Last Thursday my husband and I had the pleasure of attending a lecture on Simplicity Parenting with Kim John Payne, author of the book by the same title at the Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill. The evening was enlightening, to say the least.
I thought I would share with you some of the highlights. Most of what he shared you can read for yourself in his book, but it made a big difference for me to hear him speak. I felt so inspired that I started simplifying the next day and we finally came to terms with the use of screen time for our children.
Essentially Payne believes that children living in our modern world, with 2-5 extra-curricular activities scheduled each week, the high stress of academic achievement from school and from parents, the amount of screen time on computers, video games, and television viewing, the amount of toys (150 toys per child on average), and the adult conversation children are privy to, all of this is resulting in, what he calls, Cumulative Stress Syndrome in our children, or CSS.
All children are quirky, according to Payne. However, he explains, each child’s “quirk” can also be their gift. For example, a child who likes order or patterns, on a bad day, may be easily labeled or diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. On a good day, this “quirk” can be very useful and helpful within the family – when the child isn’t overly stressed it is simply orderliness and structure.
So, when the complexity of your child’s environment is high and the predictability and structure of their days is low, your child can become stressed.
Our goal as parents is to create an environment that is simplified. Less scheduled, fewer toys and even books, filtered adult conversation, less academic pressure, and the elimination of screen time for children under the age of 7, can significantly change your child’s behavior and well-being for the better.
You may read this and immediately feel like it’s impossible to simplify following these guidelines. I know how you feel. I felt overwhelmed and even fearful imagining the changes he was suggesting. At the same time I was shocked by the information he was sharing.
- 93% of the world’s Ritalin is consumed by the United States.
- The average 12 year old in our country watches 42 hours of television.
- Stressed children retract from the world.
- Screen time for, specifically boys, dulls the empathy center of the brain.
- When children are privy to too much adult conversation they are more difficult to discipline.
Unfortunately, when you feed your child’s mind before you nurture their hearts, you cause great heartache for yourself as your child matures and you watch them make choices that affect the rest of their lives.
You mustn’t be afraid to be in charge while your children are young. You are the benevolent dictator during these young years, creating predictability through rhythms like meal and bedtime rituals. You set the tone of your family life by placing value on the qualities of the spirit – kindness, courtesy, gentleness, compassion.
These early years are critical to the success of your children and how they develop into young adults. When you let loose and allow the culture and frenzy of pushing your children into so much too soon, the gentle unfolding experience of childhood is missed.
I was moved and inspired by Payne’s words and by his book. I am resolute about eliminating screen time for my 3.5 year old and determined to keep it at bay for my 7 year old. We’ve turned off the radio in the car. I’ve simplified toys and books and I am striving to remember to ask myself if what I have to say in front of my children is kind, necessary, and true before I say it in their presence. Fortunately, we haven’t gotten caught up in over-scheduling and we are looking into ways of lessening the academic pressure for our 1st grader.
Just within these first 7 days of applying the principles, I’m amazed at how much more calm and connected I’m feeling to both of my children. Both of them are adapting to the changes. Interestingly, they have been most upset about their books being put away upstairs than by anything else. I’ve left about 10 books for each of them in their bookshelves and they are agonizing over how few they have to choose from. I’m stretching them to focus on this smaller number of books for a few weeks before we exchange them with new ones from upstairs. The paint and crayons have come out a lot more lately and they’re playing very creatively together. The biggest and most rewarding change I’ve seen in them this week is their helpfulness. All of a sudden they want to help me vacuum and scrub toilets and get ready for guests with more eagerness and enthusiasm then ever before.
Mama, it can be done! I’m here to help. Please contact me with your questions or let me know if you would like a free consultation.