Simplify-childhood-protect-mental-health-min

Simplifying Childhood May Protect Against Mental Health Issues

Life

When my Dad was growing up he had one jumper each winter. One. Total.

He remembers how vigilantly he cared for his jumper. If the elbows got holes in them my Grandma patched them back together. If he lost his jumper he’d recount his steps to find it again. He guarded it like the precious gift it was.

He had everything he needed and not a lot more. The only rule was to be home by dinner time. My Grandma rarely knew exactly where her kids were.

They were off building forts, making bows and arrows, collecting bruises and bloody knees and having the time of their lives. They were immersed in childhood.

But the world has moved on since then. We’ve become more sophisticated. And entered a unique period in which, rather than struggling to provide enough parents are unable to resist providing too much. In doing so, we’re unknowingly creating an environment in which mental health issues flourish.

When I read Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting one message leapt off the page. Normal personality quirks combined with the stress of “too much” can propel children into the realm of disorder. A child who is systematic may be pushed into obsessive behaviours. A dreamy child may lose the ability to focus.

Payne conducted a study in which he simplified the lives of children with attention deficit disorder. Within four short months 68% went from being clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional. The children also displayed a 37% increase in academic and cognitive aptitude, an effect not seen with commonly prescribed drugs like Ritalin.

As a new parent I find this both empowering and terrifying. We officially have a massive opportunity and responsibility to provide an environment in which our children can thrive physically, emotionally and mentally.

So, what are we getting wrong and how can we fix it?

THE BURDEN OF TOO MUCH

Early in his career, Payne volunteered in refugee camps in Jakarta, where children were dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He describes them as, “jumpy, nervous, and hyper-vigilant, wary of anything novel or new.”

Years later Payne ran a private practice in England, where he recognized many affluent English children were displaying the same behavioural tendencies as the children living in war zones half a world away. Why would these children living perfectly safe lives show similar symptoms?

Payne explains that although they were physically safe, mentally they were also living in a war zone of sorts, “Privy to their parents’ fears, drives, ambitions, and the very fast pace of their lives, the children were busy trying to construct their own boundaries, their own level of safety in behaviours that weren’t ultimately helpful.”

Suffering with a “cumulative stress reaction” as a result of the snowballing effect of too much, children develop their own coping strategies to feel safe. Parents and society are conscious of the need to protect our children physically.

We legislate car seats, bike helmets and hover in playgrounds. But protecting mental health is more obscure.

But, sadly, we are messing up. Modern day children are exposed to a constant flood of information which they can’t process or rationalise. They’re growing up faster as we put them into adult roles and increase our expectations of them. So, they look for other aspects of their life they can control.

THE FOUR PILLARS OF EXCESS

Naturally as parents we want to provide our kids with the best start in life. If a little is good, we think more is better, or is it?

We enrol them in endless activities. Soccer. Music. Martial arts. Gymnastics. Ballet. We schedule play dates with precision. And we fill every space in their rooms with educational books, devices and toys. The average western child has in excess of 150 toys each and receives an additional 70 toys per year. With so much stuff children become blinded and overwhelmed with choice.

They play superficially rather than becoming immersed deeply and lost in their wild imaginations.

Simplicity Parenting encourages parents to keep fewer toys so children can engage more deeply with the ones they have. Payne describes the four pillars of excess as having too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed.

When children are overwhelmed they lose the precious down time they need to explore, reflect and release tension. Too many choices erodes happiness, robbing kids of the gift of boredom which encourages creativity and self-directed learning. And most importantly “too much” steals precious time.

PROTECTING CHILDHOOD

Similar to the anecdote of the heat slowly being turned up and boiling the unsuspecting frog, so too has society slowly chipped away at the unique wonder of childhood, redefining it and leaving our kid’s immature brains drowning trying to keep up. Many refer to this as a “war on childhood”.

Developmental Psychologist David Elkind reports kids have lost more than 12 hours of free time per week in the last two decades meaning the opportunity for free play is scarce. Even preschools and kindergartens have become more intellectually-oriented. And many schools have eliminated recess so children have more time to learn.

The time children spend playing in organized sports has been shown to significantly lower creativity as young adults, whereas time spent playing informal sports was significantly related to more creativity. It’s not the organized sports themselves that destroy creativity but the lack of down time. Even two hours per week of unstructured play boosted children’s creativity to above-average levels.

PARENTS TAKE CHARGE

So, how do we as parents protect our kids in this new “normal” society has created?

Simple, we say no. We protect our kids and say no, so we can create space for them to be kids. No, Sam can’t make the birthday party on Saturday. No, Sophie can’t make soccer practice this week.

And we recreate regular down time providing a sense of calm and solace in their otherwise chaotic worlds. It provides a release of tension children know they can rely on and allows children to recover and grow, serving a vital purpose in child development.

We filter unnecessary busyness and simplify their lives. We don’t talk about global warming at the dinner table with a seven year old. We watch the news after our kids are asleep. We remove excessive toys and games from our toddler’s room when they’re sleeping. We recreate and honour childhood.

Our children have their whole lives to be adults and to deal with the complexities of life, but only a fleetingly short time in which they can be kids. Silly, fun loving kids.

Childhood serves a very real purpose. It’s not something to “get through”. It’s there to protect and develop young minds so they can grow into healthy and happy adults. When society messes too much with childhood, young brains react. By providing a sense of balance and actively protecting childhood we’re giving our children the greatest gift they’ll ever receive.

This post has resonated with millions of readers and has inspired me to delve deeper into the power we have as parents to simplify and improve our children’s lives.

I am writing an eBook, Simplifying Childhood: How Embracing the Simple Life Helps Nurture the Emotional Development of Your Child. Click here to learn more about it or sign up to be notified when it is available.

“Parenting by Nature eBook
Sign up for monthly Love Letters plus get your FREE copy of my “Parenting by Nature” eBook
“Parenting by Nature eBook
COMMENTS
  • March 14, 2016

    Yes! I am a Simplicity Parenting teacher and parent coach and I have seen, again and again, children’s quirks become their gifts, rather than their disorders, as parents take steps to simplify. It’s amazing. Thank you for this great blog post!

    • March 14, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks for reading Lisa and for your lovely comments. What a great job to be a Simplicity Coach! I love that – quirks can become gifts with simplifying. Great message. Thanks again.

      • April 19, 2016
        Susan

        So now what? What do we do when our kid is 16 and suffering?

        • August 30, 2016
          Lisa

          It is never too late to simplify and make changes that can help your child become more healthy! I have a 25 year old who has struggled with ADD and then depression later on. He definitely improves the more we simplify his room, get him away from computer, and take more dog walks,cook together etc. Never give up!

          • September 02, 2016
            Tracy Gillett

            So true Lisa – my family was touched by this growing up and I couldn’t agree more…never too late to try something different. Even for myself when I make simple changes it helps calm my mind. Thanks so much.

    • March 15, 2016
      D Davidson

      Agreed, but:
      a) city parents who allow their kids to just “go out and play and be back for dinner” can be literally arrested, reported to child services; suburban parents are forced to arrange and drive to playdates – there’s nobody to play with “next door” anymore… and
      b) the college admissions standards and “college-prep” insanity causes schools to inflict stress, homework, etc that makes it very hard to be part of society and still live by these values.

      • March 15, 2016
        Kelly

        Article spot on. But DISAGREE with your comments. I moved two years ago to a suburban neighborhood, designed like the city with sidewalks and lots of green spaces and a ton of kids. My children were 7 and 9 when we moved here, and since that day they have been running free from morning to night. The neighborhood kids play kick the can, capture the flag, build forts, go to the park, run from house to house sitting on porches. They walk to the neighborhood store for treats. They ring doorbells or just go outside to find friends (I have to force them not to ring doorbells before 9:00 am). I never make them playdates because they keep busy. I yell or ring an old school bell to get them inside for dinner or bed. It IS still possible! You just have to believe in it. Kids are not around to play with because their parents have over scheduled them. And parents have over scheduled them because they would be bored because no other children are around (kids do live next door, they are just never home). It is a nasty circle.
        And, I hope to god you are not talking about college prep for anyone under the age of 14/15. Good lord, let them be kids.

        • March 16, 2016
          KP

          I let my 8 year old run free in the park across from our San Fernando Valley home in L.A…. climbing trees, riding bikes, playing on the swings, meeting kids around the neighborhood. Couldn’t agree more!

          • March 16, 2016
            Tracy Gillett

            Sounds like your little one is having a lot of fun Kelly! Awesome to hear and thanks so much for visiting and reading.

