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Hands-Off Parenting

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Trent Lane: We don't really have any rules at our house.
Jane Lane: Well, there is that one about not starting fires in rooms that don't have fireplaces.

Former hippies and romantics make irresponsible parents. As often as not, the parents may be rarely home: if there are any adult children, they're either similarly absent or in their 20s and insufficiently motivated to leave the house, which is a disaster zone without any discipline or structure to speak of. After all, who needs structure and discipline? It just stunts kids' growth.

With this level of benign neglect, the kids usually somehow turn out all right... or at least self-sufficient, if not a bit cynical. Bonus points if the mother is an artist.

A "Well Done, Dad!" Guy can also be guilty of this as he may fear any disapproval from his children.

See also Adults Are Useless, Disappeared Dad, Missing Mom, When You Coming Home, Dad?, Free-Range Children, Hippie Parents, Minor Living Alone, No Fathers Allowed, Parental Abandonment, Permissive Parents, Parental Neglect.

Might be a consequence of a parent who is Allergic to Routine or Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life. Polar opposite of Helicopter Parents and My Beloved Smother.

See also No Blood Ties when this trope is taken to its logical extreme.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Skip Beat!:
    • It's implied that the super-serious Kanae "Moko" Kotonami is the product of such a style of parenting, leaving her as the de facto adult at her home... despite the fact that she has at least two older, married siblings, if only because they are repeating the same hands-off style with their respective families.
    • A more tragic example would be our heroine, Kyouko, whose mother simply doesn't care enough to be a mother.
  • In Penguin Revolution, Yukari's father is like this, just before the full-fledged parental abandonment.
  • Pokémon Adventures: Gold's mother doesn't mind him going on an adventure, which Youngster Jeoy remarks is like mother, like son.
  • Naruto: Jiraiya takes this to the point of Parental Abandonment in regards to his godson Naruto where it was all but said that Jiraiya never even met the kid for the first twelve years of his life. A good part of Naruto surviving his childhood was due to Iruka, who somehow managed to be Naruto's actual adoptive parent despite only being about ten years older.
  • While it is a far cry from neglect, Yotsuba Koiwai of Yotsuba&! spends a lot of time unsupervised, considering that she's only five. Can be justified due to different cultural values. Japanese children are allowed to go around unsupervised more commonly, usually when walking to school or taking the subway.
  • Yukino's parents in Hohzuki Island seemed to ignore her completely as a teenager, and barely acknowledged her walking around naked and declaring she's going to town; however, that tiny acknowledgment is enough to show Yukino that her parents do care, and their relationship eventually improves - well, they still talk to each other anyway. Since they're shown in person (and thus not too busy with work) relaxing at home (with coffee, not drugs), it's probable that they're just leaving their daughter alone like they wanted their parents to when they were teens. Yukino's friend has the opposite problem and is eventually jailed for being a neglectful mother.
  • Noein: Haruka's parents are divorced and she lives with her mom, who's like this. She isn't spacy or detached or self-involved, though; she's just really lazy, especially by stereotypical anime mom standards, and sleeps all the time.
  • Nabari no Ou: Miharu's grandmother is surprisingly okay with him running around in the ninja world and missing weeks of school at a time.
    Miharu's Grandmother: He's injured every time he comes back...At first I was even considering whether I ought to have a talk with the police! Ha ha ha!
    Yukimi: Ha ha ha...
  • Spy X Family: The Desmond couple appears to be this way towards their two sons, with one of Melinda's friends even flat-out saying that she's got a rather hands-off style of parenting. And that hands-off style comes in the form of both of them ignoring their children in favor of their own hobbies or position, but having great expectations of them that honors the Desmond family name. Between the two of them, Melinda does seem to at least care about her children, as she's genuinely worried when Damian was in danger at one point until he mentions his father, at which point her conflicted feelings of loving her son, but hating him for apparently being a reminder of her unhappy marriage to that man, make her appear colder.
  • Federico de Vandimion, Farnese's father in Berserk. He basically let servants raise Farnese since he was afraid of her erratic behavior as a young girl, which definitely explains a lot. He only seems to care about his children as political pawns. Farnese's mother was absent for most of her childhood, as well.
  • Masaomi Kida's parents in Durarara!! apparently take this view and seem entirely unconcerned about their son going out late at night, dropping out of high school (and before that becoming a gang leader) to the point that his friend Mikado pulls a Lampshade Hanging on it. Ironically, of his three friends, Masaomi is the only one whose parents are actually around, as Mikado's parents rent an apartment for him closer to his school and Anri's are dead, but you'd never know it by how he acts.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: During the first years, Spider-Man was a classic example. Peter Parker was a teenager living with his Aunt May, he had superpowers, a secret identity, a Spider-Man costume, works in the newspaper taking photos of Spider-Man, stayed out of home at any hour or during any time needed, get back home hurt... and May never suspected anything. Subverted in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book, where May actually enforced some discipline (up to the point when she knew what was going on and Gwen Stacy, Iceman, and the Human Torch moved to live with them; then it became an even greater "Lane house" than the original Spider-Man).
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Carrie Kelley's parents are so hands-off that they're depicted as having trouble remembering she exists at all when she's not there. (Which is convenient for Frank Miller, since it allows him to completely bypass the question of how she's going to explain to them about her new career path.) It may have something to do with the way they're always surrounded by a haze of what is probably not tobacco smoke. There's also a reference to 'needles', suggesting that their presence in this trope may also be down to harder stuff...
  • Green Arrow: This is what Oliver Queen amounted to when he took in Roy Harper. While they spent plenty of time fighting bad guys together, out of costume Ollie had barely any presence in Roy's life and was pretty oblivious to what was going on with him, including the crippling sense of abandonment and loneliness building up inside Roy that led to his heroin addiction.
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake was the result of some incredibly hands-off parenting by his globe-trotting parents. They loved him, and he them, but he often didn't even know what country they were in and his father at least had no idea what his son even liked. This neglect enabled him to wander about Gotham as a kid and figure out Batman and Robin's identities, though presumably his parents assumed Tim was safe in one of the many boarding schools they consigned him to.
  • Runaways:
    • After the death of the Pride, Karolina ended up in a foster home run by stoners.
    • Poor Klara suffered an extreme case of this - her highly-religious parents didn't want a daughter who could command plant life, and thus married her off at age eleven to a god-fearing alcoholic who vowed to bring her under control. Said alcoholic ended up physically and sexually abusing her and sending her off to work in unsafe factories to earn booze money for him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Luann: The DeGroots towards Luann. About the only time they deign to notice her presence is when she does something to displease them. Especially glaring in light of how Nancy is obsessed with keeping Brad from going to first base. However; whenever there's a major decision such as getting a car or a house, they are there. One strip that's Played for Laughs has Luann ground herself because she knows she did something wrong.
    • They were even worse in the strip's early days as they weren't even actual characters, just voices from off-panel yelling at Luann for one reason or another (forgetting to do a chore, talking too long on the phone, etc.)
    • Brad and Toni's approach to raising Shannon is to basically sit back and watch her do whatever she wants. No matter what she does, they never admonish or discipline her.

