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In defense of selfish parenting

My husband and I made a self-preservation list to scrap unsolicited parenting advice early on in our parenting journey. Surprisingly, our decision to (literally) throw out most parenting guides has not only preserved our sanity, it’s also benefited our son immensely.

We not-so-jokingly refer to our tactics as “Selfish Parenting”, but on the balance Liam is the one who will probably benefit the most in the long run. Happy parents, it seems, produce happy children. So if you’re losing your mind over unsolicited advice and willing to risk getting the stink-eye from onlookers, I heartily recommend giving Selfish Parenting a go.

Here are 10 practical tips to get you started.

1. Calm the f* down. Selfish parenting is not neglectful parenting. It’s giving your kid the skills and character traits to live in a world that doesn’t revolve around them.

2. E.A.S.Y. does it. Kids thrive with structure, but that doesn’t have to mean you should live and die by the clock. EASY helps you get them in the groove of a predictable pattern, fostering flexibility and freeing you from a strict schedule.

3. Don’t soften the edges of the world. This one comes directly from our pediatrician. Within reason, don’t shield your kid from disappointment, frustration or even not-so-dangerous boo-boos. Learning to scrape up against conflict and hard corners yields lessons that pay off throughout a lifetime.

4. Put that baby on the floor. Scroll Facebook while your newborn hangs out on a blanket, or take a shower while your toddler plays solo in a (very well child-proofed) area. As Dr. Seuss tells us, “Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.” Let your kid practice being comfortable in their own company.

5. Serve them what you’re eating. Let go of the fear that they won’t eat unless you make what they want. You can start this day one of solid food with Baby Led Weaning.

6. Scrap the crap. If it’s not a toy they LOVE, toss or donate. If their stuff is overrunning your house, you are communicating to them that their wants take precedent over the sane functioning of your household.

7. Let go of the need to narrate. Yes, children learn language by engaging with adults talking to them. But Oh. My. Gosh. Talking in monosyllabic sentences for hours on end is a great way for mommy to lose her mind. Being comfortable without constant stimulation is also an important life skill.

8. Invest in friendships, not face time. Give yourself permission to say no to social activities that don’t deepen relationships (hellllloooooo kids’ birthday parties!). Save your time—and your sanity—for an amazing coffee date with that other mom you met in line for soccer sign up. Speaking of extracurriculars…

9. Zealously pursue your own passions. The best way to cultivate well-rounded adult humans is to act like one yourself.

10. Trust yourself. In fact, disregard any of the above. The best person to know how to parent your kid is YOU. Your kids will pick up on your confidence, and learn how to become comfortable trusting their own wisdom. And there’s nothing selfish about teaching them that.

Elizabeth Mount




About Elizabeth Mount

Elizabeth Degi Mount, author, activist and mom extraordinaire, is the executive director of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance. An avid proponent of city living, Mount and her husband lovingly restored a historic row home next to Camden Yards when their son was 6 months old, an insane and ill-advised idea, but one that resulted in a wonderful family home. When she's not chasing her toddler, Elizabeth is most likely hunched over her laptop working finishing her PhD at George Mason University.

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