        • March 16, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          Thanks so much for your comment Kelly and sounds like a wonderful place to live. I loved reading about your kids building forts and ringing doorbells to find their friends. I agree on the unavailability of kids because they’re either at daycare, preschool or inside. Even at a young age I’ve noticed since my son has turned two a lot of his friends we hung out with as babies are now in preschool and we can’t see them so much. It’s a hard balance to find but any time kids can be outside, finding their own fun builds confidence, happiness and decision making ability. Thanks for reading and welcome to the site.

          • May 04, 2016
            Samantha

            I LOVE THIS!! Totally my parenting style! No iphones at restaurants for my 3 year old. We bring a bag of cars, puzzles, dinosaurs, dry erase books. People are amazed at how different we look.
            This week he stripped down to his undies and played in the ditch (we live in the South-lil dirt don’t hurt). He then had a ball being hosed down. I let him play in the flowerbed mulch with his construction trucks. We play with play dough and mix all the colors! LET THEM BE KIDS. I tell my husband (when he gives me a hard time for rocking him before bed) he will be a day older tomorrow. That’s my theory!

        • March 17, 2016

          My husband and I totally agree with this article however after letting our 7 year old ride her bike around the block in our suburban neighborhood we received a visit from CPS. Although there were no “substantial” findings it was the worst time of my life as a parent. We had to sign a parenting agreement for the investigation to be finalized and part of this was that we would no longer let our child ride her bike without an adult being with her. It’s been 2 years since this incident and our daughter has never had the freedom to be a child because we are too scared to allow her that for fear of what could happen.

          • March 18, 2016
            Tracy Gillett

            Wow, Rebecca, I can only imagine how awful that must have been. It’s so sad that authorities think they know how to keep our kids safe better than we do. I appreciate you reading and commenting and again so sorry to hear about what you and your family went through.

          • March 19, 2016
            Amy

            Oh Momma I’m sorry that happened to you guys! We had CPS called on us almost 6 years ago because my then 10 year old son was building a fort on our apartment patio “unsupervised”, I could see him through our sliding glass door, with a couple of the neighbor kids.

            I understand that fear that you have of being reported again. Your daughter is 2 years older, more mature and able to handle situations better so that “parenting agreement” that you signed wasn’t designed with your current child in mind.

            Find ways that you can give her more freedom. It will be good for her and you. Maybe go outside when she is there but let her play at a distance eventually working your way into going inside while she plays. If you want to let her ride her bike around the block at first maybe let her ride ahead while you walk, hanging further and further behind until you feel comfortable letting her do it on her own again.

          • March 19, 2016
            Tracy Gillett

            Thank you for your heartfelt response Amy – I’m sure Rebecca will appreciate it. I haven’t had any experience with CPS and hoping when my son is old enough to play outside on his own he’ll have the freedom to do so. Thank you again and have a wonderful weekend.

          • March 22, 2016
            Timaay

            Time to move to a family friendly neighborhood. Tyrannical government is awful.

          • April 16, 2016
            Debra Ann

            I would be wondering which one of my neighbors called to report my child riding her bike alone. CPS always has to act upon a notification that something might be wrong. That’s just a fact. Perhaps letting her ride to the end of the block while you are outside keeping an eye on her would work out better. Or maybe wait till she is 10 or so.. But I would definitely make sure she gets to have that sense of freedom that riding her bike and playing outdoors can give her.

          • April 28, 2016
            Rudy

            Police State take all of our money and use it to control everything we do. I grew up free and it was a magical adventure. I learned more about the world as well

        • July 18, 2016
          Tarilyn

          Where is this magical place that you live? It sounds exactly where I want to raise my future children. ?

      • March 18, 2016
        Daniellecara

        If I may chime in here (and mind you, these are just suggestions for the urban parent)-
        This may be a situation where your home inside could benefit from a “less is more” structure: ie., less or no TV, less laptop time, more encouragement of art or music with the availability of a piano or keyboard, art supplies they can have access to whenever the mood strikes. Also outside, if there is a quiet place in the garden where your child may sit and relax safely, possibly next to plantings he/she prepared would give the much needed peace. I understand what you are talking about with urban challenges versus a quiet rural atmosphere. I lived in New Orleans and in Cincinnati – both high-crime areas. It *is* possible though. Think positively and outside the box. Good luck!

        • March 18, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          Thank you for your wonderful suggestions Danielle. Simplifying life inside the home is hugely beneficial as you say. I just posted today along those lines today with some ideas for ways to help simplify modern family life. Great ideas and thanks so much for commenting! 🙂

      • March 25, 2016
        Ashley Parham

        I have to agree with this as a parent of two boys. I moved to a nice neighborhood in the suburbs still within a good size city with the hopes of my kids finding playmates among the neighbors. I rarely see kids playing outside their homes much anymore and it is true about the parents having their kids involved in so much that you barely ever see them at their homes. If I didn’t schedule play dates at friends homes my kids would never see other kids close to their age. Definitely agree with limiting the toys they are exposed to but I believe that we just need to do all these things in moderation considering that we do live in a different society today where kids are raised differently and the parents have different philosophies now and are so protective now of their children. Neighborhoods now a days are much more developed than they used to be where there is less random places for kids to just run around freely and play. If I just let my 2 1/2-year-old boy run around in the neighborhood there’s no telling what will happen to him considering vert few of neighbors know him well or would know what house to take him to if he got lost. My neighbors here seem to keep to themselves and take very little interest when a new neighbor moves in. This is more common than it used to be a generation ago.

        • March 25, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          Thank you for reading and for your comment Ashley. I agree it is hard as times have changed. It’s similar here although I’ve found the more we walk around the neighborhood and go to the park the more people seem to come out of the woodwork. And of course, you wouldn’t let a 2 1/2 year old wander freely. I don’t think my grandmother would have done that even in those times. My son is nearly three and will need to be supervised for some time yet. Thanks again and have a great Easter.

      • May 11, 2016
        Sheila

        Agreed

      • June 04, 2016
        Franca

        Agree with D. Davidson. I was raising my kids by letting them play outside and encouraging creative play but soon found out that they were lonely. I have been looked at down for not having started my kids on sports earlier. The false concepts that everybody has to be excellent at everything need to stop. They are not only driving kids crazy but the parents too ultimately creating more issues in our society.

    • March 18, 2016
      Jonathan Bishop

      This is a great article. How do these statistics and practices relate to older children (16 yrs) that have grown up with too much? My son seems dependent upon too much, and when I limit he goes into what seems like a depression.

      • March 18, 2016
        Tracy Gillett

        Thank you Jonathan. I’m happy you enjoyed it. When researching I was focussed more on younger children but the principles would apply to teenagers as well. I’d imagine it may take longer to break the habits but well worth trying. I would read Simplicity Parenting and see if that’s enough to offer insights. Also visit their website where Kim offers consultations and there are also local coaches and groups for parents.

      • March 21, 2016
        Pam

        Jonathon, maybe you could take a little “nature vacation” and go camping or rent a cabin, limiting exposure to devices, but still with lots to do…fishing, hiking, swimming, riding horses. Throw in some down time for just thinking, talking, and reading. Then when you get back, slowly reintroduce the normal activities or devices, but more limited to an amount that you both agree upon.

        • March 21, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          Great suggestions Pam! We just got back from a weekend away at a cabin and it’s so refreshing to all relax and enjoy simple pleasures as a family. Thanks for reading. 🙂

        • March 27, 2016
          Sharon

          I remember seeing a segment of TV discussing the withdrawal symptoms kids display when they do not have access to certain devices they were used to using. There was even a camp kids were sent to deal with their addiction. No technology there just natural activities. It was amazing to see the journey of these kids.

          I have for decades shared the belief that we live in an overstimulated society and kids are overstimulated in all areas of their short child lives. I home-schooled my three kids for most of their primary years. We schooled for 3 or 4 hrs on 3 to 4 days a week.This 1 on 1 learning meant they were all advanced when starting upper primary school which was pegged back to average within 2 yrs. At home we had no media during the day. They tried nearly every seasonal sport possible but school hrs were spent as quiet home self-creative play. We had a very large back yard in which I created different zones. I didn’t allow them out-side the yard without an adult due to society dangers. We moved to a remote mining town of 4,000 people that had restricted access to town. Here the kids simple life continued only now they had freedom to move around town with their friends. Only rule was to message me when changing locations.

      • March 24, 2016
        Jennifer

        He is happy with too much. Let him decide how he spends his time. At this age, I doubt that he is incorrect in being upset about having privileges taken away after doing nothing wrong. Restricting freedom is more of a punishment after a child has grown up with too much freedom. That said, I think it’s wonderful that you care about your teenage son.

