Review: “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. and Lisa M. Ross

The other day I was listening to an interesting piece on NPR about marketing aimed at children, and a caller recommended this book. I found it at my local library (surprisingly, since it seemed to be out with holds everywhere in the system). I enjoy reading parenting books and wanted to see what this one was about. I just loved this book! This is a book that pretty much puts down on paper so many of the things my husband and I hold to be true about parenting – and it has a whole lot of ideas to add to our repertoire!

First off, let’s consider the subtitle: “Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids”. When I first read that I gave a bit of a guffaw. What?? Basically, one of the main tenets in this book is that there is too much “stuff” in kids’ worlds these days: toys, electronics, lessons, activities, etc. etc. etc., and we’d be well-served to get rid of a lot of it. Payne, who is an educator-counselor (Waldorf Schools) and family therapist, espouses that too much “stuff” and not enough quiet and rhythm/ritual is overwhelming kids and basically driving families crazy. Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree. He suggests taking all your children’s toys and removing (donating/tossing/storing) half of them (great idea that I will have to try). That you clear out clutter (on my to-do list every year but I never do it). That kids don’t need to have ten different lessons/activities each week (one of our rules around here is ONE weekly after school activity at a time – and I’m deemed weird by other parents). Kids don’t need to experience EVERYTHING before the age of ten (I agree – though most people think we’re getting the kids a “late start” on stuff). And kids should be doing things because they want to, not just because the parents want them to or think they have a future expert in that area. Payne writes about the importance of rhythm and ritual, such as in the family dinner (yes!), previewing the day with your child in advance to set expectations (something I’ve always done), keeping a consistent schedule (another thing my friends deem “weird”), and keeping a “Sabbath” day that may or may not be religious in nature, where the family relaxes together and there are no scheduled activities, etc., and everyone shares dinner together (something we try to do, though sometimes things creep in on Sunday afternoons).

All throughout this book I read about great ideas that basically allayed my sense of guilt: if you are not giving you kids EVERYTHING, it really is okay. You are not a slacker parent. In fact, it can be the simpler things that really are the most meaningful.

A highly recommended read, especially if you are parenting children at this time!

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