Sunday, February 26, 2012

Parenting more simply

My new goal.

I signed up for a Simplicity Parenting workshop hoping to learn how to use fewer (and softer) words to get my spirited child to behave better. What I came away with was a toolbox full of great ideas -- ideas I've heard and actually use (though to a lesser extent than recommended), but I'd never heard these ideas tied to such powerful research and child psychology. Disclaimer: I'm about to way oversimplify the research - I'm sure the book can fully enlighten anyone who's interested.

Anyway, the man who led the workshop and wrote the book Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne, compared the stress on kids today to adults suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He said we're seeing the highest rates ever of ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and a whole long list of other Ds. The U.S. uses 90% of the world's prescribed Ritalin. etc. etc. All thought provoking, eye opening, disturbing. Yet, is it really surprising? It seems so logical once you know -- more, faster, better. Toys, games, books, computers, media, lessons, classes, sports, advice, activity, choices. STRESS. Stress then leads the kids to fight for anything they can control.

Bottom line (again grossly oversimplified): A lot of the things we're doing for our kids with the best of intentions are whacking them out -- and they're behaving/coping/responding accordingly.

Payne's basic hypothesis: Take away the stressors and you can restore family harmony.

The next hour he spent on ways to reduce stress on your kids. Get ready; it's dramatic.

1. Simplify your home environment. 
Significantly reduce the toy inventory. Donate half or more. Put another quarter out of sight/access. Establish a toy rotation that rekindles interest without having to invest in new toys. Create a simple environment that invites your child to go deep, use their creativity, create their own toys and entertainment. Get rid of your huge children's book library. Donate most, put others out of sight/access. Keep only 5-6 books out at a time. Again, this encourages kids to go deep. Think back to your childhood books. Which ones still linger in your mind? How many times did you read them back then? Hundreds? That's the idea!

We tackled this step today:

Once the toy purging was complete, simple toys that had been stepped over for months became interesting again.
Egg cartons and toilet paper balls entertained most of the afternoon. And yep, that's a diaper on her head. Don't know why. Don't care. Maybe it's her thinking cap.

2. Establish rhythm. 
Predictability helps kids feel safe. Establish home routines your child can count on. Minimize the choices you offer, and sometimes don't offer choices. Your authority and gentle direction helps a child feel safe and builds trust.

3. Simplify scheduling.
Quit signing up for every sports team, enrichment class, lesson and organized group event that comes up. Do fewer play dates? Skip Disney World. Stay home. Sit down and read a magazine. Let your kids be bored. Don't suggest endless choices of activities. Don't hover. Let them figure it out, make it up, create it, tear it down, pretend, fantasize on their own.

4. Filter the adult world.
Eliminate screen media. Phones, computers, tv, video games. It's toxic and damaging. Today's images move way too fast for kids to process. Screen media changes they way kids' brains develop. Also, watch adult conversations in the presence of the kids. You don't think they hear you, but they do. Use this test before having an adult conversation in front of the kids: Is what you're about to say true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

The workshop closed with this: Think of one of your fondest childhood memories.


Did it involve money? Was it extravagant or simple?

There you go.


Judy/Nana said...

Thanks for the reminder of my growing up years...catching lightening bugs, playing King on the Hill, Mother May I?, dress up,and just "play like". Maybe that's why we called it 'the good old days'. My hat's off to you.

Christine said...

water fights are some of my fondest childhood memories. just water, that's pretty free. I love this.

Bridget said...

Great ideas/reminders. I heart you.

Evelyn said...

Such a great set of tips that I could use. Thank you for taking the time to write this up. I notice that the more we have going on, the wackier my oldest gets. Time to simplify a bit! Love to you!

kn said...

Lori, I love this so much. Thank-you.

My favorite childhood memory: Sitting on the steps of my cousin's house with a bunch of neighborhood kids. One person was the judge. The rest of us just sat there with the judge watching us. First person to break up laughing was out. Last person to be able to hold a straight face was the winner. No one did anything, it was just impossible to sit there without laughing. Money: 0. Thanks for the reminder.

Kim said...

my best childhood memory was riding my bike into town with my best friend. we just needed the money required to buy a laffy taffy at the local gas station. i LOVE these ideas.