Simplicity Parenting Interview with Kim John Payne

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Imagine a slower more simple life. One in which you were intentional about what came into your home and your schedule? How would that affect your parenting and your kids’ behaviour?

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Kim John Payne author of several best selling books and creator of the Simplicity Parenting movement! He is so lovely to talk to and I was able to ask Kim questions directly from my followers.

Watch the YouTube Video here:

Pillars of Simplicity Parenting

Environment: De-cluttering too much stuff at home.

Rhythm: Increasing predictability by introducing rhythmic moments for connection and calm.

Scheduling: Soothing violent schedules brings moments for Being into all the Doing.

Unplugging: Reducing the influence of adult concerns, media and consumerism on children and families to increase resilience, social and emotional intelligence.

When you simplify your life and add in more predictability and rhythm to your day, you will find everyone is calmer. There is less stress and more connection. You and your children are better able to handle whatever comes your way.

The following is a summary of some of the questions I asked Kim John Payne during our interview. I suggest listening or watching the whole 

So for those who are not as familiar with simplicity parenting, what are the main pillars that surround what you do?

Well, the the four main pillars, essentially are pillars or pathways that over the years have emerged. I haven’t invented them really just worked with countless numbers of parents and, and how to simplify one’s life as essentially four pathways. And then there’s a fifth actually, which has emerged more lately.  But the first one is to declutter and simplify the home environment. The second main pillar is to simplify and strengthen rhythms and predictability and the third is to be very careful about scheduling and over scheduling. The fourth is filtering out adult information, actually, and be more careful with that. And then the fifth, which is in the new edition of simplicity, parenting, a new second edition is coming out. And I had to, you know, think hard and, and work and research for the last year or so. And it seemed to me that there was a whole fifth pathway that was emerging. And that’s clarifying and simplifying family values, and parental leadership, actually, in the family. So that that’s a that’s a new chapter in the book, and then in the new edition of the book.

What do you do when one parent is sold on the Simplicity Parenting philosophy, but the other isn’t? Kids can pick up on inconsistencies between guardians if they’re not on the same page. So, how do you find that rhythm for your family? Is it even possible if you’re not both on the same page there?

I think one of the the aspects of simplifying and balancing, and just bringing more calm to a home is to have more stress come because you’re fighting with a partner. I mean, I hope the irony of that would be lost on no one. I mean, that’s, that’s not going to help kids all that much. But what a lot of parents have commented over the years, and a lot of comments are coming up on this now during a fairly intense time that we’re having. And I speak to them weekly, you know, after all these years, still have a private parent coaching counseling practice. And I hear about this a lot from parents all around the world. What happens if one parent wants to simplify and the other is high velocity, you know, much more in the fast lane? One parent wants to pull over into the slower lane still moving forward. But the slower lane, the less dangerous lane, the less hectic lane. Another parent is really speeding. And the answer to that, really, and this is part of the the aspect of Simplicity Parenting, which, which so many people have commented on is that you find the small doable change. You just basically dial it back, dial it back, dial it back until you can find one thing that you and your partner agree on, and then build from there. 

So it might be that you and your partner agree just to say thank you to the farmers before a meal. It might be that you and your partner have to agree that there is such a thing as a meal, right? A family meal. It might be that you and your partner can agree on a bedtime story each night. It might be and there’s very, very simple, small little things. 
But if you can usually find just a foothold on change, and then you build out from there, and the kids calm down, discipline is much easier, connections are better, life flows that along a whole bunch better.

Listen to the whole interview for some specific examples (6:40min)For more on our gentle rhythm For more on small doable changes

So my next question would be what advice do you have for a parent who’s tried to simplify as best as they can, they’re trying to do all the right things. But they have a very strong willed child that really does not want to cooperate, or, you know, schoolwork is becoming a problem these days. What advice would you have?
For those parents?

