Friday, January 25, 2019
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids- Kim John Payne with Lisa M. Ross
Every once in a while, I read a book that makes me reconsider my position on certain things; the very best books are ones that make so strong a case that I implement changes because of them. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne with Lisa M. Ross is one of those books.
I learned of this book a few weeks ago from a post on the Frugalwoods blog, about the challenges of parenting small children through the hectic holiday season. I could relate to *so* much of that blog post; my own daughter is 4.5 and has always been on the more intense side of 'spirited,' and adding long days with multiple car trips, far too many sugary treats, overstimulating presents that beep and sing and flash, and no nap does not make for an easy-to-parent child. I did a quick search, and as luck would have it, my local library had a copy of the book. I picked it up that night.
When I opened the book as we were sitting in the library, I was wary. This might end up being one of those parenting manuals that bore me ten pages in; I had another book with me in case I decided this book wasn't for me. But within several pages, I was hooked. The author's premise is that too much of anything- too many toys, too much stimulation, etc- can cause kids to quickly become overwhelmed, and it shows in their behavior in different ways. 'Okay,' I thought, 'I'm listening.' And as I read on, I recognized my daughter in Mr. Payne's many examples, one of which was quite jarring. He tells of a set of siblings whose house overflowed with toys. The boy responded to this overstimulation by getting violent with the toys, throwing and breaking them. The girl reacted by organizing the toys, lining them up, gathering them in piles that made no sense. Neither one seemed to play in appropriate ways with the massive amounts of toys that surrounded them.
And with that, I sat back and went, 'Ohhhhhhh.' Because right there? My daughter is that girl. I was constantly finding Hello Kitty and fuzzy Halloween bags full of odd collections of toys: pieces of play food, a sock full of items from her rock collection, Barbie doll clothes, a headband, three crayons, a plastic cow. After reading this particular paragraph, I realized that maybe my daughter wasn't having all that much fun playing like this. Her favorite thing EVER is toy kitchens. Whenever we go somewhere that has one (several libraries, friends' houses, set-ups at stores), she makes a beeline for it and doesn't want to leave, and I realized I hadn't seen her play with her own in ages.
And with that, I began making plans to pare down the toys in her room, just as Mr. Payne suggested.
It's a lot of toys, and you're not even seeing them all. (This was after a major clean-out and weeding out a bunch of toys, as well!!!)
I hadn't even finished tidying up after the overhaul when my daughter exclaimed excitedly, "I LIKE my room like this!" Since we made the change three days ago, she's used that table for coloring, for Play-Doh, and for a tea party (none of which she had ever done in her room, as the table had been previously covered in Little People toys she never played with). She's done somersaults in her room, and we pulled out her bowling set and bowled multiple games- my 16 year old son even joined in on this. There hadn't been enough space for us to do that in there before. She's been cooking up a storm in her play kitchen and has used a stool to set up a lemonade stand. Her imagination is flourishing with more space and less demand on her attention. I'm in love with everything about this, including the fact that cleaning it takes about two minutes once or twice a day, instead of half an hour four or five times a week.
Mr. Payne also discusses the importance of simplifying a child's diet, which wasn't my direct concern, as I cook the vast majority of everything we eat; simplifying screen usage (I've cut down on the amount of television my daughter watches- not that I really had to say anything, since she's been so enthralled with her new room that she asks me to turn the TV off so she can go play. But I would've done it anyway!); and simplifying adult talk and stressors around children (I've begun playing the local classical music station in the car in order to minimize my daughter's exposure to the news; she in turn has invented what she calls her 'invisible piano,' which she uses to play along with the radio. "Hey, turn that back up, I'm playing!" she complained when I turned it down once).
Simplify everything, he states, and the results will be clear. For us, they couldn't possibly be clearer. For the past three days (and so far, this morning as well), the only misbehavior we've had has come at bedtime, and my husband and I have already discussed pushing bedtime back 15 minutes because her behavior then was obviously due to exhaustion. We've had no tantrums from my little Queen of Scream. She listens better, she's in an overall better mood, I've found no bags of random, mismatched toys, and I'm much less cranky because I'm not dealing with poor behavior and giant messes. The only time we've had such docile behavior from her, it was because she had a nasty upper respiratory infection and a double ear infection- not exactly something you want to replicate. Mr. Payne's methods, however, are sustainable, and I'm loving the results we're getting.
For now, her extra toys live in the basement, and she knows she can visit them and switch them out at any time, trading a toy in her room for a toy down there. Eventually, we'll donate or sell the ones she's fully lost interest in (and just as I was typing this, she asked if we could pare down her toy food as well). Less really is more when it comes to children, and if you feel you and your child could benefit from a calmer, more relaxed environment (and really, who couldn't?!?), pick up a copy of Simplicity Parenting. This book has made all the difference in the world for us.
Visit the Simplicity Parenting website here.
Follow Kim John Payne on Twitter here.