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Detached Parenting: The Only Way to Parent

January 31, 2013

baby on grass

The Detached Parenting Movement (trademark pending) was spontaneously founded over a decade ago in St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital at the time of birth of my first child. And my belief in it has grown ever since. At the time of its inception I did not realize I was embarking on a life-long movement, but as I raised my child with a practical, common sense approach that seemed a fairly reasonable way of going about things, I discovered I was an anomaly.

Created out of the belief that parenting is not, nor ever should be, a competitive sport, the Detached Parenting Movement (DPM) sought to promote a more sane, sustainable and healthier parenting alternative for rational people.

But mine was a lonely little movement. Coming into practice just as the helicopter parenting model soared to new heights and swept the nation to even greater levels of hysteria, DPM was largely overlooked. Still, the movement persevered, its dedicated membership (me) determined to keep the cause alive.

I began the movement armed with neither a PhD nor any degrees in child psychology but with something more powerful: A strong conviction and an innate inability to join the rapidly swelling ranks of the helicopter parenting elite.

Following in the footsteps of the Mother of common sense mothering, founder of Free Range Kids and our savior, Lenore Skenazy, DPM sought to build on Skenazy’s notion, the membership convinced parents could do more (or less) depending on how you looked at it.

While Skenazy sought to liberate kids from their sentences of eternal house arrest, suggesting they cast aside their ubiquitous, isolating, lobotomizing electronic devices in favor of actual interactions with other humans in real world settings also known as play, DPM calls for more inaction to be taken on the part of the parents. In short, parents need to be more uninvolved.

Mom & kid on beach

DPM acknowledges Skenazy’s concept of free ranging kids may, at first, be scary. How in God’s name can parents possibly allow their children outside? In broad daylight? To play? Allowing children to roam free in the open green pastures of their manicured suburban subdivisions or neighborhood city sidewalks smacks of sheer lunacy. Playing in the yard of the home to which the parents moved upon having children so the children would have yard in which to play was much too dangerous. Predators abound. Behind every trimmed tree and spirally sculpted shrub, criminals waited for the instant a parent/neighbor/crossing guard/babysitter momentarily cast their gaze aside to snatch kids right from under their noses. Children must be kept safe – inside. Imagination, creativity and independent thought will just have to be sacrificed for the child’s own good.

Leave me alone. I’m busy.

At DPM we (I) understand these concerns, but we (I) don’t see Attachment Parenting as the answer. Using historical evidence of demonstrated effectiveness established over millennia of child rearing as our guide, Detached Parenting believes in the benefits of the absent parent. DPM acts as a refreshing counterbalance to the over-protective, over-parenting, over-wrought, overwhelmed and over-the-top Attachment Parenting model. Detached Parenting, simply put, understands the parenting wheel has already been invented. No need to reinvent.

Recent scientific studies conducted by me back up these historical findings and goes even further. They posit Detached Parenting is the absolute best way to parent. With my own children as blind subjects, the theory has been tested, and we now have living proof it works. By following the Detached Parenting model and allowing kids to freely explore, problem-solve, negotiate, judge, reason, establish rules and compromise without parental intervention we can produce strong, independent, imaginative, creative, self-sufficient, well-adjusted, capable, thinking people.

We’re free!

Gone (soon we/I hope) are the days of the finely-tuned playdate arranged by parents and orchestrated with parent-planned activities to ensure every moment of the fun “play” time with peers is occupied. Gone (soon we/I hope) are the hovering parents to intervene the moment children tire of the inflatable bouncy house rented precisely for the occasion or grow bored of creating decoupage trinket boxes of pressed flowers the host-mother painstakingly prepared for weeks in advance. Gone (soon we/I hope) are the hours spent by parents at little league practices/games followed by soccer practices/games followed by basketball practices/games followed by football practices/games follow by piano lessons/performances followed by dance class/recitals followed by gymnastics followed by voice lessons followed by acting classes, all to keep little Johnny and Jane busy because they don’t know what to do with themselves on their own.

The evidence is clear, my friends. We need to detach. We need to allow our children to develop a brain. We need to let them learn to play again. Because play is how kids learn.

So join me in this fight won’t you? Together we can save the children.

A vote for me is a vote for the Detached Parenting Movement. Please show your support by clicking on circle and voting for my blog – currently in a dead heat at #66. (Moving up. Woo hoo!)


