Review: James Breakwell’s “Bare Minimum Parenting” – It’s better than nothing

So, if you don’t know James Breakwell, you should. You should know his Twitter handles: @xplodingunicorn, @unfridgeworthy, or @wombatdojo. You should know his first book, Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, and you definitely should plan to know and read his newest book, Bare Minimum Parenting. It’s available starting today (11/6/2018).

Summary: Bare Minimum Parenting is Awesome

  • Published: 11/6/18
  • Price: Normal

Bare Minimum Parenting could easily be the first parenting book a lot of my friends actually read. And it’s the only parenting book I can remember recommending. It’s hard to not recommend a book written by the same guy who wrote a guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse as a family. I guess you could say he really gets me as a father…

This a parenting book that is super easy to read. It’s consistently just a lot of fun. And in addition to maintaining a comedic sense of timing throughout, the book still manages to impact the way I raise my kids. In a mostly positive way.

The chapters are short: short enough to read one or two before bed, or in those small nooks and crannies of time that we typically just stare at Instagram or Facebook. Instead, you should spend that time reading a quick chapter. Then, as a more enlightened parent, you can walk away feeling happy and like you’re doing an awesome job as a parent, even if your kid may have just fallen from the monkey bars while you were laughing and reading the book on your phone despite kind of supposed to be making sure he didn’t fall. Whoops! Good thing the book would probably say it won’t matter in the end because you did the bare minimum and that’s probably enough.

He’s so funny, right?

Buy the book at Amazon.

Interview with James Breakwell

I had the pleasure of chatting with James about his new book, his comedy, and how it all plays together as a parent. Feel free to listen, or skip on down for my review of the book.

Why You Should Read This Book

James is hilarious. I don’t care which twitter account you’re following, or which book of his you’re reading, you’re probably laughing. In his most recent book, it almost feels like you’re reading stand up comedy.

There’s a rhythm to his writing that I love. The chapters are short, the points are clever, the insights come quickly and often. You flow through the book easily, which is important since we’re all parents and we ain’t got no time for long, boring books.

Yet, it’s not just humor. There’s some real parenting advice in there. You’ll also find a good serving of self-care throughout the work: There’s permission to be human. To be real. To laugh at the ridiculous shit that, as parents, we’re all dealing with on a rapid and ongoing basis.

In this book, Breakwell dives into what it means to be a parent in modern times. He highlights the ridiculous tendencies of parent-shaming, and continues to mock the response to parent-shaming: which is to lose your mind trying to be the perfect parent.

I’d say he’s the perfect antidote to Instagram and Pinterest and the need to do it all and then capture it all as a social-media parent.

Bare Minimum Parenting explains right out of the gate that parenting is significantly over-rated. That doing the bare minimum is actually the best way to really set your kids up for success. And he asks, which trait can you successfully identify in a random stranger? Look at the people you admire, did they all go to the city’s best preschool? Did they all take Russian, and classical piano (Suzuki method of course), and fencing before they were 5?

Probably not. According to the Breakwell, all you need are three goals for your kids and everything will turn out just fine.

Three Goals for your children

  1. Can support themselves.
  2. Aren’t a social deviant.
  3. Don’t blame you for everything that’s wrong with their life.

Aim for these three milestones and the rest will turn out just fine.

I think I can do this!

Those three goals seem so easy. But then Thursday comes along and suddenly you’re wondering, “OK, but… my kids are setting up a black-market exchange for Halloween candy in their school and I found a secret compartment Roman sewed into his backpack I think he’s using to move product.” The book sort of failed me on that one, but I’m talking to my oldest’s parole officer and I think it’s going to be ok.

See, if you’re anything like me, the first words that come out of your mouth after you hear advice are usually, “Oh, sure. But what about when X happens?”

The good news is that Bare Minimum Parenting cruises through it all. It covers not only the nuances of dutiful but bare-minimum parenting, but all the edge cases as well. He covers what type of housing you need, how to approach your child’s education, when to have kids (and how many), he even covers the Sacred Cow of Screen Time. And I should also say, he never advocates neglecting children. Just neglecting the artificially inflated sense of duty we all feel as parents.

Why you should take this book seriously-ish

Here’s why I think books like this are useful: it reminds me that what you see, read, and hear in the media is really an artifact of this unique moment in history. A moment where we have lost the cultures and traditions of passing down parenting advice. We’ve moved away from multi-generational housing and family-rich neighborhoods. And as a result, parents are all kind of double-daring each other to go bigger on the birthdays, to care more about Danny’s sports, to pay more for the best stuff, to show how committed we all are as parents and to find an identity that communicates that we’re doing it right.

I find it wonderfully enjoyable to read through his book, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. And he makes it really easy to laugh. But also, he’s not really shaming the overachieving parents either. ‘Be the parent you want to be,’ he says, just know it’s your choice and you’re not a martyr for staying up all night gluing together party favors for a 2-year-old’s music recital.

The lesson: No matter what you do, you’re probably not as important to the person your child will eventually grow into than you think you are. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. Because I also take a lot of solace in knowing that my mistakes are also not as big as I think they are. Not only do I not need to work as hard as a parent, but I also don’t have to feel so bad after the mistakes either. Did I say I like this book? Ok, good.

That’s the game for me. The fear that if I give in at the wrong time I’m going to turn my offspring into narcissistic freaks who can’t handle not getting a ribbon for being awake. So I get stressed about when and what and where you’re supposed to do what to make sure you’re not growing a real turd.

But if what James says is true, that our micro decisions will not turn into macro impacts on each child’s life, then maybe my micro mistakes will be averaged out as well. Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?

So… All that to say, buy the book.

This book understands and speaks directly to so much of the anxiety and fears parents face today. It will make you laugh while reshaping the sense of obligation and identity that has gotten a bit sideways in recent years. It’s got all kinds of significant takeaways. And this book will absolutely make you a better parent. Mostly.

Where to find James Breakwell

The best place to find James is @xplodingunicorn on Twitter.
Check out his web comics:

His two books are:


  1. Chris Voigtsberger says:

    Every parent or mom- parent will enjoy this book – well worth the purchase. I love his sensible attitude and even more his 4 girls.

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