Picture of Ana Cristina ReymundoLately, the phrase “benign neglect” has been in my consciousness. 

Merriam-Webster’s defines it as “A policy or attitude of ignoring an often delicate situation instead of assuming responsibility for managing or improving it.” And I would add, “ Often resulting in unfortunate and unforeseen consequences.”

I’m not thinking of the phrase in its socio-political context as articulated by the Late Senator Patrick Moynihan, but rather as an attitude. I’ve given this a lot of thought and concluded that we have probably all been guilty at one time or another of ignoring a situation that seemed to have no upside.

Benign neglect is a real oxymoron. There’s nothing benign about neglect. Is there?
So why do we do it? For me, it has been protective — a case of ignorant bliss. When I talked to friends about it some said they were afraid to make a bad situation worse, others said it was uncertainty about what to do, and one said it was apathy.  This is pitiful reasoning underpinned by a fear.

Yet, benign neglect as a parenting style creates an environment where a child can learn self-confidence and independence of thought as well as triumph over adversity by being allowed to suffer minor injuries and offenses with little parental intervention.

I must admit when I first read the essays written by parents advocating this approach, I was very skeptical. Then I recalled my wonderful days growing up in Acapulco roaming the lush undeveloped lots chasing iguanas, capturing grasshoppers, playing on the beach, fearlessly climbing huge mango trees and never having to come indoors till the street lights came on — all experienced with the attendant bumps, bruises and bloody mishaps.

Having said that, I still think benign neglect is not only an oxymoron, as a policy, it does more harm than good.

Please share your thoughts with us. See you next time!

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Ana Cristina Reymundo
Diretora de Redacción Nexos