Less Is More — Local parenting experts weigh in
Parents, stop hovering over your child or mowing down every obstacle. According to three local parenting gurus, the latest parenting trend is “less is more.” That means a reduction in rescuing/coddling, fewer activities, and even fewer items in your home. This shift can decrease your stress and make your offspring more successful.
Bedford dad, Derek Correia, whose TEDx talk “The Unintended Consequences of Our Best Intentions” was published in 2019, says when you stop filling every hour with activities or classes, they’ll play outside and learn how to make friends, respect others, and deal with bullies. They’ll also fail, and that’s good.
“So much social and emotional learning happens when kids have unsupervised playtime,” Correia explains. “They aren’t learning these fundamental skills when they are at practice running drills for two hours with adult supervision. That’s not free play.”
According to Denaye Barahona, Ph.D., blogger, and author of Simple Happy Parenting: The Secret of Less for Calmer Parents and Happier Kids, children don’t need a tremendous number of activities and classes. When families are overbooked, it’s a burden for everyone.
“Because there are so many options, we can get caught up in the idea that kids need a lot of things to be successful,” says the North Salem mother and founder of the Simple Families blog, podcast, and community. “It’s no longer okay to just kick a soccer ball or dance in the kitchen, they need to be on a team or in ballet class. We’ve lost sight of that unscheduled time when we can really bond and connect. If I’m watching you in dance class, we’re not really connecting.”
Fewer activities also mean your teenager will work and learn critical skills such as resilience, empathy, communication, responsibility, and accountability.
“When Mr. Johnson tells your kid to clean up the spill in aisle 14, he doesn’t care if they’re taking three AP classes or made varsity as a freshman,” says Correia. “If it’s not done in five minutes, he’ll likely tell them they’re an idiot, and they may be fired. So when they’re 23 and told their work isn’t very good, they won’t need to run to a safe space because they never learned how to handle that.”
Rescuing and Coddling
Sue Groner, author of Parenting: 101 Ways to Rock Your World, wants all parents to “get out of the rescue business.” It’ll reduce your stress and help your children.
“Instead of looking at parenting as an 18-year engineering project, we should look to raise resilient, self-reliant children who have good problem-solving skills and coping mechanisms,” Groner advises. “What happens if your child forgets their lunch and you don’t bring it to school? They may ask to borrow money from the front office and learn how to talk to adults. Or they’ll mooch off their friends. Maybe they even go hungry. But they won’t forget their lunch again.”
The key is to do this with empathy. Validate instead of fix.
“You don’t always need to make your child happy,” Groner explains. “Instead, acknowledge that they’re disappointed, frustrated, grumpy, sad, etc. because those feelings are normal and healthy! When you connect emotionally and normalize their feelings, your child will act out less.”
Items In Your Home
“There’s a link between physical and mental clutter,” Barahona explains. “When you can get your house in order, your brain will follow suit. You’ll have more clarity and feel less stressed.”
Reduce the clutter everywhere, including your kids’ rooms and playrooms. Kids won’t feel overwhelmed with too many choices, and they’ll take better care of their toys or clothes when each one is special. Plus, even young children can clean up when there are fewer items to put away!
How To Do/Have Less
Ready to let your kids fail while you relax, form deeper connections, and de-clutter? Here are some tips to get you started:
Fewer Activities: Stop conforming. “The greatest gifts come from creativity, individualism, and people who buck trends,” says Corriea.
Less Rescuing: “It’s not your responsibility to rush forgotten homework to school,” says Groner. “When you stop rescuing, they’ll learn self-resilience.”
Less Coddling: Only help your children if the risks are very significant. “Let your kid make their own decisions,” Corriea recommends. “Let them fix problems. Let them fail, struggle, and survive.”
Less Clutter at Home: “Start with your own stuff, and your family will notice,” Barahona advises. Follow her Simple Manifesto: Fear less. Hurry less. Entertain less. Referee less. Buy less. Reap the rewards!
Whether you call it helicopter parenting or lawnmower parenting, doing everything for you children isn’t good for either of you. Experts advise to let your children make their own decisions and fix their own problems. They’ll gain valuable life skills when you do less.