    • March 20, 2016
      Tina Dass

      Hi
      I loved reading your insights and totally agree with all the points you mentioned. I am a teacher and really despare of the state of education today. It beeds a radical change. My husband and I have raised two beautiful creative children. We avoided excesses and kept things simple but fun. We also let our girls know that if they felt at all overwhelmed or wanted to drop an activity then that was ok, it was upto them. Both ours girls have been actors since very young. They had some great experiences but also some gruelling film schedules but again, we left it to them to say yay or nay to jobs and projects. They did their best in school but did feel neglected as they are not scholars but are both extremely talented in many creative forms. Support your childrens” talents snd choices because that will lead you and them to becone well adjusted happy successful chikdren and adults. Don’t pander to societal choices, let your kids make their own with your guidance but mostly suppost and encouragement. I would love to know where I could train to becone a ”simplicity coach?’ I am British but live in Singapore where eduation is paramount and kids here are inundated with ‘work’ which makes tgeir childhood seem more like the rat race.

    • April 01, 2016
      Sara Mullins

      Lisa,
      Is not the concept of having a simplicity coach against what the article is saying?
      If parents need to have to go to lessons to simplify their parenting, I think society maybe in more trouble than we thought.
      I am sure you offer a great service. Maybe it is just me who sees it is a ironic that we need a Simplicity coach to simplify our lives.
      I am feeling very old.

  • March 14, 2016

    Wow this is so thought provoking! We aim to be ‘old school’ parents in lots of ways because we think children are missing out, but I can clearly see so many ways that we can improve. The toys are getting a good clean out today for a start. ?

    • March 14, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Katie and nice! We cleaned out a bunch of our son’s toys and kept them downstairs in case he noticed and asked for them. It’s been over a month and he hasn’t even noticed. It makes his room feel so much calmer. Having a “toy library” can be a great idea too – rotating out toys and books on a monthly basis. Have fun cleaning house! 🙂

  • March 14, 2016
    Elisabeth

    I just read your article about simplicity. One thing everyone is missing in this line that you touched on for a moment is that children set inside themselves their parameters, basically, of what is positive and what is negative; which traditionally would have enabled them to survive. “If I do this, I am loved, this is a positive practice and results in a positive response.” They develop inner voices of their parents and people they respect as a guide, “Mom wouldn’t like what I am doing.” When they see much less of these guiding people giving them reinforcement of their most positive identity, they can choose to substitute whatever they ARE being exposed to, like tv mothers, the responses a tv child got when he did this or that thing as a new “rule” for themselves, which does not actually apply in real life, making them miserable. They are trying all the time to be “good” but getting conflicting information, stressing them. So, simplification would ease this by minimizing input from sources that seem real as a teaching tool, because stories go straight to our deepest core and help shape us, really, which is why so many have a moral. But reducing input that teaches false reasons for success “you won the video game by killing all the bad guys” there is a little celebration, but mom doesn’t really care- it is not translating to real world experience. Instead, leaving only input that gives true response so we don’t end up with kids who feel out of step and stressed trying to adjust and failing is something to think about.

    • March 14, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Elisabeth, thanks so much for your message and I couldn’t agree more. I am constantly trying to stop myself saying “good boy” – it’s become so ingrained!!! Kids need to feel loved whether they are “good” or “bad” And in fact, need more love when they are challenging. I have written about unconditional love before (and would love to write more when I can find more time) which we all feel for our kids, but what really matters is not what we say but how they feel. And our actions often don’t reflect that. Kids need to feel loved whether they’re happy, sad, angry, frustrated, having a tantrum or being “naughty”. Here’s a post about positive parenting which is a similar idea. Thanks so much for reading and hope to be in touch again 🙂

      • April 16, 2016
        Debra Ann

        Isn’t it just as imporrant that your child feels loved whether the PARENT also is happy, sad, frustrated, or “having a tantrum?” I think sometimes the daily grind spills over into our family life and our kids deserve better. Frustrations of the day that spurt out can often make our kids think they were bad or did something wrong when that’s not the case at all. So while needing to express our feelings in order not to explode, perhaps we could or should try to do so in moderation?

  • March 14, 2016

    Such a great article. Oh how I wish we could reclaim childhood for modern day kids. Thanks for lending your voice to the effort.

    • March 16, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you for your lovely comment Tammie. And me too. There are a lot of passionate parents who agree so hopefully small changes will add up. Thanks again for visiting.

  • March 15, 2016

    Thank you for your passionate defense of a child’s right to an environment that’s his birthright. I coach fathers, and a large part of what I do is support fathers in becoming more grounded, rooted, calm so they can meet their child in a rhythm that’s more natural to his needs. Your article is one of the better descriptions I’ve read on the topic. Very inspiring.

    • March 16, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Oh thank you Miki. That’s so kind and I’m happy to hear the article was a source of inspiration. Sounds like we have a lot in common – I will visit your site. And what a wonderful service you are offering Dads. Thanks so much for visiting and lovely to meet you.

  • March 15, 2016

    I just wanted to reach out and let you know that this is truly very close and dear to my heart. It is such a struggle to find this balance and the way you put the article together is simply beautiful.

    Thank you for this. I have passed this on to my friends as well.

    • March 15, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. So happy it resonated with you.

  • March 15, 2016
    Jeri Mobley

    Hi Tracy, Great article! I received it through my daughter’s FB page. She is now 29 with a 3 yr old and 1 yr old. When she and her brother were about that age, my husband came home from a 1 month deployment and had read an article about children having 10 toys and no more! I walked into their play room and he had ‘scooped’ up all their toys into a pile and told me I needed to get rid of them all!!!! I was extremely hesitant, but tried it. I thought they’d be at my feet with so ‘few’ toys, but no!, they played better with 10 toys than with 40! So true, less is more!! And, that was just with the toy issue.

    • March 16, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Love it Jeri! What a sign of the times when the old recommendation was 10 toys. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m writing a post for this week with tips on simplifying and would love to use a shortened version of your comment – is that ok? Thanks again for visiting and lovely to meet you!

  • March 15, 2016
    Jessica

    I came across this article and absolutely agree. For this same reason is why I am struggling on when to send our daughter to preschool. She turns 4 in August. I hear from a lot of teachers that we need to send them to preschool for a good two years because they are required to know so much these days. I have also had a few moms say they didn’t send to preschool at all and they did fine. I want her to be a kid for as long as she can since she will be going to school for the next 20+ years of her life. Do you have any insight on this topic for me

    • March 15, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Jessica, I understand! My son is turning 3 in May and the local Waldorf preschool called me last week asking if we’d like to enrol this year. He still seems so young so the thought of sending him essentially to school already seems so premature. My instinct it to tell you to follow yours and let your daughter be a kid as long as she can. Ask what exactly she would need to be able to know by the time she gets to school. My guess is one year would be plenty or as you say nothing and you could teach at home. Kids have a healthy and natural love of learning and I fear forcing it too early can diminish it. I think the problem with or western school system is it’s become so focussed on learning and forgetting kids need to play. I read about unschooling and at first I thought it was too radical but it’s making more sense to me as my son gets older. We may do that or I hope we’ll wait until our son is closer to 7-8YO to go to school. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life is a great book on by Peter Gray. And here’s a post on the same topic on the Atlantic: All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed I plan to write on this topic in the next month or so, so love to hear your thoughts when I do. Thanks again and lovely to meet you!

  • March 15, 2016

    Thank you for this! Although simple is my default, we have had to dramatically simplify due to some early childhood trauma in our family. AND everyone of us is benefiting. A therapist once told us, “Your child is telling you what he can handle via his behavior.” This line has stuck. Constantly, I realize when my children are struggling with their behavior, they’re [very generally] overwhelmed. It’s my job to scale back so they have the environment they need to do well. Thank you so much for posting!

  • March 16, 2016

    So I am a new dad, and a new subscriber 🙂 This is exactly the direction I am taking with our new son, Wilder Muir.

    But my issue is not so much in protecting childhood (we live in the mountains on a creek with lots of room for him and his older brother to play), but “reintegrating” them.

    I am looking forward to raising a wild, creative boy, but we all know that comes to an end, and soon he will be thrust into a world of bullies, student loan debt, homework, credit scores, and mortgages.

    So what is better? Raise an “integrated” child, making those future changes easier to manage? Or raise a “wild child” who will have an epic childhood, but may fail in the transition?

    • March 16, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Welcome Scott! I’m so happy to have another Dad on board – so refreshing. And I understand what you’re saying. My doula said to me when my son was born, “if it’s not a problem now, don’t worry about it, fix it when it is a problem but don’t change your behaviour now for something that may never happen” and it’s held true. So we co sleep with our son – a lot of parents worry about how they’ll get their kids out of their beds so choose not to share them in the first place. But in doing so they lose the opportunity for the joy of sleeping with their babies. I think in your instance I would fill your son’s life with the wilderness that surrounds you. It will build his confidence. It will shape him and give him resilience. And he will deal with the modern world when he has to. I think you’re offering him a rare and unique gift and we hope to do the same. We live in North Vancouver which is on the edge of a city but also on the edge of wilderness. It’s still suburbia but we can get down to the most amazing “creek” (in Australia it would be more like a river!) and throw rocks all day. We hope to build a cabin one day and immerse him even more in what nature has to offer. It’s tough being different but you sound like a brave Dad who’s instincts will drive you to make the right decisions when you need to. I’m sure what you do will evolve and change as time goes on, maybe you can only plan for the now, or for the next year, but not for ten years time. The unknown is scary but incredibly exciting. Welcome to the community and will be checking out your images on your website soon.

