‘This Has To Change Our Parenting’

November 16, 2011 in Minimalist Parenting by Lorilee Lippincott

I’ve got more pictures from the Omaha Childrens Museum for the post today.

I started reading Simplicity Parenting last weekend (off my November reading list) and was pulled in with the first page.  There is no way I can give away everything in the the book, I recommend reading it, and would love discussing it together, but I wanted to share with you what has come of my beginning the book.

Disclaimer or note: I am not writing any of this to say that I am a good parent, I struggle with it.  It is hard to come out and admit struggles, especially with something as close to home as parenting, but I hope with my sharing my experiences it can help others who are also struggling.

I came out of our room after reading the first few pages and said to my hubby “this has to change our parenting”.  We have done a lot in the last year to simplify our lives and our family life already.  I believe that the simplicity of schedule, of belongings, and of home schooling instead of the the sensory overload and social pressure of school all make a big difference with my children.

But, I knew/know it wasn’t helping as much as it could.  My daughter still struggles, less now, but went through a bad week last week.  She struggles with refusing to eat/being extremely picky, and goes through times when she can’t focus on school at all.  At the age of 7 I can’t tell if it is intentional or not, but it seems more unintentional.   It is so hard for me, because in her struggles, I see or feel my parenting fail, I want to do all I can to help her.  When I ask or look for help, I feel like it is admitting that the fact that I am doing everything I can for her and spending nights awake stressing about it, and it still isn’t helping.  There is no one parenting manual, there is more parenting theories out there than there is people on the earth and every child is different.

This is the only pic I caught of her ‘shopping’.  She was moving so fast.

What I found in the first few pages of this book were stories of kids that struggled like Lily.  I would love to tell you that everything is much better after finding the right ‘pill’ overnight, but it isn’t like that.  What I wanted to share with you today is what I learned in these first few pages and what we are trying to do differently because of it.

What I learned (though not rocket science) is that kids are way over stressed and struggling and really need a simpler life.  What the author was pointing out and discovering was that kids in our first world societies were acting and showing signs of ‘Post Tramatic Stress Disorder’ PTSD that are usually associated with very large wartime events or life-changing traumas.  He discovered, in research all over the world, that the same type of disorder was being caused by little and constant stresses that built up.

Just like every kid in a refuge camp is going to process and have different issues, so children in our society all react differently to the intense pressure that is now on them.  The truth is that they are being affected by the huge increase of stress.

Just think, even 50 years ago (maybe less) most kids didn’t have

  • daycare at 6 weeks of age,
  • rooms so full of toys that there is only small pathways
  • start school at the age of 3 (if they already weren’t in daycare)
  • multiple extra curricular activities
  • tv’s, phones and computers in their bedrooms (even as teenagers)

Ian got caught running by.

This is a mass of stuff and stimulation to take in and process.  It seems like each year grows more crazy with advertising to kids, must-have toys, and new ‘necessary-for-learning’ extra curricular activities.  I am an adult and learning I cannot handle all the information and choices put in front of me, so I can only imagine how crazy it is for kids.

We have cut out most of this stuff, but what the author started talking about was the mass of information and the adult world that kid were being exposed too.  I had never thought of that.  Neither of us are kid people so we have never been great with kid things.  We have been functioning in an adult world and bring our kids with us.

First of we never fight in front of the kids, that should be a given.  We never stress about not having enough money or get upset in front of them.  That said, they are still getting lots of adult world through us.

  1. We talk work, lots of work, in front of them.  Being self-employed, work is a big thing, it is a constant problem to solve.  Reading this book it made sence that the kids could be stressed by hearing all that.  I want them to learn all about business and the excitement of creating a business and the joy of figuring it out.  It is (typically) good stress to me, but they might not be able to handle it.
  2. We have moved around lots in our life.  That, by itself I don’t think is that bad, but all our discussions of moving and where and how have been around or even involved the kids.  I want them to feel a part of the family and of the decisions, but reading this it makes perfect sense that they probably aren’t ready to process that and those kinds of decisions.
  3. It specifically talked about the environment and how that was a problem that was more than kids could handle.  I had never thought of it that way.  I have done a bunch with my kids teaching them about the importance of taking care of the earth.  I don’t harp on the fact that it might just blow up and be gone or they might run out of water in 20 years or anything, but that stuff is in there even if it isn’t specifically designed as a scare tactic.  The environment is a huge problem, as an adult, I don’t know what to do about it.  As a kid it is a way bigger issue than they can fix or process.  For example, I love the ‘story of stuff’ movies, but watching the movies (especially the one about beauty products) has made my daughter toxin phobic.  The world is full of all kinds of issues, and toxins are a big problem… but I don’t want my 7 year old to be loosing sleep over which shampoo she uses.
  4. I have tried to educate my kids on the struggles that so many people have with not enough food and water because I want them to grow up to want to help.  It has created very compassionate kids, Lily prays for the people who don’t have enough food every night.  It is good that she wants to help, but it is a problem that she can’t solve or even wrap her mind around.  It is a stressor.
  5. I have always tried to tread lightly on the issue of physical health and appearance, but this is another stressor that kids pick up on that creates all kinds of lasting issues.  I was grateful to learn that sleeping and eating were places of control that came out most often when kids were stressed and it wasn’t somehow an eating disorder.

This was a bubble show.  Ian was the lucky one to get picked to go inside a bubble.  He was so excited!

I sat there, with only the first few pages read staring in the face the mountain of well-meaning stress I had allowed my kids (specifically my daughter) to deal with in these last few years.  I want my kids to grow up well-informed and globally responsible, but maybe my kids can’t handle that, maybe no kids can handle that…. sure would make sense, as an adult, I can’t handle it.

So, this week hubby and I have been trying very hard to remove these stressors from the kids view.  It is hard not to talk about adult things (work, people, politics, money, etc) when the kids are awake, but creating a world where they don’t have to process or deal with any of it quite yet sounds wonderful.

He has such a focused look :)

Kids still need to be eased into all this stuff and I am not sure how to handle all that.  Probably kids are very different.  As an adult I can’t watch the news and read very little on global problems because I find it drains me.   I know and care deeply about the problems and do what I can to live responsibly, I believe knowledge to that point is good (and everyone getting to that point may need different amounts of information).  My kids could easily take after me and have a low threshold for handling this stuff before being overwhelmed.  ….. so how to handle this I haven’t figured out.  What I am going to try and do for now is take it out of their view and environment as much as I can at this age.