    Fan Works 
  • While Granny Hina insists that she's helping the tenants at the Hinata Inn, much of An Alternate Keitaro Urashima revolves around showing the consequences of her inaction. Rather than addressing their various neuroses, she gives them a place to stay where they don't have to deal with the consequences of their actions. When others don't show them the same leniency, she teaches them to blame everyone but themselves, and complains incessantly when she has to deal with the fallout as well. She doesn't appreciate having this pointed out, or getting taken to task for pawning her duties off on Haruka instead and continuing her World Tour.
  • Carmen has this way of parenting in the Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? fic Parthenogenesis. Aside from schoolwork, she doesn't really regulate Maggie's choices much. Maggie herself eventually grew to dislike this parenting approach as it seemed like her mother was neglecting her.
  • Mob's parents in the Mob Psycho 100 gender swap fanfic Shigeko Kageyama AKA Mob. As a girl Mob faces more scrutiny from her mother and she can't measure up. Her mother is both ashamed of how strange her daughter is and afraid of her because of her powers. Early in the store Mob's mother reaches her breaking point when she catches Mob and Ritsu fighting and she vents her frustrations at Mob. Mob then decides to run away from home and live with Reigen, a man that they have only met once before. As of the latest chapter, her parents still have no intention of telling their daughter to come back home, or to parent Mob in any way, even after many people on the internet begin to speculate that Reigen's relationship with Mob may be inappropriate.
  • Raised by Jägers: Mamma Gkika's method of dealing with children and Jaegers (who she considers functionally the same). Someone wants to do something stupid? Let them. They'll figure out why it was a bad idea soon enough. Da Boyz spent several months having a lot of trouble getting a young Agatha to bed on time, but after one night at Gkika's where she could stay up as late as she wanted, she finally understood the importance of obeying bedtime.
    "Und vot did hyu learn, sveethot?" Gkika asked.
    "That little girls need their sleep even if they don't think they do," Agatha recited dutifully. "Can I take a nap?"
  • Doctor Ghemor, I Presume?: Legate Tekeny Ghemor is implied to have overly controlling and strict parents, so he decided he wouldn't railroad his own son. Unfortunately, it left Cesnil aimless and desperate to find structure, which he believed he could find by joining the Obsidian Order. Ghemor blames himself for this, and his wife never forgave him either.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Let Me In, Owen's mother is clearly completely detached from his life due to her own alcoholism and despondency over her failed marriage. She is completely unaware that Owen is being physically and emotionally tortured by bullies every day at school and is developing psychological quirks at home due to his sheer loneliness. She thinks everything is just fine and dandy with him. Owen's father, meanwhile, hasn't even seen him for an undetermined amount of time and is also oblivious to his plight. It's an ironic point that Abby, a vampire, shows more genuine concern for Owen's well-being than either of his parents. It makes Owen's decision to leave with Abby at the end of the film completely understandable.
  • Both the father and stepmother in Juno appear to be this, but they come through when it really matters.
  • Olive Penderghast's parents in Easy A are basically teenagers in adults' bodies but, again, they are extremely supportive when Olive really needs them.
  • In Pacific Rim, this pretty much sums up Hercules Hansen's parenting style. After his wife's death in Sydney and the rapid rise of the Kaiju, Herc spent all of his time working for the PPDC or fighting in a Jaeger, leaving his young son to all but raise himself. And it has come back to bite him in the ass. Big time. When Herc claims that he doesn't know who Chuck is anymore, his son says that Herc never knew who he was in the first place since Herc never spent any time with him.
    Chuck: After Mum died, I spent more time with these machines than I ever did with you. Now, the only reason you and I speak, old man, is because we're Drift-compatible.
  • In the live-action Ben 10 movie, Ben's parents were like this to cartoonish extremes.
  • Sonny Koufax of Big Daddy initially believes in this thanks to a Freudian Excuse: his father was strict with him and constantly berated him for being lazy, so Sonny is at first determined that Julian, his adopted son, will not grow up to be angry and bitter like he is. He lets Julian eat packets of ketchup in public, trip rollerbladers by throwing sticks in front of them, wear his underwear on the outside of his clothes, kill pigeons with a slingshot, and avoid bathing. The last one eventually convinces Sonny to change his tune when Julian's kindergarten teacher points out that he's the smelliest kid in the class.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Dr. Henry Jones Sr. tells his son that he deliberately adopted this parenting style in reaction to his own strict upbringing and is astonished when Henry Jr. (aka Indiana Jones) makes it clear he did NOT appreciate it.
  • In the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Buffy's parents are rarely home, take little notice of and have even less concern about what's going on in Buffy's life, and don't seem in any way worried when she starts staying out until late at night.
    Buffy's mother: [leaving the house] Bye-bye, Bobby!
    Jeffrey, Buffy's boyfriend: She thinks my name is Bobby?
    Buffy: It's possible she thinks my name is Bobby.
  • Mouth to Mouth: Rose tries to come off as this trope, but the truth is she simply has no control over her daughter.
  • My Life as a Dog: Uncle Gunnar and his wife are a child-free couple and he is not used to having kids around. When his sister falls ill, he has to take in her son Ingemar, which takes some getting used to. He does bond with the boy, enlisting him to build a guest house and getting him into soccer, but he keeps a degree of emotional distance until the very end.
  • In The Blind Side, Michael's mother Denise is extremely neglectful of all her children due to her drug addiction, yet Michael remains very devoted to her, escaping from his foster families to find her and take care of her.
  • Knocked Up: Ben's interaction with his father is contrasted with Alison's interactions with her mother. While Alison's mother is judgmental, severe, and hands-on, Ben's father is lackadaisical, loving, and hands-off. He's raised the pothead Ben with the drug credo of "If it comes from the earth, it's probably OK." Their parents' personalities explain a lot about how Ben and Alison wound up as they are.

