Book Club : Simplicity Parenting Chapters Two and Three

Today I will be summarizing and discussing the second and third chapters of Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting. In a world where childhood seems to be flooded with too much, too fast and too soon Payne helps parents clear the way to a simpler, more connected and whole-hearted family life. After reading this book parents will feel empowered and ready to declutter spaces, establish stronger home rhythms, cut down on screen-time and most of all to slow down and prioritize meaningful moments with their children. Most remarkably, the book is truly applicable for all families regardless of their diverse faiths, backgrounds and values. It is completely free from dogma and instead, offers practical and adaptable advice to all.

Chapter Two: Soul Fever

– parents know their children intimately well but sometimes they do not quite pay as much attention as they’d like to to their child or the connection between them isn’t as strong
– the act of simplification is a way of minimizing distractions and clutter so that parent and child can connect – children become more at ease and parents can more easily pay attention
– with connection and attention we can “recognize when a child is overwhelmed”
– Kim John Payne uses the example of a literal fever to bring to light the concept of “soul fever”.
– he describes how a parent can tell when our child is getting sick- a touch of the forehead, fussines, dull eyes and how we respond immediately going into caretaking mode
– “soul fever” is much the same, “something is not right, they’re upset, overwhelmed, at odds with the world.”
– we can tell if our child has soul fever if we follow our “instincts”
– we can soothe and calm soul fever through simplification

“Simplification, gives children the ease they need to realign with their trues selves, there real age, and with their own world rather than the stress and pressures of the adult world.” p.39

Steps to Identifying and Tending to Soul Fever

  1. Noticing – inner turmoil beyond a bad mood, anger, blaming or avoidance of physical affection, more sensitive physically and emotionally, acting “out of character” Noticing alone will be enough to help soothe symptoms- feeling read, understood and supported is something enough
  2. Quieting Things Down – stop normal routines, a break from after-school activities, they might even need to stay home from school. Most children can reset their emotional clock in just a few days. This break will “help your child to maintain the resiliency they need to address the [real problem]” p. 44
  3. Bring Them Close – create a time that feels different than everyday life. Bring out paints, tell stories, start a building project… one-on-one time with a parent is the emphasis here. Find a place where children feel the safest and at peace. This is usually home or in nature. Nature calms and focuses the mind. “Neurologically, time in nature can bring a child out of the amygdala-based fight-or-flight response and into the higher functions of thought that are based in the limbic system (creative) and the frontal lobes (cognition).” p.49
  4. Running Its Course– We cannot control a child’s emotions or put a timeframe on them. “your support doesn’t ‘fix’ anything, just provides a loving container for them to process the things that are bothering them.” p.50
  5. A Slow Strong Return– Ease back into normal life- consider making some of the simplification you’ve worked on more permanent.

Chapter Three: Environment

– the issue of having too much “stuff” strikes a universal chord whenever Kim lectures
– parents usually like to start with simplifying a child’s environment
– too many things can cause to a sense of entitlement, to too many choices and can also push children to grow up too quickly (eg. Barbies for young girls)
– it’s only been in the past “fifty years that inexpensive, mass-produced (overwhelmingly plastic) toys have flooded onto the market” p. 57
– toys are not just in toy stores but in the supermarket, the gas station etc.
– advertisements teach us to be dissatisfied with what we have, immediate gratification is valued, products can solve our problems
– Carl Jung said “children do not distinguish between ritual and reality” – toys are ritual objects with powerful meaning
– Kim John Payne gives some examples of parents who simplified their children’s environment and the positive impact it had such as less sibling rivalry, more focused play and more imagination.

The Discard Pile

Kim has a list of things to consider when decreasing the number of toys a child has
  1. Discard broken toys
  2. Discard developmentally inappropriate toys (toys that are either too old or too young for your child)
  3. Discard conceptually “fixed” toys – eg. toys derived from TV characters
  4. Discard toys that “do” or break to easily – battery operated toys
  5. Discard high stimulation toys- video games, flashing lights, mechanical voices etc.
  6. Discard annoying or offensive toys- ugly, loud, inappropriate
  7. Discard gimicky “educational” toys- baby einstein DVDs, language apps
  8. Discard toys that your child convinced you he/she “needed” but you didn’t want to buy
  9. Discard toys that inspired corrosive play- guns, weapons
  10. Discard toys multiples- eg. you only need one of each animal, one set of blocks,

Organizing What Remains

– some toys you may like to keep but not have out all the time- keep these in storage boxes in the basement, garage or attic
– have beloved toys at hand and visible (a teddy bear, doll and some silks)
– use bins or bookshelves or play stands to neatly store/present the remaining toys

Simplified Play

“Children’s play flourishes when we “let it” rather than “make it” happen
– play isn’t just about toys other experiences and sensations are just as important to healthy play
– digging, kneading, stirring, stacking, nesting- these are all forms of play for young children

