Simplifying Together, One Small Change at a TimeBy Janet Lynch
Hartsbrook parent & Certified Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach

Beginning last October, two groups of parents from Hartsbrook and beyond have been gathering monthly at our school to explore the themes of Kim John Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. The parents, whose children range from toddlers to young adults, came with a variety of aspirations for this experience, including bringing more consciousness to their parenting; being more grounded and having more communication in their family life; creating more flow and less stress in their household; slowing down to better enjoy small moments and emotional connection with family; and reconnecting with themselves.

We have been benefitting as much from the insights and support of each other as from the wisdom of the book itself. As one parent describes the gatherings, “…each person can share from their own experience—and unique family constellation—in an atmosphere of respect, flexibility, and inspiration. The themes of Simplicity Parenting provide structure to our discussions, helping illuminate concrete ways to align our home lives with our deepest values.” Participants have expressed how validating it has been to hear their own parenting ups and downs reflected in each other’s stories, and how they look forward to the camaraderie of coming together each month. “This is where I ground myself as a parent!” one mother recently told her group. Many also remark what a gift it has been to have a dedicated time and space to focus on their parenting and on making small—but powerful—positive changes in their family lives.

Each month’s gathering is a mix of sharing how simplifying changes are going at home, lively discussion of the chapter-of-the-month’s theme, an individual reflection or visualization exercise, and working in pairs to help each other design a new small, doable change to implement at home. As facilitator of these groups, my favorite part of our gatherings is witnessing the incredible buzz of energy as parents turn to each other to talk through how they will bring the session’s theme home with them in the form of a practical change.

In our first gathering, we each reconnected with the values we hold as parents, and that we wish to be reflected in our daily family life. The next month, we considered Payne’s question, “How can we make ourselves available to a child who’s in the midst of an emotional fever?” The wise adage, “When your child seems to deserve affection least, that’s when they need it the most,” was a powerful invitation to shift our perceptions of and reactions to what is often termed “bad behavior.” Over the past four months, we have delved into the main realms of simplification: Environment, Rhythm, Schedules and Filtering Out the Adult World. Just before the December holidays, we focused on the stress and overwhelm kids can feel by being surrounded by too much physical “stuff,” and many parents shared stories of the calming, grounding power of de-cluttering their children’s (and their own!) spaces. With the start of the new year, we explored infusing more rhythm and predictability into the daily lives of our children to create more flow and ease, and we all practiced using storytelling as a rhythmic element with our kids. February’s theme was simplifying schedules with the goal of creating more space for deep play and downtime, and more opportunities for family connection. Last month we looked at bringing more mindfulness to our parental role as filters, or gatekeepers, for what comes into our family sphere and our children’s awareness. Our discussion centered around screen media use and on our own dialogue with our children. Particularly illuminating were these questions to ask ourselves internally before speaking: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it an improvement on silence? Will it make my child feel safe?”

As we prepare for our final gathering of this 7-month journey together, I am filled with such gratitude—to Kim Payne for bringing this transformative book into being, to the school for generously hosting and promoting these groups, and to these amazing parents who have created such beautiful community together, boldly striving for change with grace and good humor. And I must not overlook one last special thanks…in the words of one parent, “Thank you, simplicity!”

Janet Lynch