  • Point Counter Point features Elinor's mother, Mrs Bidlake, who has retreated so far into her ideal world of art and fantasy that she refuses to acknowledge 95% of what goes on around her. She only got involved in Elinor's upbringing when there was a possibility of her artistic taste being affected.Note: 
  • The parents in Swallows and Amazons are also rather like this. They have no problem with the idea of sending their seven-to-twelve-year-old children off in small sailboats to camp on islands for days at a time. This, to an extent, is also Values Dissonance. At one point the Swallows write to their father (who is in Malta) to check that this is okay, and get a telegram saying "BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON'T DROWN". The implication that, if they do come to harm, it serves them right for not knowing what they're doing was probably meant as a joke by someone who was confident that they did. Their mother does, however, ban night-sailing, saying that that is something a duffer would do.
  • In The Egypt Game, Toby Alvillar has an artist father like this and a Missing Mom. This is also heavily implied to be the kind of parenting April got from her self-involved actress/singer mother before said mother went so far as to turn herself into a Missing Mom.
  • Roger and Arabella Yount in Capital, who find it a struggle cutting down from two nannies to one.
  • The Twilight Saga seems to imply that Bella's mother is like this, which explains why Bella is so mature.
  • Averted in the 1632 books, where Grantville's resident (former) hippie Tom Stone is repeatedly presented as having always been an active, engaged, protective parent to his three sons — who may not, in the biological sense, even be his, but they were born at his commune and he took responsibility for them.
  • Although her parents have grown more aware by the second novel, Ananka of Kiki Strike can do almost anything and her parents hardly notice.
  • In The Slap, Rosie's hands-off approach to raising Hugo has made him into a vicious little brat even by the standards of four-year-olds. The titular Slap was triggered by Hugo attacking another child with a cricket bat while his parents did nothing, and that child's father stepping in to "reprimand" him.
  • Important to The Reveal of Laura Kasischke's Mind Of Winter. Holly and Eric adopted Tatiana from a Siberian orphanage. Both parents pride themselves on how much freedom they give their daughter. However, that freedom also includes freedom from doctors, dentists, and vaccinations. As a result, nobody ever diagnoses Tatiana's serious heart defect, even though both a nurse at the orphanage and a next-door neighbor warn Holly that something is wrong.
  • In Sabriel, Abhorsen loves his daughter Sabriel dearly, but due to the nature of his job hunting down the Dead, he's had to send her to grow up in Ancelstierre, so that she sees him only a few times a year (when she started having her period, she had to summon up the ghost of her dead mother to give her The Talk, because Abhorsen wasn't available.) After he goes missing, necessitating her travelling into the Old Kingdom and taking over his job, she frequently resents how his absence from her life has left her naive about things that she really should have known.
  • Tia's parents in The Ship Who Searched boasted to friends that they were able to have and raise a child without compromising full time work on their dream job - archaeology on airless worlds with no one else around. Their habitat boasted food synthesizers, a limited medical AI, and a large library, so they happily left their daughter in it, alone, all day every day while they worked. She could contact them, but they hated to be interrupted and would punish her by withholding attention such as the rare "Family Days" in which they spent an entire day with her. On top of that, whenever they made an exciting discovery they stopped bothering to come home for meals and in the evenings, leaving her alone for weeks on end.
  • MudWings in Wings of Fire don't raise their dragonets. They mate in groups, so almost no dragons know who sired their kids, and then they leave their eggs alone. The first hatchling has a natural Big Brother Instinct. The siblings work together as a Sibling Team with their "bigwings" sibling as their leader. Clay, who was raised in a cave until he was almost an adult, is very disappointed. He always dreamed of coming back to a family who missed him. While it turns out that Clay is a bigwings himself, he had hoped to find his parents. When he meets his mother, she barely takes note of him. Clay is horrified to learn that Cattail sold his egg for a couple of cattle, which they ended up just eating instead of breeding. By her logic, he wasn't needed since she had six backup eggs anyway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Moira Queen in Arrow seemed to have this issue with both her children, Oliver and Thea, giving them too much freedom and learning little responsibility. It got to the point that when Oliver got a woman named Samantha pregnant, Moira thought that the best course of action was to pay off Samantha to disappear from Oliver's life so he wouldn't have to assume the responsibilities of a parent. Both Oliver and Thea were forced to mature largely due to their own experiences.
  • Joy Lass of Dead Like Me survived a mother like this and grew to resent her for not being there.
    • Her burning desire to not be this sort of parent has led to a daughter who resents her and another who is unresponsive and turned inside herself (especially after her sister's death.) Joy, for her part, doesn't seem to understand why her daughters don't see that she's so much of a better parent than their grandmother that the only logical response is enduring praise and unending gratefulness.
    • For example, when Reggie starts wearing all black and hanging around with "witches" her age who want to cast spells and summon the dead, Joy is glad that Reggie is coming out of her shell and making new friends. She even bakes cookies for their little coven. Reggie is mortified.
  • Practiced by Gabrielle in Desperate Housewives, to the point where other parents judge her and after a little girl gets injured at Gaby's house, the girl's mother refuses to let her daughter come to little Juanita's birthday party.
  • Dharma's parents in Dharma & Greg.
    • Dharma actually has a rather interesting neurosis regarding this. Since her parents never married, she always had the fear that they'd split up and go their separate ways. So when Abby and Larry decide to get married, she is really into it, but when her dad basically backs out to "play the field", Dharma has a meltdown confessing her fear. By episode's end, they do get married, but Larry has an (if I really want to, I can still play the field) clause thrown in... even though only Abby will put up with him by this point.
    • In another episode, Dharma finds out that her parents are planning to have another baby, and she begins to wax nostalgic about her own childhood, and such beloved toys as "shoeboat". Then she finds out they plan to raise the baby more conventionally than they did Dharma, and she suddenly realizes how many of her beloved memories were probably motivated just as much by the benefit of not having to spend any money on her as they were her parents' "let the butterfly go free" parenting strategy (shoeboat, as the name might suggest, is in fact an ordinary shoe which Dharma was encouraged to think of as a boat at bathtime). Eventually, her parents manage to convince her they really did, and still do, love her, just like they're going to love this new child.
