We are up to my favorite chapter! Chapter Five, entitled “Schedules” is well-worth reading for yourself. I don’t believe parents in the United States intend to overschedule their children, yet that is where so many families are in reality, and this chapter offers a hard look at what we are doing, why we are doing it and what we could do differently.
This issue is not a new one. Kim John Payne points out that David Elkind’s book “The Hurried Child” first asked the question as to whether children were being pushed toward adulthood in the form of “super-competency” because parents lacked the time or interest for parenting. This was in the early 1980s. The latter half of the 1980’s saw a real focus on the child’s accomplishments and achievements. These trends are not new.
How do children spend their time? According to this chapter:
- Children ages 6 to 11 spend many hours in front of a television screen and a computer screen
- School takes 8 more hours than it did in 1981
- The amount of time in structured activities has doubled
- Time spent doing homework has also doubled – with the implementation of No Child Left Behind, students are averaging an hour and twenty minutes a night of homework.
- Children have 12 hours less free a week than they did – about 25 percent of a child’s day is “free” on average; in 1981 the average child had about 40 percent of his or her day free.
Kim John Payne points out that, “And it is really so bad to be busy? Why aren’t their busy kids seen as fulfilled rather than frantic? What is wrong with wanting your children to have as many opportunities as possible? I don’t think the central issue of “overscheduled” kids is motivation – either the parents’ or the kids’. Most parents are driven by good intentions…In wanting to provide for their children, here again parents act with generous motivations. But just as too many toys stifle creativity, too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to direct themselves, fill up their own time, to find and follow their own path.”
Some children really do not know what to do with even moments of spare time because they are used to having every minute structured. Kim John Payne points out that interest in an activity can be real and sustained over time for children but that time, leisure and other interests often help a main interest to grow. Children need unstructured time. This is coming out in more and more studies and childhood psychology literature regarding the development of executive function in children – things such as working memory, mental flexibility, reasoning, judgment – are enhanced by non structured activities, not by structured ones.
Awareness is the first step in stepping off the overscheduled burden. Play happens in unstructured time and opening up schedules lends itself to spontaneous moments . If a child has fewer activities, then a parent’s schedule (who is often a driver) will also open up as well. This can impact the entire family in a positive way.
How do you simplify your outside activities? Does your family need help in this area or is the balance easy?
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 Continue reading
Rhythm calms and secures children, grounding them in the earth of family so they can branch out and grow. The implication of rhythms is that there is an “author” behind how we do things as a family. Parental authority is strengthened by rhythms; an “authority” is established that is gentle and understandable. “This is what we do” also says, “There is order here, and safety.”
-Simplicity Parenting, page 103
To establish rhythm, Simplicity Parenting suggests: Continue reading
RHYTHM. Does that word strike fear or guilt into your heart when you hear it? Rhythm should be something that is inherent to your particular family, and it should be a source of freedom, not any negative emotions. Kim John Payne opens this chapter by noting:
“Life today for most families is characterized more by randomness and improvisation than rhythm. Tuesday wash day? Cookies and milk after school? Sunday roast beef dinner? With both parents working outside the home, these kinds of weekly markers may sound more quaint than realistic. Family life today often consists of whatever is left over, in terms of our time and energy, when the “work” of the day is done. When I ask a mother or father to describe for me a “typical day” in their home, nine times out of ten they begin by saying there is no “typical”.
Just as there are inherent rhythms in the rising and setting of the sun each day and the change of seasons, there are rhythms inherent in us and our own bodies. Our families often too, hold their own inherent rhythms. Our children, in this often hectic world where children are pushed to be miniature adults, NEED rhythm more than ever. It is a source of dependability, a source of reliability and promotes the child’s feeling that the world, their world, is a safe and secure place! This is the essence of believing the world is a good place! This is also the first stirrings of boundaries and of family identity. Rhythm is what you do in your family.
Too often today children are the center of the family, a sun in which the parents orbit around the children’s desires (which is totally different from the what –I-want IS actually what-I –need in the years of being an infant!). Instead, family life, should be that needs of the whole family are set forth as a beautiful trajectory, yes, like the arc of the sun rising and setting in the sun, and the children find their places on the trajectory. This helps children find their own place in the family and the world. The children are part of something bigger than themselves. Rhythm is the thing that can most help with this arc.
This is also important from the viewpoint of simplification. Rhythm does not assume Continue reading
We are up to the section entitled, “The Power of Less” in Chapter Three. Kim John Payne talks about going through toys in this section. He advises:
- Try doing the first whittling away of toys without your child present.
- Throw out the broken or damaged toys or ones that are developmentally inappropriate.
- Throw out any toy that is too complex or ones that will break easily.
- Evaluate the remaining toys – is it a toy a child can pour imagination into or is it too fixed?
- Choose and keep the simplest toys. Children usually play with what they can move or what they can use in conjunction with their imagination.
- Avoid high tech toys or gadgets for small children – realize things like cell phones and such are being purposefully marketed to children as young as 8 to 10 years of age.
- Do not buy the toy of the moment.
- My favorite quote: “In a world as sped-up and hypercharged as our own, surely the last thing our children need is more stimulation.”
- Donate the rest of the toys, and organize what remains.
- Remember the role of real work in play: baking, digging, gardening, food preparation….Have real items around for children to participate in these roles.
- Play with the four elements outside and have tools for this available: buckets, nets, shovels, kites, scoops, bubbles, baskets and containers for pouring and collecting.
- If you have a yard, this is your “first frontier of nature”. Use it!
- For books, children before the age of eight or nine only need one or two books accessible. A dozen or fewer books can be on a bookshelf as a permanent collection. Kim John Payne advises at seven or eight years of age to add in reference books about the subjects your child is interested in.
How do you simplify your child’s toys and books and encourage outdoor and social play?
We have arrived at Chapter Three, entitled, “Environment”. The chapter begins with painting a picture of the child’s room which ends with this sentence: “The room’s pastel color scheme and basic furniture – bed and bureau where the changing table once was – are no longer visible, buried under a thick overgrowth of multicolored, ever-growing, and expanding stuff.”
Kim John Payne talks about how in many of his workshops, parents want to begin simplification by simplifying the environment. This is a tangible, doable step toward simplification.
American culture leaned toward selling toys to children beginning around Continue reading
We are jumping ahead to Chapter Two, “Soul Fever”. Kim John Payne opens up this chapter with the fact that parents know their children so well and all of the different sides our children can have, “the too little sleep side”, “the overcome with silliness side” etc. He admits toward the bottom of the page that our love for our children never falters, but the instinctual knowledge of our children can wax and wane.
In many cases, I have talked to parents who have felt so disconnected from their children. This can especially occur as children grow older and are out of the house for almost more hours a day than they are home. I have also talked to parents who are very fearful of their children being away from them and are fearful their connection will no longer be strong as their children’s world expands. It is a delicate balance, and I think worth checking to see where you are right now, today, with connecting to your children.
Simplification can help Continue reading