Simplifying parenthood

Tonight we had a mini-date night. I say mini because 90% was listening to a lecture about parenting and 10% was about eating dinner beforehand and enjoying a beer without one of us having to attend to a squirming and curious 18 month old.

We had the pleasure of listening to Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting. And it was one of those talks where I found myself nodding in agreement, secretly praising ourselves for the things we already do and creating the "to do" list for things we could greatly improve. My new iphone was from that minute totally off limits to the nugget - no matter how darling it is to see him watching Pippi in German on my Utube app.

Parenthood is not simple, nor is childhood, but Payne's perspective is that we add complexity that is not necessary and potentially even hazardous to the mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual development of our children. This is not new information to me - but scientific proof was.

A few take-aways from the evening:

1. We are raising economic units instead of creative beings
In the name of "assuring our children's later success in life" we are over-scheduling, over-taxing, over-demanding and over-stimulating our children, which in turn is leading to a chronic low grade level of stress that is becoming the new "normal". This new state is resulting in physical, emotional and mental imbalance that presents in everything from ADHD, hyperactivity, stomach ulcers in pre-schoolers, vomiting during school testing and so on.

2. Screen usage (TV and computers) has been proven to stunt the development of children's brains - most importantly the ability to understand cause and affect. Children under 3 should have NO time in front of a screen - if you can make it to age 6 without "screen time" even better.

3. We don't let our children be bored. After 20 minutes of being bored, the most amazing creativity begins to emerge. His suggestion, you have to be more boring than their boredom. The benefit for you: you actually get to read a magazine.

4. "I just turned 50" he said, "I am done being nice." I took this to mean that he is done sugar-coating his message or molding it to be less confronting. TV is bad, less is better, there is a time for chaos and mess and wild and noise and accomplishment and tests, but it has to be balanced with calm and quiet and un-stimulating. And this needs to happen now.

50+ moms and a handful of dads listened to his suggestions on how to simplify and both of us walked away saying that this was absolutely worthwhile and inspiring. And more than that, it was a framework for supporting what we have started on our own, based on an experience in a Thai monastery - way before we ever had a child of our own.

We have reached a tipping point he said and now things have to change.

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