  • In Gilmore Girls, Jess's upbringing is a case of this and Parental Abandonment: his mother had him as a teenager and his father ran out on them when he was a baby. Her inability to deal with him as a teenager is a major reason she shipped him off to her brother Luke.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Key'lehr being the closest thing a half-Klingon get to this explains why Alexander, Worf and Key'lehr's son, didn't pick up on Klingon values as a child. One can imagine how jarring a transition it must've been for Alexander when Key'lehr died and he was left to be raised by Worf, who was not only strict but was very devoted to Klingon traditions.
  • In iCarly, Carly's father is in the military (so a partial aversion) and so is always away, her mother is never mentioned and her adult brother is One of the Kids. Freddie's mom, however, goes to the opposite extreme.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Willow Rosenberg's parents are never home except when it's convenient for the plot. Her mother seems to be far more interested in studying teenagers than actually interacting with her teenage daughter. She doesn't know Willow's best friends' names, views Willow as a demographic rather than an individual, and is surprised to see Willow's change of hairstyle when it's been that way for months. All we know about her father is that his name is Ira and he won't let her watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special
    • The teen characters' parents are rarely around outside of plot-relevant reasons. Cordy's parents are often mentioned but never seen. Oz's are never mentioned, nor are Xander's.
  • Teen Wolf
    Ms. McCall: "Don't either of you care that there's a POLICE-ENFORCED CURFEW?"
    Scott and Stiles: "...No."
    Ms. McCall: (walks away) "All right, that's enough parenting for tonight."
    • In episode 2, Scott's mom notices that he looks tired. The conversation very quickly goes to:
    Ms. McCall: "It's not like you're on drugs, right?"
    Scott: "Right now?"
    Ms. McCall: "RIGHT NOW? Have you ever been on drugs?"
    Scott: "Have you?"
    Ms. McCall: (walks away) "Get some sleep."
  • Nearly all of the parents in The Secret Life of the American Teenager in that they hardly ever give their kids any rules to follow and enforce them even less.
  • Friends hints Chandler suffered from this. His parents divorced when he was 9, and his mother was a famous, erotic novelist who was always on tour, and his dad ran off to Vegas to be a drag queen. The few mentions of his childhood involve houseboys and boarding school. As an adult, his Mom is more likely to talk about him in TV interviews than to call. When the audience is introduced to his mother, played by Morgan Fairchild, she is on The Tonight Show, telling Jay Leno that she's going to New York, which she hates but will endure to see her son, whom she loves, and Chandler stops the other friends cooing by saying that this is how he finds out she's coming, instead of by phone call or mail (since cell phones weren't as ubiquitous in the early 90s). He hasn't spoken to his father in years, out of refusal to do so, as he states his father has tried to contact him.
  • In Arrested Development Lindsay and Tobias are sufficiently oblivious that Maeby got a job as a studio executive and produced several movies without them even noticing. One time when feeling neglected she tried to make them think she was running away and was frustrated when she couldn't get them to realize. The much more controlling Michael tries to get Lindsay to pay more attention, but she maintains that he's stifling his son (she may have a point) and refuses to get involved unless forced to. At one point she decided she had to punish her for her failing grades, and was disappointed this involved more than telling her she was punished.
  • In The Vampire Diaries Jenna fills this role to Elena and Jeremy. She was supposed to be their cool young aunt, but when their parents died she became their guardian and is not suited for the role. She doesn't particularly seem to mind if they don't come home, or if they do come home if they bring someone else with them. Few guardians would react to their teenage niece having her boyfriend over for the night by admonishing them in the morning to keep the noise down.
  • Nana Mary of Roseanne was this to Bev. Bev becomes the opposite, partly out of resentment. Roseanne herself strikes a nice balance but is briefly upset that she didn't turn out to be as permissive as she always intended to be when she was a teenager.
  • A grandparent example occurred in Mama's Family when the Harpers are complaining about the Reverend's bratty grandson, and his grandmother who refuses to discipline him. They are horrified to discover that they had to babysit the boy overnight while the Reverend was in the hospital for a broken leg. The next day, when they come over to pick him up, Mama was at the end of her rope and about to spank him, but the Reverend, having just been kicked in his already busted leg, stepped in to do the job himself. Mama only stopped him to inform him that he missed a spot.
  • One Tree Hill: Brooke's parents are pretty bad with this. They don't really care what she does (they didn't even address that she's been arrested), they just throw credit cards at her to keep her busy, and then when they lose all of their money they're completely fine just leaving her in Tree Hill with a woman who is basically a stranger while they move across the country.
    • Of course, this is probably for the best for Brooke, given that her parents are both jackasses to a point where her mother's treatment of her could qualify as emotional abuse. (Which is bad enough that Brooke actually believes that her own mother ordered the violent beating she got in season six.)
  • The Finns on Maybe Its Me, who among other things let their children choose their own names (one of them, Molly's soccer rival, just happened to choose a name that's actually a serviceable name; the others, not so much) and decide when to stop being breastfed. In Molly's words, "My family is Insanity 101. These people are Advanced Placement Insanity."
  • In the pilot of the sitcom Abby's, bar regular Beth brings a dartboard in because she got it for her sons but they just started throwing darts at each other. Later in the episode, she talks about being freaked out that they expect her to hug them and make them food.
  • Starsky & Hutch: Mrs. Carston from "The Trap" is "one of those liberated mothers" who refuses to discipline her daughter in any way even when she shoplifts from a jewelry store.
    Mrs. Carston: Oh, it's that old klepto phase again. I mean, she'll get over it.
    Hutch: Excuse me, ma'am, but don't you think that's a rather casual approach to take?
    Mrs. Carston: Oh, pooh. I don't believe in that old school of discipline. Stifles their creativity.… Listen, boys, I'll have a good talk with her about this. But I'm certainly not gonna discipline her over something as trivial as a lighter. I mean, she has a very sensitive psyche.
  • In an episode of Modern Family, Cam chastises Claire for telling Lily "no" for something, saying that they're trying to raise her without all that negativity. Later in the episode, Cam gets his hand stuck in a garbage disposal while Lily runs around the kitchen flipping switches at random, prompting Claire to smugly taunt him about his parenting style.
  • An episode of Doc Martin featured a young family moving in next to Louisa. When their son broke a plate and Louisa got cross, the father chastised her for making it a "child-centric moment." Later the boy is found to be keying the local cars, but they still won't punish him, saying that he "should be free to set his own boundaries." The boy later contracts tuberculosis from letting a stray cat share his bed, for which Martin rightly calls the whole family out for their stupidity.

