Note: This is a guest post from Denaye Barahona of Simple Families.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I had big ideas. I wanted to give my children the world. Like most new parents, I had the best of intentions.
Every generation wants to give their children more than they had themselves. My intention was no different—I wanted to give my children more. More love. More protection. More opportunities. More toys.
More, more, more.
This desire for more was rooted in love.
After I had children and they began to grow, there was a shift. This desire for more became rooted in fear.
If I didn’t play with them enough, would they be happy? If I didn’t stand at least two feet from them at all times on the playground, would they fall? If I didn’t land a spot in a top preschool, would their education be impacted?
In the words of Erin Loechner, “No one ever told me how much fear is hidden in love.”
All this fear, camouflaged as love, quickly started to take a toll on me. Trying to be everything and do everything for my children left me depleted.
My desire to give my children more left me feeling less.
Less energy. Less joy. Less calm.
Then I found Minimalism.
Minimalism is more than just getting rid of all your stuff (although I am on that bandwagon too). It’s about filtering out the noise to focus your energy on what’s important.
Families of today have noisy lives. I know this in my personal life, but also in my professional life. I have a Ph.D. in Child Development with a specialty in Family Wellness. I work with families to find calm amongst the noise.
In families, the calm lies in balancing the needs of each individual while simultaneously tightening the strings that hold them all together.
Sounds tricky, right?
How to Parent Like a Minimalist
Fortunately minimalism has a secret formula for parents: Less is More. Here are some lessons I’ve learned on my journey toward a simpler family life:
1. Hover less and your children will live more.
We spend so much time protecting our children, we forget to let them live. When we hover over them and perseverate over safety, our fears can undermine a child’s confidence. These fears rob them of their independence. Instead of hovering, let’s instill a sense of responsibility and natural curiosity for the world.
Allow your children to live life to the fullest. Even if that means climbing to the top of the jungle gym without a spotter.
2. Entertain less and your children will innovate more.
In many ways, Pinterest is a trap. The abundance of art, craft, and activity ideas that abound leave us feeling as though we need to do more to entertain our kids. Wouldn’t it be easy if we could just flip a switch and provide unlimited entertainment for our kids?
Oh wait, we can. We can limit screen time for our kids.
When we provide endless varieties of entertainment for our children, we leave them with very little opportunity to create and explore new ideas on their own.
So hear me out: Follow my lead and skip the Pinterest activities. Then cut back on the screen time. Let kids be bored. Give them space. The innovation that results will astound you.
3. Schedule less and your children will rest more.
As humans, we need to rest our bodies and minds. This is particularly true of small bodies that are growing and maturing rapidly. Research show us that childhood anxiety is a rising epidemic in this generation. A child who grows up with anxiety is significantly more likely to be plagued with mental health challenges throughout their adult years.
Do you know what our children need? Rest.
Do you know what we need? Rest.
Stop making rest a luxury—make rest a priority. The mental and physical health of your family depends on it.
4. Referee less and your children will problem solve more.
As parents, we wear many hats. One hat we need to hang up is that of the referee. Parents have the tendency to jump in and solve any disputes and challenges that children come across. It’s easier to be the referee than watch two kids awkwardly settle their own disagreement. It’s easier to be jump in and help, than wait ten minutes for a kid to fumble through shoe tying.
After you hang up that hat, get comfortable sitting on the sidelines in silence. Kids need a lot of practice to learn how to problem solve—so let’s give them many chances to do it for themselves.
5. Buy less and your children will seek more.
Research shows that clutter is associated with higher levels of stress in families. Have you yelled at your kids to clean up their rooms recently? If your home has less inside, it is easier to clean up. It is easier to take good care of fewer things.
You know what doesn’t have a long-term impact on a child happiness? The latest hit toy. Buy your children less, and as a result, they will be able to better filter out the noise and focus on the important things.
Studies tell us that family vacations and togetherness have a long term impact on a child’s happiness. Let’s teach our children to value “stuff” less and experiences more.