That’s a huge question. If someone wanted to take a deeper dive into this, and I don’t mean to be self referential, but you take a deep dive into the Simplicity Parenting companion book, and that’s called the Soul of Discipline. That’s just full of ways in which you can help. In fact, there’s a whole section on the difference between a genuine strong will and willfulness. Sometimes those two things are different.

This depends on the age of the child, depends on the situation. One thing that can help a lot in terms of this is the simplicity frame that we’re talking about today, is that when you simplify things, when you declutter, particularly when you bring rhythm and predictability, so a child knows what’s coming next. And so as they navigate through the day. Now, again, I don’t know how old the child is that we’re talking about. But the younger the child, usually the more dramatic the effect, it really can be quite amazing how their behavior eases. 

The way I think of it is, the metaphor is that our children are like, they’re like little vessels for life, you know, life is pouring into their vessel and it’s like that vessel is underneath the tap. And that tap is pouring into their little self, you know, all the the things that they do, all the you know, the the activities they do, the friends the extended family that just the things, you know, things of life and that’s pouring into their cup. Now, if too much is pouring into their cup, that cup fills and fills and fills and never gets to be, never gets to provide that kind of hydration that a child needs. It’s filling and filling and filling in this starts overflowing and that overflow is what we call behavior. That overflow is a what we call discipline issues. And we’ve got a choice, we can either turn down the tab, or spend our life mopping up. And so by turning down the tap that will starts to calm down a little bit and can be directed a little bit more, well, a lot more.

We talk about reducing screens around the 15:55 min mark

A child basically is not in an amygdala hijack. The reptilian ancient fight or flight freeze or flop brain, which which has become the new normal, the children are in that. And by simplifying and balancing these, these kids lives are more affected than most when they know what’s coming next, when they don’t live in clutter, when they’re not over scheduled, when they don’t get too much out information. And here’s the thing, these kids really need adult leadership. (16:44min)

For more on child centred homes and disoriented children listen at the 18:18 min mark.

Because their will is like, in the soul of discipline book I call it pinging. When mariners are lost at sea, or they just need to get their bearings, they’ll send out a sonic Ping. And it’ll bounce off something and hit back and then another Ping. And it’ll bounce and they get their bearings, right which is we have that same for our emotional life. Do we get our bearings when our children are misbehaving so called misbehaving? They’re pinging… 
Now when you have a very, very strong willed child, they’re almost continually pinging. They just echolocating you with their behavior and in that way.

When when things are not rushed, when things are simpler, when when things are clearer in terms of family values, that child can direct their will to where it needs to be directed, much, much more. So that that’s even a brief answer to that question, because that is a very, very multi layered and usually highly individual question, because the person who wrote that question in would probably have three or four follow up questions right now.

For more about the Simplicity Parenting rhythm clock listen in at 20:30 min

We talked at the beginning about everything that’s been going on in the world. Parents are now at home with kids who never really planned on that. So now that we’re trying to balance work, and home, and all the different needs of a family. And that’s putting a lot of strain on parents themselves. How can we all be that beacon they need to ping off of when you’re struggling? And you’re stretched so thin yourself and you’re struggling to maintain your own balance.  

One of the things I’ve noticed is that is it parents who are parenting gently, simply an in a balanced way, consciously, with to one extent or another with almost like built the family arc before the social flood. That’s how I think of it. And so, if we know we’re struggling, you know, parents who are parenting consciously, gently simply. But if we had not been doing this, it would have been so much worse. It would have been so much more of a struggle because when you balance in a simple way. Basically that means there’s time for connection. There’s time for human connection, there’s time. Children are bonded attached. There’s time, you’ve created spaces, large amounts of spaces for you to be with the children. And that gets them through that gets them through enormously.

It occurs to me that like when the world is chaotic out there, for example, when there’s when there’s just a lot of chaos outside, if we declutter and have a very simple, peaceful bedroom, and a very simple, peaceful loungeroom, and everything is in its place as much as possible, as you know, as we can within reason, it gives a feeling of not just peacefulness, but a feeling of sense of place that things have their place. 