Pretending, Imaginary Play

– “make-believe play helps children develop critical cognitive skills known as executive function
– props and costumes should be simple so that they are open to imaginary interpretation

Experience

– toys for “primal exploration” include buckets and spades, nets, kites, scooped, bubbles, baskets and containers

Purpose and Industry

– preparing for festivals, holidays and birthdays gives a child a sense of purpose and usefulness

Nature

– nature stimulus the senses, is restorative and an ideal environment for play
– nature provides an ideal “special place” for a child to hide away- a cubby house, a little tent

Social Interaction

– need physical interaction with others, not virtual alternative
– parents who are physically affectionate with three babies are building the foundation of feelings associated with socialization later on
– toddler want to see and play near others

Movement

– children need to move- run, skip, hop, jump, climb and twirl
– they build balance and coordination

Art and Music

-children need to create
– art opens up the imagination and makes for “playful purpose and industry”
– paper, crayons, beeswax fabric, scissors and glue should all be a part of a child’s simplified room
– music such as lullabies and nursery rhymes should be present in a child’s life from the beginning

Books

– stories nurture children
– but books should still be limited in number and chosen carefully according to age, stage and storyline
– repetition is an essential part of reading- this is how children incorporate what they learn

Clothes

– reduce the number of clothes available
– store of give away clothes that are too big or too small
– leave off logos, cartoon characters and “cute” sayings

Scent/Lighting

– the amygdala is the ancient part of the brain and is associated with smell
– too many smells can overwhelm the amygdala and increase cortical and adrenaline in a child’s body
– minimize sounds in the home by using rugs and carpets on hardwood floors
– consider the lighting in your home – turn off screens well before bedtime, use candlelight when it is bedtime

#realmothersdiversevoices: Jennifer Pepito

I am thrilled to be sharing a new interview series with you each and every week. In this series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values.

It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.

Today I am honoured to welcome Jennifer Pepito to the Whole Family Rhythms community.

Jennifer Pepito is the creator of The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, and The Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget course. She is also a regular contributor to the Wild and Free homeschool community. She can be found at The Peaceful Preschool or on Instagram @jenniferpepito. 

Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?

I am Jennifer Pepito, the mother of seven children ages 23 to 8, and wife of 26 years to my hardworking husband Scott. We currently live on a 5 acre mini farm in Northern California where we raise chickens, goats and sheep. I have been homeschooling my children for 18 years, and last year I took some of my favorite ideas for nurturing young children and created The Peaceful Preschool curriculum.

What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?

Although caring for young babies was a deeply delightful season for me, I am currently loving the companionship of each of my children. They are all so unique, but spending time with them, and navigating life together is a daily joy.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?

One of the biggest challenges that I face as a mother is pulling up my big girl panties each day and mothering well. It is easy to get tired, and tempted to just let my children veg on the computer, but for their joy and mine, I keep stirring up the energy to love and nurture and guide them.

What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?

Having a rhythm in my home means that each day I keep reinforcing reasonable healthy habits. As much as I love being spontaneous, basic civility in our home requires that we have rhythms for caring for our home, our bodies, and our spirits.

Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?

One of our most cherished family values is the nurture of our spiritual life. We feel that anything good that we do, flows out of the joy we are filled with as we worship our God. We make daily spiritual nurture a priority above most other things.

How do you hope to pass these values on to your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values in your daily rhythm?

Aside from basic home and body care, we start each day with devotional time that usually includes some singing, some devotional reading, and some quiet reflective time. This reinforces to the children still at home daily that our spiritual life and relationship with Father God is worth nurturing. We also pause during any crisis to ask God to intervene.

Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your children. Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare?

My days aren’t always exactly the same, but what we usually aim for is;

6:45 Wake up, grab coffee and head back to bed for a few minutes of phone time, Bible reading, and journaling.

7:30 Yoga, usually to Christian worship music.

8:00 Quick run with an older son or outside time to check on livestock and gardens.

8:30 Check children’s morning home and bodycare.

9:00 Morning time with children which includes devotional reading, singing, prayer, memory work, Spanish, and read aloud time.

10:30 Seat work, including math, reading and writing.

12:00 Lunch

1:30  My work time- children usually read quietly or play outside. A few days a week we head out in the afternoon for classes or other lessons.

4:00 My husband comes home early and we switch gears to do family work projects

5:00 Family dinners are a regular occurrence, often followed by reading aloud.

A few nights a week we will follow dinner with some family singing time, once or twice a week we might watch a show or movie in the evening. We have several young adults and older teens at home, so there is always someone to talk to or to work through an issue with. We also have a couple nights a week where we are at a meeting or class.

