I’m sure you’ve heard the KISS principle, and yes, it certainly applies to parenting. In fact, I’d have to say that the key to parenting is to keep it simple.
However, trying to keep it simple often presents us with a problem because it seems as if society at large likes things to be complex. Complexity is fun because it confuses everybody, and confused parents make businesses more money.
There’s nothing that pours money into business coffers faster than parents who simply can’t make up their minds, so I think it’s fair to say that complexity and confusion are in and simplicity is out.
But let’s fight back. Let’s box the ears of complexity by taking a look at the headwinds against our simple utopian life and seeing what we can do about them.
Headwind # 1: Too much choice
I know choice is supposed to make us happy, but in fact, it doesn’t. There’s a great book that tells you just how miserable too much choice actually makes us, and you can find out about it here. It turns out that the moment you include more choices, the less satisfied you are when you finally make your choice.
You can see that in your average coffee joint—so many expressos, macchiatos, and affogatos (I put that one in to confuse you). There are so many coffee types, and I don’t know about you, but I find they never quite turn out how I thought they would. Anyway, aren’t they just all coffee?
Choice is a large part of complexity, so if the key to parenting is to keep it simple, you want to distill choices down to the minimum for your kids and thus help them feel more satisfied with the choices they have.
Think about it: If you give your child bread and water for a week and then offer them a ham sandwich with mayonnaise and sprouts, I bet they’ll be pretty thrilled. But if you throw in the choice of pastrami and chicken on 6-seed bread with a garlic aioli, the likelihood of a complete meltdown rises significantly.
So what does limiting choice mean in practical terms? It means not giving your toddler any choices at all as they can’t handle them, and giving them choices simply makes them more likely to fly off the handle and have a massive fit while at the same time making it more likely you’ll end up with a nervous breakdown. You can read the why’s behind not giving toddlers choices here, where I explain it.
Second, it means only introducing choices to children aged three and up, and even then, giving them plenty of practice.
This practice should include things like asking if they want the “red hat or blue hat” for a post-lunch time walk and making you so bored by the end that you’ll think banging your head hard against an immovable object would have been more fun.
I should add that these choices should always be childlike, such as which colour beach towel to take with them to the pool, and not grown-up choices like, “Should we move?” or “Do you think I should trade in your father?”
Too much choice can also negatively affect us adults. We simply don’t need all the gadgets and other supposed parenting “must-haves.” These have been presented to us courtesy of rampant consumerism and have been made to fill a gap. Just because they exist doesn’t mean we need them.
Consider what a baby really needs. A bed? A cardboard box works well, they use them in Finland and other places. You can read about that here. A few outfits, mom, dad, and cuddles; diapers; and possibly a bottle or two.That’s really it. They don’t need fancy mobiles; faces do just as well, and I really don’t think they care what colour the nursery is.
As they grow, you’ll see this need for simplicity play out when you go out and buy your two-year-old some cool toy, only to find they have more fun with the box.
Headwind #2 Too much stuff
It seems similar to point #1. I know, but it’s different. It’s the end result of all that choice, and taken to its logical conclusion, it’s a whole day or sometimes multiple days spent opening presents at Christmas.
It’s also the main reason for having your kids’ room or playroom so full you can hardly get in the door, and when you do, you tread on some Lego. Don’t try that; it hurts! In fact, I believe that’s why they invented lego—to permanently maim any mom or dad foolish enough to step on it. Anyway, my point is that having too much stuff is going to be a major headwind in terms of keeping it simple, though stapling your purse can be a good start.
Headwind #3 Too many experts
How can there be too many parenting experts? Aren’t experts the key to successful parenting? No, we’re not. In fact, if you want an expert, fine, but pick one and take any other expert parenting book out there and wrap it up with duck tape. Why? Experts prevent you from listening to yourself. Well, except me, of course.
They dismiss your inner voice because they are experts and, of course, know far more than you do—or do they? I’ll let you in on a little secret. There are tons of experts I’ve met who have horribly behaved kids. Of course I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. Now where’s the duck tape? I think you might need to give me some.
So now you know the key to parenting is to keep it simple. It’s so simple, I bet you’re wondering why you didn’t think of it yourself. Do you want to read more? Try this article about why kids need downtime.
The key to parenting? Parent with confidence, not fear.
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