Simplicity Parenting

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 8/31/2010
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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Today's busier, faster, supersized society is waging an undeclared war . . . on childhood. As the pace of life accelerates to hyperspeedwith too much stuff, too many choices, and too little timechildren feel the pressure. They can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioral problems. Now, in defense of the extraordinary power of less, internationally renowned family consultant Kim John Payne helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that allkids need, allowing their children's attention to focus and their individuality to flourish. Based on Payne's twenty year's experience successfully counseling busy families, Simplicity Parenting teaches parents how to worry and hover lessand how to enjoy more. For those who want to slow their children's lives down but don't know where to start, Payne offers both inspiration and a blueprint for change. Streamline your home environment. The average child has more than 150 toys. Here are tips for reducing the amount of toys, books, and clutteras well as the lights, sounds, and general sensory overload that crowd the space young imaginations need in order to grow. Establish rhythms and rituals. Predictability (routines) and transparency (knowing the day's plan) are soothing pressure valves for children. Here are ways to ease daily tensions, create battle-free mealtimes and bedtimes, and tell if your child is overwhelmed. Schedule a break in the schedule. Too many activities may limit children's ability to motivate and direct themselves. Learn how to establish intervals of calm in your child's daily torrent of constant doingand familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of organized sports and other "enrichment" activities. Scale back on media and parental involvement.Back out of hyperparenting by managing your children's "screen time" to limit the endless and sometimes scary deluge of information and stimulation. Parental hovering is really about anxiety; by doing less and trusting more, parents can create a sanctuary that nurtures children's identity, well-being, and resiliency as they growslowlyinto themselves. A manifesto for protecting the grace of childhood,Simplicity Parentingis an eloquent guide to bringing new rhythms to bear on the lifelong art of parenting.

Author Biography

A consultant and trainer to more than sixty U.S. independent and public schools, Kim John Payne, M.Ed., has been a school counselor for eighteen years and a private family counselor-therapist for fifteen. Payne has worked extensively with the North American and U.K. Waldorf movements. He is currently project director of the Waldorf Collaborative Counseling Program at Antioch University New England, the director of a large research program on a drug-free approach to attention priority issues disorders, and a Partner of the Alliance for Childhood in Washington, D.C. He lives with his wife and two children in Harlemville, New York.

Lisa M. Ross has been involved with books for more than twenty years, as an editor and literary agent, and now exclusively as a writer. She lives with her husband and two children in Stuyvesant, New York.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One

Why Simplify?

We are facing an enormous problem in our lives today. It’s so big we can hardly see it, and it’s right in front of our face, all day, every day. We’re all living too big lives, crammed from top to toe with activities, urgencies, and obligations that seem absolute. There’s no time to take a breath, no time to look for the source of the problem.”

—Sarah Susanka, The Not So Big Life

James was about eight years old, and entering third grade, when I met his parents. Lovely and very bright people, James’s mother was a professor and his father was involved in city government. They were worried about their son having trouble sleeping at night, and his complaints of stomachaches. An eight-year-old boy is fairly well designed to be a picky eater, but James’s pickiness was getting extreme. His stomachaches came and went, but they didn’t seem food related.

Both parents spoke proudly of how confidently James could speak with adults, but acknowledged that he had trouble connecting with his peers. He avoided things that he felt might be dangerous, and had only very recently learned to ride a bike. “And don’t forget the driving thing,” his mother mentioned. James’s father explained that whenever they drove someplace, James would be the self-appointed policeman in the backseat, letting them know when they were even one or two miles above the speed limit, scanning the road ahead for concerns of any kind. The term “backseat driver” didn’t come close to describing his behavior; you can well imagine how relaxing these road trips were.

As I got to know the family, I noticed how much their daily lives were colored by world issues. Both parents were avid news followers. The television was often on and tuned to CNN, whether they were directly focused on it or not. Politically and intellectually oriented, they would discuss issues at great length, particularly environmental concerns. From an early age, James had been listening to these conversations. His parents were proud of his knowledge. They felt that they were raising a little activist, a “citizen of the world,” who would grow up informed and concerned.

James’s understanding of global warming seemed to rival Al Gore’s. That much was apparent. James was also, clearly, becoming a very anxious little fellow. His parents and I worked together on a simplification regime. We made some changes in the home environment and greatly increased the sense of rhythm and predictability in their daily life patterns. But our primary focus was on cutting back James’s involvement in his parents’ intellectual lives, and his access to information.

How much information was pouring into the house and into James’s awareness? Instead of three computers in the house, his parents decided to keep one, in the den off the master bedroom. After much discussion, they actually removed both televisions from the home. They felt that this might be harder on them than it would be on James, and they wanted to test their theory. If there were to be sacrifices, they wanted to bear their share of them. They also realized that the TVs had become mainly sources of background noise in their home. Would they be missed or not? Game Boys and Xboxes were also removed, minimizing the number of screens throughout the house.

I was most impressed, however, by the commitment they made to change some very ingrained habits. Quite bravely, I thought, they aimed to keep their discussion of politics, their jobs, and their concerns to a time after James went to bed. This was hard to do at first, and they had to remind each other frequently to refrain from talking about these things while James was still awake. But the change became second nature. The quality of their nightly talks intensified, and both parents came to

Excerpted from Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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