Definition of benign neglect:
an attitude or policy of ignoring an often delicate or undesirable situation that one is held to be responsible for
I recently saw a funny Facebook rant by a millennial about millennials, apologizing for her generation. My first thought was “helicopter parenting—could have benefitted from a little benign neglect.” It’s a real thing, an actual parenting movement, letting kids make decisions and experience the consequences of those decisions while they still have a safety net. When I was the sole parent of young children, this was the parenting style I inadvertently adopted but like so many other mothers, I had little choice at the time.
So when I read Erika Myers’ insightful article in the January 2013 issue of GOODTHERAPY.org about parenting and the art of benign neglect, I had an aha moment because it made me wonder about our current world. Benign neglect was also a national policy proposed to Nixon in 1969 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, at that time an affairs advisor on Nixon’s staff. He sent Nixon this memo: ”The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of ‘benign neglect.’ The subject has been too much talked about. The forum has been too much taken over to hysterics, paranoids, and boodlers on all sides. We need a period in which progress continues and racial rhetoric fades.”
Of course Nixon chose instead to use racial tensions against the ‘other side’. But, substitute the word ‘racial’ with ‘politics’ , or ‘mommy-shaming’ or whatever crazy-making news crawls across our Facebook feed today. Shouldn’t we all cultivate a little benign neglect in our lives? Could we apply it to our relationships with our families, our mates, our aging parents, our siblings? What about our employees and co-workers? And bosses? Or our town, our state, or our country, our world. In these trying times, where negative politics of every type fill every available media orifice, shouldn’t we choose not to be inundated, maybe practice a little personal ‘’hands off’? I don’t know about you, but I need a break.