Saturday, September 10, 2011

Simple Saturday: Book Review

This all started because I got this book, Simplicity Parenting, out of the library.

No, it started before that. For about a year I have been wondering how I slid from my visions of a low-toy environment, where media was almost non-existent and my child could grow and develop into this Giant Toy Pile. What happened? This was not what I envisioned as I rubbed my giant belly five years ago.

I've been ruminating and questing for answers, wondering if my original vision is just too at-odds with this culture to be realized. My parental instincts have been shooting off warning flares as I have ignored what I know is True about kids - namely that that children need time, attention, and space more than they need anything else.

Finally, after weeks of waiting, Simplicity Parenting arrived at the library. I read through it as voraciously as my two attention-craving children would let me. It answered so many of those questions I had been asking. It reinforced what I know as a parent, reminded me that my instincts are right and good, and that this culture works tirelessly to undermine that knowledge and to keep us on the "more, more, More!!!" track.

The messages of Kim John Payne are clear and concise (one might even say Simple). Childhood is a precious time that speeds by so quickly... and here we (parents, family, friends, culture at large) hustle these little beings through that time. We want them to learn more, have goals, do that, own this, find that teachable moment, squire that skill... All for their benefit. After all, these are our children and they deserve all we can give them, right?

What Payne contends (and I adamantly agree with) is that kids DON'T need things that are newer, better, faster, more. They don't need to take a jillion extra-curricular activities to succeed. They don't need the latest "Thneed" that everyone else needs.

They need time and space, simple thoughts and clear schedules so that they might fully delve into their experiences.

For me, the most thought-provoking aspect of Payne's writing was his thoughts on simplifying the teachable moments, and how we (liberal open affirming educated patents) push so much information at our kids, in an effort to help the have a rich emotional vocabulary or be good and informed citizens of the world. Payne argues that the can be just as hard on kids as too much stuff or too much TV. kids need to learn to identify sad and happy before they deeply analyze those feelings. Kids need to feel the world is small and safe before they can venture out as the good global citizens we envision.

This particular aspect has given me lots of moments of reflection ad I watch myself and Papa-Bug in out parenting quests.

Finally, in the similar vein, as I constantly overload my children verbally (guilty of guilty...), I keep returning to the simple thought that really stuck with me after the book was done and back at the library:

"if you are talking, you aren't listening."

To sum the book review, I would give it four stars - maybe five when I have had more time to put some of the suggestions into practice. Furthermore, I suggest it as an excellent read for anyone who feels like parenting, kids, their mountain of stuff, or the whole whizz-bang culture is just a little too much too fast.


There is a related website and blog that I am enjoying exploring. You can check it out - lots of nice fooder for thought. I plan on posting a review here soon.

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