      • March 16, 2016

        So you are just up the 5!? I am in Portland 🙂

        I like what your Doula said, and will consider that when faced with these concerns!

        If you want, follow Wilder’s IG: A_WILDER_LIFE 🙂

        Cheers.

        • March 16, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          We sure are – Vancouver, BC. We love Portland and Oregon – planning another trip down there this summer. We rafted the Rogue a few years ago – just beautiful.

          I’ll check out your IG account and be in touch, Cheers Tracy

      • March 17, 2016
        Joanna

        Re the co sleeping thing, I co slept with all mine, it felt like it would go on forever, especially when the youngest got to around 5 years old and then just one day, they all decided that big boys sleep in their own bed. No pressure, no forcing and I am so glad we did that although I felt ashamed to tell the judgy parents who had their babies in cots on routines from a few weeks. Interestingly now some of the super strict, routine bound v judgy people are now having huge issues with their teenage children as they start to rebel HARD against the over authoritarian style of parenting.

    • March 20, 2016

      I was raised as a “wild child” in many ways, Scott, so I will just drop in with some info that may be helpful here. I was given free reign to play and explore in the acres of wetland and forest behind my home growing up at the dead-end of a dirt road in the Hudson Valley of New York. But I was also raised by my grandmother and she was old-school. As in: I followed her rules and I ate adult food, never “kid food,” was expected to do chores (real chores, like vacuuming and stacking wood and laundry—from age 7 and up; I was mowing the lawn at age 8). But she also put a whistle around my neck (which I was to blow if I ‘fell and broke something’) and was off for 3-4 hours at a stretch in all weather (including really cold days with lots of snow, etc. which were my favorite as the woods are SO magical all blanketed).On my bike miles from home and did I fall off and come home covered in blood? Yup, at least twice. Great learning experience about how tough I was…. I digress; the point I’m trying to make is that I went to a local, public, progressive school that had small classes and a school forest (!) but was still a “regular” NY state education, and my grandmother instilled a real framework for my childhood, which I think was a balance to all the time I spent out in the woods building forts, exploring, making maps, etc. I was also allowed to read anything and everything (I was an advanced reader so read many “inappropriate” things, or so many of my friends who are parents now say, but it was another an important way I “explored” the world and I think, had a wilder childhood). I have had little problem with school/college and went to grad school too as I love to learn, and because I had both the structure and the wildness as a kid, I don’t have problems switching between those worlds. Kind of like, I think, kids who speak different languages. My behavior changes depending where I am/who I’m with. I travel quite a bit, and this is a useful thing when you are in different countries and cultures, or even dining in a formal restaurant or eating dumpstered food (I have done both). My particular childhood gave me many skills, but being comfortable in diverse environments is an awesome skill for a human being, period. I have been able, in a crunch, to work in the corporate world (I hated it, but I could do it when need be), but mostly I’m an independent, creative worker, which suits my personality. You DO need real discipline to do that work though (moreso than in many more structured jobs, actually). Flexibility is something one can learn in one’s childhood; I did. So, I would say “all wild, all the time” isn’t realistic in the world, and will actually exclude your son from some meaningful experiences and places he might love and enjoy (in higher education, for example), where the same is absolutely true of the opposite. I honestly think that the combination of intellectual and physical freedom, with very real expectations of showing up for dinner/doing my homework/completing my chores—and my grandma’s insistence on doing those jobs to a high standard – no half-assing it! was key to my success as an adult with a nonstandard childhood (even for the time; I was a kid in the 80s when it was generally freer anyway). As my grandma always said, “moderation!” Good luck to you and your son!

      • March 20, 2016
        Tracy Gillett

        So well said Starre. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to write this heartfelt comment.

      • July 12, 2016

        yes, thank you so much! Just now came back and saw it!!

  • March 17, 2016
    Elisabeth

    I loved your ideas for simplifying my children’s lives. We came across the idea of simple parenting about a year ago and continue to fight the urge to acquire more things, even if they were free. Originally we gave away about 15 garbage bags of toys, clothes and household items but I think we are ready to do more. Mostly our children don’t realize we have removed things.

    My oldest boy, 10, has high functioning autism and several months ago we simplified his bedroom. Here are a few of the things we have done so far: We took away his bed frame to keep items from hiding underneath. We limited his bookshelf to 12 books (he picked 10 Garfield comics books). He picked out just 7 outfits. He chose only 1 blanket, 1 pillow, 1 stuffed animal, 1 blankie and his very specialist toys are high on a shelf.

    He is a happier boy and is very proud of his clean, organized room. He loses fewer homework assignments and has been better behaved in school. Every week or so we have to go through his room again and take stuff out. More and more things work their way back in there. There is a direct correlation of unwanted, negative behaviors and a congested room.

    When we moved to our community two years ago we saw no children. It appeared we lived in a neighborhood filled with retirees. After my children started attending school just 1/2 mile away, we found more kids. They were all hiding away in their homes with parents too worried to send them outside. We have started to change the atmosphere, for what I believe, the better. The first time I sent my 7 year old on her bike down the street to see a friend I got a call from the neighbor telling me one of my children got out. Yes, I know I explained to the stunned neighbor. But now after two years there are children who ride bikes, friends who ring doorbells without calling first and parents who feel more supported when they don’t enroll their children in tons of activities. It feels like how I grew up and I like it.

    • March 18, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Wow Elisabeth, what an inspiring story. Good on you for sending your 7 year old out on her bike. It’s sad how society has come to expect kids to always be supervised by parents, teacher, sports coaches etc. As if, if they run wild we’ll all be in trouble. Keeping our kids safe is critically important but allowing them to thrive, develop confidence and their own decision making ability means we have to let them go a little. I know I’ll find it hard when my son gets older but reading stories like yours is so encouraging. Great to hear about what a positive impact minimizing toys and possessions has had. On one long trip my husband and I did in Mexico before my son was born I remember the sense of relief I found to only have two outfits to choose between, one hat, one pair of glasses. Too much choice is taxing on all of us and in the end doesn’t make us any happier. Thanks so much for visiting and lovely to meet you!

  • March 18, 2016
    Ruth

    Loved reading your article Tracy and everyone’s posts. I am having a rest whilst my boys (4yrs & 2yrs old) are. We have been busy the last couple of days catching up with friends & having lots of people over visiting at our home. Their Dad is away overseas atm working & I like company. I just realised this has been great having people around but reading something struck a chord with me which was simplifying. We can do this with toys, possessions, daily practices such as food prep and eating and catching up with people!!! Overstimulating the kids and myself with visitors and too much food (generosity of friends bringing something), I have brought upon myself!!! Might try a few less people next time!! Thank you for sharing. Your article & posts helped me to rethink my choices and keep the void one can feel with a partner away, from the urge to do more, more, more!!!

    • March 18, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you Ruth – what a lovely comment. My husband travels a lot on business so I understand what it’s like to be home alone with kids. You are so right. I am thinking of taking it a lot further in my own life. Simplifying meals is a big one for me. I love being healthy but I find myself labouring over deciding what to make each night and then the time involved with cooking. Our life is about to get more complicated as we’ll be living between two countries with my husband’s work. I’m planning to simplify all that I have control over to help. I loved your ideas and simple really is best I think. There has been such an overwhelming response to this post so we’re not alone. I think everyone is overwhelmed with modern life. Thanks again and I’m happy to meet you! Good luck while your partner is away 🙂

      • April 07, 2016
        Ruth

        Thanks for replying!!!

        • April 13, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          Pleasure! Thanks for reading!

  • March 19, 2016
    Lori in Arizona

    Found your site off of Joshua’s becoming minimalist site. A subject dear to my heart is bucking the norm and raising a child in a stress free atmosphere. Our son is now in his late 30’s and he and I talk about what it was like for him to have no t.v., creative art projects (oh what we could do with a shoe box!) and the magic of childhood. We also lived in an urban environment, and our yard had a fort with a zip line, a monster sand box, and wading pool. In middle and high school years, a basement for networking computer games and sleepovers, and a kitchen for building your own pizza and cupcakes. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve, snow forts, and fresh apple pie after school. Just be the house every kid wants to be at! Now an adult, our son travels the world, has a big career, does a dozen extreme sports and still doesn’t watch t.v. He is very aware of persuasive advertising and is a minimalist. He has a huge network of friends and is an instigator of getting groups together to do activities. He tells me that if he ever has kids he will raise them the same even in this way more jazzed up world we live in. We had many Family Only nights of board games or movies and we said no to unnecessary shopping. We certainly did things differently than our peers in our community. Our vacations were backpacking in national parks while our neighbors went to Hilton Head every year! Be bold and committed!

