Every parent has a different and unique way of doing things to ensure the healthiest upbringing for her child. However, modern societal trends definitely influence that in a lot of ways - some big, some small. These days, parents tend to have a very hands-on approach. There is attachment parenting for infants and toddlers, where the parents almost never put the child down. There are special pre-school programs to help children get a head start. There are a million books and products to help make sure you are doing things just right. That is where the concept of minimalist parenting comes in.
All of the aforementioned options tend to overwhelm parents, and understandably so. Couple that with the participation trophy culture of doing everything imaginable to make each and every child feel special and like a winner, and you get a culture of excessive over parenting. So, the question becomes this: Are parents doing too much for their children? Authors Christine Koh and Asha Dornhurst seem to think so. That is why they released their book, Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life by Doing Less.
The concept of minimalist parenting takes a "less is more" approach. Let kids be kids. Stop being so afraid of making mistakes. They won't ruin your children's life. Let your children explore who they really are and who they want to become, rather than hovering and trying to shape them into what you think they should be.
Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest talk about the values of the parent in their book. The first thing a parent has to do when considering engaging in a move to minimalist parenting is to figure out just what values she wants to pass along to her children. Values, of course, come from many places. It could be the communities we grow up in, the church we attend, the way the home we grew up in was run. In short, we are all products of our environment.
However, when dealing with getting to know yourself and your own values, you have to decide what you want to keep from your environment, and what you want to throw away. Perhaps your mother worked and you wish she had not. So, you might want to build a nest egg so that you can stay home with your children. Maybe your mother did not feed you the healthiest of foods, and you were teased for being overweight as a child, so you might want to be more mindful of what your children eat.
The point is, minimalist parenting requires that you know what your children's upbringing would ideally be like according to who you are as a person and what kind of household you want your children to grow up in. All of that has to come from soul searching from within.
"Know Your Family"
Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest say that aside from knowing yourself, you also have to know your family. As your children grow, they will develop their own personalities. They will have different interests, and one of the worst mistakes a parent can make is to try to force a child into a box and treat all of her children "the same." For instance, if one child shows a talent for music and the other for sports, that is okay. Do not force a child into activities that they do not want to do. They will only resent you for it. On the other side, do not deny or dismiss your child's interests simply because you may think they are useless and silly.
For instance, say you have two daughters. One might show a talent for dance early in life, so you enroll both daughters into a local dance studio. The child who has shown the affinity for dance thrives, while the other child struggles with just the basics of the craft. At the end of the year, after the recital, the child who struggled tells you she did not enjoy dance and wishes not to continue. Instead of forcing the child to continue, you could ask her what she would like to do, if anything. That will make her happy, and allow her to grow into her own activity, something she is good at, rather than living in the shadow of her more talented sister, taking part in an activity she hates. This is what Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest seem to mean when they say "know your family" with minimalist parenting. Let your children be themselves.
"Trust Your Decisions"
Christine Koh and Asha Dornhurst acknowledge that, most of all, parents constantly second guess themselves. They look at the polished stay at home moms in the grocery store with the well behaved children and wonder how they do it. They see the covers of parenting magazines and wonder what on earth it would take to have their homes that immaculate, and their children that together, and themselves that well rested. But, the thing is, every family is different. Every parent, every child, every household is unique.
While letting your children be themselves, you also have to realize that you are ultimately the one who is in charge. You are the parent. So, take charge! While letting your children explore and expand and develop into their own unique version of human being, still remember to set limits. If your child is screaming for candy in the middle of the grocery store when the doctor has said she's on the fast track to obesity, of course don't let her have that pack of Snickers, no matter how much she wails. On the other hand, at Christmas, don't deprive her of the hearty meal everyone else gets to eat. It is all about balance, being in charge, and keeping yourself in the driver's seat without being overbearing.
In short, when it comes to minimalist parenting, no one is suggesting that you let your children run the show. What is being suggested is that they be allowed to grow in to the people they are meant to be, not what society - or even you! - wants them to be.
Minimalist Parenting: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, each parent, child, family, and parenting experience is unique. There is a ton of information out there about the "right" way to parent your children. The thing is, parenting is hard. You might agonize over which summer sleep away camp to send your child to, or which bedtime stories to read to them. You might even wonder if your dedication to your own dreams and career could be harming your ability to be a great parent. At the end of the day, you have to know you are a great parent. You would not be reading this piece if you weren't already. Enjoy your kids' childhoods, and your own life as well. Maybe minimalist parenting will be a part of that journey.