‘Benign Neglect’ Is the Best Parenting Trend to Emerge in 2024

Full credit to Jennifer Garner

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What’s not to love about Jennifer Garner? She a talented actress, she cooks and she works hard to be a good co-parent. But during a recent interview on Today, she also illuminated her all-star mom status by coining a new phrase to define her personal parenting style: Benign neglect.

Garner explained it as such: “I want to be around. But I also think it’s OK if [my kids] suffer from a little bit of benign neglect.” Then, she expanded on this thought. “Their lives are their own. I’m not trying to live their life and I don’t mind that they see that I love mine.”

In other words, benign neglect isn’t the full-blown opposite of helicopter parenting (we’d call that free range), but it’s absolutely an alternative—and one that we’re dubbing the best parenting trend to emerge in 2024.

Before you get lost in the phrasing, keep in mind: Benign neglect isn’t about neglecting a child’s needs. It’s more about offering permission to ease up on certain parent-child pressures.

Joshua Iwata, CEO of Parent Lab, agrees. “I find the term ‘benign neglect’ amusingly ironic since ‘neglect’ indicates a failure to care for something properly,” he says. “In reality, Jennifer Garner is modeling great parenting and perhaps benign neglect is better explained as ‘nurtured independence.’”

Iwata goes on to say that great parenting boils down to meeting two fundamental needs for our kids—comfort and exploration. “Our job as parents is to be the safe haven that provides both,” he explains. But when we do too much for our kids, we inadvertently communicate that they are incapable of doing things for themselves. “Allowing kids to navigate and overcome challenges, whether it be boredom or learning to tie their shoes, builds self-esteem. We want our children to see us as a source of comfort when needed, not as a crutch that impedes their journey toward self-sufficiency.”

So, how can we model benign neglect IRL? Basically, fight the urge to entertain your offspring 24/7. For younger kids, this means encouraging independent play and an element of choice (let them dress themselves, even if it means they go to school in mismatched leg warmers). For older kids, it’s about stepping back and providing opportunities for them to manage their own time and activities, whether that’s allowing them to walk to the library alone to return a book or resisting the urge to double-check their homework each night.

About the Expert

Joshua Iwata is the CEO of Parent Lab, an industry leader in holistic parenting and developers of Era, a new AI-enhanced app that will offer parents immediate, personalized support based on the distinctive identity of their child.

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Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...