Thursday, June 17, 2010

Simplicity Parenting

by Kim John Payne, M.Ed
and Lisa M. Ross

I heard about this book from a blog I follow fairly religiously called The Lazy Organizer. The book intrigued me, I decided to check it out, and now you get to read about it!

I'll just go through the notes I took and maybe...maybe not...add my own thoughts:

The main focus of the book is:
xi: "Are we building our families on the four pillars of "too much": too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too fast?"

6: "By simplifying, we protect the environment for childhood's slow, essential unfolding of self."

7-8: Payne worked in schools diagnosing and counseling kids with "D" disorders such as ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD. He saw similarities between kids he worked with in a Cambodian refugee camps and kids in middle-class modern families - they were both showing signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

8: "Our society - with it's pressures of "too much" - is waging an undeclared war on childhood."

9: simplification signals a change, a realignment of our hopes and our everyday lives

26: "stress can push children along the behavioral spectrum. When you simplify a child's life on a number of levels, back they come."
This, I thought, is really the crux. Payne does talk about medications. He takes a pretty middle of the road stance. He considers medications, for the majority of children, to be good if used ONLY as a scaffolding to hold the child together while their underlying issues are addressed. He doesn't think that most children need to be medicated indefinitely. I know a lot of people have solved their children's issues with nutrition changes. I wonder if part of the reason that nutrition changes work is because it slows the family down and causes them to reassess their entire lives. Either way, I think that he's right that children today are dealing with so much more stress than children used to deal with, and it is definitely worth looking into the relationship between their lives and their behavior.

Areas to simplify
too many toys, books, games, smells, clothes, etc. Too much stuff leads to too many choices. AS you decrease the quantity of your child's toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.
Regarding books: we want to foster a deep, not disposable, relationship with reading.
I've been working really hard on clearing out clutter in our home and really simplifying and purging our belongings. It's been a months-long process. I have found, as a result of fewer toys and books, that we are just happier. There is less mess to clean up each day. My kids have never struggled with imaginative play, and with fewer toys they are just as creative as before - if not more so. Homeschoolers tend to be collectors. I have found myself giving into the pack-rattish feeling far too often. You wouldn't believe how much school stuff I threw out. Stuff I collected 7 years ago when we first started on this educational path that we NEVER used. I even threw out stuff that we do occasionally use because I realized that we only use it because it's there, not because it's really that awesome. When I work with my younger children, we focus on great books and use paper and pencil for everything else.
I love his opinion on books. Libraries are fabulous. I convinced Josh to purge his books (as I was doing the same with everyone else's). I didn't think he would. But we decided to have only the best books in our house. The books that if my kid reads the same five books over and over I won't consider it a bad thing. A lot of people take the stance that if a kid is reading - anything - that's a good thing. I disagree. If my kid is going to read, I want it to be worth their while. We don't say that if a kid is eating - anything - then it's a good thing. Books are brainfood and should be treated about the same, in my opinion.

95: Familylife today often consists of whatever is left over, in terms of our time and energy, when the "work" of the day is done. Children depend on the rhythmic structure of the day.

98: Meaning hides in repetition: we do this every day or every week because it matters

109: Relationships are often built in the intervals, the spaces between activities, when nothing much is going on.

He uses a lot of statistics about the ways childhood has changed from 1981 to 2006. It's fascinating...and a little scary.
He compares enrichment activities to fertilizer. You can have too much of a good thing. Also, fields (and children) need that rest time. The importance of boredom, of Sabbath Moments (quiet days).
Talks about TV and computers...nothing new to me here.

185: Say less. He uses an example from Pa Ingalls - why did Laura and Mary always listen (and obey) Pa? Because he didn't say much. When he spoke, it was worth listening to. Payne points out that you don't have to make every moment a teaching moment. I like this. Payne uses an example of the various kids of talking parents do, such as the sportscaster (running commentary on everything the kid is doing/wearing), the number of questions and choices we give kids, and the hard time we have saying no. I have caught myself doing all of these things because it seemed like something that good parents do. No more!

My feeling as I read through this book was that there aren't a lot of major changes I want to make in my family's life. We lead a much more unscheduled life than a lot of families do. Some people think we're weird to not have TV in our living room (we are DVD-only, and that is hidden in our bedroom for special occasions) or to not be putting our kids in every sport that comes around. But I like having time to bake bread and watch my kids climb the trees in our backyard. What I did receive from this book was a stronger motivation to finesse our best things. Build some family traditions, touchstones, memories - the sorts of things that I dreamt about before I had children. Take my dreams and make our reality more like them. Obviously that dream of perfect children might have to remain a dream, but there were other more reachable dreams.

In my latest quest of simplifying our lives, it's been amazing to see all the time that has freed up. I used to think that there just wasn't enough time in the day. Now I'm looking for activities to FILL time - or filling time with things that I always wanted to do but never got around to (can anyone say visiting teaching?). My house is cleaner more often, my meals are cooked on time, my kids are happy, my books are getting read. Life is just better, simpler!

DISCLAIMER - having 12 and 10 year old daughters is hugely beneficial to this lifestyle. I highly recommend that you have them before you have your other children. :-) I'd definitely want (NEED) an electronic babysitter more often without them.

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