“There is no one-size fits all way to simplify parenting. But there are ways we can manage the chaos and infuse our families with principles of Grace, Structure & Order.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life
I began my recap of the chapter on Finances by saying that there isn’t a topic on which I felt more unqualified to give any advice, but I’d like to amend that statement and say that I feel about a million times less qualified to write anything on parenting. We’re just winging it about 85% of the time. And that’s being generous.
However, like so many other areas that this book covers, the way that she breaks down the different areas and ways that we can chip away at the struggles gives me hope. Did you find that to be the case as well?
Managing Physical Stuff
1 – Minimize The Amount
Start with toys and ask “What do they actually play with?” Donate what they’ve outgrown (or store away for future children) and toss what is broken or missing pieces. Even after doing this, our reality is that we still have A LOT of toys.
One option that I’ve heard other people do (but that I haven’t tried….yet) is to rotate toys. They divide toys up into two, three or four groups (depending on the types and amounts) and only have one group out at a time. After a pre-determined amount of time (monthly, seasonally, etc.), they pack away that group of toys away and pull out one from storage. This is a way for toys to seem new to kids without having to go buy new stuff all of the time.
2 – Sort & Sift
Emily Ley suggests storing toys by activity or type (i.e building, reading, art, baby dolls, trucks, etc.). My warning for this would be not avoid the trap of over-organizing, because kids will not be able to sustain that system and it sets them up for failure. But, if you’re looking for a way for them to be able to get some toys out without emptying every single toy they own, this system works great!
Another suggestion that she makes – and we have found to be true in ALL areas of life, not just kid stuff – is the “one of a kind rule”. What she means by to take the time to find something that works for you, and if it is something that you need multiples of (plates, cups, socks, water bottles, etc.), buy all of the the same of these.
I am so diligent about this with our kids’ dinnerware. Storing kid plates, cups, silverware and the like is cumbersome enough as it is. The only way I’ve found to not be overly irritated by it is to have one kind of plate, bowl, cup & silverware. In hindsight, I wish we would have got all the same color of cups and and silverware, but live and learn.
Implementing Systems that Teach Action & Reaction
And now we enter a topic on which I say to you, ‘Teach me your ways, cuz I’m drowning over here’.
Let’s start with her points….
1 – Redirect
I worked as a counselor at Christian camp in college and one thing we learned that has stuck with me since then is “The issue’s not the issue”, the idea being that what a kid is upset about is not actually what’s wrong with them; it’s just a symptom of something deeper. I tell myself this hourly as a parent.
Redirecting our child’s attention from the conflict to something that helps resolve the deeper issue – or, frankly, just distracts them – diffuses the tension.
2 – Get down on their level
Again, less learned working at camp.
We cannot fall victim to shouting wars. Which is so easy to do, because we’re justifiably tired and getting up from where I am to walk to where they are only to have to squat down takes energy that I do not have. But it is a game changer. Eye contact and being level with your kids reaffirms their feelings and their value. There’s no better place to start than there.
3 – Get on the same page as your spouse
Kids need consistency. We all do, but kids need it more.
I’m validated in my kids’ eyes when Dad has the exact same reaction, expectations and consequences as Mom. It’s still not easy, but it’s easier.
You know what’s not easier? Figuring out how to do that. My husband and failed miserably at this last night. Three of the four members of our family had tears (and only two of the four of us are children, so you do the math). Grace and communication are the only two things that I know are necessary in this process.
4 – Have a pocket trick
Emily Ley uses a dance party playlist that she starts when they just need a do-over. I love this idea.
5 – Have a Hail Mary for yourself
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Hail Mary is for when the pocket trick ain’t doing the trick.
My Hail Mary is dropping whatever we’re doing, loading up the kids in the double stroller and going for a walk. In Minnesota, it’s not ideal outdoor walking weather at least six months of the year, but the Hail Mary requires less than ideal circumstances. I have pushed the stroller through snow many times and on those days where the windchill is 20 below (which happens often in January & February), we settle for walking circles around the mall.
Do what you gotta do.
Create Meaningful Family Memories
When I read this title I thought it would be all about coming up with super creative, fun things to do with your family that they will remember. Which I hate. I love fun memories, but coming up with how to get them is so far outside of my wheelhouse. I’m just not that fun, creative parent. My kids will leave our house knowing how to organize a mean sock drawer, but they will not leave with stories of elaborate, creative activities.
But even creating family memories is something that we should simplify. Chores can be the source of family memories. Good ones.
I just love her idea of taking our trouble points and teaching our children how to be part of the solution to those triggers. Her example of having her son be in charge of collecting dirty in the laundry in order to lessen her burden in the morning is a great example.
Two birds. One Stone.
Give your children responsibility and let that responsibility be helpful to you. AND teach them how to have fun working. It can be done.
My daughter’s job after meals is putting dirty dishes on the dish counter and my son’s is putting the dirty (cloth) napkins in the hamper. We act silly and talk about doing it “cheetah fast” so that we have a couple minutes for tickle time or a Lego tower before bath time. And it works 85% of the time.
Imparting Virtue & Character
“You are raising adults, not children.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life
I love this because it’s a big picture perspective. Which is so hard to maintain in the day-to-day minutia of parenting. Kids do whatever we do, which is good and bad. But, let’s leverage that by having them do what we do alongside us at an age-appropriate level.
They can do chores alongside you – and learn how to clean a toilet.
They can do errands with you – and have a conversation about something that happened at school that day. And help you carry the groceries. 🙂
They can sit in church with you – and build a foundation of faith for all of their days.
They can volunteer with you – and learn the value of giving to others.
Individually, these things don’t seem like a big deal. But collectively, they are creating memories and are building blocks for the adults they will become.
Which is both inspiring and daunting.
“What if one day, we look back and realize these were the good old days?”
Read some of Emily Ley’s parenting books suggestions.
At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now that make big strides toward achieving your goal.
Comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed that week. I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed at the end of the book will get some swag. Like good, helpful swag. No clutter-y stuff.
Don’t forget to take photos of the process AND the progress and use #simplifiedsummer so we can all celebrate together!