How important are higher belief systems, stories, literature, art, family history and creative expression to your family? How do you weave these into your family life?

Our spiritual life is the core of our family life, and from that flow many varieties of creative expression. We regularly paint, listen to music, dance, play instruments, read aloud, or even just sit and listen for God’s voice as part of our faith. Erwin McManus says, “A soul that is free and alive is a the soul that creates”, and we see that the more our spirit connects with the Holy Spirit, the more creative we become.

When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?

Our rhythm is most thrown off kilter when we are discouraged. When our emotions start to lead instead of our spirit, we can see things through a less hopeful lens which can lead to looking for comfort instead of sticking with healthy patterns. That is just a part of life, and it isn’t always a bad thing to ditch a routine for needed comfort, but we try to work through those emotions, instead of spiralling into a life that is chaotic.

Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?

Our family rhythm and even our family values have changed greatly through the years. Earlier, we were much more concerned about doing things right, and through failing to get things right, we changed focus. We have become much more concerned with loving God and receiving His love. It is only when we know we are loved, that we can continue to muster up the energy to love well.

When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?

What I usually do to shift my energy when I am tired and frustrated, is put on my favorite Justin Byrne album and get a blank page in front of me. I journal my feelings, as well as what I feel God is saying about the situation. This has helped bring clarity to many difficult days. If I am too off kilter and confused for that step, I might just have a glass of wine and go to bed with a good book. Sometimes a bad day just needs to be left behind before we can get clarity on it.

If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be?

I think the three that have most impacted me in the last several years are Heaven on Earth, Simplicity Parenting, and Raising Burning Hearts.

Thank you so much for your presence here, Jennifer and for so openly sharing your family values, rhythm and vision. 

Mindful Parenting : Gentle Discipline Part Three

Today, I wanted to look more closely into the concept of “Gentle Disciple“, “Simple Discipline“, “Loving Authority” or “Respectful Discipline“. I think this subject is often a sticky web of mixed concepts and expectations, including strands from our own childhood, inconsistent societal expectations, cultural overlays and personal expectations. Through this three-part series I will attempt to piece together what Gentle Discipline is, how it’s different from traditional punitive models of discipline, and most importantly how we can strive to consistently use it in our homes. A lot of my research on this subject is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, Kim John Payne, Magda Gerber, Janet Lansbury, Joseph Chilton Pearce, John Holt, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Alfie Kohn, to name a few.

Steps to Effectively and Consistently use Gentle Discipline in our homes

(advice for children up to age 7):

Familiarize yourself with the typical qualities of your child’s age group. Specifically, what is age appropriate behaviour and what are the developmental milestones he/she is experiencing?

  • If you understand that a two-year-old is developmentally very likely to eat with his/her hands, throw food and make a mess, you’re less inclined to label the behaviour as bad or good and more inclined to continue to model table manners each day as she grows.
  • The Gesell Institute Booklets are a great place to start reading about development development year by year.

Connect with your child each and everyday.

  • Connect with your child daily using physical touch, eye contact, conscious listening and real presence
  • Daily connection is the number one discipline tool that will carry you through all your years of parenting

Limit choices.

  • For a general rule of thumb: No choices for children ages 1-5, two options maximum for children ages 5-7
  • Choices overwhelm children and intimidate very young children. Young children want to know that you are taking care of them, making decisions for them and creating protective boundaries for them

Have a strong Family Rhythm.

  • Seasonal, Weekly and Daily Rhythms are the anchors that provide security to your young child.
  • If you have a strong bedtime rhythm it is less likely your little ones are going to fight sleep because it’s the same routine each and every night. Whereas if your evenings are always a little bit different it’s hard for your young child, they do not have any subtle cues to signal to them that it’s now time to begin quietening down and getting to sleep

Do your own inner work.

  • Take some time each day to fill yourself up, however you do this: creative expression, prayer, journalling, meditation or exercise
  • “If you want to change the world, start with yourself”- Gandhi

Speak pictorially to your young child.

  • Try to avoid direct commands or use too many words and details when speaking to a young child
  • Instead of, “Come and sit down for dinner” you could say, “Little Kangaroo, hop over here and fill your belly with some warm food”.

Use Time-Ins.

“Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.”  

– from Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

  • If your young child has crossed a boundary sit him/her on your lap and very simply explain that “we don’t…” or “Now you must sit with me until…”

Lead by example.

  • If you ask a young child to tidy up their toys, you must help them!
  • If you lose your temper, be sure to apologize to your children afterwards

What are some of the ways you hold boundaries in your home? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Felted Easter Egg Tutorial

Wet felting is such a warming and tactile experience for little hands. These wet felted eggs look lovely on an Easter Nature Table and can be carefully stored away after the holiday to be rediscovered and loved each and every year. Make sure you download your FREE printable PDF with photos and instructions below. If… read more