Title: Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
Author: Kim John Payne
Publication Year: 2010
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Review: The message in this book is not that different from advice in many other books. Namely, have a general routine so your kids know what to expect, eat meals together, limit television time, don’t overschedule them, refrain from having adult conversations in front of them, etc. However, this book takes it one step further in my opinion by saying that the average child owns 120 toys and stating that a child should only own about half that amount and have access to only about 40 at a time. I like that the author makes such a bold statement. However, I’m quite certain my 3 year old probably owns over 1000 toys varying in size from a hot wheels car to his own (fully-equipped) play kitchen. While I know his grandparents’ generosity is a bit excessive and no one should own as much stuff as he does, to think of paring it down to 40 objects made me laugh. However, I do see the value in giving your child an uncluttered space in which to play with only his favorite, most flexible, imagination-inspiring toys. It’s a goal I know I’ll never attain, but I admire it nonetheless.
Where I take issue with the author is on his opinion of books. Books, like toys, he thinks should be limited. While he does imply it’s okay to own your own personal “lending library”, he believes a child should have access to only a small number of books at one time (on the order of 5 to 10). He thinks it is a sign of not truly enjoying and absorbing material when a child races through books (particularly part of a series) without gaining anything special from each individual book. He also points out how kids love to read the same books over and over. While I do think he makes valid points, I completely disagree with his conclusion. I’ll agree that there may possibly be such a thing as too many books. In my house you can hardly walk from one room to the next without tripping over a stack of books. However, I wholeheartedly disagree that a child’s access to books (both familiar and unfamiliar) should be so strictly limited. Without reading hundreds of new books (preferably from the library), how can a child discover which handful of them he want read to him (or to read) over and over. Also, while kids love repetition, my 3 year old has asked for books to be read daily anywhere from 2 nights in a row to 3 months straight. Without constantly offering new books or having a wide selection to choose from, what will he do when he’s ready to move on? Lastly, if an older child is reading, even if it seems they are not fully appreciating the content of what they read, I don’t think it’s an adult’s place to question their motives or the quality of the reading material. Reading leads to better reading skills, leads to more reading, which nearly always leads to an appreciation for reading, even where it doesn’t initially exist. Therefore, to summarize, in my opinion, simplicity is (somewhat obviously) good, limiting toys is admirable, limiting books is madness. (Personal Rating: 7/10)