Simplicity Parenting is a book by Kim John Payne, also offered as a course around the Seattle area. It’s a helpful resource for those interested in parenting the Waldorf way. Waldorf philosophy is a balanced educational approach that focuses on the head, the heart, and the hands. The book, Simplicity Parenting, is a guide that adapts these educational principles to parenting. A main idea of this book is to question whether we are building our families on the four pillars of “too much”: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too fast.
Too much stuff:
Birthday parties can be one of the biggest sources of “stuff”. Consider offering kids the option of taking one special friend on a special get away instead of a large party. If a large party is still desired, a book exchange, where each guest brings a wrapped book, in lieu of a gift, is one way to decrease the amount of stuff coming into your home. Each guest can take home a different book, also eliminating the need for party favors. If your child loves parties, another option would be to choose a holiday, where bringing presents isn’t part of tradition, such as Valentines Day, and throw a party on that day instead.
Given the chance, children are bright, creative, and imaginative. They do not need as many toys as one might think to entertain themselves. Given the space, time, and yes, even the gift of boredom; they will eventually come up with far more inventive games, of their own making, than what those toys that are designed to be played with in only one way will allow.
Too many choices:
Mealtime is one example. Kids can be expected to eat dinner with the family around the table, or at least sit, even if they don’t want to eat. If they don’t like what’s offered, one other simple choice, such as a PB&J sandwich, is fine. The choices about the what, when, and where of mealtime have been all but been eliminated, simplifying life for all and eliminating stress.
Set up appropriate choices for kids. Another example, last week I took my six year old to Target to pick out a birthday present for his cousin. He wandered around the toy aisles, unable to make a decision, and got a bad case of the *“I wants” for himself. Nothing I suggested met his approval and we both became increasingly frustrated. Clearly, he had too many choices. I could have set us both up for better success had we narrowed down the choices ahead of time, to a manageable set of choices for him. For instance, instead of saying, “Let’s pick out a toy”. I could have said, “Let’s pick out a water toy for the back yard”. We could have gone to one aisle only, and left quickly.
Wandering through toy stores or leaving toy catalogs laying about for perusal, is a sure way to cause a bad case of the “I wants”. Try to avoid those situations if possible.
Too Much Information:
Limiting screen time will contribute to a more positive environment for the whole family. Cut back gradually if needed. A good place to start would be cutting back on watching the news in front of the kids. Using a computer, a DVR, or something like Netflix makes it so that they don’t have to watch commercials. Or try waiting to watch television until after the kids have gone to bed.
Avoid adult conversations, such as talk about finances, problems from the news, or negative issues with other people, when around the kids. As Kim John Payne says, “Children need to know that they have a place in a good world, and a future of promise.” His three part filter for conversation- Is it true? Kind? Necessary?
Listen to your kids; they’ll let you know when life is too busy and too stressful, although it’s not usually with words. Stomach problems, whining, insomnia, stalling…those are some of the ways my kids communicate that they need to slow down.
Another way to slow down is to quit comparing yourself to other people. What feels like a comfortable level of activity for your family may be different from others. Looking around at other people and comparing how much more they are doing with what your family does is not helpful.
This is certainly not a comprehensive look at Simplicity Parenting, just a little taste as to what Simplicity Parenting is about.
Simplicity Parenting courses are offered throughout the Seattle area. For more information, go here.