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Simple Story – A Case For Minimalist Parenting

Elizabeth has been talking to me about this post for quite a while and has been working on the way she wants to word it.  Thanks so much for sharing your experience and perspective today.

simple stories - a case for minimalist parentingImage: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Case for Minimalist Parenting

“I wish I could be a kid again.”

Ever said that to yourself, trudging through another long day with no end in sight?

It seems like everyone remembers their youth with fondness and maybe even a little jealousy. But it’s a phrase I’ve never really related to.

Wanna know what I remember? Feeling suffocated by a jam-packed schedule – a huge blur of my youth I never really escaped until I left home for good.

Shiny Medals, Perfect Grades, and Flashy Dance Costumes

Of course, this isn’t how my Mom remembers it.

She’d tell you she gave me the world.

“Look at what I did for you!” she’d say when I begged her to let me slow down. “I would have given anything to have had what you have when I was your age! How could you be so ungrateful?”

I didn’t know any better, so I assumed she knew best and went along for the ride.

And what a ride it was. Violin lessons, academic clubs, and sports practices filled my calendar to the brim every weekday. Recitals, competitions, and games crowded my weekends. Volunteering and church activities filled in the rest.

Sure, I got straight A’s, won tons of competitions, and made it home in time for dinner.

But I never formed a genuine bond with my parents. We didn’t have the time, and we certainly didn’t have the energy. Instead, all I remember is lying in bed every morning, dreading the day ahead of me – every over-scheduled minute of it.

“You’re so lucky to have a mother who can do all this for you!” the other moms would say to me after mine proudly rolled off the laundry list of activities she drove me back and forth to.

Everyone would nod together, and I’d smile. On the inside I was dying, but no one could see me crumbling behind my shiny medals, perfect grades, and flashy dance costumes.

After all, I was lucky.

“But I’m not like those parents”

“I’d never do that to my child,” you say. “That’s just too much.”

And you’re right. It was.

But I don’t think parents overwhelm their kids on purpose. Achievement is seductive. Those who have it want more of it, and those who don’t will do what it takes to get it.

Child achievement isn’t all that different. It gives you just the right amount of validation you need to prove to other parents (and yourself) that you’re doing something right.

But there’s no blaring alarm that sounds off when your schedule starts to go south. The chaos will sneak in slowly.

Eventually, your to-do list will scare anyone who takes a glimpse of it. You won’t remember the last time you did anything for yourself. A few quiet moments will come around and you’ll wonder, “Maybe I should put them in another extracurricular…”

But if your life is too busy to enjoy and savor, what’s the point?

Do More with Less: Minimalist Parenting

We all talk about minimalism simplifying where we live. But minimalism isn’t just limited to removing all the clutter in your home. It’s about removing everything that’s getting in the way of living the life you want. And that includes the clutter in your family’s schedule.

So stop cramming the family schedule with useless junk just because other people guilt you into it. Instead, give yourself the space and flexibility to make memories you and your kids will treasure, long after those recitals and sports seasons come to an end.

Because you know those small moments? The ones that don’t seem like much now? Those are the ones that turn out to be the best – the ones you’ll want to re-tell, laughing until you cry around the kitchen table with friends and family.

You deserve to have a vault of those memories. Here’s how to start making them…right now:

  • Listen to their priorities. Take a few minutes to ask your child what’s worth keeping in their schedule – it might surprise you.
  • Give yourself space. You don’t have to be with your child every moment to be a phenomenal parent. After a short time apart, they’ll be really excited to see you again – a little less whining and a few more smiles all around.
  • Be present for them. After that initial excitement of getting a new toy wears off, it just becomes lost underneath all the others. But your presence in their life? That’s priceless. Those moments you have together will never rot in a landfill.

Let’s face it: kids need a lot less activities and things than everyone thinks.

Elizabeth Kane is a music teacher who loves showing parents how to use a music education to make their child unstoppable – without wasting their time or their money. Right now, she’s offering a free guide for simple parents that’ll steer your kids to success worth achieving – no “tiger mom” tactics required 🙂 Click here to get it.

15 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story!

    When it comes to giving kids a ton of activities, I honestly think it has a lot to do with keeping children entertained when the parent(s) don’t want to. I’ve read a few articles lately written by moms who are finally admitting they just don’t care for playing with their children. I happen to feel the same way they do. I get bored. I can’t keep focus. And I’m always looking for a way out. I don’t think it’s bad, and I truly wish a lot of us would just fess up to how we really feel. Other than school, our boys are not currently in activities, but it’s only for monetary reasons. If we had the money, I’d probably be jam packing their schedules just because I want them to have fun, learn, and try new things without the pressure of me having to instigate it all. And that’s why I think so many have a full schedule–it’s easier to pay someone to teach your kid than have to figure it all out yourself, especially when it’s not something you really enjoy.

