Weekend Review: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne & Lisa M. Ross
The basic, if not obvious, message Kim John Payne shares with us in Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids (2009) is that the alphabet soup of diagnoses that our children are increasingly labeled with can often times be reined in, if not cured outright, by clearing our lives of unnecessary stuff, activities, and distraction. Children need boredom, Payne writes, as well as plenty of unstructured free time because these are the things that lead to creativity and the development of healthy well-rounded attitudes and behaviors. This is a message that I agree whole-heartedly with, but one that I (somewhat naively) thought that I didn't need. When I was pregnant with Silas we decided that we wanted to make a conscious decision to give him fewer, but higher quality, toys. I thought that because of this we would somehow avoid the supersize frenzy of children's products. How wrong I was. Wherever there is a market, it will be filled and the demand for "simple" toys is no different. This just goes to show that all of us, myself included, do need to take a step back, re-evaluate, and go forward with mindful intention when it comes to how we fill our children's lives, both in the material things we give to them and in how we fill their time.
Payne sees childhood as a sacred time that is worthy of protecting. His prescription for doing so is really quite simple, but he acknowledges that it may meet some resistance if your children are older. His four-pronged approach encourages parents to clear out unnecessary clutter from their children's environment, establish a predictable rhythm to the days, open up schedules to allow for that unstructured time of discovery, and filter out the adult world. The pace of childhood is (and should be) slow. Any parent who has tried to get somewhere on time can most likely commiserate, as the pace of a child is so often out of step with the pace of the world around us. But it is this very slowness that allows children to develop their own identity and to engage with people, things, and ideas with depth and complexity. It should be celebrated and honored, not forced into submission.
Reading this book now, while I have a newborn, I found that much of the advice wasn't immediately relevant to our current stage of development. It was useful, however, in that it helped me to think through these challenges so that when we do get to the "little league" years we can navigate them with a clear plan of action and with our values and goals already defined. Doing so will (hopefully!) help us to avoid some of the pitfalls (such as anxiety, controlling behavior, and battles over sleep and food) that he tries to remedy.