How to Parent Like a Minimalist

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had big ideas. I wanted to give my children the world. Like most new parents, I had the best of intentions.

Every generation wants to give their children more than they had themselves. My intention was no different—I wanted to give my children more. More love. More protection. More opportunities. More toys.

More, more, more.

This desire for more was rooted in love.

After I had children and they began to grow, there was a shift. This desire for more became rooted in fear.

If I didn’t play with them enough, would they be happy? If I didn’t stand at least two foot from them at all times on the playground, would they fall? If I didn’t land a spot in a top preschool, would their education be impacted?

In the words of Erin Loechner, “No one ever told me how much fear is hidden in love.”

All this fear, camouflaged as love, quickly started to take a toll on me. Trying to be everything and do everything for my children left me depleted.

My desire to give my children more left me feeling less.

Less energy. Less joy. Less calm.

Then I found Minimalism.

Minimalism is more than just getting rid of all your stuff (although I am on that bandwagon too). It’s about filtering out the noise to focus your energy on what’s important.

Families of today have noisy lives. I know this in my personal life, but also in my professional life. I have a Ph.D. in Child Development with a specialty in Family Wellness. I work with families to find calm amongst the noise.

In families, the calm lies in balancing the needs of each individual while simultaneously tightening the strings that hold them all together.

Sounds tricky, right?

How to Parent Like a Minimalist

Fortunately minimalism has a secret formula for parents: Less is More. Here are some lessons I’ve learned on my journey toward a simpler family life:

1. Hover less and your children will live more.

We spend so much time protecting our children, we forget to let them live. When we hover over them and perseverate over safety, our fears can undermine a child’s confidence. These fears rob them of their independence. Instead of hovering, let’s instill a sense of responsibility and natural curiosity for the world.

Allow your children to live life to the fullest. Even if that means climbing to the top of the jungle gym without a spotter.

2. Entertain less and your children will innovate more.

In many ways, Pinterest is a trap. The abundance of art, craft, and activity ideas that abound leave us feeling as though we need to do more to entertain our kids. Wouldn’t it be easy if we could just flip a switch and provide unlimited entertainment for our kids?

Oh wait, we can. It’s called screen time.

When we provide endless varieties of entertainment for our children, we leave them with very little opportunity to create and explore new ideas on their own.

So hear me out: Follow my lead and skip the Pinterest activities. Then cut back on the screen time. Let kids be bored. Give them space. The innovation that results will astound you.

3. Schedule less and your children will rest more.

As humans, we need to rest our bodies and minds. This is particularly true of small bodies that are growing and maturing rapidly. Research show us that childhood anxiety is a rising epidemic in this generation. A child who grows up with anxiety is significantly more likely to be plagued with mental health challenges throughout their adult years.

Do you know what our children need? Rest.

Do you know what we need? Rest.

Stop making rest a luxury—make rest a priority. The mental and physical health of your family depends on it.

4. Referee less and your children will problem solve more.

As parents, we wear many hats. One hat we need to hang up is that of the referee. Parents have the tendency to jump in and solve any disputes and challenges that children come across. It’s easier to be the referee than watch two kids awkwardly settle their own disagreement. It’s easier to be jump in and help than wait ten minutes for a kid to fumble through shoe tying.

After you hang up that hat, get comfortable sitting on the sidelines in silence. Kids need a lot of practice to learn how to problem solve—so let’s give them many chances to do it for themselves.

5. Buy less and your children will seek more.

Research shows that clutter is associated with higher levels of stress in families. Have you yelled at your kids to clean up their rooms recently? If your home has less inside, it is easier to clean up. It is easier to take good care of fewer things.

You know what doesn’t have a long-term impact on a child happiness? The latest hit toy. Buy your children less, and as a result, they will be able to better filter out the noise and focus on the important things.

Studies tell us that family vacations and togetherness have a long term impact on a child’s happiness. Let’s teach our children to value “stuff” less and experiences more.

What are you doing less of to help your kids get more out of life?

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Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.