There is more to listen to about decluttering and rhythm 23:48

And again, it’s not magic, but what it does is it prevents the child’s becoming anxious, then Nervous System activating. And so rhythm and predictability at home is kind of all we can do, because in some ways that we’ve all got our circle, we’ve all got our circle of concern, our circle of nervousness, it’s a large circle, it’s about the size of a beach ball, it’s big, you know, it’s a, so to speak. But our circle of influence of what we can control and influence is much smaller sis size of a grapefruit, you know, but so we can’t control whether the school opens or closes. That’s got to do with with the lore of the you know, what we’re given by the province of state. But what we can control and strongly influence is what we do at home. 

Likewise with the news, you know, how much do we expose, not only our children, to this to the news, which is very, very sensational at the moment. And very troubling, but also how much do we do we expose ourselves to the news. (listen to more 29:22 ) 

Now, finally, the, the bigger answer to this question about what can we do for ourselves that I thought a lot about that because and that’s the reason I wrote this book ‘Being at your best when your kids are at their worst?’ Because that is the central theme of that book. How can we stay centred?

We are the emotional climate control in our homes  31:04  We talk more about disorientation, disobedience and wonder 33.25

One of the things Meaghan, that really helps us I feel when our kids are coming at us. And they’re anxious, and they’re disoriented. And so they’re wanting to orient. I think I mentioned before about pinging, just to look at a child and know that they’re disoriented. And to know that they’re echolocating to know they’re trying it on, you know, with their behavior.

If we know that and can really remember that they’re disoriented and not disobedient, if we can just remember this, and we look at a child and we inwardly think, I wonder why you’re so disoriented…. You avoid taking it personally. Your face softens too.

And then a child senses safety. And the bit i love about this is we don’t even have to know the answer that we like, if we can wonder what’s going on. Coming up with an answer is secondary, it’s okay if we, if we, you know, some great, you know, the heavens open and we get some great message, but it doesn’t actually matter. What matters most is the fact that we’re not buying into the escalation, we understand that our child is disoriented, and crucially, we’re not taking it personally. And so that that partly relates to the previous question as well about emotional self regulation. 

Is there anything else that you wanted to share with us before we close? 

Oh, no, that’s it’s just lovely to, to be invited to speak to you make and it’s, it’s a real treat, and to, you know, to be able to do what I can to, for your community and the community around you, in that way. So if anyone wants to follow up with more information like this, you know, do feel free to go right to our website, where there’s so much information there in very clearly and cleanly odd. It’d be ironic if it was overwhelming, you know, one of those websites that that kind of come at you. And if anyone wants to, of course, take a deeper dive, you know, don’t don’t hesitate to contact me I’m perfectly happy to hear from parents with their own individual challenges at home as well because our kids are so individual, even the kids within our family are individual. So a real pleasure to be with you. Thank you for the invitation. 

Connect with Kim John Payne


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About Kim John Payne

Kim John Payne has been quietly and passionately working to help tens of thousands of people give voice to the feeling that something is not okay about the new normal of overwhelm that so many people are now experiencing. He offers do-able ways to realize the hopes and values we all have for ourselves, and build deep connections with our children that gives families resiliency and simple joy.

In addition to authoring the #1 Best Seller Simplicity Parenting© . Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kid, published by Random House Penguin in 2009, he also authored The Games Children Play©, (1996) published by Hawthorn Press ,The Soul of Discipline (2015 Random House/Penguin), co-authored Whole Child Sport™ How to Navigate Child & Youth Sports™. and Being At Your Best When Your Kids Are At Their Worst (Shambhala Press 2019). His books have been translated into 27 languages.

Kim strives to deepen understanding and give practical tools for life that arise out of the burning social issues of our time. He lives on a farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts with his wife and two children