It is wise to sittervise: Mindful, protective parenting without stifling

Express News Service

Out on the plains of the savannah, a mother lioness sits relaxing a few feet from her cubs as the little ones are immersed in their shenanigans and innocent play. She is unaware of terms like ‘helicopter parenting’ or ‘laissez-faire parents’, but what she does know is that she has to let her cubs be while still keeping a peripheral eye over them. This is nature’s way: to be mindful and protective without stifling. 

Susie Allison, a Seattle-based mom blogger and former teacher, has given this parenting style a cool, trending name: sittervising. A portmanteau of sitting and supervising, the technique involves observing children’s play from a distance and not engaging directly. Maintaining a healthy boundary between the child and parent, allows the former to engage in independent play and develop skills while giving the latter a much-needed break.  

“You do not need to hover over kids while they play or feel like you must be playing with them at all times,” Allison captioned a video featuring her kid hula-hooping and having fun on a play structure. “Kids need to play without adults. Adults need time to recharge from kids,” she wrote.

Riddhi Doshi Patel, a Mumbai-based child psychologist and parenting counsellor, had a sittervised childhood. “My parents gave me the space to be creative, innovative, and experimental, but I still had the confidence that if anything went wrong, they would be there for me,” she says.

According to her, parents should embrace this approach to boost their children’s trust, autonomy and independence. “It promotes healthy learning, better parent-child bonding, and improved social and communication skills. You can always try it and observe how differently your child behaves without being followed around by you. This will help your child become a secure adult,” she says.

In addition, it’s crucial to provide children with an environment that encourages skill development. “Solitary play helps them gain valuable skills like spatial awareness, risk management and conflict resolution,” Doshi says.

Sittervising is also an excellent way to combat parenting burnout. Moreover, with so many parenting trends, it’s reassuring to see that both parent and child are considered. “This technique is an intermediary between helicopter and free-range parenting. It allows parents to do things like reading a book, completing work-related tasks, or any other chores while still being present during their children’s playtime without intruding on their activity,” says Payal Narang, a Mumbai-based Parent Coach and Child Psychologist.

While the approach can make some parents feel guilty, assuming their offspring may experience boredom or isolation, sittervising does not mean parents cannot join children in play. The American Academy of Pediatrics report, The Power of Play, highlights the numerous benefits of playing with parents and peers, such as improved language, social skills and stress management. “Joining in can provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child to explore. In addition, it may improve their bond,” Narang adds. 

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