If uninvolved parenting sounds like a parent who is shrugging responsibility, you read that right. Digging into the common definition, it literally becomes synonymous with the words neglectful parenting, a style characterized by a lack of attentiveness to a child’s needs, lack of expectations about a child’s behavior, lack of guidance and a general lack of interest in your kiddo.
Is it any wonder to YOU, avid readers, of parent wisdom that the children of these uninvolved parents grow up looking for other role models (which usually doesn’t work out in their favor). They also suffer from significantly more mental health illness (especially depression and anxiety), addiction and chronic criminal activity. Many become social misfits beginning in young adulthood.
So, you may be wondering, why would a parent want to become an uninvolved parent? The answer is…. They really don’t! This is not a role that parents actively choose. It’s a role that chooses them.
I recently hired a young woman who is kind and graceful. I’m quite fond of her. She is in her early forties, and if you string together her past stumblings, you might question my judgement in hiring her to begin with. What I see in her is a strong desire to overcome her past. After four months of working together she sent me a handwritten card expressing that I was the first woman mentor she had ever admired and chosen as a role model: one who listened to her, consoled her, had grace with her…and praised her for her worthiness. I was blown away! When I explored her sentiments, she told me that she’d grown up with a roof over her head, but that was about it. She was raised by a single mom without her dad in the picture. In her words: “My mom, was just sort of detached and incapable of discussing any emotions….ever! In fact, they didn’t seem to notice that I had any emotions either—even when my life was spinning out of control.”
A story like this might leave you wondering WHY? But before you succumb to the easy temptation of judging or blaming, consider the many possibilities. Uninvolved parents might themselves be suffering from significant clinical depression or another mental illness. Or perhaps it’s due to the disease of drug dependency, to a mind-numbing substance that feels to them like their life depends on it, above all else. This can result from legal recreational drugs like alcohol or weed, prescription mind-altering drugs like pain killers, sleeping pills or those prescribed for psychological impairments. The addiction can also be from illegal street drugs that have them scrambling for money to maintain supply. It these cases, kids just get in the way.
Another possibility is that uninvolved parents mimicking a family of origin pattern. Maybe they themselves grew up this way, with no parenting role model of her own. The continual challenge is not to judge others until you have walked in their shoes.
Certainly, all these issues deserve more feet-on-the-street treatment strategies. They are increasingly hard to come by as the need is growing. (I hailed an Uber today where the driver quit his day job as a substance abuse recovery instructor to drive Uber full-time because he was making $15.60 an hour and literally couldn’t pay his bills.)
I recently launched a new book called Brave Parent: Raising Healthy, Happy Kids (against all odds) in Today’s World. Becoming a Brave Parent lies in contrast to becoming an uninvolved parent. It is also distinctively different from becoming a helicopter parent, one who hovers, does for, quells all feelings about, assumes responsibility for…their child’s every move.
Brave Parents are willing to learn how best to raise a healthy, happy child, and to practice a measure of resolve. They dig deep for the disciplineto live that truth, despite friend-group tendencies. They keep their eye on the prize, never crumbling over a one-star parent review by all the kids in town (including their own).
In my thirties, I was indelibly influenced by a Rockstar influencer (circa 1992), M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled. Fortunately, I heard him speak just a couple years before I had my son, Hunter. I accepted his mantra “You can make a lot of mistakes with children, and they will likely turn out just fine—as long as you deeply, genuinely love them. Conversely, you can do everything just as you should, following all the ‘best’ parenting rules, but without genuine love, they will be much more likely to fail in life.” He further recommended listening to your child, as an act of love. When your kiddo feels heard and understood, no matter what decision you make, it will ultimately register as one conspiring for their best.
In that light, I encourage you to assist all uninvolved parents, in getting some help. By virtue of their role as a parent, it becomes a moral and ethical responsibly to fix this.
When it comes to emotional health, most parents seek common goals. To grow emotionally healthy children, each with the confidence to chart his or her own unique course, to establish and maintain positive relationships, to develop the ability to consistently make responsible decisions, and to dodge the bullets of addiction and/or mental illness.
Here’s the truth: kids thrive when they’re given limits, daily structure, and clear expectations. They want to be held accountable to a structure, even when they complain about it. Consistently living within the reasonable boundaries that you set forth, it teaches children how to be better citizens and how not to lie, cheat, or steal from one other. You can help them build integrity and moral character if you are a parent who walks the talk—living your integrity and moral responsibility to others.
Your kids really do need you to model self-care and self-love. That means continually growing your self-awareness, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance. Why? Because you’re worth it. And… because you cannot pour from an empty vessel.