What are you doing less of to help your kids get more out of life?
Denaye Barahona Ph.D. is a mother of two and the founder of Simple Families, a podcast and community for families interested in minimalism with kids, family wellness, and positive parenting. Denaye has a doctorate in child development and over a decade of experience in coaching parents to more harmonious lives with children.
Success Triangles says
Well said! We now parents who constantly overschedule their kids in every activity and sport available. We see their pics on Facebook and they all look exhausted.
We have a thirteen-year-old boy and we let him decide how to spend his time on the weekends – with a few controls like screen time for example. He loves running the neighborhood with his friends and playing pickup games. If he wants to play an organized sport, then we sign him up. If he doesn’t like it, we don’t force him to play it. Letting him be independent has also freed up our time for more personal pursuits.
All your suggestions are great reminders. I’ve been mindful about allowing my children to just discover rather than have structured play. This encourages them to solve boredom on their own, be more creative, and allow for more independence. Also refereeing less has been something I’ve been trying to do with my 3 and 5 year old when I hear disagreements! Thanks for sharing!
I really like this article! I found myself thinking, “oh, this is good… this sounds just like Simple Families” – ha! I always like what Denaye has to say! We are doing our best to follow these practices in our family. Thanks for the reminders!
Everything Denaye writes is gold. I just wish she had been in my life when my son was younger. But there is something in this article for all ages. The importance of rest (and not succumbing to crazy town schedules) is so important. It’s been one benefit of the pandemic. Forcing us to slow down and realize how nice that can be. I hope it sticks around. Thanks Denaye for such wisdom and for writing it so beautifully.
Agree wholeheartedly. We have 6 kids and homeschool them. I let them sleep as late as they want or need most days, and they schedule their own schoolwork. Some of them do extra work to have a day off now and then. We intentionally moved to the country, so they spend much of their day digging in the dirt, playing with our animals, and climbing trees. They have time to think and imagine and breathe. We live in a fairly small house, at least for 8 people, and that necessitates keeping our possessions limited, including toys. Our children have the innocence of much younger children, but the maturity of much older. Life’s not perfect, but at least we have enough built-in margin to tackle the rough times.
“Our children have the innocence of much younger children, but the maturity of much older.” I love this! This is where my kids are at too. We also homeschool. :)
Albany Close says
If you don’t mind me asking where abouts did you decide to move in the county??
I’ve lived in Florida most of my life but i am thinking more and more of getting away from the traffic etc. I want somewhere safe but also what I can reasonably afford. I don’t know where to look. It’s just me and my small son he’s 9. I’m just looking for ideas or suggestions ♥️🙏🏼 TIA
Great post, thanks for sharing. Here in the UK, we have just come across a toy subscription box for our baby. However it’s different to other accumulative subscription boxes- for a set fee you get tokens and can order a few toys, then when baby is done with it, you can return it and swap for another (so it’s basically a swap scheme on a national scale). We hope this will reduce the clutter and materialistic behaviours. We hope it’ll teach our child that it’s good to share. Of course, if there is something that they enjoy playing with for a longer period, we can buy it. This scheme is not only good from a minimalistic point of view, it’s also good for the environment (reducing landfill waste, and the company ships without plastic). Excited to try it out!
This post is so timely for me. We just learned my girl will be returning to school 5 days a week after next week. Next week is her last ‘virtual’ week, a routine we had grown quite accustomed to and I was already wondering if I had cherished the extra time with her enough. I was ruminating on how I was often resenting the ongoing battle of trying and failing to maintain boundaries between my work-at-home and her school-at-home and feeling like I was coming up short. Thank you for the reminders not to hover and not to regret. She has had a lot of alone time during the pandemic and reading that time to herself to doodle, read and even be bored is exactly what she needed was such good timing.
Your quote about no one telling you that love held so much fear – that was new and eye opening to me, so thank you for that as well. It is not good to live with fear – life is too short and too beautiful.