Renown educator, author, and family counselor Kim John Payne, encouraged parents to embrace simplicity when it comes to family life and raising children during his Camellia Waldorf School-sponsored public presentation on April 15 at Sierra 2 Center.
“Parents have a gut instinct that there is an undeclared war on childhood,” he said. “It’s too much, too soon, too sexy, too young.” But by simplifying the home environment, creating family rhythms, scheduling breaks in children’s schedules, and filtering out adult information, parents can restore the grace of childhood and ease behavior problems.
Mr. Payne said he became motivated to help parents simplify when he realized that ordinary children he counseled in his family practice were showing the same signs of post-traumatic stress that he had witnessed earlier in his career while working in a facility for violent youth and in a Cambodian refugee camp. Through working with children who had been diagnosed with behavioral conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Mr. Payne said he found that reducing the children’s stress reduced their disorders.
“Children have quarks. When you add unrelenting stress, the quark becomes the child’s challenge, obstacle, and eventually a disorder,” said Mr. Payne. When we simplify, the disorder often returns to being a quark.”
Families can’t usually simplify everything at once, said Mr. Payne. He recommended beginning with any one of the four pillars he describes in his book, Simplicty Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. Often, he said, parents begin by simplifying the environment, which is the first of the pillar of Simplicity Parenting.
“Kids get on better with fewer toys, where they can morph a plain toy into being many things. Children have to motivate and manipulate the object within themselves. This initiates the limbic system, the collaborative brain,” he said. Contrast the benefits of creative, collaborative play with what happen in the brain when a child is habitually exposed to screens, including television, computers, tablets, and cell phones. “It takes four seconds for a child to process an image,” said Mr. Payne. “But media images occur so fast now, that the child’s brain can’t process the information.” The higher brain shuts down, and the ancient, “lizard brain,” process the information through the lens of fight or flight. The effect is chronic stress, which can lead to withdrawal or bullying. In both cases, the child is attempting to control the environment because of feelings of overwhelm.
“When your child has a fever, you draw the curtains, quiet the room, and have the child rest,” said Mr. Payne. “Overstimulation creates a soul fever,” and the treatment is similar.
The second pillar of Simplicity Parenting is to create family rhythms.
“Family rhythms create a deep sense of safety for children,” said Mr. Payne. “They can navigate the day, because they know what’s coming. It also helps the family decompress and connect.” Mr. Payne differentiated between routine and rhythm. “Routine is saying, ‘go and make your bed. I’ve asked several times.’ The child goes off to do the chore, and there is no interaction. Rhythm is, “let’s see if we can make the bed with hospital corners the way auntie does. We’ll go do it now.” Rhythm also becomes critically important when inevitable crisis occur. The family can cope, because they hold to the rhythm.
The third pillar is scheduling. Our children are frequently over-scheduled, said Mr. Payne, so we need to schedule time for calm.
“Thirty-eight percent of millennials are freelancers and more than half will be within eight years,” said Mr. Payne. These kinds of careers don’t rely on externally mandated schedules. Instead, they are, “creative, innovative and adaptable.” They also require cooperation and collaboration.
“The precursor to creativity is boredom,” said Mr. Payne. “When children are bored, we have to avoid sending them to a screen, where they see someone else’s creativity.” Children need quiet time to be bored, so that they can have that spark of creativity, and develop the skills they will need for the workplace as it is now, not as it was years ago.
The fourth pillar is filtering out adult information.
“Be very careful about unguarded adult conversations around children’s ears,” said Mr. Payne. “Before we say something in front of our kids, we must ask ourselves, is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it make our children feel safe and have hope in this world? They’ll be in this world much longer than us, and they have to live in this world. Don’t be a serial explainer.”
“In the undeclared war on childhood, we can declare peace in our homes,” said Mr. Payne. “And, we don’t even have to do anything. We just have to do less.”
Mr. Payne concluded by thanking Camellia Waldorf School for bringing him to Sacramento to speak to the public, as part of the school’s ongoing implementation of Mr. Payne ‘s Social Inclusion approach to breaking patterns of exclusion and bullying. Faculty, administration, parents, and students are taking part in this approach, with transformative results for the entire school.
Find more like this: Social inclusion program