  • In Old Harry's Game Satan finds a household like this when trying to find a perfect home for the baby that got sent to Hell by mistake. There's also another home where everything is regimented, and the children have no freedom at all. Both won good parenting awards ... sponsored by The Guardian and The Daily Mail respectively.
    Satan: I found one couple who regard childhood as a disease, and another couple who seem to feel the same way about adulthood.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Lenore's parents are Former Teen Rebels who gave their daughter a lot of freedom growing up. This would eventually come back to bite them when Lenore became a punk herself and held little respect for their authority.

    Video Games 
  • EarthBound (1994): Ness' parents are surprisingly cool with their little boy heading out to fight monsters on his own without any form of escort or weaponry. They just like it when Ness calls them every once in a while to say hi. They also are just as cool with giving Ness hundreds and thousands of dollars as an allowance.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 4: The Protagonist's uncle doesn't take a great interest in what his nephew does outside of school as long as it doesn't put him in the path of his investigation into the odd serial murders that cropped up recently.
      • It's not entirely clear either why the Protagonist's parents sent him to live with his uncle for a year outside of just working abroad.
    • Persona 5: No clear reason is given for why the parents of the protagonist in this game so easily gave up their son for him to serve his probation in Tokyo instead of wherever he lived before being set up to take the rap for a sexual assault by the same big-shot politician the protagonist fought off to protect an innocent woman.
      • Matter of fact, this applies to most of the parents of the Phantom Thieves. Ann's parents are famous fashion designers who are never around, Ryuji's stepfather is abusive, but his mother is decent, and he loves her very much; Futaba's guardian, while caring very much about her, has no idea how to help her deal with her Hikikomori issues and so just leaves food outside her bedroom door, Makoto's parents are dead, and Haru's father is very much aloof and overly focused on running their family's fast-food conglomerate.
  • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has a case of this mixed with Parental Favoritism: Nemona's parents are the creators of the Rotom Phone distributed in Paldea, but they prefer to raise her older sister to be the company's heir while Nemona is off doing her own thing as a trainer. It's very unclear if this has caused Nemona emotional pain from being set aside, but she admits that she enjoys not being pampered by her parents because it would slow her joy of being a trainer.

