Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids invites readers to consider the ways in which our fast-paced and consumer lifestyles impact our children and offers solutions for calming, decluttering, and building relationships in our families.
First, I think the authors have good insight into what family life looks like in the modern West. Although we have made some countercultural choices in our family (limiting screen time and requiring daily rest time are the ones people usually find weirdest) I have felt increasingly uncomfortable with how much hurrying we do and how the adult stress my husband and I have bleeds over into our kids’ atmosphere. I appreciated how the book described the ways that the pace of modern life impacts children, and yet didn’t advocate impossible solutions.
As an education consultant and family counselor the main author, Kim John Payne, works with schools and parents who have to be part of the 21st century, and suggests realistic ways that even the most chaotic families can simplify, calm things down, and be more nurturing. I think it’s easy to assume that if you’re not willing or able to go all Little House on the Prairie, you can’t have a simple life, or to think that if you have two working parents or multiple kids or what have you, that you’re stuck with a frantic life. Simplicity Parenting does a great job of breaking through those assumptions and offering hope and concrete steps for how to have a calmer, happier, more secure family.
I thought the section on toys and books was illuminating. I’ve noticed that my kids get stressed out when their stuff is piled everywhere and, as a friend of mine once noted on her blog “it looks like a Melissa and Doug bomb went off” – at that point it’s like pulling teeth to get them to clean up, they get overly possessive of certain toys, or they become careless and break things. The book points out how having too much stuff out causes kids stress (clutter stresses adults out too, but its effect is more pronounced in children) and what that looks like. I found it very helpful to read about some common kid behaviors and realize they are caused by stress, and that you can reduce or remove the bad behavior by reducing the stress. The author suggests rotating out toys so that you only have as many out as your child can clean up, by himself, in five minutes. This is calming to children, gives them a sense of control, and allows them to play more freely and imaginatively. But wow, that sounds like a big purge right? Five minute clean-up??? The author suggests that the average kid should have the visible toys reduced by at least 75%, and possibly more. You’ll probably also appreciate (or at least find interesting) the list of types of toys that you should keep, and why, from a child development perspective, they are better choices.
I was also greatly helped by the section on how parents’ emotions impact children. There often isn’t much parents can do about major sources of stress (although the author does make some suggestions, again, of the practical sort, not the quit-your-job-and-live-in-a-yurt sort) but there are things you can do to make your home more peaceful and calm. Boy, could we ever use more “peaceful and calm” around here! Many of the suggestions are easy to implement, such as giving children previews of what is coming next, involving them in dinner preparation, and using candlelight at dinner, but surprisingly effective.
I got quite a bit out of Simplicity Parenting and would highly recommend it. As the author writes, “every stage of a family’s evolution can beneft from a little more space and grace, a little less speed and clutter.” What are some areas you find most stress-inducing in your family’s day, and where do you feel like you’re most in need of simplicity?
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