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In my last post, Day 1: 10 Days to a Calmer Family, we talked about “soul fever.”  Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, provides for us a road map to identify when our children are experiencing overwhelm from too much – too many choices, demands, tv, school pressure, and scheduling and not enough down time, free play, quiet, predictability, and creative boredom.

Perhaps you’ve taken some time and have noticed that your child has been out-of-sorts lately or perhaps they’ve been on this high-speed treadmill of life so long that soul fever has become the norm.  Their frequent tantrums, crying, biting, hitting, aggression, defiance, sleep anxiety, and picky eating can all be signs of soul fever.

Just like when you pick up your little one and press your cool cheek to theirs and notice it burning up from a physical fever, a soul fever is noticeable.  If you’re running on high speed, you may also be experiencing soul fever and you can easily miss what your child needs most.

When your little one is running a high temp you don’t take them to soccer or still go to the Saturday birthday party that was scheduled.  You draw your little one close, put on those soft jammies, hold them, or put them to bed and stop all normal routines.

With soul fever, you may not need to get into jammies and go to bed, (although it might be fun to do!), but it is wise to stop the normal busy schedule and hunker down.  Spending some slow time with your child for an afternoon or even a few days may be enough to break the soul fever.  School may or may not need to be put on hold for a day or two.  Intuitively, get a sense of what would help your child re-group.

Step 2 is all about slowing things down and ending the full throttle of activity. Our culture is busy, busy, busy.  Taking this step to heart and treating a soul fever similarly to a physical fever is going to make all the difference. It’s so easy to fall into the cultural norm and sign up your preschooler for gymnastics or soccer, swimming lessons, and Suzuki violin.

Young children don’t need these extra activities. Just learning to play together is a skill they grasp during a play date or at the park.  Scheduled activities aren’t necessary.  Children become who they are by experiencing boredom and stretching out from that boredom into creative, spontaneous free play at home in their own yard or bedroom.

So often we over-schedule our children so that we don’t have to “entertain” them at home or to prevent them from becoming bored or because “it will build their self-esteem,” or because they begged and begged and in the back of your mind you worry that if you don’t start them in ballet by age 3, they won’t be as good as the other ballerinas.

By providing predictable routines at home that involve predictable meal times and free play, your child will experience those “golden moments” – just by watching a beetle crawl in the grass or lying on a blanket and watching cloud shapes go by.  You don’t have to be a camp counselor or preschool teacher to be a mom at home.  Some paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and tape – watch what can be created.  Don’t be afraid to let them become who they’re meant to be in the unstructured hours at home.

Step 3 involves pulling your child close – both physically and emotionally.  This can be a challenge if your child has been throwing you for some big emotional loops lately.  The last thing you want to do is pull them towards you.  It’s during these difficult times that they need you the most.  Your willful child is the one you hold at a distance instinctively.  We pull in those easy to snuggle, those cooperative children.  I’m encouraging you to start the soul fever healing and stretch yourself by staying close to that fevered child.

Practice these first 3 steps – notice, slow down, and pull close – and I’ll walk you through the last step of soul fever in my next post.