  • Sabrina Online: Richard's parents, who seem to have been introduced mostly to counterpoint Sabrina's ultra-conservative parents.
  • Gene in Templar Arizona seems content to let his kindergarten-age daughter Zora do as she likes; unfortunately for most other people, her favorite activity seems to be snooping around in other people's things.
  • Bud's parents in Precocious. His dad spends all his time in the basement working on art and hydroponics, while his mom is always in the city managing the apartment complexes she owns. As a result, Bud is a much better cook than either of them. It gets to the point where Autumn even forgets at one point that he even has parents.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Dunkel of El Goonish Shive aren't exactly irresponsible as parents (though they do tend to be absent most of the time), but they definitely aren't very strict. A Running Gag with them is that they take the most bizarre things in perfect stride, such as when their daughternote  turns herself into a cat. They don't seem to find this odd at all and are only interested in whether or not she's able to turn back.
  • Ash's dad in Misfile lets her foreign boyfriend and her boyfriend's brother live at their house (despite the fact that he didn't know the boy existed until he came home to find him on the couch), and lets her go out and race, despite the fact that he knows it's dangerous. The justification is given quite early on: He was a control freak with Ash's mother, which led her to abandon them both when Ash was three, and doesn't want the same thing to happen again. He does lay the law down a few times, one example being when Ash got drunk and even told off a rather vicious associate of the brothers when it seems he could be dangerous to the teens. He didn't know the guy was an angel, granted, but he could tell the guy was trouble.
  • Seems to be Jim's attitude towards Sam in Questionable Content. Eventually it turns out that Sam's actually been lying about her activities, and Jim is understandably upset when he finds out.

