Want to enjoy your family more by doing less? Me, too. That’s why this month I’m featuring Minimalist Parenting by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest. While I’ve spotlighted other books along these lines – How to Lose Your Mind in No Time, Simplicity Parenting, and The Balanced Mom – this title is really more of an overall guide for handling too much of a good thing. Koh and Dornfest offer parents ideas for streamlining everything from your home to your schedule. The authors aren’t interested in telling you how to parent rather outfitting you with strategies to help you find your own parenting style.
They begin by introducing readers to their new best friends – fewer and less. Then, Minimalist Parenting outlines its goal: “to keep and add the stuff that increases the joy, meaning, and connection in your life.” Of course, you can’t do that unless you know yourself so the authors pose a variety of questions to get you thinking, such as “What am I grateful my parents taught me?” And “What do I want my family to represent?” Then, Koh and Dornfest advise readers to know their family because they claim the key to happiness is “to navigate toward a life that allows family members space and permission to be themselves while providing opportunities to stretch and learn something new.”
Koh and Dornfest believe every choice is not vitally important, which is in line with May’s feature Free-range Kids; rather successful parenting means prioritizing. Minimalist Parenting suggests parents fine-tune their filters so “only the important stuff makes it onto your worthy-of-attention radar.” By trusting your decisions, optimizing your information ‘comfort zone,’ and practicing course correction over perfection, you can adopt a minimized mentality. Once you’re more comfortable with this idea, Koh and Dornfest claim it’ll be easier to trust your gut. After all, it doesn’t matter how much research you do or how much you prepare, nothing is perfect. They explain while it’s natural to want ‘only the best’ for your child, if you simply broaden your definition from a binary best/not best choice to ‘one of several good options’ you’re on the road to minimalist parenting.
One of my favorite suggestions is to find your Goldilocks level of busy. In other words, Koh and Dornfest encourage readers to “look back on your calendar from the last month. For each week, look at how many commitments you and your kids had…Now channel Goldilocks. Note the weeks that felt like too little was going on, the weeks that felt too full, and the weeks that felt just right.” Once you’ve determined your ‘just right’ number of family commitments, Koh and Dornfest argue you should note it on your calendar and plan accordingly, taking into account that things always pop up at the last minute.
Another great tip is setting an end time. For while parenting never ends, Koh and Dornfest recommend readers give themselves “permission to switch into recreation and reconnection mode once your kids go to bed.” I’ve been clocking out at 8 pm for years now, allowing my daughters to stay up reading if they are not tired. It works wonderfully.
Finally, Minimalist Parenting gets readers thinking about stuff differently, like Born to Buy by Juliet B. Schor which I featured in August 2010. However, the authors are quick to clarify that it is “not an exercise in deprivation.” What Koh and Dornfest advocate instead is that you focus on worth. They explain that in most cases spending covers up social insecurity and that you’re not the only one overwhelmed by savvy advertisements preying upon your sense of obligation to provide the best for your kid. Therefore, Koh and Dornfest offer suggestions to help readers determine what emotional ‘hole’ their clutter is attempting to fill and realize less stuff often feels more special.
As far as Koh and Dornfest are concerned, you child’s “best chance for a happy adulthood lies in discovering and nurturing their strengths, cultivating flexibility in the face of obstacles, and developing the tools to forge lasting relationships.” So if you want to learn more about living a life that’s in line with your values then I suggest checking out Minimalist Parenting.
Read my other blog Befriending Forty.