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Simplicity Parenting [Book Review]

Simplicity Parenting_cover

I have mixed feelings about Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.

On one hand, author Kim John Payne covered a lot of ground, particularly on the subject of toys. On the other hand, so much is covered in this book that it almost goes against the concept of simplicity. It doesn't help that the conversational style of writing leads to meandering narratives and the table of Contents won't give you a clear idea where to look for discussions on a specific topic (e.g. on the aforementioned “toys”). You will then have to use the old-school index to get to the point, which is tedious.

Here's an outline of the Contents page:

ONE – Why Simplify?
TWO – Soul Fever
THREE – Environment
FOUR – Rhythm
FIVE – Schedules
SIX – Filtering Out the Adult World
EPILOGUE – Simplicity Parenting to Go

That's it! Not much you can gather just glancing at the chapter titles.

I seldom use design considerations as reasons not to like a book, but Simplicity Parenting suffers from two issues. Apart from the very sparse outline, it is heavy reading and the worse thing is, it looks the part. It took me many weeks to finish it as some parts of the book reads like a repetitive, extended monologue. You will need a certain determination to plough through the missive.

Sure, there are plenty of good stuff, but they're all over the place.

For instance, the author argues that open, unstructured time is best for kids – time for them to be in charge of creative projects, time for them to discover themselves, or time for calm family connections. He posits that when kids have fewer options, they are freed from the stress of always wanting the next big thing, and come to appreciate the connections with the things they do have.

Children given too many choices learn to undervalue them all, and hold out – always – for whatever elusive thing isn't offered.

There's also good advice on how to avoid the hyper-parenting trap. This is important because while hyper-parenting may stem from love (albeit an overbearing one), it doesn't fully respect (or sometimes acknowledge) a child's independence.

Unfortunately, Payne seems to be writing this book for a fairly privileged and affluent audience. He peppered the book with superfluous anecdotes from the cases he has handled in the course of his work, some of which may not resonate with you. The writing also sounds a little preachy at times, as though the author was constantly saying: “Do this, but don't do that.” However, it could be the co-author (Lisa Ross) who adopted this tone.

Chapter Six may be the most controversial for parents as the author suggests that you completely do away with your TV and not let kids use the computer until they are seven or eight.

Overall, this book includes some pretty interesting research that are worth reading, if only you don't have to plough through all the anecdotes and the soliloquies.

The video below basically strips away all the fluff.

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