    Web Original 
  • Idiotsitter: Ken Russel, Gene's father, is shown to be a very bad parent because he makes no attempt to discipline his daughter. As a result, Gene has ended up on house arrest because of her crimes, and poor Billie has to be hired to babysit and tutor Gene. In episode 3 "Father Daughter Talk", Billie has to cope with Ken by punishing Gene, as he has no idea what he's doing.
  • Pokemon Pals: Apparently Ash's mother was always too busy for him, and lets him run away when he was 10 years old.
  • Whateley Universe: Jade Sinclair's father basically was like this, except when he was home, at which point things were a lot worse. Her father turned out to be busy working for a loanshark and drinking. Right up until he decided to beat his child to death.
  • The Jenkinsverse: Hayley and Mark Tisdale are Hippie Parents who believe in a hands-off approach to parenting. Col. Powell blames their parenting approach for Sara getting herself shot and dying in his arms.
  • Worm: Played for Drama. After his wife's death, Danny tries to give his daughter Taylor space to grieve and mourn. Therefore, when he hears that she's made new friends, he's happy for her, enough so that he overlooks that she comes home bruised and occasionally smelling of smoke, even staying overnight with her new friends. The amount of space he gives her is likely a major contributing factor in her becoming a supervillain.

    Western Animation 
  • Daria: The Lane family are the alternative Trope Namers. The parents are both artists and spend long periods of time away from home; their five kids are each a bit dysfunctional, though Trent and Jane a bit less than the others. Trent once lived in a tent in the backyard for six months; his mother saw it as letting him find his own path, while he was waiting for someone to invite him back in.
    Trent: I'm sorry I broke the rules. We don't really have any rules at our house. Right, Janey?
    Jane: Well, there's that one about not building a fire in the rooms that don't have fireplaces.
  • The Simpsons: Ned Flanders had hippie/beatnik parents and was like this before he was given a special treatment that involved being spanked continually for a whole year and was both literally and metaphorically Flanderized.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Likewise, this seems to be the main reason Mandark is evil (though it is also strongly hinted he was just born that way).
    • You named a boy "Susan", what do you think would happen? Even worse, he was dressed as a girl as well. Because even the concept of a person's gender was apparently too restricting for his parents.
    • The parents were named Wind Bear and Ocean Bird and it does seem that he had a natural inclination toward the negative.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy Turner once made a wish for his parents to be like this. It didn't take long before being allowed to watch violent TV shows, eat nothing but candy, and not bathe devolved into disaster.
  • Goo's parents from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, who wouldn't stop her imagining hundreds of imaginary friends because they didn't want to stunt her creativity, so they just foisted them all off on Fosters. And her name is 'Goo' ("Goo Goo Ga Ga" in full) because they let her name herself when she was an infant.
  • Kevin Spencer: Percy and Anastasia, the parents of the title character on the Canadian cartoon, are like this, being more concerned with getting more booze, welfare cheques, and smokes than Kevin's welfare. Kevin would disappear for months at a time, and they were never particularly worried, simply noting that the boy would eventually come home on his own, which he always did. Of course, Percy and Anastasia often wouldn't be around either, given that they spent so much of their time in prison and rehab.
  • King of the Hill: Hank Hill has to deal with parents like this on occasion, which serves as a good contrast to his own firm-but-loving view on parenting. In one episode, he had to deal with two parents who would put their children in neglectful situations like concerts or giving them alcohol just because it made them "cool," and seemed more interested in having a good time than being good, loving parents. Another had a pair of see-no-evil parents who outright refused to discipline their son in spite of mounting evidence that he was a horrible, insufferable brat. Interestingly, he deals with them by having Bobby act exactly like their son towards them, and it is there that they start acting more disciplinary towards him.
  • On Invader Zim, Dib and Gaz's scientist dad Professor Membrane has maybe one day set aside for "quality time" a year, usually appears in the house as a floating screen (half the time with prerecorded messages), and has one of his employees fetch them by asking for his "roommates."
    Dib: You mean... us?
    Scientist: You live with the professor, right?
  • The Mighty B!: Bessie's ex-hippie mom isn't really neglectful, but her idealistic worldview is rarely helpful in solving her kids' problems.
  • Steven Universe had a hippie father who lived in a van and was mostly raised by his surrogate moms/big sisters the Crystal Gems into a Kid Hero. Steven Universe: Future dives into the negative effect this had on him, particularly in "Mr. Universe." Much of what we hear about Greg's family presents them as stuffy and overly conservative, which is why he lost contact with them and changed his name to "Universe." However, Steven gets into a fight with him and argues that he would have preferred the sort of childhood that Greg hated. (Greg misses the entire point of the outburst.)
    Greg: You grew up with actual freedom!
    Steven: I grew up in a van! I never went to school! I'd never been to the doctor until two days ago! [...] My problem isn't that I'm a Gem, my problem is I'm a Universe!
  • South Park has plenty of this. Kenny and Cartman in particular considering that their parents are crackheads (and in Cartman's case a whore) and thus really don't seem to heed much mind to the antics their kids get into. And strangely that seems less dangerous than Randy's involvement in his son's life.
  • Toph Beifong in The Legend of Korra adopted this parenting strategy, partly in response to her own stifling upbringing and partly due to a demanding career. Unfortunately, she went too far in that direction (among other things, Lin and Suyin don't even know who their respective fathers are) leading to a myriad of issues in her children. Lin assumed responsibility from a very young age (as a teenager she was Suyin's father figure essentially) while Suyin rebelled and fell in with the Triads. Her two daughters ended up estranged with her and each other for over 30 years until they finally reconciled.

