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Jennifer Garner on Why “a Little Benign Neglect” Is the Key Parenting

"I’m not trying to live their life, and I don’t mind that they see that I love mine,” the mom of three said, describing how she likes to foster independence among her kids.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published November 30, 2023
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Image: ROBYN BECK/AFP, Robin L Marshall/FilmMagic | Getty Images

Sometimes, less is more when it comes to parenting. In a world that’s become more and more populated with “helicopter parents,” research continues to emerge about the importance of solo play and a little separation between parent and child to foster independence.

While everyone’s favorite celebrity Mom, Jennifer Garner, is hesitant to say she has an “overarching parenting philosophy,” the 13 Going on 30 actress is partial to giving her kids some space for independence, too.

On a November 28 episode of Today Garner described her loose, no parenting, parenting style. “I just think they’re such cool people, and I want to hear everything, and I want to be around,” she said, adding, “But I also think it’s OK if they suffer from a little bit of benign neglect.”

“Their lives are their own,” she continued. "I’m not trying to live their life, and I don’t mind that they see that I love mine.” The actress shares Violet, 17, Seraphina, 14, and Samuel, 11, with ex-husband Ben Affleck.

Despite Garner’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude when it comes to being in her kid’s lives she’s strict when it comes to their social media and online presence. Violet, Seraphina and Samuel are not allowed on social media, though her eldest turns 18 on Dec. 1, and will legally be an adult. “They are not on TikTok or Instagram or Facebook or anything like that, and I’ll call that a win. Who knows, that could change. You never know."

During an appearance on Today earlier this year, Garner said that Violet was “grateful” to not be on social media. As for the other two? “I just said to my kids, ‘Show me the articles that prove that social media is good for teenagers, and then we’ll have the conversation,’” Garner said. “Find scientific evidence that matches what I have that says that it’s not good for teenagers, then we’ll chat.”

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