    • March 19, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Love it Lori! Be bold and committed! We have a LOT in common, and also with your son. Your vivid description had me imagining your home and it was absolutely wonderful. Good on you. It’s hard to swim against the tide but we have to stand for what we believe it. It destroys our should otherwise. We just got back from a four hour hike with our son. We’re excited to go camping in the spring and every chance we get we’re outside. We are all so much happier that way. I’m looking forward to game nights with our son when he’s a little older. Thanks again for visiting and hope to hear from you again. 🙂

    • April 15, 2016
      Bernadette

      Wow Lori. Very inspiring. I wish I could be as bold as you. I grew up with lots of freedom (on a farm miles out of any town and neighbours a few kms away at least) but never chose that for my boys. While they have fleeting days of cubby building, making their own bows and arrows etc and my hubby takes them camping (tech free)with their friends during school holidays, I struggle with the week to week grind of soccer and football or cricket (Aussie here) practice amongst homework and their ‘right’ to play a computer game without an argument about it. It seems the peer pressure is sometimes greater than my parenting. We do limit screen time (both computer and TV) but get them outside to help me in my vege garden? No way. ‘Sigh’.

  • March 19, 2016
    AspieMom

    What a great article! We decluttered a lot of all of our stuff when we moved cross country and it’s made it so much easier mentally, and physically (less to clean up!) I think it’s time to go through it all again and purge the things that are just in the way. I truly think you are on to something about the correlation between too much stuff/activities/things and cluttered, disordered minds.

    I have a 10 year old son with ADHD and Aspergers (or high functioning autism, take your pick.) This was obvious before he turned 2. I see a lot of the same struggles I had with social issues as a child, in my son, and I wonder if I may also be on the Autism Spectrum.

    So I wanted to say that it is important to draw the distinction that wasn’t made in this article. Having the two paragraphs at the beginning closely draw conclusions about too much stuff and children, and less stuff and ADHD, made it seem that children who have too much stuff may develop ADHD.

    Aspberger’s is roughly 80% genetic, and researchers now believe it may be due to a missing gene in neural transmitters in the brain. It’s a purely physical illness. This physical component is true with other spectrum disorders, too, including ADHD, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and anxiety disorders.

    Thus, children with this illness will definitely benefit from a simplified life, because their abilities to take in so much stimulus is limited! I think simplifying is a really good thing; it has been for us. It allows him to process the more important things and not be distracted by the rest.

    But … that doesn’t mean that children who have a complicated life with necessarily develop mental illness like ADHD. They may have behavioral problems, neuroses, even, in very bad cases, show signs of traumatic disorders like PTSD. But things like ADHD are not caused by: bad parenting, bad nutrition, too much stuff, too much sugar, too many video games, not enough time outside.

    Sorry for the long post. I am a huge advocate of Spectrum Disorder awareness, especially when I hear comments about what causes ADHD and I don’t want people to make the mistake of correlating the two paragraphs. 🙂

    And I do want people who have children with these disorders to know that what you state in the article DOES work! Even if you are neurotypical, having breathing room in your stuff and your life and your time creates peace. <3

    • March 23, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you for your comment AspieMom. I also have Aspberger’s in my family so appreciate where you are coming from. As you say “too much” may be the cause of “healthy” children becoming overwhelmed and may be the tipping point for quirks to develop into disorder. But mental illnesses, like any health issues have multiple causes and genetics can’t be overlooked. Thanks so much for your comment and for reading 🙂

  • March 19, 2016

    This is a fantastic article. I’m raising my daughter to have less toys and tech time to allow her to be more creative and because I’m a simple living advocate.

    She’s a year old and I’ve noticed how too many things can make her feel overwhelmed. We’ve removed the excess and spend time enjoying nature and it’s amazing to see how much happier and calmer she is compared to playing with a lot of toys.

    I grew up getting dirty, building forts, and playing outside all day. I want the same for her and I’m so happy that you’re bringing topics like this to the forefront. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • March 19, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you Victoria – what lovely words! We have a lot in common. We are trying to do the same and find our son can’t stop smiling whenever we’re outside in nature. We just went for a four hour hike and he is napping next to me absolutely exhausted. So good! Thanks again for reading and welcome to Raised Good.

  • March 19, 2016

    I totally agree with this philosophy, and I also think that it’s nearly impossible to follow in mainstream society. Which is why it was worth it for us to leave everything behind and move to rural Missouri!

    • March 19, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you for reading and good on you for making such a bold move. We’re also thinking about moving to a small town. I wrote a new post with some practical tips on simplifying which you can find here. Thanks again and lovely to meet you.

  • March 20, 2016
    D.O.B.A.

    “Payne conducted a study in which he simplified the lives of children with attention deficit disorder. Within four short months 68% went from being clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional. The children also displayed a 37% increase in academic and cognitive aptitude, an effect not seen with commonly prescribed drugs like Ritalin.

    This should have been obvious, but sometimes it’s hardest to see what’s right in front of you. There was little ADD in my day because we had little to do. You’d come home from school and if you didn’t have homework your choices were to go outside or read. Maybe you had one or two games or toys. The house had one TV (with about five channels!) and 90 percent of the time it was tuned to “parent stuff.” Since you had only one thing to “keep you occupied” you learned to focus on the task at hand.

    It’s nice to see a write-up like this because I’ve never been comfortable with the “more is more” parenting (and grandparenting) mindset. There was a sort of folk wisdom in the old days, where parents seemed to subconsciously know that dumping too many things on a kid was wrong, although they probably couldn’t articulate exactly why.

    We don’t talk about global warming at the dinner table with a seven year old. We watch the news after our kids are asleep. We remove excessive toys and games from our toddler’s room when they’re sleeping. We recreate and honour childhood.

    Excellent advice and one of the reasons I’ve long had issues with things like “Nick News for Kids” and the barrage of so-called “helpful information” MTV seems to want to give to pre-teens. Information overload = stress and early burnout. Then we wonder why a certain number of kids seem to drop out mentally in middle school.

    Tl;dr: We now need professionals to teach us what grandma instinctively knew. Sad.

  • March 20, 2016

    This is great! I have been trying to tell my friends this for years! Children in this day and age do not know what it means to be bored. I just think of the adults who always complain that they (the adult) is always stressed because they literally have no time to decompress because their life is filled with such busyness but then you look at their child and they child’s life is the same way. So if it creates that much stress on an adult, think of what it does to a child!

    My youngest son who is 13, just yesterday, stated he was bored while we were out on a discovery mission (that is what I call when I tell my husband to get in the car and just drive to see what area we can find to explore). My responses was “good”. He asked how being bored is good. I told him because it gives him a time to decompress and revive his soul =)

    About a year ago, I got rid of cable. We now have 4 channels that we can get with the antenna. My kids no longer watch TV due to this. I have noticed a significant positive change in their school grades (and my wallet) since doing this. I am about to implement no screen (phone or computer) weekends.

    • March 20, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Good on you Bridget, that all sounds wonderful. We’ve been intentionally reducing screen time over the last couple of weeks and have noticed such a positive change, in our son and us too. Thank you for taking the time to comment and read. Lovely to meet you.

  • March 20, 2016

    Bravo! We parents need to support each other in making choices to simplify our children’s lives (and our own, too). There is such pressure to conform to the new normal, overscheduling and pressuring children, that you almost feel like a bad parent if you don’t!

    • March 20, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you Carina, and I couldn’t agree more. Don’t feel bad. Parent your way – you have my support 🙂 Lovely to meet you and thanks for reading.

  • March 20, 2016
    Mary

    This is a good read. We have a 6 years old whom we are trying to raise as well-rounded as she can be. Though we don’t have a backyard, as we live in an apartment, yet she grew up a happy kid. She has activities like crazy: ballet, acro, hiphop, skating and swimming on fall and winter & soccer, swimming, gymnastics on spring and summer; BUT, surprised us with straight A’s on her term 1 report card for Grade 1. This is after noticing that she playing less with her toys and watching kids stuff on you tube and netflix. BUT, again, the academic was a surprise for us. I, believe, it may be because of the simplicity of her routine, despite her hectic activities. I try to schedule her activities only on weekend if there’s school, and fill the week if its off school days. I also let her attend birthday parties she gets invited, because socially, she felt that acceptance from her peers, and it helps her a lot well-roundedly. We don’t buy her toys for birthday and christmas (except one toy for Santa, which we led her to believe she deserves if she is nice all year). She is active with children’s liturgy in church every Sunday. No pressure for academic. We read and we discuss math and science when she is curious. So, yes, simplicity, is the best way.

