Parenting: Less is More
This is the age of plenty. We have too much by way of choices, things that result in physical, mental clutter and this leads to stress. The same thing applies to children as well. It results in them being over stimulated and become little balls of anxiety.
We do not have to make giant changes but incremental changes to what feels instinctively right to us. The first step to do this is shift our focus from outward to inward. Sounds heavy right, but no. Just moving focus from what others are doing? where did they get this toy? How do I set up the next activity for my child? How do I build an social media envy life? to What can we do to increase the quality of time we spend with one another, how do we add new and enriching shared experiences for our family.
You are enough! Humdrum is enough!:
Everyday need not have a plan, activities, schedules, and special toys . Even if it does, the routine, the mundane is enough. A 2007 study led by Tamar Kremer - Sadlik, a professor of anthropology at UCLA claims that
" Everyday activities (like household chores or running errands) may afford families quality moments, unplanned, unstructured instances of social interaction that serve the important relationship-building functions that parents seek from ‘quality time’.”
The authors further argue that children seemed to cherish those regular moments more than the elaborate, scheduled, “fun” occasions, citing previous research. If everyday were Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, then Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious would loose all meaning.
Let it be child-led:
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is real and crippling for most parents. How can my child miss out on a valuable experience that all his peers are getting. But all things considered, each child is unique and has different interests.
If there has to be a schedule or classes, let it based on the interest of the child. Expose them to different potential interest areas and sustain may be one based on the interest of the child.
Cull the toys:
Children get overstimulated and overwhelmed by too many toys that often leads to meltdowns. Ever spend too much time at a toy store? The sheer number of contrasting colours and lights and sounds is enough to give a sane person a headache. Less is more for toys as well. Discard/Donate/Sell toys that are not used anymore, broken, with too many lights, sounds and buttons (more on this later...). All they need is some open-ended toys like blocks, pretend play items like a kitchen unit, toys that focus on physical movement like a ball, cycle etc., and an arts & crafts supply for hours of endless fun. Try and ensure that each of these appeal to multiple senses. Young children use multiple senses to process new information, they learn by investigating, exploring and discovering. It is not our responsibility to entertain them, let them get bored. Researchers Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood, of Pennsylvania State University, found that constructively bored individuals seek out and engage in satisfying activities.
Minimize Screen time:
If "you are what you eat," then the brain is what it experiences, and video entertainment is like mental junk food for babies and toddlers. - Pediatrician David Hill, MD, FAAP
Children learn by interacting with their environment, people, and objects. Screen time limits this interaction with the surroundings. For instance, Normally a parent speaks about 940 words per hour when a toddler is around. With the television on, that number falls by 770! Fewer words means less learning. Screen time also reduces attention span because of ever changing and changeable content that constantly aims to entertain. So less is more with screen time.
There is a ton of research on why eating together as a family is beneficial for children. For instance, it is the greatest predictor for higher achievement scores. It boosts vocabulary. It is great because it involves everyone and involves multiple senses (touch, smell, vision etc.). You can create a shared memory/experience around it that can create a feel good anchor. Some things that you can do are; set familiar routines, encourage self-feeding, eat family foods, insist on a no-phones policy and that everyone stays at the table till the last person finishes their meal. You can extend this to other areas of life and involve children in everyday activities too.
Doing things together:
Children learn by mimicking what they see. It is important to act as role models that show that parents work together as a team to run a family. It conveys a powerful message that we are doing this for our family and that it is the collective responsibility of all family members to move the needle forward on chores. Simple things like washing the car, folding laundry, baking, visit to the market can be done together.
In conclusion, it is the small changes that add up to a more fulfilling and content life.