An excerpt from The Soul of Discipline, by Kim John Payne, M. Ed
How to Dial Back the Outside Pressures
“Before simplifying our family life, whatever I said to my kids seemed to set them off and make them goofy or defiant. After calming down the pace of our days and giving more down time, everything became easier. What I especially noticed was that when I had to give a direction or make a transition, my kids would come along in a much better way.” With the growth of the Simplicity Parenting community and practices, like this mother who made this comment, countless parents have experienced a direct relationship between dialing back the pace and pressure of daily life with improvements in their kids’ behavior.
There are four key ways you can immediately reduce these pressures and prevent a child from becoming disoriented and pushing back against your directions. If you’ve read my book, Simplicity Parenting, some of these concepts will be familiar to you, but it’s important to revisit them in the context of discipline:
1. Balance and simplify the amount of stuff your child or teen has (i.e. books, toys, clothes)
2. Strengthen rhythm and predictability
3. Balance and simplify the amount of scheduled activities
4. Filter out the amount of adult conversation
In a follow-up article, we will take this one step further by looking at the huge behavioral benefits of filtering out the adult world by going low-screen or noscreen.
One: Simplifying the Amount of Stuff
A great starting point for dialing it down is to clear out the clutter. Reduce the number of books, toys, clothes, gadgets and other extraneous items in a kid’s room and around the house in general. Countless parents have reported that, when they reduce physical clutter, their child’s or teen’s behavior improves. This makes sense if you consider what happens in the mental and emotional life of a child when she has less. When you have fewer things, what you do have becomes precious. And if you are playing with other kids, you learn how to share what little you have. The more a child’s imagination becomes fired up by one little object—that blanket they’re putting over a frame, those two cars they drive along the living room rug, that plank of wood that becomes a roof—whatever it is, it’s very likely they will find multiple uses for it, since there aren’t that many other options. When this happens, the limbic system and the frontal lobe of your child’s brain, which stimulate collaboration and cooperation, are encouraged to develop. The limbic system is critical for emotional processing and behavior and has also been connected to the development of emotional health, social cooperation and empathy.
Parents who have adopted the Simplicity approach say things like, “When I’ve got less stuff around, my three kids actually fight less. Isn’t that strange?” It may seem counterintuitive. But, in fact, when there are fewer things to play with, kids have to collaborate more. They can’t dart about from one toy or digital device to another, a behavior pattern that stimulates the amygdala, which in turn triggers our primal flight-or-fight response. A child with too many toys and gadgets is likely to develop unhealthy play, rather than good, creative interaction. The area of brain that develops as a child learns to find multiple uses for a single toy is also related to the building up of social cooperation. The positive changes in behavior and cooperation you see when you simplify your child’s or teen’s home environment may appear magical, but they are grounded in developmental fact.
Having your children play in a cooperative way means a parent needs to arbitrate much less to sort out conflicts. Why wait until there is fighting over toys to be forced to intervene remove them? Do it proactively and enjoy the giggles and long moments of quiet play with the few simple toys you thoughtfully provide.
Read the full article at simplicityparenting.com