Is Caring Less The Parenting Advice You Need?

Is Caring Less The Parenting Advice You Need?
Photo by Silver Pebble Photography.

Lately, the words “care less” keep coming to my mind when I think about how I’m parenting my children. Before you call me out for some horrible parenting advice, let me explain. I’ve been wondering if by detaching myself from my children I would actually be giving them more freedom. If the intensity of my emotions isn’t projected at them, do they have more space to be who they are? If I take the time to have real communication with them, can I understand them more and allow them to become themselves? I’m getting curious about why I care so deeply about some of the things I’m concerned about when it comes to my children.

Caring So Deeply

Let me give you an example. Over winter break, I took my daughter to a rock climbing gym. She loves climbing and is typically very successful in climbing to the top. We met a friend there, so once the girls were in their harnesses, they started climbing routes. My daughter went about halfway up one, turned around and looked down, and then hopped her way down the wall to the ground. I didn’t think much of it at that moment, but she continued to only make it about halfway up the wall. I approached her and what came out of my mouth was, “Why do you keep quitting?”

There are a variety of things wrong with asking this question at this moment and in this way, but the thing I asked myself is ‘why do I care so much?’ Why do I care if she gets to the top? What will it prove if she reaches the top? Am I going to feel differently about my child if she climbs all the way? Obviously not! There is no worth or merit that comes from the accomplishment. So why do I care?

I think as parents we always want our children to be trying their hardest. We want them to put their best foot forward. We want to teach them lessons in perseverance, determination, and doing hard things. And I don’t think any of that is bad. But I wonder what we’re telling them when we are so wrapped up in what we have deemed to be their success.

For me, success that day was defined by my daughter’s ability to climb to the top of the walls. But I imagine her definition of success was trying hard, climbing, and having fun with her friend. I needed to take a step back and just care a little less.

Since that day at the climbing gym, I have noticed what feels like a million ways I need to care less.

My little girl made a birthday card for my mom and misspelled a word. She scribbled it out and continued on, but I was bothered by it. I think I said something like, “You were so rushed to finish that you made a mistake and now it has this big scribble.” Ugh. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I wanted to shove it all back in. She had made a wonderful creative card that her grandmother was going to absolutely love, scribble or no scribble. Why did I need to even mention it? She was not bothered by it. I needed to care less.

Most mornings, my daughter comes in with clothes that don’t match, a headband that is another color, and a necklace that is a completely different color scheme. I feel the words, “That doesn’t go together” on the tip of my tongue. But these days, I’m actively telling myself to care less. Instead, I ask if she feels good and ready for the day. An enthusiastic “Yes!” is always her response, so she experiences her days in all the colors of the rainbow. And it’s ok. 

Understanding The Connection

When I wonder what is behind this need to be so connected with her, I think of two reasons. Like most parents, I want to see my child succeed and be happy, but I’m learning that my definition of success might be different than hers. I need to look at life through her lens. I need to let her define her success. I don’t think that means I sit on the sidelines and do nothing; rather, I think it means that sometimes I just need to step back and care less.

It seems the best way to accomplish this is through real and honest communication with my child. It means getting really curious about what matters to her. It means allowing her to articulate her dreams, her fears, her heart, and her thoughts. I will need to invite frequent conversation because things change at different ages and stages of life, and honestly, in different moments. This will also allow both of us to learn that people can have different thoughts about something — neither being right or wrong — they are just different. It feels like this is something our world could use a little more of right now. 

The second thing is that, as parents, we can make the mistake of thinking that children are an extension of us. For example, if my child goes to school or church dressed like the rainbow, people are going to think poorly of me. I don’t have that thought consciously, but I think that feeling is down there somewhere. I want to find a way to step back from that belief and recognize that she is her own person. She is capable of making her own decisions and having her own ideas. I can separate us as people and still support her growth. I can remember that anyone else’s opinion of me, my child, and my parenting doesn’t matter. I can find a way to care less about that.

What are some places where you can care less? How can you have open communication with your child?

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Megan Hughes
My family moved to Knoxville in the summer of 2022, and we are enjoying making it feel like home! We love the parks and greenways and have enjoyed visiting all the ice cream shops to find our favorites. (Current fav: Sugar Queen Creamery and UT Creamery). I enjoy college sports and spend a lot of time watching them in person and on TV. I also love words and stories, so you’ll find me with my nose in a book at any free moment. I truly value authentic and vulnerable conversations and I love to visit with new and old friends while we get a coffee (or hot chocolate in my case) and talk about the highs and lows of life.



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