Sunday, March 21, 2010

Peace Be in the Home ~ Simplicity Parenting

I promised more on Kim John Payne's Simplicity Parenting talk and here I deliver.

Kim Payne spoke of each child's quirk, that each child has a quirk and when cumulative stress is added to the child's life, the quirk + cumulative stress = disorder. When stress is removed, it looks like:

Quirk - Cumulative stress = Genius, the child's genius

Rudolf Steiner often said that the task of teachers is not to bring information but to remove hindrances in the child's life. The hindrances of our time are often small stress inducing acts that become cumulative and make for disorders in children.
Payne spoke of four pathways to support a healthy childhood, remove stress and make parenting simple:

1. Environment ~ T.M.S: short for Trash More Stuff
Kim John Payne spoke of stuff as a materialistic replacement of human relationships. His remedy is to pack it up in thick green trash bags, half of the toys, half of the books and half of the clothes in the house. Then go back and pack up half again. Start with our own stuff, then do the children's.

2. Rhythm, Predictability and Boundaries
Self regulation is built on rhythm. With a strong rhythm comes strength. Rhythm makes a predictable life. Knowing what to expect creates security for a child. Choices make a child feel unsafe. Children need their parents to be in charge, to form their world and keep it dependable. When a parent upholds a rule, the child knows she can count on the parent to mean what the parent says, that the parent is trustworthy and true. This creates a feeling of safety for the child. The child can let go of worrying about what will come next and play like a child, give up all their very being to play, when the child knows the parent is in charge. (I am expounding here with my own words and emphasis)

Kim Payne used the phrase, " We do this" as an example of how to bring it to the child, "We have lunch now" "We wash our hands before lunch" Simple. Clear. Predictable. No excess verbiage, no explanations. This is how it is. We do this. This is consistent with what I've learned, observed and used with Waldorf early childhood - to gently guide the child to what we do want and to be the model, worthy of imitation. 

From this secure, "We do this" develops the ability to self-regulate, resiliency and the "I am."

3. Scheduling
Kim Payne asked parents if we see childhood as an enrichment opportunity or an unfolding? He said we are super-phosphating our children. And anyone who knows about farming knows that super phosphates destroy the breeding ground. He said that boredom is good. Children need to be bored, really bored. And we need to be present with them when they need us. Through play, children digest the sensory world. Children need deep creative play to digest their world. And with good digestion of their world comes good, restful sleep at night.

4. Filter Out the Adult World ~ the media, screens, radio, television, movies, videos and conversations
With conversation, Payne says to ask ourselves three questions before speaking in the presence of children. Are the words we are about to use:
  • Kind? 
  • True? 
  • Necessary?
If they are not all three: kind, true, and necessary, not to speak them.

Payne described home as a place of peace, of decompression, a sanctuary from the world. He encouraged adults to avoid looping news reports through out the day, to minimize our exposure. He referred to nature as Soul Arnica. He emphasized telling a story over reading a story. Yet reading a story too, as part of a weekly rhythm. With the older child, he suggests discussing the reading and making time for the child to digest it by talking about it. The younger child will digest stories through play.

Kim Payne said that even for the most stressed children, it is art and play that provides a soothing balm: singing, clay, puppets, drawing and[painting.

Kim Payne said do what is real for you, start small, sweat the small stuff. Let peace be here, in the home.

May Lady Spring Smile on You!

For more on Simplicity Parenting, including articles and videos of Kim John Payne and more on Kim John Payne including some really good articles.


  1. Nice synopsis. This is all in the book, too, so it is good to have that as a reference.
    I don't know if he talks much about this, but I really stress the importance of parents modeling simplicity to their children...there is a trickle-down effect. Nurtured parents=nurtured children...and that parents need the balms that nature and art provide too. The great thing is that we do it WITH our children, thereby creating peace in the home.

  2. I love the idea of reducing our possessions by half and then by half again. A very feng shui idea. I've had long discussions about whether and when it's OK to throw out our children's unloved things. I've decided, that as much as possible, it's preferable if they can participate in the sorting and discarding. It's slightly deceitful otherwise. Of course the child's ability has to be considered. Perhaps just letting the child know you'll be sorting through and cleaning out. My own children loved going through their things and discarding the clutter. It makes the energy in the house all fresh and sparkly.

    Also, on the ability to self-regulate, I'm just beginning to study this and I think the bulk of the ability to self-regulate happens in the first two years, mostly pre-language. I like "we do it this way," but more understanding about the first two years and affect regulation could add to the discussion.

    And on the peaceful environment at home, I just want to share that I'm reading a book about parenting called, "The Transition to Parenthood." In it, the author and his research team discovered that the more a couple argues, the more invested they become in one another, the better they get to know each other and the easier for them to weather the transition to parenthood. Those couples who almost always "get along" don't reap these benefits. A certain amount of conflict is healthy and necessary.

