confessions graphic FINALsimplicity

There are three books that currently shape the way we parent. Last week I reviewed the first, Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel, and this week I want to share a bit about Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, whose name always reminds me of the North Korean dictator.

A friend recommended this book to me, and it has significantly impacted some of our big picture decisions about the kind of life we live, how we integrate our children into our lives and our choices about things, toys and time. I loved this book, and I love the vision it lays out for what a childhood can be.

A protected childhood allows for the slow development of identity, well-being and resiliency.

– Kim John Payne, “Simplicity Parenting,” p12

This is not a book about discipline or communication, per se, but it is really about looking at what kind of a life we want our children to have and going about creating it.

His main point, I think, is stated on page 6:

The pace of our lives is increasingly misaligned by the pace of childhood…By simplifying, we protect the environment for childhood’s slow unfolding of self.

– Kim John Payne, “Simplicity Parenting,” p6, 10

The book tackles several topics that are important for parents – simple routines and how they create stability and safety for kids, a simple environment with less toys and less clutter, and creating pressure valve points in the day that allow for kids to let off some steam.

After reading the book, I looked at our toys – did Little Boy play with them for long periods of time or just flit from one toy to another? If it was the latter, he probably had too many out. I put most of his toys in box in the basement, and now there cars, legos, blocks, musical instruments and books. He still does not play with everything “deeply,” but there is a significant improvement in how he plays, and I much prefer having less clutter around.

One of the best points in the book is about boredom:

Boredom is often the precursor to creativity. Thing of it as the bridge between “nothing” and the sort of deep creative play we talked about. The bridge is almost always paved (with the frustration of) boredom….The messiness of free play, with its many changes and possibilities builds an inner flexibility.

A child’s love of an activity is not enough to protect him or her from the effects of pursuing it too much, or too soon.

– Kim John Payne, “Simplicity Parenting,” p142, 157

Payne says that boredom is a gift to children, and it helped me see that over-scheduling my child or planning too many activities and shuttling him around from one thing to another only serves to shut down his own ability to create, play and invent. It helps me now to remember that it’s not my job to entertain him or keep him occupied. If something is genuinely worth doing, we do it, but most of the time I try to keep it open to see what he will come up with on his own.

This book has a huge impact in how I think about the life I create for my child – is it one that fosters the slow unfolding of his childhood? Or am I making his life fit into my adult word? Am I trying to make him life at my pace? How can we spend our time, structure our home and fill our spaces in a way that fosters peace for all of us and also a pace that favours childhood? These are the questions I found myself asking and still find myself asking because of this book. It’s an excellent, easy read with many practical applications.

*I know there are a variety of people who read this blog who come from a diverse set of cultures and beliefs, and it’s my hope that you all feel welcome here. But I am still who I am, and my beliefs and faith are important to me, so I want to say this as a caveat – this book is not a faith-based book, and there are a few big-picture conclusions that Payne makes that I don’t agree with, nor do I think he addresses some of a child’s core issues or core needs. 

This post is Day 12 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)