Family therapist and Waldorf educator Kim John Payne recently wrote a book entitled Simplicity Parenting: The Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. In his book, he describes the ways that parents can simplify their children’s lives (and the world around their children) in order to help them have the space and the time to create a stronger, healthier identity.

Payne explains this phenomenon in the modern world:

We are building our daily lives, and our families, on four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too much speed. With this level of busyness, distractions, time pressure, and clutter (mental and physical), children are robbed of the time and ease they need to explore their worlds and their emerging selves. And since the pressures of “too much” are so universal, we are “adjusting” at a commensurately fast pace. The weirdness of “too much” begins to seem normal.

How does Payne suggest that we simplify the stuff, choices, information, and speed that are ever present in our lives? I’ve included some of Payne’s suggestions. Of course, we all know that we must practice everything in moderation – and that includes simplicity. Therefore, pick and choose. See what works for you and your family.

  • Choose not to overschedule. We start our children on afterschool and weekend activities when they are very young. Often, they will be involved in several activities (sometimes in more than one on the same day) after a very long day at school. What we really want is our children to find something they love and then truly engage in it, instead of attempting to constantly be busy with new things.

  • Cut down on toys. If our children are constantly exposed to stuff, they don’t know how to let their mind wander or to deal with boredom. Reduce the amount of toys that your child sees on a consistent basis. And, give your child the gift of boredom! Create a safe space and let your child play. Eventually, this will inspire creativity and innovation.

  • Not everyday has to be extraordinary. Often, we want our children to have spectacular experiences, but the reality is that most of life is made up of ordinary experiences. If we embrace the ordinary days, our children will learn to appreciate the simple pleasures of ordinary life. This will in turn build character and mindfulness.

  • Reduce screen time. If your family has a television or other electronic devices, Payne suggests getting rid of them. At the very least, he suggests that no child under two years old should be exposed to a screen and that children under seven years old should have very limited access. Screen time takes away from interacting with people and engagement with the world – and that’s an important piece of the childhood puzzle.

  • Meals together. This advice is not new – research shows that families who eat a meal together on a daily basis have better health, better language skills, and less depression. It also allows you to create a routine for your children. They know that at dinner, everyone sits together and discusses their day. Payne also suggests creating a predictable menu – pasta for dinner every Monday, fish for dinner every Tuesday, and so forth. When you can, get your kids involved in the food preparation too!

  • Fewer words, more calm. Parents say a lot with their faces that they might not be able to say accurately with words. Think about the way that you act, gesture, and express yourself non-verbally. Your child will learn a lot through imitation in their early years. Help them mimic your calm demeanor. And teach them to listen through your own ability to listen to them.

  • Sleep. Children need a lot of sleep. It creates rhythm in their lives and allows them to function optimally during the day. If bedtime is a struggle, build in quiet times throughout the day: independent projects, nap times, reading breaks, or other solitary activities. These quiet breaks will allow children to decompress.

  • Establish family time. Shabbat is a great time to carve aside for family time when things get quieter and more relaxed. Establishing family time any time of the week in order to get together as a family and pause is a great way to slow down and simplify the speed of everyday life.

American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify!” Maybe we can take his advice in a few ways and raise calmer, healthier children.

 

Register now for a anger management workshop by Dr. Ross Greene on November 14, 2017. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.