Noticing and Treating Soul Fever

November 30, 2011 in Minimalist Parenting by Lorilee Lippincott

This is the second post I have written about Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.  The first post I wrote about the deep thoughts, discussion, and changes we made after reading the first two pages.  This post is based on a bit farther into the book.  About page 50 I believe it starts talking about…

Soul Fever

Since I had to take the book back to the library, I don’t have it on hand to give references or share some of the great quotes I found, but I wanted to share with you the idea and how we are trying to use it.

Soul fever is basically when kids get emotionally ‘sick’.  He used the comparison with a physical fever because of the similarity.

Causes of Soul Fever

Physical fever come from over-activity, not enough rest, and exposure to sickness.  Soul fever can be caused from over-activity, not enough rest, and exposure to stress.  Too much stimulation and an inability to process or handle it.

What the author found was that kids in first world countries were exhibiting similar symptoms as kids who have gone through very traumatic situations (natural disasters or war) from a constant level of stress building up.  Soul fever is when this constant stress tips over the top and starts being displayed.


Just like a fever, cough, runny nose, etc for physical sickness, kids with emotional ‘flu’s’ or soul fever start displaying symptoms.  Just like each kid and germ creates different physical sicknesses, the symptoms for each kid with soul fever are different, but as a parent, we know something is up.  They can be withdrawn, or hyperactive. They can be demanding or refuse everything. They can be destructive or controlling… the list goes on.  Basically, what the author talked about is that we all have personality quirks, but it is stress that makes them really stick out.

As a parent, sometimes it is hard to put our finger on physical or emotional sickness symptoms, we just can tell something is up.


With physical sickness we put our kids to bed, cancel all activities, make them special food, cuddle and read books etc.  The treatment for soul fever needs to be the same.  Kids need to rest emotionally and heal/process.  They need to have some really quiet days with little activity, lots of attention and maybe even hot soup.

This is where our society has a disconnect.  Most parents (hopefully all parents) can tell when their kid has soul fever and is emotionally stressed beyond the processing point.  They know something is up, they can tell something is different.  But it is at this point that they either don’t know what to do, or they don’t want to slow down.  Cancelling activities and staying home from school is a requirement for kids with physical fevers, but stressed out kids can be pulled around everywhere with promises, threats, treats, or other parenting tools until they have a really serious soul ‘fever’.

This is why a simple life for kids is so important.  I do lots of things so that my kids can stay physically healthy and not get sick.  A simple bubble around my kids and their life helps guard against this kind of emotional sick.  Just like age is no barrier for physical sickness… it isn’t for soul fever either.

What I have loved about home school is that it is much easier to pull back and take a break.  Whenever either kids hits a new concept that doesn’t come easily they take breaks and go lay down for 10 or 15 minutes.  At first, I didn’t give them a choice.  It wasn’t a punishment, it was just a rest if they were struggling and we weren’t getting anywhere.  Now, they do it willingly, because they feel much better after a few minutes of quiet.

As adults we understand this.  If we are in a stressful situation we need to pull out and have a few moments of quiet alone time to process.

So on this note, Lily especially has been struggling with a new concept in math the past few weeks.  She can do it, and understands it, but it is mental exercises to get all the way through it and it has been stressful for her.  I decided to take the whole week of Thanksgiving off.  We haven’t had a day off school yet this year and the school system has had several already.  I have done a few shortened or field trip days, but this week was just off.  Nothing planned, no field trips, just sitting home doing nothing.

This was also because the book talked about the need for kids to have more unscheduled time.  Scheduled time needs to be structured for the comfort of routine, but kids need lots of unstructured time where they can just play and learn to play.  They need to learn how to play on their own and come up with their own entertainment because that is where they develop their creativity and imagination.

What happened?

Well, Lily loved it.  She read, colored, played Barbies as well as many other games she came up with on her own or played with me.

Ian, still needs some practice on this.  With nothing to do, he becomes a terror.  This is probably because he is the second child and hasn’t had much practice playing alone.  By the second and third day he was doing a bit better.  It was this week that he first chose a book (by himself) from the library, decided to read it to me (by himself) and read the whole thing (except 1 word) all by himself.  It was Dr. Seuss ‘Green Eggs and Ham’.  Easy words, but they aren’t short books.  I am so excited!  Sure, he has been reading for a few months and we have been practicing, but it was this week that he (several times) has chosen to read for fun.  He also woke up Thursday morning and over breakfast decided to count to 100 for daddy.  I was speechless.  We haven’t done numbers past about 40 with his math yet.  He went from 1-100 straight with no trouble.   Was it our quiet week that helped with these two things?  Who knows.  Might have just been timing.  Either way, taking the time off sure didn’t slow them down much.

I struggle with ‘Tiger Mom’ tendencies with my kids, especially with home school.  I believe they can do much more than the school system would dish out and it has been proven because Lily (and now Ian) are working ahead of their age.   With my learning and trying to practice more simplicity I have been bringing more and more simplicity into my kids life with home schooling as well as many other areas.  It is a balance, but I am happy with where we are going and what we are learning.