Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. In a word, brilliant. In two words, life- changing.
Yes, it was that good.
What’s the big deal with simplifying, you ask?
Dr. Payne thinks our cultural drive for more, more, and more is taking it’s toll on our young children. They react to this fast-paced, information-packed world with rather neurotic behaviors, which Payne likens to behavioral issues associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children from war-torn countries. It’s pretty scary. The basic picture is that in a chaotic world where there is so much – toys, activities, electronics, information, etc. – children feel lost and helpless, overloaded by choices and the constant frenzy, often relying on controlling or rebellious behaviors to create some semblance of order in their lives.
Before you hightail it off into the distance, clutching your possessions to your chest, hold on a second. This book is not about selling all your possessions to go live in a yurt. Although that would be cool. While he does highly advocate less, it’s more about de-cluttering your home, schedule, food, and your child’s room to create a family life that is a sanctuary away from the crazy outside world. Basically, Dr. Payne treats the behavioral problems created by this extreme abundance the same way you would treat a physical fever: by slowing down and limiting activities and the outside world.
Payne gives plenty of really helpful and specific advice, and provides examples of how doing this has helped countless families address many alarming behaviors that their children exhibit. Behaviors like eating only certain foods; refusing to get out of bed or participate in certain activities; bossy, controlling behavior like forbidding people to enter certain parts of a room; and the list goes on, each circumstance as unique as the family. But the solution is the same: simplify.
Among other things, Payne suggests strategically paring down on the abundance of things, activities, and information sources to instead focus on creating valuable play spaces that foster open-ended, creative play; working on a family rhythm that fosters security and comforting familiarity for children; and filtering out the adult world by limiting “adult conversations” with adult information. Allowing your child to grow without the constant noise and pressures of the outside – giving time for being together, using quiet spaces, and even experiencing the creative and developmental force that is boredom.
Payne recommends doing away with the constant desire to create extraordinary experiences – to value the ordinary, instead of trying to make every moment educational, special, or meaningful. This more laid-back, counter-cultural approach to parenting can make the special moments more special, and also prepare children for the real world – so they don’t experience a let-down when they grow up and realize that life and the world is not one constant emotional high of exceptional moments.
Strangely, this book points to the past as an example of how to raise children. Think about it: in the old days, there was less stuff and less information. There was less technology to keep children indoors and dependent on apparatuses to keep them entertained; adults didn’t discuss certain things in front of children; not every moment was expected to be amazing or educational. Life was simpler!
I was so inspired – to pare down, slow down, and filter out a lot of the stresses that I realized were being passed on to the kids. Halfway through the first chapter, I was purging all the toys that had been idling in the toy bins, taking up space and making a chaotic mess every time the kids would rummage through for the toys they really loved. Tony and I have made a big effort to filter our conversations around the kids – Alex had been privy to all sorts of burdensome information because we hadn’t realized his little ears were picking it all up! And he was worried about what he was hearing…not good! We’ve also just slowed down quite a bit – we say “no” now. “No” to the plethora of entertainments and activities that were crowding up our scheduling and making me a glorified taxi driver; “no” to all the very worthy causes that Tony and I could contribute to…but that ended up taking time away from our family.
Sure, we’re kind of paddling upstream in comparison to most families around us – fewer toys, less electronics, a slower pace. But we’re already seeing the fruits. And the funny thing is that it’s all so rooted in common sense – there’s nothing kooky or crazy about simplifying. It’s all just good old fashioned reasonable stuff – of course it works! Which brings me to my aforementioned conclusion: Simplicity Parenting is, in a word, brilliant.
Where to buy Simplicity Parenting (affiliate link).
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