This post initially appeared as a guest post on my good friend Julie’s blog, Life According to Julie. But as founder of the movement I felt it only proper to include the history, philosophy and mission of the movement here, at its original birth place, as well. 

photo credit: Tampa Band Photos via photopin cc
photo credit (top): Seth W. via photopin cc
photo credit: Steve Crane via photopin cc
photo credit (bottom) Flickr/ND Strupler

  1. I’m gonna put up my feet and join the movement by not moving… or something like that. My favorite family activity is when the kids go play in the basement (or backyard).

  2. I could be your number 1 follower. I am a card carrying detachment parent. Now to team up a spread the truth!

  3. Ha ha ha! My son detached himself and moved as far away as he could get. That old umbilical cord stretched as far as it would go!!! (PS I voted!)

  4. Sign me up! You know how magazines always brag how a celebrity is a hands on parent? Whats so great about that? You know who’s the real smart one, the hands off parent. The ones who still have a life and some level of sanity. I strive to be that one day too.

  5. I love Free Range parenting! How are kids supposed to figure things out for themselves if their parents are constantly hovering over them, jumping in every time there’s the littlest issue? Funny post!

  6. I’m a card carrying detachment parent, I wrote a wonderful comment to this but I lost it so you get this… Love your work..

  7. Woot! I wish I’d thought of that term. The AP movement seriously about killed me. I love this!

  8. hahahaha, I love this. My kids want to go outside all the time, but since they still can’t put their shoes on by themselves that’s too much effort me.

  9. Well said. Provide a safe environment and take a couple steps back… Teaching independence is so important.

  10. I’m with you! I mean, probably most moms do some attachment aspects or another, but I love the free range children concept and am always having to rein in my inner helicopter. I wasn’t raised that way, so I don’t know why it’s my default mode. But at least I recognize that it’s silly and don’t let myself do it.

  11. I am often looked at as a bad parent because I don’t hover around my boy and baby proof every little thing in my house to protect/shelter him. I just don’t get it, why is that labeled as bad parenting? What’s good parenting?

  12. Oh, so happy to find this post over at HonestMom. I, too, am a Free Range Parenting fan (in fact, just last week the POLICE came by to ask if that was MY son…riding his bike alone on the bike path 40 yards from the front porch where I was sitting with my coffee). Without Lenore, I would just feel neglectful…it is a joy to find like minded moms out there. We have to LET these kids learn and develop their innate ability to protect themselves. They can’t learn it if we do it for them!

  13. I have to say, I think you have confused Attachment Parenting with Helicopter Parenting crossed with Over-Achieving Mom Syndrome. Either that or I have gravely misdiagnosed myself. I mostly considered myself an AP but am currently regretting some aspects (nursing the 21-mo-old is getting, well, old) but in all seriousness, I hadn’t really wanted to give motherhood a third go-round in the first place. At any rate, I am quite probably one of the laziest parents I know, so regardless of parenting style, I probably wouldn’t be “following” any of them correctly anyway. My kids like their electronics, but they do actually read real books and go outside to play quite a bit, so we have some balance that way.

  14. Love it. I am anxiously awaiting (1) The end of winter so they can go OUTSIDE and (2) my children to get old enough that sitting on my lap is no longer their preferred activity. I aspire to Detached Parenting!

  15. I’m with you! Kids need to be bored sometimes. And they need to know how to get out of sticky situations on their own. And they need to have a sense of independence, so they can grow confident in their own abilities. Etc, etc, etc. I am glad when parents give their kids boundaries, then let the kids free within them. Nice post!

  16. This is a great article. Not too long ago I heard myself say, “No, I don’t feel like worrying about you being around the corner” when my son asked to go to his friends house. I was busy doing something where I couldn’t turn on my bionic ears. I haven’t said no again. 😉 TALU

  17. DMcCormick permalink

    I battle with this all the time. I am the classic paranoid mom. I set boundaries though and let the kids explore and be independent within them. However I don’t think I could ever stomach letting my kids walk around other neighborhoods or down city streets on their own. It scares the poop out of me. lol

  18. In the words of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sallly,
    “YES! YES! YES!”
    Love everything you said and I am On. Board.
    Thanks for linking this up with the TALU!

  19. This is so funny. And I don’t hover around my son at all. Sometimes we do stuff together, and sometimes he does his own thing. He knows he can find me on the couch if he needs me 😉

  20. PS linking from TALU btw

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