Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids has been on my books to read for well over a year. I’m always drawn to anything with “simple” in the tag line, especially when it comes to parenting, because I’m in constant need of the reminder that less really is more. We as parents can step back, give our kids some breathing room, and that hectic schedules filled with good things typically isn’t the best thing for our kids. Repeat repeat repeat.
Simplicity Parenting, now on my list of must-read books, is written by Kim John Payne who was a school counselor for 18 years and is now a private family counselor in New York. He’s of the Waldorf persuasion, and believes that kids need to play, to be bored, and to be kids (not mini adults) as long as possible. He is convinced that working on simplifying is incredibly important as a first step to this kind of childhood: “By simplifying, we protect the environment for childhood’s slow, essential unfolding of self” (6).
Payne identifies 4 main areas in which we can work on simplifying for our kids:
1. The environment: We can declutter and get rid of many of our kids’ toys, books, clothes, etc. so that they can actually enjoy what they have in the mountain of “stuff” accumulating in closets, on the shelves and under the bed.
2. Rhythm: “Increasing the rhythm of your home life is one of the most powerful ways of simplifying your children’s lives.” When kids are familiar with what comes next, they are more likely to be at ease and focus more energy on the work of childhood. Rhythms can be made at waking-up, breakfast, going out the door, the window between school and dinner, and bedtime. Think about your day from your child’s point of view. What’s predictable? What’s not?
3. Schedules: I love that he talks about balancing busy days with quiet days. We do try to do this at our house- if we have a busy week, we’ll make sure that Saturday and maybe Sunday has nothing planned so that we can be at home, play, and enjoy the boringness of life. It really helps the kids to unwind emotionally and get some restful time so that they can reenergize for the upcoming school week. He warns that always packing our kids’ schedule with stuff to do can create an addition to busyness in our kids that many of us are desperately trying to deconstruct as adults.
4. Filtering Out the Adult World: Many of us want to have smart, educated kids who are knowledgeable about the world and what’s going on in it. However, what if the adult information we are sharing with them (or that they are overhearing in our dinner conversations, on the phone, on the news or on the radio in the car) is actually causing stress to them? Payne hosts a conversation about the innocence of childhood, and the importance of our kids’ needing to feel safe in their formative years, as they build their sense of self and the world. Too much information too young can cause anxiety and then behavior issues.
I appreciated Payne’s mindfulness and willingness to push back against the culture of go-go-go and “start getting these kids ready for college when they are in 1st grade”. Parenting and childhood has become a competition in our culture, at the expense of our kids. We can turn the tide if we’re willing to be mindful and make thoughtful decisions about the life of our family!