Today we are talking about simplifying food, dinner, and sleep. We are on page 116 of “Simplicity Parenting” and I am so glad to be reading about this topic today. I think whenever things get a little out of kilter, we can always “re-set” our families by going back to basics regarding mealtimes, sleep and rest.
Food. Kim John Payne recommends simplifying food. He writes:
These basic guidelines can accompany you down the aisles of your supermarket: Is this food designed to nourish, or to entertain? To stimulate? More simply, is this food designed, or was it grown? Did it exist fifty years ago? It is unnecessarily complex, with ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce?
Kim John Payne mentions that the number one priority is to wean our children off of high processed snack and junk foods. He reports in the families that have done this, it takes about one month for the palate to clear and the child to be able to recognize the fresh flavors of real food. Try seltzer water and juices instead of sugary soda. Set limits at home. Don’t give tiny children too many choices before they develop their own good judgment. You are really helping by limiting choices in food to whole foods, and in knowing that children need to try things at least eight times. Once you simplify food, you may notice your children actually becoming less and less picky.
Meal plans and dinner time. He also suggests predictability for dinners. Have a pasta night, a steak night, a Mexican food night, a soup night – just plan it in advance and keep the themes the same weekly. If you have the money, budget in extra money so your teenager’s friends can come over and eat dinner with you. Teenagers will complain regarding family traditions and such. It is their job to complain. It is your job to hold absolutely steady.
Winding down for sleep. In the area of sleep, Kim John Payne suggests that a child really cannot go from “full tilt to full stop at bedtime”. Children need a sense of rhythm, a chance to process the day, a feeling of connectedness and security with their parents to really release into sleep. He talks about predictability and rhythm as being important keys to sleep. Listening in that space before bedtime is also important; it gives children a chance to “unpack” their day. Now is not the time for judgment, but just for connection and listening. Older children who no longer take naps especially need this time to go back through and process their day.
Rest. This leads to the concept of rest. All children need rest. If your children are at home, you can institute a daily quiet time. (There are several back posts about this on this blog). If your children are at school, you can look toward the weekends and the summer toward having this time. An after-school transition ritual can also be really helpful. Some parents will complain that their children don’t talk to them, but silence can be a connecting moment as well. Work can also be a connecting moment. Some children really need this physical release; an ongoing project, after school.
Sleep, Self-Esteem and Academic Performance. Interestingly, Kim John Payne notes that for children suffering from low self-esteem, one of the first things he looks for is how much sleep that child is receiving. Sleep helps us have resilience. I would say this is true in parenting as well – how many times has something small happened that should have just rolled off your back but it just couldn’t because you were so tired and sleep-deprived? Sleep is so important. From page 128: “According to studies done by Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, the performance gap caused by just one hour’s less sleep was equivalent to the normal gap between a sixth- grader and a fourth-grader. In other words, your sixth-grader who’s going to school sleepy may be learning (and behaving) at a fourth-grade level.” He goes on to note that most children from age two up to eleven, in his experience, need about eleven hours of sleep a night.
Bedtime Stories. Bedtime stories that you create are another wonderful way to let children slip into sleep. If you create the characters based upon your children and the simple events of the day. Stories can also be the way to help a child process something difficult going on in their life. Kim John Payne writes, “Most of the answers a young child is looking for can be found in a story. This is a good example of the difference between out worlds as children and adults.” See more about this on page 132.
Please share your success stories about meal planning, meal times, sleep and rest.