I've talked about minimalism often, and this style of parenting was one I liked before I knew it had a name! It appeals to me because of its simplicity. We live a simple life-style, so it naturally fits into our lives. Some of the basic practices of minimalist parenting are as follows:
- Remember what was important to you as a child and incorporate those experiences into your own parenting
- Own less toys but provide more opportunities to have meaningful experiences
- Don't fill up your schedule with constant doings
I think parents like the sound of this, though it may be hard to practice, because we live in a world where business is a virtue, and you know how much a child is loved by how many awesome presents he/she gets from his/her parents. Let's talk about each of these practical ideas separately.
Passing the Torch
I remember asking my husband, after we found out we were pregnant, what sort of things he wanted to imitate in his parents and shared the things my parents had done which I thought important to pass on. I think parents (including myself, sometimes) focus too often on the things they don't want to do like their parents. If you turned out to be a pretty decent person (most do), probably your parents didn't do too bad a job. It's important to focus on those things you admired in your parents and how they handled family things.
My husband appreciated the way his family hashed out conflicts as a family, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it might be. I wanted to make sure family time was a big priority – essentially sacred time we spent together, like my family had. There were many other things, and more will come to light as our family ages, changes, and grows.
Less Toys – More Experiences
I'm not one of those people who became a minimalist because I wanted to have a life of experiences, but my childhood highlights weren't the moments I opened presents on my birthday and Christmas. They were trips to zoos and museums, visiting family, road trip vacations. Those are the things that stand out to me.
It's hard to know how this will pan out with our daughter while she's still a small toddler, but we have already implemented this to a degree. She has much fewer toys than most children – maybe six or seven out at a time, and we rotate toys when she seems bored. She also has a tent and tunnel to play in, which she loves, and blocks she enjoys stacking and moving from box to box. She keeps herself entertained with very little, and people often remark to me how long she will play with one object.
When it comes time, we look forward to taking her to local petting zoos, small parks with rides, and regular vacations. For now, we are mostly at home, as that is where she enjoys being the most.
Guarding Our Time
I know a lot of kids who do way too much. I'm thankful my parents were careful about this, as I had plenty of time to read and be with my friends. It seems like every child is at school from 7AM to 3PM, then has two or three extracurriculars, plays two instruments, and has to fit homework in there somewhere.
We're going to alleviate this business somewhat by homeschooling. We also won't be allowing them to do more than one extracurricular activity and one musical study (like studying an instrument or being in choir). This is plenty, and the child that wants to try out more than one thing is welcome to switch after a year. My husband and me were both blessed to have parents who essentially did the same with us, and we hope to keep our kids from being over-worked.
Minimalist or Simple Parenting certainly has its appeals. It's pretty old-school, honestly, and flies in the face of what is normal today. I have a feeling that a part of the reason children are so busy is because they have to do something while their parents are so busy. To change that, there would have to be a willingness on all sides to take a step back, evaluate those things which are truly loved, and prioritize being together as a family. I can see it has already been beneficial to my own family and hope it can make a difference in yours.