I often get asked the question, “How do I get my kids to leave me alone!?” I love this question. I have a strategy called “Leave Mommy Alone OrElse” (LMAO), and it is a super awesome parenting technique that will be all the rage any day now. It is in direct response to the “Be up your kids’ butts all day long” parenting technique, a.k.a. helicopter parenting. LMAO parenting goes as follows:
1. Child asks you to hang out with him every second of his day.
2. You refuse.
Sounds pretty easy, albeit heretical. Yet, for many parents today, it is a worldview changer. And it can also singlehandedly save your marriage, make your kids independent, and give you some “you” time before you lose your everloving mind.
Here are a few parenting situations that might be happening in your house and some advice on how you can use LMAO parenting to get your kids to leave you alone.
You are cooking and your toddler wants you to read to him.
Usually, you think, “I should encourage reading!” And then you do something absurd like trying to turn pages of Goodnight Moon with your foot while you chop tomatoes. However, using the LMAO approach, you are saved from this exercise in ridiculousness. You say, “Mommy is cooking. I’ll be with you after dinner.” You are probably thinking, Hold up. AFTER DINNER? That’s like, in an hour. And I say, YES, AFTER DINNER. And maybe even after bath too.
You just told your toddler that you’re going to read him Goodnight Moon after dinner and he throws a tantrum befitting a demon from the netherworld.
You are worried that the neighbors will call CPS. Usually, you would say, “Fine. Okay, fine. I’ll just make dinner later and read to you now.” Using LMAO parenting, you say, “Hey, I’m sorry you’re upset. We’re going to read Goodnight Moon after dinner.” Yes, you used empathy and no you didn’t read him the book. Give this article to CPS when they arrive.
Your kids fight like wild elephants competing over a female in heat when you ask them to play alone.
Typically, you would intervene, thus denying yourself the ability to sit down and read US Weekly for five minutes so you don’t have a nervous breakdown. Using LMAO parenting, you say, “Figure out how to play together. Mommy is reading a magazine for ten minutes.” You then do not intervene unless either child is bleeding, like, out of the eyeballs.
One child is up your butt and you “can’t even shower.”
You would usually either not shower or get dad to occupy your child while you shower. Using LMAO parenting, you merely say, “Here is the iPad. Mommy needs to shower alone because people like privacy when they shower. Do not get me unless it is an emergency.” Ipad can be replaced by puzzles, your phone, a live wombat, or any manner of distraction that is accessible to you. (Note: If you’re against ten minutes of screen time, our relationship isn’t going to work out. I’m sorry, it’s not me, it’s you.) Oh and if, when you take away the iPad, your kid shrieks like a banshee, you calmly say, “Sorry, showering is done. Now it’s time to [insert some activity here].”
Child wakes you up at 5:30am.
You would usually capitulate and start your day at 5:30am. Under the new LMAO regime, you say, “Mommy is going to sleep till 6am. I will get you then.” Buy earplugs and go back to sleep till 6.
Child “refuses” to do something without you.
Usually, you just give in. In this brave new LMAO world, you refuse to do it, while expressing empathy for his frustration. Remember: you are older. You are smarter. You do not have to play Frozen for two hours. You never even get to be Elsa. Go play Candy Crush.
Now before you say, “But wait! I thought I was supposed to engage with my kids constantly or they would grow up to be axe murderers,” let me explain that the world in which we live has gone insane. In previous generations, stay-at-home moms spent nowhere near the time we do with our kids because they were on the farm, hunting and gathering, or even vacuuming and doing dishes (Yes, instead of reading Goodnight Moon when it isn’t even nighttime yet)!
This crazy amount of attention from one parent to one or two or three kids (not really three, because every mom of three already has discovered the LMAO parenting style on their own if they have survived) is CRAZY-MAKING. It is unattainable for parents and makes kids dependent and act younger than their ages.
Being a good parent doesn’t include allowing your toddlers to cling to you like barnacles. And most likely, you can be even more loving to your kids if you get them away from you for a few minutes every hour because you won’t be emotionally drained. So, your kids can play alone. You can make it happen.
You just must be consistent about telling them you need your space.
It may take a couple of days for them to acclimate, but they will acclimate – in the same way they acclimate when you have a new baby and the amount of attention they get decreases. And remember, you are giving them the gifts of self-direction and frustration tolerance and giving yourself the gift of space to breathe.
Dr. Samantha Rodman blogs at Dr. Psych Mom. She is a clinical psychologist in private practice and lives with her husband, three kids, a dog, and a cat in Maryland. Email her for consultation, therapy, or questions that she answers on her blog! Make sure to follow her on Twitter and Facebook, too.