    Real Life 
  • In the memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette, Brian, Lori, and Maureen have parents like this. Ditzy, artistic, neglectful to the point of borderline abuse, and so on. An interesting case, since this is implied to have a somewhat beneficial effect in the long run. The kids are incredibly self-sufficient, helping each other survive their childhood, supporting themselves financially, and fleeing one by one to make a life for themselves in New York.
  • Christopher Titus described running into this style in "Neverlution", during a trip to the DMV where he saw a little boy who was an absolute terror (screaming, yelling, temper tantrums, etc.). When the child threatened to leave the building his father did nothing more than calmly ask how they could "transform this situation". Given Titus' own upbringing, this was utterly bizarre, as well as largely ineffectual as the boy kept throwing his tantrum. Of course, once Titus raised his voice to the kid (and implying that his parents were there because of the kid, which worked in shutting him up), the father turned out to be a Papa Wolf.
  • Too many species to list have the parenting strategy of "Have a bunch of kids, then leave them alone as soon as they're born and let evolution work". If they come out of eggs, they don't even have to wait until birth to abandon them.
  • Sadly, quite common amongst parents who feel that their own parents were too strict with them as a kid and thus will stand around whilst their children cause havoc in stores. Kids who don't learn to respect authority or that actions have consequences very commonly get in trouble with the law when they get older, with the parents often utterly surprised.
  • Among European royalty and nobility this happened relatively often, in no small part because of resentful mothers (and occasionally fathers) who felt that they fulfilled their entire obligation to their arranged marriages by having an heir - and maybe a spare. Of course it helps that they had governors and nannies to hand the kids off to. However, the stereotype that aristocrats in the pre-modern era always delegated their children's upbringing isn't true and there were exceptions even in the heyday of monarchy and aristocracy, like the monarchs Charles I, George III, and Victoria of England, King Henri IV of France (who so harshly disciplined his son, the future Louis XIII, that even his seventeenth-century contemporaries who didn't disapprove of corporal punishment to say the least noted it), and Marie Antoinette. But there are notable examples as well, like Henry VIII, who had little to do with the upbringing of even his much desired male heir; Marguerite Louise d'Orleans, who after giving her much hated husband, Grand Duke Cosimo III of Tuscany, three children returned to France and barely communicated with any of them even when they grew into adulthood; and Marie Eléonore de Maillé de Carman, mother of the notorious Marquis de Sade.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Casa Lane Parenting


"I taught you self reliance"

Dr. Henry Jones Sr. tells his son that he deliberately adopted this parenting style in reaction against his own strict upbringing and is astonished when Henry Jr. (aka Indiana Jones) makes it clear he did NOT appreciate it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / HandsOffParenting

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