  • March 20, 2016
    Anonymous

    I’m sorry to say but I have to disagree. My husbands brother was diagnosed with mental illness almost 10 years ago when he was around 27. He lived a very simple childhood. He played outside until dark or dinner. He had very few toys because they were a family of 9, two adults plus seven children. Scientifically a persons childhood has may have some impact if there is trauma but having to much or too much sensory processing does not cause most mental illness.

    • March 20, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you for your comment and you raise an important point. The point of the post is by no means to suggest that “too much” is the only cause of mental health issues. Genetics, chemical imbalances and environmental influences obviously all play a role. For the vast majority of people however simplifying can help to mitigate the effects and in healthy but overwhelmed children can make them happier and calmer. Thanks again for reading.

  • March 20, 2016
    Nathan Nemeth

    LOVE THIS ARTICLE!! I have two girls, 2 and 8. My 8 year old lives with her mother and is constantly busy going to dance, soccer, and is always around her mothers family, they go on vacation to the beach every year at the same time, travel together (seems like always), and goes to the same school as her cousins. This drives me crazy, simply because my daughter is so hard to keep busy when I want down time during my visits. She easily gets bored and has to constantly be entertained by others. I was raised to be an individual, and play alone when others weren’t around, I was taught to be creative.

    My 2 year old lives with me, she had so many toys and refused to play with them simply because there were too many options. She prefers to play at a distance, and her favorite option is the crayons and a blank sheet of paper. She enjoys the company of others when they come to visit and seems to be a very happy child. I recently went through her toys and bagged up a large percentage of them and put them in storage, it seems that she plays in her room more often than before. I encourage her to play creatively, and her TV time is limited only to relax before naps and bedtime. I live in an non fenced duplex in the city close to a busy road with very limited yardage, so it is crucial for me to provide activities inside the home that bring out creativity and fun.

    • March 21, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you Nathan – thrilled to hear you enjoyed it! And sounds like you are creating such a healthy childhood for your young daughter. Appreciate your frustration with your older daughter – hopefully your ways may rub off on her mother. Thanks again and welcome to RG.

  • March 21, 2016

    This is a brilliant article!! Thank you!!
    I have been simplifying my life in every area including homeschooling, and I’m amazed by the results. More peace, more organization, more time for laughter, hugs and kisses. More sanity for mom and a much better family dynamic. We’ve given away a lot of toys and my kids did not even notice. Their bedrooms have more space, more light. One thing we did this year that was life changing for us, was to not enrol our kids in any extracurricular lessons. Yep! No swimming, no ballet, no piano, no ice skating, no co-op – nothing! Instead, we go swimming as a family, we go to the library, we play the piano and sing together simply because we want to and we are all loving the freedom of more time in our schedule and saving a lot of money too. I don;t want my children to be overworked, overscheduled and stressed out. You know why? Because I was a workaholic, who suffered from chronic stress, adrenal fatigue and became very ill because of that. I was trying to have my kids living the crazy overschedule life just like mine! It was rush, rush, rush, every day. I finally woke up one day, decided to simplify my life and it changed my life! I totally agree with the comments about letting art, music and creativity flow inside the house. Turn off the TV and read great books aloud instead! Do poetry tea time. Painting contests. Play board games. There are still so much to do when you can’t freely play outside. If the kids can’t freely ride their bikes outside, then parents, please get on your bikes and go bike riding with them around the block for 15 minutes – you will make their day! Take them for walks in nature trails. Make memories together. None of these came naturally to me. I’m a city girl but I want a better life for my children. I want them to love nature, to play, to be kids and to be healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.
    Thank you again for this article Tracy! This sounds like a great book for a moms book club! 🙂
    Ana Willis recently posted…Diamonds in the Rough – Finding Encouragement in a Rough Season

    • March 21, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks so much Ana and what a brilliant comment, much appreciated. It’s encouraging to hear about you homeschooling your kids. My son is nearly three so we’re starting to think about what we’ll do. Homeschooling or unschooling is very appealing and feels natural, at least while he’s young. Thanks again and look forward to being in touch soon.

  • March 22, 2016

    Just what I needed thank you. I have read simplicity parenting a few years ago now & had always believed in keeping my children’s lives pretty simple – simple but quality ☺️ But just this last week I had been thinking should I be getting my four year old into activities, sports etc am I missing out on improving his skills, should I be doing more..

    Your post was a nice reminder that the free range play that my two are doing is just fine. I don’t want to overwhelm them as we already go as a family to Playcentre ( NZ based where families attend together & learn through play – child led) three mornings a week at the moment.

    Thanks ?

    • March 22, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Kelly and good on you – sounds great! We’re heading to NZ for 6 weeks next week for my hubby’s work. Will be nice to be downunder for a wee while. Thanks again for reading.

    • March 23, 2016
      Drew

      It sounds like you are scared to put your kids in sports. Sports are not bad in my opinion. But you as a parent should know best if you, your family and your child is ready for it.

      My three kids all play hockey and they all started at different ages because I had an idea of how interested they were and I didn’t want to “push” them. Ages 3,4 and 5 if your wondering what age they started.

      My kids love playing sports and they love playing with other kids. Recreational leagues don’t have huge commitments either, practices are not mandatory and you usually only have one or two per week and one game per week. There is a great social aspect to playing sports too. My kids meet a lot of friends through sports and they have a lot of fun just playing at the rink or field when they aren’t playing games (which is similar to “just” letting them play outside like a lot of you are preaching).

      • March 23, 2016
        Tracy Gillett

        To the contrary Drew, but, free time is important and mustn’t be given away as a result of kid’s spending all their time in organized sports. I played basketball growing up and had practice once a week and games on Saturdays. But times, for many have changed since then, with organized activities, school and homework dominating family life. This article seeks to give parents the courage to follow their own instincts, determine what works best for their kids and to not feel guilty when they say no. It sounds like your kids have a healthy relationship with sports but many are overwhelmed by activities we’re told they “need”. Thanks for your comment and for reading.

        • March 28, 2016
          Drew

          I agree with you. School and homework is hard enough to deal with, then you have most parents both working now. Then you have the mentality that everyone has to go to college now.

          I think a lot of parents get caught up in trying to be “the perfect family”. Have a dog, white picket fence, kids playing ______(fill in the blank) on weekends, going on beautiful colorful vacations, honor roll students, working their dream job etc.. I think one of the greatest things a parent can do for a child is to pass on their knowledge and passions to their children. I think we as parents get caught up in keeping kids exposed to all kinds of experiences and forget that we are (or should be) THE most influential teacher/role model in our kids lives.

          • March 28, 2016
            Tracy Gillett

            Agree Drew – very easy to get caught up in the “should’s” of life and miss the things that really nourish us and our children. Thank you for your comment.

  • March 23, 2016
    Toni R

    What a lovely reminder. With our youngest turning 3 shortly, it’s good to remember he doesn’t need more “things”. After reading this today, we filled a large bin of toys that we will pop under the house for a while. Interesting to think about whether a toy evokes their imagination or not. Thankyou

    • March 24, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Good on you Toni – that’s great to hear and I’m happy the article was helpful. Welcome to the community.

  • March 24, 2016
    Palgal

    I like what your article states, however I have to disagree with the statement about ADHD. We live on a farm in rural Washington and my kids play for hours on end out in the pasture. My kids have daily chores (including outdoor chores taking care of the chickens, feeding the dogs, feeding the horses, grooming and exercising the horses, cleaning up pens as well as indoor chores), then they do their homework, clean their room and then play until dinner. All that being said my daughter was diagnosed with ADD in kindergarten and went from recommendations for special education to the top of her class after medication (By the way Ritalin is rarely prescribed anymore). She is now in the third grade and continues to excel in school, while continuing to be her energetic loving charismatic self.

    My husband and I have always kept things to a minimum, and yet my daughter has ADHD. Articles like this destroy parents who had to make the tough decision to put their children on a medication for something, some believe, is a fake disease. My daughter is well behaved and we don’t “drug” her to make her sit still. We give her Concerta to help her concentrate, she gets frustrated when she can not do well in school because she can’t focus. It has nothing to do with ANYTHING this article stated above. It has to do with a chemical imbalance in her brain. The issues being stated above have more to do with kids with too much energy and no outlet, not actual ADHD.

    And for those that claim ADD/ADHD did not exist before recent times I beg to differ. I have talked to MANY people who have watched my daughter and stated, “wow I was just like her, and I barely passed school” It existed, they were just labeled as stupid/non-intelligent/goof balls/etc.

    So I guess what I am getting at is that I think you need to take a closer look before posting things, purely for factual basis. I agree that more kids need to spend time outside and to have less “stuff”, however having more stuff does not equal ADD/ADHD.

