July 16, 2013

Greenreads: Simplicity Parenting

Do you ever feel kids have too much or are bombarded by too much? 
Junk food.
Real life adults lead.

I love this book written by a Waldorf teacher (educational philosophy geared towards hands-on, natural, rhythmic, artistic, storytelling, simplicity, education, not standardized test-oriented education) and psychologist.

It tells of how children are getting so stressed out and overloaded by information and pleasures that they are in hyper-drive. So she urges parents to simplify their childrens' lives, routines, toys and information received. To in a sense protect our children from getting too much, too fast. "A protected childhood allows for the slow development of identity, well-being, and resiliency. Too much stuff leads to too little time and too little depth in the way kids see and explore their worlds."

She also mentioned every child has quirks, but that when they are stressed (sometimes in ways unbeknownst to us), those quirks turn into diagnosed behavioral problems. "Stress can push children along the behavioral spectrum. When you simplify a child's life on a number of levels, back they come. Behavioral tendencies can be soothed or relaxed by creating calm. We need to simplify in order to create and honor that "calm" for the sake of our children and their divine potential within them. We are here to nuture that potential and help them explore and exerience life in good and natural ways....not just to be entertained by toys, running around stressed from class-to-class, etc.

She walks you through step by step how to simplify in many areas and to create a stable environment in the home by creating daily pockets of predictability for your children and by having less clutter (books, toys, information, etc.). Here are some areas and suggestions (but read the book for more thorough advice and examples).

We have way too many toys for our children! They don't even play with half of them. "As you decrease the quantity of your child's toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play."
Keep a few loved toys in clear sight and a few more organized in bins tucked away--reachable, but not always in sight. Get rid of all of the following toys:
1. Broken Toys
2. Developmentally Inappropriate Toys (pack away or donate those outgrown)
3. Conceptually "Fixed" Toys (simple toys allow imagination--not plastic unchangable outfits and TV heroes)
4. Toys That Do Too Much and Break Too Easily
5. High Stimulation Toys
6. Annoying or Offensive Toys
7. Toys that Claim to Give Your Child a Developmental Edge
8. Toys You Are Pressured to Buy
9. Toys that Inspire Corrosive Play (violence)
10. Toy Multiples

Expanding Play from Beyond Toys
Children need to experience (touch, see, feel, do, etc)...not just be entertained. Here are some thoughts for how children can play beyond toys:
Purpose and Industry
Trial and Error
Social Interaction
Art & Music

If you're like me you try to collect tons of used kids books. But the author says, "We honor the value of something (like reading) in our child's life by fostering a deep-not disposable--relationship to it." So if you have too much of anything, the child doesn't delve deeply into those things. Picking just one or two books before the child is eight is just fine, with 10 or so other books available as needed. Great books for children are fables and nursery ryhmes because they have rhythm and generally a problem/resolution and principle. Plus, most are based in nature and are very short and simple.
Here are some questions to ask, when thinking about your kids book collection:
Is it developmentally Appropriate?
Is the book based on a product of TV character?
Does it tell an unfolding story or is it "all over the place?"

Rhythm and predictability are what we aim for; predictabilty may be what we can acheive. This predictability help provide security for our children so they feel more happy and calm. She talks about the power of talking to your children more and creating predictability. How often do we run around "living" our lives, but not communicating clearly with our children about what we are doing or what to expect. If we treat them like kids and leave them in the dark. We need to provide pauses to help them know we're about to leave. We need to pick them up face to face and hand in hand, not grab them from behind (which makes them feel insecure and forced) and push them to our next event for the day. Do we help our children see who they are and how they are living and acheive meaning and purpose? Or do they let overwhleming toys, books and media tell them about what life "should" be like? I would suggest that if our children aren't happy, there are inner needs not being met. I always smile when my boy sings, because of the quote "A child who sings is a happy child." And when he seems unhappy and whiny...then I ask myself what I need to do to change my attitude (or stress-level) and how I can better focus on him and simplify.

"Rhythms establish a foundation of cooperation and connection. And relationships are often built in the intervals, the spaces between activities, when nothing much is going on." So don't be too busy.

Also I love the simple dinners built on consistent menus so that consistency is valued more than personal preferences and so that children can be involved to prepare it and clean up together.

Pressure valves: kids need to release steam and energy throughout the day. Ex: right after school and sitting so long...a quiet time might be needed. Or time before bed to slow down and unwind. Storytime is the best example of this and a great chance for parents to connect and help create a picture of the next day for their children. If children don't have these times they have a hard time sleeping at night. Look for opportunities to build a few into your days for your child's sanity.

I stopped taking notes halfway through...so next time I read it I will finish. :)

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