking on other perspectives. A typical parent book read. I thought it was great how he advocated the rejection of commercialized products. I did not like his perspective on schooling which was anarchistic. He preferred homeschool. I am not against homeschool, but I there are a lot of great teachers out there who must conform to ...more
RH Walters
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An anti-materialist, back-to-nature and the-couch, DIY, pro-sleep, guilt-free guide to enjoying life with kids. Hodgkinson can be evangelical and hypocritical (e.g., nannies), but he freely admits his mistakes and contradictions, and promotes the feeling that mistakes and chaos are okay. Reading other reviews I see that he turns some people off with his lusty endorsement of alcohol and sweets, and admittedly that's part of his charm for me. Lots of good things to quote, but I choose this:
"What
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Jennifer
Frankly, going by his definition, I well out-Idle Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler magazine, as a parent, taken over the whole of my children's lifetimes - no well-thumbed and then renounced "Contented Little Baby"s for me. I have the 'luxury' of having it forced upon me. His description of nightly bath and enforcing an hour a day limit on computer time sound way too much like hard work to me.

He has obviously followed his own dictum and not worked too hard in writing this book. There are many
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Knut
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting, education
Some people don't seem to understand the humorist in Tom Hodgkinson and feel irritated because he e.g. writes that tipsy mothers sitting around a bonfire are great mothers. Those people miss his main message, which contains a universal truth for mankind: loneliness creates sadness.

Loneliness seems to be a paradox to family life, but the modern nuclear family often creates for parents the experience of overwhelming loneliness and a sense of ineptitude to rear one's offspring. I talk out of
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Jenny
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
How nice to be given permission to chill out a little as a parent. We are conditioned to believe that if we are not providing non-stop activities and entertainment for our kids (and loving it) we are failing as parents. But I agree that it's good for kids to be bored sometimes; then they invent their own games. You don't have to be their 24/7 playmate.

I was nodding at all the basic premises of the book: leave your kids alone more so they can exercise their own creativity, work together at home,
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Lisa
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people interested in unorthodox parenting
Tom Hodgkinson has written 2 other books, The Freedom Manifesto and How to be Idle. I have read neither of these books, but I have read The Idle Parent and listened to Hodgkinson on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4I5XI...).

After the writing 2 books, Hodgkinson came to the realization that he better write another book. He took inventory: he enjoys humor and entertaining others; and as a writer, he has many responsibilities dealing with his children that he would like to avoid. He likes
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Sarah
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I confess. I read only half of this book. I fall into the same group as many other reviewers--I both liked and disliked this book.

I loved the premise of the book: let your kids be kids. Let them play in unstructured environments, let them run around outside, turn off the TV, expect them to contribute to the household (in appropriate ways), rely on/support other family members and friends to share the big task of raising kids, etc.

But, I also often found his lofty applications of his
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Penny
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
First off, read the book to the end. I think many of the previous reviews by people who couldn't bring themselves to finish the book may have changed their minds if they could power through a little longer.

In the early chapters, this book sounds pretty ridiculous. The author appears to be condoning honest laziness. He gives the impression that his take on parenting is literally kicking your feet up and doing nothing for your kids. When you get a little further in, the truth is revealed. The
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Kstangl
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
How lovely to read a book that actually makes you feel like you are doing the right thing by leaving your kids to their own devices and lounging on the sofa to read. With Blackhawk parenting run amok, it is a relief to have found a champion for a more hands-off school of parenting. Hodgkinson does offer an interesting examination of how such parenting is ultimately linked to the corporate capitalism. And how many contemporary parenting books quote Locke, Rousseau and DH Lawrence at length? ...more
Jennifer
Aug 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
Maybe 2 stars is too harsh, but I hated to give it 3. I found that the entire time I was reading the book I was making a mental tally in my head of Things I'd Say Amen To versus Things That are Absolutely Ridiculous. The book is not very well researched, other than the author dusting off a few old philosophers' work. There just aren't many facts behind his claims. Much of the book seemed contradictory to me: He lauds laying on the couch with a beer and leaving the kids alone to find things to ...more
Nicole Wagner
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is unique, a breath of fresh air, a hybrid of philosophy and parenting guidance.

The book's writer is a beer-loving, leisure magazine-editing, enlightened Englishman who lives on a farm in Devon with his family. I'm a full-time breadwinner, a corporate peon living and working in a smallish city in midwestern USA, trying to get my family's poop in a group a few weeks ahead of bringing home baby #2.

