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‘Bare Minimum Parenting’ defends laid-back approach to kids

‘Bare Minimum Parenting’ defends laid-back approach to kids
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When a Missouri mom’s 16-year-old son was cut from his school’s varsity soccer team last month, she filed a lawsuit, claiming discrimination.

The suit has since been dropped — a civil-rights complaint against the school is being pursued instead — but it still shows just how far parents will go in an effort to ensure their kids’ success.

The new book “Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child” (BenBella Books) questions this impulse. It’s written not just for Missouri moms with legal trigger fingers, but any parent who dreams their child is destined for greatness. (In other words, every parent who’s ever lived.)

Deep down, we all secretly hope our kid will become the next Einstein or Mozart — and will do anything to help achieve it. But as “Bare Minimum” author James Breakwell, a comedy writer and father of four girls, reminds us, it’s probably not going to happen. “We’re all headed for mediocrity,” he writes. “Some people just waste time and effort struggling against the inevitable. Spare your kid years of heartbreak and let them be average from the get-go.”

Breakwell builds a compelling case: Whatever you do for your children, no matter how hard you push or how much you spend or how many advantages you give them, it won’t make a difference.

“It’s not about neglecting your child,” he tells The Post. “It’s about not pointlessly overachieving.” He’s also not a fan of parenting science. “I’ve never been in a situation where I thought, ‘Boy, if I just had a Ph.D. in child psychology, I could nail this.’”

Breakwell’s message signals a backlash to the helicopter parenting trend symbolized by the 2011 book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” which advocated a vigilant, hyper-controlling child-rearing style. In the last six months, two other parenting books have also encouraged a more laid-back approach: “How to be a Happier Parent” by KJ Dell’Antonia, which implores parents to “do more by doing less,” and “Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear,” by Kim Brooks, who was charged with delinquency of a minor after leaving her 4-year-old son in a car unattended.

Recent studies have shown that a worrying parent could ultimately be doing more harm than good, introducing children to anxiety rather than sheltering them from it. A 2015 report, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that a mother’s stress is associated with more emotional and behavioral problems among children and adolescents. “Parents have less capacity for supportive parenting when distressed,” says study co-author Melissa A. Milkie, a sociologist at the University of Toronto.

Parents “claim they just want their kid to be happy, but that excuse doesn’t hold up,” Breakwell writes, especially when you see how hell-bent parents are to get their kids into an Ivy League college. A 2014 Gallup survey of 30,000 college graduates found that the type of school they attended — large or small, public or private, very selective or less selective — had no impact whatsoever on their feelings of well-being in the world. “Harvard isn’t known for producing cheerful graduates,” Breakwell writes. “Just rich ones.”

What’s more, history is rife with examples of notable thinkers and icons who achieved greatness despite no parental guidance or support whatsoever. George Washington’s mother was famously uninterested in his accomplishments, writing him letters on the front line requesting groceries and even blowing off her son’s inauguration as the first president of the newly independent United States.

“Countless factors played a role in putting that scientist on the podium,” Breakwell writes. “But none of them can be traced back to the ostensibly life-or-death decisions new parents beat themselves up over every day.”

Most of a parent’s efforts will have no long-term impact, he writes. Thinking we need to exert more control is the “ultimate act of narcissism,” Breakwell adds.

Considering how much stress parents put themselves through trying to raise uber-successful kids, a more hands-off philosophy is reassuring — and it might even be an eye-opener for litigious moms who still can’t believe their sons aren’t athletic superstars.

“Here’s a dirty little secret: Your kid isn’t going to make it in the NFL,” Breakwell writes. “Or in the NBA, WNBA or MLB for that matter . . . There’s nothing wrong with not achieving greatness at sports — or greatness at anything else.”



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