Unless you’ve been living off the grid, you probably know all about Lin-Manuel Miranda and his hit musical "Hamilton," which recently won 11 Tony Awards. In a recent interview for GQ Magazine, new dad Lin-Manuel gave us the kind of parenting advice we need to hear more often. He said that the key to being a good parent is to do a little less parenting.
You heard me.
He said we parents should "be there, but not too there.”
Wait, how does that work? He told GQ that his parents were very diligent about checking his homework and being present every morning and afternoon. But after his homework was done, he was left to his own devices to watch TV or spend time with his sister. He mentions that, in his case, television was a source of inspiration. He said he was never a passive TV-watcher but normally did things while the television was on, like draw and write.
There is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom.
He went on to say that boredom encourages creativity, while devices like smartphones inhibit imagination. According to him, “There is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom.”
Perhaps the best advice was to not worry too much if your kid is different or weird. Those kids often turn out to be geniuses. Rather than forcing them to fit into a mold, he encourages us to let kids lead “their own path.” He talks about how many of his child obsessions led him to where he is now.
This is great advice, particularly for new parents we often worry when our children do not seem to fit in with the norm. But rather than think about this as deficits in our children, it is great to think that our children’s unique likes and strengths are just indicators of the bright futures they have ahead.
There you have it! The formula to raising a musical genius or genius of any kind is to do less, and let your children let their freak flags fly. And you can start right now. Summer is a perfect time to let kids be bored and explore their imaginations.
Miranda's advice feels fresh and new, as it flies in the face of scheduling every moment of our children’s lives.
We modern parents tend to think that children have to be tended to at all times. Even so-called "hands-off" parents still answer the call to "I'm bored" with a box of craft supplies. Miranda's advice feels fresh and new, as it flies in the face of scheduling every moment of our children’s lives. Countless studies have also found that free play is an important part of children’s development.
Sometimes we are so busy thinking about how to raise competent, successful adults that we forget childhood is a stage children should also be allowed to enjoy. Letting them enjoy it—trusting they'll be OK—means less stress for parents and happier well-adjusted adults (who win Tonys! So many Tonys!). Extracurricular activities are great for fostering children’s interests and to make sure they stay active. But too many undermine the goal. Kids need loads of time to just be free.
The key is to find a balance between structured learning and time to just be. On the plus side, allowing children this time also means that parents can relax and enjoy things they like to do to.
Sounds like a win-win. Thank you, Lin-Manuel! Is there anything you can't do?