This was exactly the reassurance-cum-conviction I didn't know I needed. In short: stop
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Andrew Krause
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The rare parenting book that actually makes me excited about having kids. Something's rotten in the state of American parenting, and it could just be the idea of "parenting" itself.
Lyn
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
At first I wondered where this book would go - it sets out in a blokey kind of way extolling the merits of "lie-on-the-couch-and-do-nothing" parenting; but every now and then a gem would be dropped in that kept me reading, so perhaps it was a gimmick to reel in the readers!
Because this book is really a hymn to a simple sort of family life - one where the members make their own entertainment, shut off or get rid of the screens, keep animals, sing, dance, play, garden, cook and read together.
It
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Jonathan-David Jackson
As told in the excellent movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, among the San people of the Kalarahi desert, "nobody would dream of disciplining a child, or even speaking harshly to it". In a natural setting, there's simply no need for parenting as we know it. Our complex modern society has removed us from nature so far that 'parent' must be a full time occupation. That's not what this book says, of course, just my opinion - I'll expand on it in a future blog post, so if you're into that kind of thing ...more
Polly
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found myself agreeing with a lot of the author's ideas, and why wouldn't anyone? This is a great child-rearing manifesto, encouraging you to leave the kids alone so they learn to become more resourceful and ultimately amuse themselves, leaving you more time to sleep and/or drink beer. Does seem more possible if you, like the author can make a living by writing an live on a farm in the countryside but there is still plently to take from it even if this is not your set-up.
Skylar Burris
Jul 06, 2010 marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
Based on the free sample, I think this book is going to confirm me in my own personal parenting philosophy, and so I look forward to reading the rest of it one day. I need printed justifcation for my laziness as a parent. I do get the idea that his little-thought-out anti-capitalism is going to start annoying me further into the book, however. Okay, it's already annoying me 20 pages in. But I think I'll be reading this one anyway.
Amy
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Here is someone else recommending my exact approach to parenting. Of course I loved it.
Taylor Kundel-Gower
Sep 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Okay, I definitely got SOMETHING out of this book and don't regret reading it, but it isn't quite the best parenting book I've ever read, nor is it top five, really. I really liked The Idle Parent Manifesto in the beginning of the book and after reading it, I wrongfully assumed it was going to become a fast favorite. I love the anti-capitalism in this book. The author rips apart the idea of living for money and of exposing your children to the brainwashing of media, advertising, and, yes, even ...more
Joseph Lynn
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Inspiringly irreverant and anti-establishment, Tom Hodgkinson makes the case that parents have another option than the one that seems to be force-fed us by modern capitalistic society. His advice: Work less. Enjoy more. More specifically, his advice to parents is "leave your children alone." Somehow he does not have even one reference to Pink Floyd's The Wall, even in the chapter "Down With School," though it certainly would be appropriate.

His back-to-basics, back-to-nature, back-to-bed
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Alaina
Nov 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is ridiculous. I like the premise of having your own life and giving kids more unstructured time to be kids... but then he loses me.
One of the central arguments - you (especially women) should not work / “become corporate slaves” because you’re just doing it to afford the newest toy for your kid. Just don’t buy the toy, and you won’t need to work! You should be spending that quality time with your kid instead. HOWEVER, Mothers should also not be stay at home moms, because then they
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Stuart
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this in tandem with How to Be Idle and while I liked the overall gist and the anticonsumerism, there's a generational gap between Mr. Hodgkinson and myself that makes his stances somewhat reactionary rather than truly anticonsumerist. There's also a Gen X aversion to politics (he idolizes Penny Rimbaud, but focuses his adulation on Rimbaud's self-sufficient seclusion rather than Rimbaud's work with CRASS) that I find frustrating.

Overall worth a read, I think people worry too much about
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Marie
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
I like the effect his overall parenting attitude has on my parenting, which is so heavily influenced by the times and cultures I am living in. That being said, he contradicts himself a lot when he talks about his experiences supporting his ideas, and he has a lot of ideas and interpretations of behavior that are 100% anecdotal. So when they are contradicted by individuals that are attempting to do some research in other child psych/care books, it is hard to take him as seriously. I appreciate ...more
Juliet Mike
Very irritating. I like the general premise of not doing everything for your children because it makes them lazy, selfish and helpless.
However the suggestions for being an idle parent are ridiculous. Leave your job? Oh , why didn’t I think of that?
Move nearer your work? Oh that’s an easy solution. Get an au pair or a nanny? Yes that’s an option for us all.
Don’t be annoyed if your partner naps while you’re left with the childcare. When you’ve had your third child, dad should piss off to the spare
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Robert Frecer
A slew of contradictory ideas (“family time should be individual” / “take meals together”, “beware of moralists!” / “consumerism is for the weak!”) enthusiastic ravings against “capitalism”, and some really great pieces of hypocrisy (“work less, stay poor” / “buy kids a pony and rabitts and pigs on your big farm”). But they do have some truth and sense to them, nevertheless.

Hodgkinson’s words have to be taken with so many grains of salt - because of the author’s very British way of exaggerating
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Tom Hodgkinson (b. 1968) is a British writer and the editor of The Idler, which he established in 1993 with his friend Gavin Pretor-Pinney. He was educated at Westminster School. He has contributed articles to The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian and The Sunday Times as well as being the author of The Idler spin-off How To Be Idle (2005), How To Be Free (released in the U.S. under the title The ...more
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