  3. Angela ~ Yes, Kim John Payne spoke of the need for parents to do the work of take away first. He focused on taking things away, minimizing the scheduled activities and filtering out media and adult conversation and providing rhythm, predictability, and healthy, developmentally appropriate boundaries. It seems the act itself of decompressing the home environment and scheduling is an example worthy of imitation.
    My mother gave this to us. She was at home. We played and played and played and when we drove her crazy indoors, she told us to go out and play. Home was a sanctuary. TV was still a novelty. (Yes I am that old) My mom kept a strong rhythm for us. She ironed, hung clothes on the line and had shopping day. We had regular meal times and bedtimes. We had baked beans on Saturday in the fall and winter and cooked out in the summer. We went on church on Sunday. My parents inhabited an adult world that was mysterious to us. There was clearly a separation between the world of childhood and adulthood.

    The focus in the talk was on parents creating the environment and holding it. In order to do this, the parent must be present. He suggested doing things like preparing dinner together, turning the power off at dinner time, even the fridge, sitting in silence for 3 or 4 minutes before eating together. He talked about sitting between children when the argue and are bored. Just being present. The activities he suggested are around rhythm, meals and sleep.

    Kim John Payne's work came out of working with people in war zones who experienced PTSD, seeing what helped them self regulate, singing, painting, clay and puppets and then seeing youth in England with none of the war or trauma experience in their biography present with the same signs of PTSD, over controlling behavior, inability to return to restful state, hyper vigilance, implosive, explosive, unpredictable behavior, state of fight, flight, freeze or flock.

    He recommended taking away the stress factors mentioned above and through this removal found children were able to let go of the survival behavior and move into deep, creative play.

    Kim John Payne did a study of 55 children at 32 Waldorf schools with the "D" diagnoses (ADD, ADHD, ODD,OCD) or likelihood of one and found that when the stress factors were removed, their academic behavior improved 32 % (tremendously), that they became reachable and teachable and more social.

    It seemed like the focus was really on taking away stress to foster home as sanctuary, as place of decompression, for human connection and down time.

    On Richard Louve's book about Nature Deficit Kim Payne said what is valuable about nature is the timelessness of it. He referred to nature as Soul Arnica.

    His workshop with Jack Petrash on The Soul of Discipline was focused on the adult's inner work.

  4. Kim~ Kim John Payne cautioned parents to be sensitive to children's beloved objects and to take care in removing them. I bag things up, put them in the basement for six months and if they are not missed, figure they are good to go. We can observe young children, what toys they love, what favorite clothes they have and respect this.

    My young child is clear about what he likes, A few times he has asked for something from the basement but it has been rare.

    Books can be rotated for seasonal use. Favorite little clothes and blankets can be passed on to Dolly.

    My teenager is clear and easy and loves to get rid of stuff as long as I do the packing and move it out.

    The gift of space and time and absence of visual and physical clutter is so great. We once moved around the world and our shipping container did not come for three months. We had basic stuff, beds, little furniture, no toys. We were so happy and found so much to do. Someone loaned us a tricycle and that was perfect.

    I do not see it as deceitful for the parent to do clutter removal of things a young child longer has use for or interest in. Children are far less attached to the material world than we are. If a young child is strongly attached to stuff, I would look into the underlaying attachment to stuff. What is living in the need to hold on?

    I see this approach as a template to hold over our life as a family, one way to look at it with helpful tools and great insight but certainly not an entire guide to parenting.

    Ah, self regulation.Development of the capacity in utero begins with the first sensory perceptions. The foundational senses (touch, warmth, movement and balance) need nourishment at this time and without it, there may be trauma or hindrances to healthy development and the capacity to self regulate later on. This is all pre-verbal. So many questions here: Does the gestation go to term? is the baby planned, wanted? kept? Does the fetus move adequately in utero? How does the community regard pregnancy and motherhood and families? Is the mother rested and nourished? what does this new life mean for the relationship? For the mother? Is she leaving her job? Juggling work and motherhood? Adding a child to the family?

    Birth can be traumatic, with interventions and noise and fear and lights, separation from the mother, post partum depression, adoption, so much harm can come to the human being before the child even walks or talks.

    All this influences the development of self which is necessary for self regulation later on. In the meantime, children need adults to shape and hold their world.

    Maybe a discussion of the needs of the child in the first two years of life...yes.

    Kim John Payne spoke of Harmony Addiction and Helicopter Parenting and the need to give it up. He did acknowledge Helicopter Parenting as a sign that something is wrong n the world. He was clear that Helicopter parenting is not the answer. His work on Social Inclusion is about conflict as initiation. And guess who the initiators are? We are, parents and teachers, since we no longer have Rites of passage and initiation and rituals and Priestesses and Hierophants. Pretty big job for us.

    Interesting about the value of couples arguing. Seems like it is the ability to argue and come together and see the other as separate, see the "I" in the other that builds the strength for enduring the inevitable conflicts around sex, money and parenting that arise when the children come. I cannot imagine how two people who are unable to find any resolution before children will find it after. So maybe it is those who practice conflict and resolution or acceptance of the difference in the other that have an easier transition to parenthood? or something else?


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