  • March 26, 2016
    Nicole

    My son recently had his 27 month review, he didn’t do a single thing the nurse asked him to do for 3 reasons…

    1-he was out of his natural element, in a room he’d never seen before with a nurse he’d never met before. He’s a child, not a preforming monkey.

    2-There was a huge toy box full of cars & trucks, his favorite things ….. pretty much says it all right there hey!

    3- I don’t know a single 2.5yr old that does what they’re told on queue?

    Because of this they requested a follow up visit a few months later, in our home. My son was just find, happy to chat & play & interact with the nurse as requested.

    Her “findings” at the end of the visit. “your son is on par with other children his age” (I didn’t need HER to tell me this) “he’s no baby genius, but he’s fine” …… ummmm ok?? I literally had no words.

    Why is so much pressure put on parents & children? Why was she even at my house? What a waste of NHS money! Raising children has never come with a manual, however, it seems to come with all kinds of gov’t guidelines & rules! Personally I’m tired of it. 🙂

    • March 26, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      I’m hearing you Nicole. It’s necessary for doctors/nurses to have a set of normal parameters by which to measure children’s progress but a little common sense and talking to parents goes a long way. And the “no baby genius” comment – forget about it – obviously she’s no “social etiquette genius” hey! Thank you again for reading and really appreciate your comment.

  • March 28, 2016
    Amy

    Can you provide a link to the study referenced in the article? It says”Payne conducted a study in which he simplified the lives of children with attention deficit disorder.” but the page linked to is just another blog.

    • March 28, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Amy, It starts on Page 27 of Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting. I can change the reference to the book but can’t reference a page number. Thanks.

  • March 30, 2016
    Karen Heinzen

    Thank you ! I have felt this for a long time…. and did some of these things with our own children. These are human needs and somehow they have gotten gobbled up by society and ‘things of the world’. Oh that we may listen and know how to balance and in wisdom do what is right for the soul.
    Thank you….

    • March 31, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      My pleasure Karen and thank you for your lovely and heartfelt comment. Much appreciated and thank you for reading.

  • March 31, 2016

    Yeahh!!!!

    Also, you forgot to mention canoes. Paddling around in canoes, especially in Montana-will guarantee good kids ?

  • April 03, 2016
    Betsy

    Great article! I worry so much about being able to provide this type of childhood for my little girl. She is 9 months old, and my husband and I both work so she is in daycare. I feel like it’s already overwhelming for her little mind. We will also have to work through Summer’s when she’s older and I just wonder what kind of impact that will have on her. My mom stayed home with us and we just played all day every day all summer long. Her days are already do structured and scheduled even as a baby and it makes me so so sad 🙁

    • April 13, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you Betsy. I am sure you’ll be absolutely fine – the fact that your conscious of it will mean you’ll make the best decision you can given the information and resources you have at the time which is the best any child can ask for. You sound like a wonderful Mum.

  • April 05, 2016

    Awesome post!!! I featured it on my blog too it was so great!

    • April 05, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Kelly! Thrilled you enjoyed it and your site looks lovely 🙂

  • April 10, 2016
    Lisa

    I loved your article, but my child has Autism… Did you see anything in your research related to autistic children? We wonder all the time if he is in too much therapy. He has ABA three times a week for two hours. Music therapy once a week, only for 30 mins and this is just fun for him. Nothing strenuous. Teacher is easy and sweet). He also goes to swim for 15 mins once a week. This is another thing he loves, but the ABA we wonder about. He’s been doing this for a while now, probably 3 years. We’ve seen big progress, but still it’s a struggle to know how much is too much? If I were a parent of a neuro typical kid, he would probably just be in swim once a week. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you:)

  • April 13, 2016
    Vanessa Shaw

    Hi Tracy, I liked most of the ideas, but had a few things I didnt agree with. I am not about to tell my 8 year old she can’t attend a birthday party.
    Yes kids often have too much stuff and activites can become overloaded but my son learns guitar. He wants to and its a fab social skill. He also plays soccer with mates and enjoys it. My daughter plays netball and is quite competitive it. Also they have both had swimming lessons we live near the ocean and they have also been involved in our local family focussed surf club.
    They both surf from time to time, also they play outside with neighbours and we have street BBQ once a year we live in a cul-de-sac in NZ. Also my kids are in digtal classess at school they turn 9 and 12 this year. I think you imagine my kids are too busy They have a great life and we have a loving home. I just think some of your comments are a bit too directive, but have taken on board re sheltering them more from lifes events and stress but some activites are really good and life changing and help prepare our kids as adults

    • April 14, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks for reading Vanessa and for your comment. I’m in NZ for the next couple of months too – my husband is a kiwi and I’m from Melbourne. Each family is different and your kids sound like they are thriving. Each family has to figure out what works for them. It’s a shame you think my approach is too directive but I think given how common over scheduling has become we need a counterbalance and this is what I try to provide. Living by the ocean is such a blessing – we’re about to head up to Omaha for the weekend and I’m going in for a swim no matter the weather. Thanks again and enjoy your weekend.

  • April 21, 2016
    Penny

    Hi, Tracy,
    I am a 65 y.o. Grandma with 13 grandchildren that range in age from 22 y.o. to 3 y.o. I quote your paragraph “We filter unnecessary busyness and simplify their lives. We don’t talk about global warming at the dinner table with a seven year old. We watch the news after our kids are asleep. We remove excessive toys and games from our toddler’s room when they’re sleeping. We recreate and honour childhood.” I jumped up & down & cheered when I read it & most all of your article. It is so frustrating listening to parents share every minute detail of their adult lives with toddlers, elementary age & pre- teens & teens. These kids do not need to know every battle you have with a neighbor or falling out with your best friend, or the fact that there is concern for paying a big medical bill incurred for that child’s health need, or the cost of the new vehicle being purchased, so all can travel together in a safe vehicle, or that the geysers in Yellowstone park are more active than historically & the earthquake activity in that area is growing. And that is only a very, very small sample of things that children do not need to be burdened with. As you said, children have a much larger portion of their lives to live as adults than as children, so allow them to be children when they are children. And “stuff!” Don’t get me started on the amount of toys some kids have – if you cannot walk into their room without walking on top of toys strewn all over the floor & they can’t be picked up & put away because there is literally no room to put them all away (off the floor, that is), that is way beyond excessive! On that note, I will stop ranting & say thank you to you for all you do to spread this message around the globe!!

    • April 25, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you for your lovely comment Penny and I’m so happy you enjoyed the article – it made me smile when you said you jumped up and down! I agree with your wholeheartedly and it sounds like your grandkids have a wonderful grandma 🙂 Thank you again for reading and lovely meeting you.

  • April 23, 2016
    Tanja

    This is a great article and I agree with everything but one thing – taking away your toddlers toys while he/she is sleeping. For me that is an absolute no go. They are your childs toys and if you let sooo many toys into the house already then you might have to just stop now. Let family know that you don’t want anymore toys or that you are saving up for something special (whatever that might be for you) and when your toddler starts to understand a bit more it might be time to talk to him/her about giving some of his/her toys to charity 🙂

    • April 25, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Tanja – happy you liked it. The sleeping reference was suggesting if you need to remove toys it’s better to do it when kids aren’t there so when they’re sleeping is one option. All families are different, so you’ll have to figure what’s best for you. And I agree on limiting more toys from family and friends – great suggestion.

  • April 25, 2016
    Ella

    Beautifully written piece with ideas that we all should take snippets of (or more) wherever we can. I see many of these challenges emerge within my classroom (I’m an early childhood teacher) and while we as teachers try to also help facilitate this simple, play-based, and exploratory approach it can be a challenge because it is in such contrast to what the children are used to outside of the classroom. Thanks for posting!

    • April 25, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks so much Ella and happy you enjoyed the article. Thanks for reading and for the insight.

  • April 25, 2016
    Julia

    Somehow my 7 y.o. has it all: school, a lot of extra activities that he chooses for himself, 2-3 hours a day of free play on weekdays (playground after school and free activities at home), and the whole weekend for himself. He is the one who initiated presidential campaign debates in our family as we have not discussed this in front of him before – he probably brought it from school. They actually study topics like global warming at school, he is all about “reduce reuse recycle” and proud about it. I can’t imagine saying no to the Birthday party knowing how much he likes to play with other kids. He loves to do much during a day, and he is creative beyond imagination. Just one happy child who is also growing in a real world. I understand perfectly what you are trying to say but sometimes we can benefit from our own advises, keeping things simple for ourselves and taking life as it is.

    • April 25, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks for reading and commenting Julia. Your seven year old sounds like he has a wonderful childhood. The article needs to be taken in context – I didn’t meant o imply saying no to all birthday parties but if we had one every weekend, I know for us, it would be too much. But one every now and then isn’t an issue for us. Every family needs to find what’s right for them and you’re the best person to gauge what’s best for your son. Thanks so much.