  2. Elizabeth Kane Elizabeth Kane

    That’s a good point, Megyn. It’s easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself to be this super fun spontaneously playful parent (it’s in ads all the time – this exaggerated smiling parent building forts and playing legos). But I don’t think you have to be enthralled with your kids to have a good time together. I used to think making pancakes out the box on a Saturday morning was the greatest thing in the world with my Dad, and I wish we had done more of it. And the few times my parents came to see me play in a 3rd grade soccer game at school, I felt on top of the world. It really is the little things for kids.

  3. I read with interest your post because I too believe most children are over booked these days. I lament the lack of childhood boredom. That point in a child’s day when their imagination comes out or they pick-up a book to read or they ask their mother if they can help make dinner because they are BORED. Those missing moments are also about personal growth, not just organized activities.

    • Elizabeth Kane Elizabeth Kane

      I agree, Christine. Boredom gets a bad rap. It’s like people are afraid of what will happen if kids sit still too long. But I think we all need more time to sit with our thoughts. And living a simpler life allows those bored moments to happen a lot more easily, and in turn, we can live more intentionally. I’d choose a few hours of complete boredom over a schedule that has no wiggle room any day.

      • I used to love my time to entertain myself growing up.

        And I feel in many ways it helped to shape who I am today. Someone who always has many crazy projects on the go.

        I never get bored, because I find my own fun. I don’t need it to be created for me.

  4. Elizabeth! You so beautifully and poignantly illustrate the other side of overscheduling we rarely see..how it feels for the child who complies but dreads it. Of course, not all children feel that way, but so many do yet don’t have a way to talk about it. Thank you so much for writing this and for letting Christine and me know. I will be sure to link your post on the Minimalist Parenting blog.

  5. This is so great. Thank you for sharing your story. I recently wrote a post on this topic, trying to figure out what to do about the fact that I want my children to be accomplished, capable adults with a great set of skills, but I also want them to have an idyllic childhood with lots of play and free time (http://thegreatfulmom.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/parenting-in-reverse/). This has definitely given me something to think about.

  6. Great post, Elizabeth. This is exactly the kind of parenting I’m striving for, and one of the reasons I homeschool. Currently we are committed to nothing extra. The girls do take violin, but since I’m a violin teacher I teach them! Even so, I’m not playing with my kids or with them every single minute of every day. We take breaks from each other almost daily – for a couple hours each day, we all go our separate ways (in the house) and take some time alone.

    • Elizabeth Kane Elizabeth Kane

      That’s great, Jill. Spending time apart is a good way to show you’re there for them, but still mindful of how important their alone time can be. I’m sure learning at home can be very intense, but very rewarding. Wishing you many happy memories. 🙂

    • Alone time in home school sounds great.

      I’m definitely considering home school, but wondered how to develop their independence. And this would definitely help in that process.

      Simple. But great!

  7. Thank you so much for this great piece.

    I teach in a few different extra curricular activities, and whilst I think they are important , there is definitely too much.

    For one of the activities I teach in, we asked the children to do write out their schedule so we could look at time management.

    I was shocked!!!

    Some of these 10-12 year olds were up at 6am to get in extra homework or music practice. And then were up until 9pm doing all sorts of activities.

    It is wrong!

    Personally, I was always involved in extra curricular activities when growing up, but never an unbalanced amount, which makes me happy.

    Thanks again for a great article, and I’ll be popping over to check out your site

    • Elizabeth Kane Elizabeth Kane

      Glad you liked the piece, Mark! I can definitely relate to those experiences. I remember days like that started for me around middle school. I would wake up at 5am to finish my homework after a late-night swim meet, or dance rehearsal that went over into 10pm territory. It really toke a toll on me. I don’t wish that kind of stress on any child.

      • I am so glad you’re promoting a balance for children, especially as you’ve experienced the craziness.

        Thanks again

  8. Elizabeth, thanks for the great piece! I totally agree – like everything else these days there is simply too much. A parent’s primary goal for their child is to help them find their own identity as they develop. While offering a wide range of activities is helpful for exploring this, too many allows no time for boredom and the resulting self-reflection that allows the child to winnow down what is important to them and what they would rather take a pass on. And it also offers very little in the way of creativity – all entertainment is provided for them and there’s no need to build a house out of a refrigerator box or make up an improvised game with sticks and pebbles out in the yard.

    Keep the up the great work and I hope the book sells gazillions 🙂

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