Is your family life looking a little chaotic? Simplify your parenting style and focus on what really matters

Tantrums, unruly kids rushing around all day, a chaotic, messy home – it can become too much. We all want what’s best for our children, but less can be more: less stimulation, less choice and less scheduled activity.

When your family life goes from busy to frantic, take a time-out. Pause... Breathe... And see how ‘Simplicity Parenting’ can restore calmness and happiness to your life by following these steps.

Having too much stuff can be distracting and overwhelming. Reduce toys by discarding broken, developmentally inappropriate (too old, too young), high-stimulation toys (video games, flashing lights, battery-operated) and duplicates (one instead of five teddies). Keep their favourite toys nearby and visible – and store the rest out of sight.

Circulate them like a toy library – do the same with books. “As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention span and capacity for deep play,” says Kim John Payne, the education expert who came up with the term ‘Simplicity Parenting’. He also advises decluttering the entire home, including the lighting and noise, to reduce sensory overload.

Learn to say “no, thanks” to avoid a packed schedule. Be selective about playdates, birthday invites, after-school sports, music lessons and other activities. This way your child can enjoy each activity and still have plenty of free time.

“A child who doesn’t experience leisure – or better yet, boredom – will always be looking for external stimulation, entertainment or activities,” says Payne. He regards boredom as a ‘gift’ because it sparks creativity and resourcefulness.

A rhythmical, predictable home life provides kids with a safe harbour. Creating a daily rhythm means they know what to expect – not in the sense of rigid routines, but how the daily family life is structured. This includes setting time aside for rituals, such as ‘quiet time’ to decompress, laying the supper table together and having family meals where you chat about everyone’s day.

Parents shouldn’t strive to make every day exceptional, but rather to teach children to appreciate normality. “When every note is a high note, children lose the ability to fully engage in the present and to regulate their own time,” says Payne. “Ordinary days are really the sustaining notes of life.”

The bane of modern parenting, you do need to take charge here, as too much screen time impacts on childhood development. In line with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines, Payne suggests moving electronic devices out of sight of younger children.

There should be no screens at all for children under two, and limited exposure for those aged two and older. This will allow kids to actively engage with the real world, play outdoors and free up family time. But this only works if parents get off their phones too…

Be careful of what you say in front of youngsters. Filter out any adult information that may worry or scare them. “Too much information does not ‘prepare’ a child for a complicated world; it paralyses them,” says Payne.

That’s why adults should talk to children in an age-appropriate way, about topics they can fully understand. The idea is to limit our fast-paced ‘too much, too soon’ culture, and instead provide a simple and stress-free childhood for as long as possible.

Words by: Silke Colquhoun
Photography: Gallo/Getty Images

SIMPLICITY PARENTING 101 SIMPLICITY PARENTING 101 Reviewed by Amaarah on February 08, 2024 Rating: 5
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