Even though we’re on the brink of the midterms, I want to take a break from politics to talk about something that might just be more emotional and more contentious—parenting. Last week, The Atlantic published a fascinating piece by Nate Hilger called “Stop Pretending Intensive Parenting Doesn’t Work.” His thesis was simple: Intensive parenting may be exhausting, and it may be difficult, but it can make a real difference in kids’ lives.
In addition, intensive parenting possesses its own internal (and relentless) logic. When you love your kids—and you have the resources to make meaningful choices—then every fiber in your parental being is telling you to find better schools, live in better neighborhoods, and seek out the best resources for your kids that money can buy.
Yes, you can go too far (and some parents certainly do), but is there a better investment of your time and resources than in your children, the very people you love more than your own lives?
I read about intensive parenting, and it makes intuitive sense. But then so does a different approach. In May, Elliot Haspel wrote in praise of what he called “good enough” parenting. Intensive parenting, he argued, can create exhausted parents and anxious kids. The essence of “good enough” parenting is realizing that there is a “point beyond which attempts at further optimization cause more harm than good.” The “good enough” parent realizes “there are many ways in which kids can have happy childhoods and emerge as healthy, conscientious, successful adults.”
This approach also has its own obvious logic. We all know that our resources—including time, money, and emotions—are finite. Pushing both parent and child carries with it inherent risks. How many burned-out parents do you know? How many stressed-out kids, who strain under the weight of great expectations?