DO KIDS GET MORE OUT OF HAVING LESS?
Yes, says a new parenting movement that pushes back at the world of excess their children are growing up in
Anew parenting trend is gaining popularity in the US and it’s about slowing and simplifying the world our kids are growing up in. At the forefront of this movement is Australian parenting expert Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting: Using The Extraordinary Power Of Less To Raise Calmer, Happier And More Secure Kids ( Ballantine Books).
He goes as far as to say today’s pace of life is a threat to our kids.
“We are living in an undeclared war on childhood and we must declare a simple peace in our homes,” he says. “[There’s] too much stuff and too many choices. If we’re overwhelmed as adults, imagine how children feel!”
Payne has this simplified formula of what a child’s life should ideally be made up of: “A third should be busy, a third should be creative time and a third downtime.”
FINDING A BALANCE
So how much scheduling is too much? The research is mixed. While there has been a backlash against over-scheduling kids, more recent studies have found that it’s not necessarily the child who is suffering but the parent.
Although having a stressedout mum or dad to contend with can have its drawbacks, some research has found that children can flourish in a life that’s packed with extracurricular activities.
A 2008 American study of kids aged between nine and 12, called The “Hurried” Child: Myth vs Reality, actually found participation in organised activities, even many of them, is linked to positive outcomes in school, emotional development, family life and behaviour. It was the under-scheduled kid who was most at risk and presented as more withdrawn, less emotionally mature and with lower self-esteem.
Payne isn’t necessarily urging parents to underschedule kids but to introduce moments of calm within the family’s schedule.
“Give them just a bit more space than you think you can,” he says. “Allow playtime to extend just a few minutes longer.
“Simplification is often about doing less and trusting that if they have the time and security children will explore their worlds in the way and at the pace that works best for them.”
The result, he says, is a child who learns to use this freedom to become resilient and creative. Parenting expert Kim John Payne is adamant that kids don’t need to know everything and it’s not only okay to shield our offspring from
some nasty realities, it’s our responsibility. He says before he shares information with his kids, he asks himself these questions: Is it true? Is it necessary? Do children need to hear it?
Is it kind?
Payne has this advice for simplifying life with kids:
Streamline your home environment. Reduce the amount of toys, books and clutter, as well as the lights, sounds and general sensory overload. “Your home is one environment parents can have some control over,” he says.
Establish rituals. Discover ways to ease daily tensions, create battle-free mealtimes and bedtimes, and be aware if your child seems overwhelmed.
Create intervals of calm and connection in your child’s torrent of constant doing.
Scale back on media. Manage your children’s screen time
to limit the endless deluge of information and stimulation.
The results, he says, will be kids who don’t feel they have to “push back” because of the lack of space and time in their lives. “It increases your children’s ability to be creative, innovative and adaptable,” he says. “Everything becomes easier and more fun.”