Saturday, April 9, 2011

Simplicity Parenting: Step 4: Discipline

Simplicity Parenting: Step 4: Discipline

This, says Kim John Payne, of "Simplicity Parenting" is the hardest of the four steps. (Yeah, well he clearly does not have the book problem we have in our house). In my own little nutshell (please don't go there, it is early on a Saturday morning), this is what it comes down to: simplifying our message and being mindful of our true intentions.

He begins with an example: interrupting, or how to stop a child from interrupting when an adult is speaking to someone else in three easy steps. Payne explains how to do this, beginning with continuing to speak to the first person for increasing increments of time; 3 seconds, 10 seconds, 45 seconds, 2 minutes...until the child has understood two things: 1) Any request submitted when interrupting has one answer: no, 2) When you turn to them, after they wait patiently, they will have your undivided attention, which is their ultimate goal anyway, from the time they wake up in the morning until they close their big ol' eyes each night. Why do they interrupt in the first place, when they know they may receive an impatient reaction from a parent? Because they will get some attention, even for 3 seconds, and as that will fulfill their need for attention, they will do anything to get it, and take what we give.

It comes down to quality, like fine wine. (No, don't give the wine to the kid, drink it while you are learning the technique). You might think you like wine while drinking Goone's Farm, and you may not like the taste of the good stuff right away, but if you give yourself time and small sips for long enough  there will be no going back. You will grow to appreciate the taste of something better, your life will be enriched. The same goes for chocolate, in case wine is not your cup of tea. For children it is the same, when they realize that they will be given your full, undivided attention, they will be willing to wait for the quality time, with your full attention as the prize.

Next up: the number of requests we make of our children each day. He asks of families that he works with; "how many requests do you make of your child each day?" "Oh, 12 or so." And he answers: "try 237." "No!" "Yes." We make too many requests of our children, so many that they end up not taking us seriously and not responding. (Steiner was a proponent of not talking too much in the presence of children. Keep things simple, keep the wonder alive by not interrupting their space with  too many words.)  Payne's solution; halve the number of requests we make of a child, then halve it again. You must be willing to embody your request, to become it to the point that you mean it and they know you mean it. In Payne's words: "It must be like God saying to Adam; 'PICK UP THAT PENCIL.'" You must be prepared to live with the consequences of your words as well. If you say "no outings for a week", are you ready to stay home for a week? When our demands, like our expectations, are real, mindful and necessary, they will be taken as such by our children. 

My old solution of randomly giving out "no screen time for a week," "no allowance", which, I will admit to sometimes giving in on, has been changed to a more doable one with real intention behind it, and with real benefits for all concerned. For example, for sibling out-of-control fighting, instead of me taking sides, which will always be unfair for someone, the two involved are sentenced to doing chores and/or spending time together for a certain amount of time, we begin with one full day. Funny how, with me as the bad guy, they end up creating a great bond between them. I sometimes add extra chores; chopping wood for the older ones, playing a game with one of their younger siblings for the middle ones.

See? It really is very simple, all of this. The first person to simplify, always comes back to oneself. Quiet your thoughts, think through what it is you hope to accomplish, if not in life, then at least at this very moment. Ask if this is really what you want. Ask if it is really, truly necessary, then proceed to ask it of your child, and do it like you mean it.


  1. I have not agreed with everything Dr. Payne suggests. But I do on discipline. I am looking forward to his lecture Monday in the Feed. Play. Love. Conference. he will be speaking on Media Impact and Child Development, a Realistic View

    Great blog. I always look forward to your posts!

  2. I have been reading his book. I love your posts because you have been previewing what I am about to read next!! I love your reference to drinking wine... :-) Thanks for this series for his book might just have sat on my piano until it was time to go back to the library without me having read it. It's been hard to get rid of stuff. I am in the process of halving for the first time. Would you like to come over and halve the second set? :-) Must be easier for someone with no attachment to the stuff.

  3. I so love the newborn baby photo, MHH. Tell me more about what you do not like or agree with, and what you heard in the conference yesterday that struck a chord with you. I think we each need to weigh carefully what we read or hear and decide what works for each of us.

    Thanks for taking time to read and comment!

  4. Hi Michelle,

    Thank you for letting me know the posts inspired you to read more!

    I'll happily come over and re-half your stuff...if you'll help me do the same, lol! These darn books just won't budge, they all look at me with their big ol' "you need me, the kids need me" eyes, and I haven't the heart to make them suffer.

    Let's make a date for the decluttering help!


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