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The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids [Paperback]

Tom Hodgkinson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Mar 2010

Why can't we just leave our kids alone?

If you've ever wondered why so many of today's children are unhappy, spoilt, stressed and selfish - mini-adults, really - then the answers and the remedy are to be found in The Idle Parent.

Tom Hodgkinson wants us to leave our kids be, to give them the space and time to grow into self-reliant, confident, inquisitive, happy and free people. Full of practical tips of what to do and (more importantly) what not to do, Tom will not only help your kids be happier, but also help you, their parents, live happier and stress-free lives.

Frequently Bought Together

The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids + How To Be Free + How To Be Idle
Price For All Three: £22.17

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  • How To Be Free £7.99
  • How To Be Idle £6.99

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141030356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141030357
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 204,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Hodgkinson was born in 1968 and is the author of How To Be Idle and How To Be Free. He is editor and co-founder of the Idler and contributes to the Guardian, the Sunday Times and the Independent on Sunday. He also imported absinthe for a while. He lives in Devon with his family.

Product Description


`The sort of book which any self-respecting child would wish their parents had read. Gently comedic on the surface, it is a book about serious freedom underneath. Profoundly sane, kind and endearing, it is written with a huge generosity of spirit as an act of family-liberation.' --Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey

'Wise, funny, practical and personal, The Idle Parent puts the fun back into parenting.' Oliver James --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Wise, funny, practical and personal, The Idle Parent puts the fun back into parenting.'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 91 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas but overall, poorly expressed. 3 May 2010
By Kado
I agree with another reviewer here; The Idle Parent is infuriating. It has the potential to be a good read but there are far too many inconsistencies in Hodgkinson's theory. Plus, he has an awkward humour and style of writing, and his name dropping is tedious.

I agree with Hodgkinson's general principle that we should avoid over-parenting and that mindless consumerism is bad for us, however, he struggles to fill a book on this topic. As well, it seems as if he hasn't quite thought through his manifesto; he chooses which rules suit him, whenever it suits him.

Example: in one chapter where he talks at length about how 'childcare' has become outsourced, he warns against the hiring of nannies and talks about how the hiring of theirs was a terrible thing and how they became dependent on her. Yet, in another chapter he recommends hiring a nanny to make life easier, how theirs was the most wonderful thing and that she enabled them to get some sleep. There are many similar inconsistencies throughout the book.

Also infuriating are his many generalisations and silly assertions that range from the naive (all schools should aim to be more like Eton) to the absurd (the reason the examination results of his former school, Westminster - which he raves about - were better than everyone else's is due to their term time being 2 weeks shorter. Apparently, it had nothing at all to do with Westminster attracting the cream of the crop).

The chapter on No More Family Days Out is his strongest, genuinely amusing and insightful and giving us food for thought. I wish the rest of the book had been as effective as this one. The weakest chapter is Down With Schools, which comes across as smug and elitist and irrelevant. The book would have been better off without it.
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102 of 108 people found the following review helpful
I have not encountered such an infuriating book for a long time. I am broadly speaking a continuum concept, idle parent sort of person, but this book had me chucking it a couple of times. I know how I parent and am happy with it, so I was in no way reading it as a guide, which is just as well as this book is not aimed at people like me.

The main issue I have with this book is that its demographic is clearly ONLY the middle class professional who has plenty of money, a garden and lots of choices about how and where they live. I first chucked this book when people living on the 10th floor should get allotment space so the children can be left to potter. I live on the fourth floor - I assume that this also applies to me - but where am I going to find an allotment?! I live a mile from the City of London! And even if I could find one I wouldn't be able to afford the few quid it costs.

I chucked this book a second time when the author starts going on (at some length) about private education. Did you know that you could easily save £10,000 a year if you just cut out things that you really don't need? No? Neither did I. If I wanted to free up that kind of money - double it in fact as I have 2 kids - we would all starve and have no home - £10,000 being 90% of my annual income. In this section he also completely contradicts his idle parent hypotheses by giving as an example of a woman who really wanted to send her child to Summerhill and raised the money by working a market stall! NOT very idle!

A frankly laughable aspect of his analysis of the wisdom of private education was inferring that Eton is the epitome of autonomus education and therefore fulfils all the criteria for the free thinking anarchist or autonomous parent!
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Idle thinking 19 May 2010
An infuriating book. Its main idea is to leave your kids alone so they grow up independent and free. Let them get back to nature, let education follow their instincts, unplug from the grid, avoid big government and big corporations and amusement parks. However, like D. H. Lawrence, whom Hodgkinson quotes a lot, there is a strong authoritarian impulse behind all this laissez-faire - but in this case, it's authoritarianism directed at you, the reader and parent. This book has more commands in it than Deuteronomy. Drop your job. Rent a field and let your kids play. Steer clear of plastic amusement parks and all other entertainments which the aspiring, over-eager, anxious lower-middle classes contaminate with their sanitised fun. Don't play with computers. Don't camp in authorised camping sites, which are full of fat people in caravans. Don't think you'll enjoy yourself going on expensive foreign holidays, because you won't, and there'll only be tears when you return, you know. Hodkinson rails against Puritanical moulding of kids into model citizens, but there's the same nagging reformism at work in his relentless prodding of their parents, a kind of authoritarian demand that you WILL make yourself free. Why, after all, must we be taught to be idle? Surely real idleness would have been not to write the book at all, but that would have spoilt a nice little earner. This book capitalises just as surely on middle-class guilt as all the corporate-driven, over-anxious, over-involved parenting it criticises.

The Idle Parent is, however, genuinely idle in its thinking.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars How to become a more relaxed and natural parent
Really useful parenting advice. Less really is more. Both my husband and I are loving this book. We have already read the book "How to Be Free" by the same author and it... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Naomi
5.0 out of 5 stars Gem
It should be compulsory reading for every parent ;-) Brilliant book. I always come back to it when I feel a bit lost in my parenting marathon ;-))
Published 8 months ago by K. Naimji
4.0 out of 5 stars Some very nice ideas
I am happy that many of the concepts and ideas are already incorporated in my day to day parenting, without reading them first here. Read more
Published 10 months ago by S. Zacharias
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book.
I read this book initially to reassure myself that my parenting style wasn't too terrible and damaging! Read more
Published 21 months ago by queenieliz
1.0 out of 5 stars Double standards
This book started out well, i was quite entertained to begin with and enjoyed reading his philosophy of simple old values parenting. Read more
Published on 30 Sep 2012 by Roz
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of valuable ideas but not a childcare bible
I am a big fan of all Tom Hodgkinson's books and I greatly enjoyed this one. It is a great book for getting you to rethink a blind consumerist approach and enjoying your life with... Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2012 by A reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Pinch of Salt needed (as always!)
As a childcare professional and a soon-to-be parent, I read this book with delight as it reminded me how important it is to allow our children to be autonomous! Read more
Published on 11 Feb 2012 by M. Nagy
5.0 out of 5 stars BUY THIS BOOK.
If you ever need a parenting book, just BUY THIS BOOK.

Having read Mr Hodgkinson's How TO Be Free and How To Be Idle, I couldn't wait for this one and wasn't... Read more
Published on 8 July 2011 by Laura
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for all parents
Was recommended this book and am now recommending to every parent I know - fantastic perspective on parenting and already having an impact on my parenting and my daughter's... Read more
Published on 5 April 2011 by Pingu
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read, just don't treat as a manual
As other reviewers have noted, there's plenty that rankles in Hodgkinson's book. It emerges bit by bit that he and his family live in an old farmhouse in Devon surrounded by... Read more
Published on 18 Aug 2010 by G. MCEWAN
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