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Published September 30 2013

Parenting Perspectives: The Incorporation Principle of Parenting

The problem with kids is that they need constant supervision. Once you have them, it’s years before you can leave them alone at all, and, even then, it’s only for brief periods of time at first.

Plus, once they actually get to the age where they don’t have to have constant supervision (in the legal sense … like, the age at which social services won’t come take them away if you leave them alone), that’s precisely the age at which they can do the most damage (wreck your car, rack up debt, throw a baseball into that 100-year-old vase you were planning to take to “Antiques Roadshow” if it ever came to town).

Because of all this necessary adult supervision, it can be hard to find time to do the things you enjoy. Hiring babysitters and imposing on relatives frees up only so much time. What you need is to find ways to incorporate kids into what you like to do. Let’s call it the Incorporation Principle of Parenting.

Of course, this is only a good plan if you enjoy being around your kids. Fortunately for me, my kids are awesome. Believe me, some kids are obnoxious. Mine rock, and I enjoy their company. So this plan is gold for me.

One thing you can do is to try and get them to like the things you like (and, conversely, to dislike things that you dislike) so what they want to do is also what you want to do. For example, Will, my 5-year-old, already has a Vikings jersey. And just the other day I was cuddling in a comfy chair with my daughter, Ariana, while watching football. I’m planting the seeds of gridiron love in their little hearts so that they will, hopefully, want to do football-related things in the future.

This also works for activity avoidance. Back when my daughters were in the age range that’s susceptible to the influence of one large, goofy, purple dinosaur, I used to tell them, “Barney’s lame.” As I recall, they started saying it too.


The other day, I took the Incorporation Principle to a genius level (if I do say so, myself). My wife is a pianist, and there was a recital she needed to attend. I wanted to go shoot my camera that same evening, but how could this happen with three children under the age of 10 to care for? Enter the Incorporation Principle.

I loaded the children into the van along with my camera equipment and laptop. We stopped by a Redbox on the way and rented a DVD in which Batman and Superman in Lego form join forces to battle evil (also in Lego form). It seems a little awkward to me to take characters and turn them into Lego-people versions of themselves and then create a movie about them. I mean, why do they need to be Legos? But no matter. It’s movie night with the kids plus an evening out with my camera. Win, win!

So I challenge you to employ the Incorporation Principle of Parenting. You’ll get to do things you enjoy. People will think you’re a great parent because you’re always with your kids. And if everyone is right about the importance of family time, your children will be less likely to end up on a daytime talk show telling a celebrity counselor everything you did wrong.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734