  • April 25, 2016
    Amy

    Wow, I just found your blog thanks to this article. What a wonderful reminder to slow down and let kids just be kids. I feel like I need to read articles like this everyday to keep my priorities in check in the face of pressures to enroll my kids in activities and sports. When we slow down on weekends or school days off I really notice such a change in my first-grader’s attitude. Kids really do enjoy being with their parents (given the chance).
    Amy recently posted…When Do Babies Become Social?

  • May 02, 2016

    Interesting read. Sometimes, for most parents, it has become easy to forget that a child is a child, and he has to act his age. Some parents would even push their child to grow up quickly, expecting him to act as an adult. What could be worse is that, sometimes, some of these parents ask their innocent kid to make straight lines when all he can manage to do at the moment is a crooked line leading nowhere.

  • May 05, 2016

    I absolutely love this post. simplicity is so important for kids AND adults! I definitely had great “mental health” until I overcomplicated my life as an adult. Here’s a post I wrote on how to simplify life for us grown-ups: http://simplynatureplusnurture.com/…/16/make-life-easier/

    • May 06, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Awesome – thank you for sharing Mary! So right – the more I read about child psychology the more I see ways in which I can help myself. Our lives are still too complex but working on it. Your post will help and happy you enjoyed mine.

  • May 10, 2016
    robin

    I grew up in S FL area in the 1960’s and had much less in general and more freedom than I would ever give a child today. Most all the Moms were home. As we walked the 12 blocks to school, my brother and I started, collected 3 more kids by the end of our block. By school we were 20 or more strong of elementary and middle schoolers. Several Moms might watch us go down there block, or pass us going to have coffee with a neighbor.No child ever bullied me. TV was 3 poor channels and other than Wonderful World of Disney and a few other shows we watched little. Besides free play time, we had another huge difference, real chores. So when my Mother was seriously injured as an 11 year old I took over the household. I cooked meals, my brother and I already packed our lunches,I washed and ironed, we kept the house and yard up. Our Dad worked lots to make up medical cost.We raised our daughter in the 80’s with little TV, few scheduled activities, plenty of free playtime, a library card at age 3 and chores. She is raising her son much the same but added home schooling, which we support in this day 100%. One constant I noticed writing this for all 3 generations is our family activities were more outside and free oriented. Parks, beach or lake, hiking, friends getting together and such. Rarely to a Mall, Movie, few Theme Park visits. My daughter and friends play a lot of board type games too. All our families limit device time so its doesn’t take over real life.

  • May 11, 2016

    My children are 18, 17, 14 and 11 years old. They were raised in a big old purple house in Nova Scotia, no schooled and ran wild in the woods and on the shore. When my oldest decided to attend high school, she was tested and went a year ahead. The tester was so impressed with her scores she asked me how I was homeschooling. Freedom is everything. Surround your children with beauty, and let them explore nature, daily. Read to them but don’t force them to read until they want to. All my children learned to read at nine years or after. And they all LOVE to read and are prolific readers.

  • May 11, 2016
    Brandon

    Very interesting reasoning. I think he may be onto something with this. We know that illnesses like depression can have symptoms almost identical to PTSD. And I have long suspected the desensitization and positive reinforcement have played a major role in the cultural concepts of parenting.

    For example, advertising has definitely played a part in how people in my culture view parenting. I have noticed a change in fewer than 10 years in the parents of the children I work with. Look no further than the ridiculous idea the vaccines caused autism.

    I think what has also played a major part is a sort of positive feedback system. Since humans seem to seek out social acceptance, it is possible that the more parents who are over scheduling their child’s lives, the more likely that will encourage other parents to do the same, so that they will fit in. I have even heard an example of one parent making a somewhat derogatory comment towards another because the other did not have their child signed up for as many activities. Though I suspect that extreme is less common.

  • May 12, 2016

    I agree 100%. Kids need more independent down time to develop. Too much of a good thing is not good and downtime for children still growing and developing is as necessary as food and water.

    • May 19, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Agreed Johanna and thanks so much for reading – happy this resonated with you.

  • May 13, 2016
    Marne

    Hello,
    I love this article. I am wondering if you ever allow reprints in parenting/family resource publications? I would love to talk with you more about this. Thanks so much!

    • May 13, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Marne – I’m thrilled you enjoyed it. Please email me with more details – tracy@raisedgood.com
      Thanks!

  • May 16, 2016
    Chantal Richards

    Great article but now I’m dealing with teenage depression and worried his childhood disappeared all too quickly ?

    • May 19, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Chantal but I am so sorry to hear your son is dealing with depression. It must be so difficult as a parent. Wishing you all the best and hope your son improves soon.

  • May 18, 2016
    Alex Abramian

    Hi Tracy: I loved this article so much. I stumbled across Kim John Payne online when I found this video called The Overwhelm of Boys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiLaYYuyPTs
    It’s so moving and inspired me to buy his books. I love Simplicity Parenting so much and am so happy to have found it. I have 9-year-old b/g twins, and feel Simplicity Parenting has improved all of our lives like nothing else. One of my main take-aways was the Islands of Time concept. While our lives are still packed with lessons and friends and all of that, there are points during every day that are untouchable. Dinner time, before bed, specific weekly traditions. By calming other areas down, I see how our Islands of Time have emerged in importance for all of us. Thank you for a great article!

    • May 19, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      It’s a pleasure Alex and I’m happy you enjoyed it. Simplicity Parenting provides such an important message for families and the islands of time you mention is so helpful. I saw the Overwhelm of Boys as well and also found it very moving – thank you for the link, I’ll watch it again. Thanks again and lovely to meet you.

  • May 19, 2016
    Laura P

    This is a good article. My husband and I haven’t been married very long, so no kids yet, but hopefully within the next couple of years (when I finish my undergrad) we’ll start having babies! I was wondering if you had suggestions about when it would be appropriate to allow kids to start using technological devices. I want to avoid both extremes of having kids who can’t seem to function without a screen, or, on the flip side, getting to high school age and not knowing how to type. I’ve witnessed both and I don’t like either. It bothers me that my barely two-year-old cousin can operate an iPad almost as well as me, but it was also very frustrating trying to teach a sixteen-year-old how to use a music editing program when she hardly knew how to use a mouse and keyboard. Do you (or does Kim John Payne) have suggestions for how to appropriately and healthily introduce children to tech? Including cell phones (smart or basic), tablets, computers, tv, etc.

  • May 27, 2016
    Nelly Macias

    Loved your article! I worry my five and a half year old daughter has too many toys, stuffed animals, dress up clothes and books. What is your advice on what to keep and what to give away? She seems to love it all.

  • June 28, 2016
    Melissa

    I agree to a point. You can simplify your home and the toys and your schedule but if you make a commitment to a team you don’t say “No, Sophie can’t make soccer practice this week.” If you make a commitment to a team then you should make every effort to be a part of that team including all practices. All to often we are teaching our children that the don’t have to follow through on commitments or they can quit just because it is hard or there is something else more fun going on. If you are going to be on the soccer team you should be at practice.

  • July 25, 2016
    Weronika

    Where we live (Dubai) people have really lost their minds long time ago. My daughter is 5 and most of her friends attend anything between 4 and 7 extracurricular activities a week. I know mothers who abandoned their careers just so they can drive their kids to all the after-school classes. Also the amount of toys people buy is crazy. As is the fact that every four year old has a tablet of their own (apart from mine – I am a bad mum). I am considered a bad mum for many reasons. Because I let my two year old sit for 3 hours in a muddy puddle diging in the sand with a fork he stole from the kitchen.Because I let my 5 year old sit in the toilet for 2 hours not checking on her every two seconds (even though I can hear her singing and talking as she plays some imaginary game with all the toothpaste tubes, creams etc.). Because my kids not only don’t have a tablet of their own, but they are not allowed to play with it at all. Ever. Because we don’t have TV channels (kids still watch films we have in our library but when it gets too much I tend to organize a no-TV week, where they have to come up with their own entertainment). Because I leave them to it a lot of the time and yes, sometimes I have no idea where they are and what they are up to. While I’m writing this I am with my daughter visiting my country. We are in my old flat – which is tiny – and for the last hour she has been so busy playing with a piece of ribbon and two soft toys that she hasn’t really spoken to me. At moments like this I really dread going back to all the glitz and the madness of the mini rat race we will be dragged into once the school-year starts. I find it sad, because many people will read your article thinking how wonderfully valid and simple the idea is, just to go back to their life which is it’s complete opposite without even blinking.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

“Parenting by Nature eBook
Sign up for monthly Love Letters plus get your FREE copy of my “Parenting by Nature” eBook
“Parenting by Nature eBook