The first weekend of April has come and gone. After I took my seat in church Sunday morning, I had to grin as I looked around to see so many sunburned faces, necks, and arms. Spring has descended on our part of the country, and up and down the streets of our little town, people have been taking advantage of the sun-warmed days to get outside and clean up the remnants of winter.
Here at the Art of Simple, many of you have joined together to do the hard but invigorating work of Project Simplify — clearing hot spots, organizing all that is useful and beautiful, and creating homes that reflect who you are as a family. Spring has a way of inviting us to take stock of what we have, who we are, and who we want to be, doesn’t it?
Perhaps it is a good time for us to take a peek into our parenting toolboxes and do a little spring cleaning with what we find inside. Inspired by the work going on in our houses, let’s take a moment to direct our attention on all that we do with the little ones whose footsteps and fingerprints fill the space of our homes.
DeclutterPhoto by Robert S. Donovan
Open your parenting toolbox and assess its contents. Have you been using broken tools? Do you find that tucked amongst the helpful tools, there are traces of philosophies that are irrelevant, unhealthy, and just plain don’t work?
When my oldest was a new baby, I tried very hard to follow some parenting advice passed on to me by those I love and trust. It wasn’t a good fit for her or for me, yet I found that even after I had discovered and began practicing a different parenting philosophy, the words from that first parenting guide played over and over in my head like a broken record, convincing me I was making poor decisions.
Through lots of positive self-talk, I was finally able to turn off that broken record and found the freedom to practice a parenting philosophy that was right for us.
Many of us hang on to the cumbersome tools passed on to us, not because they are helpful or useful, but because we don’t know what else to do. Are you holding on to some tools that just don’t work? Go ahead and toss them in the trash. Only then will you be ready to fill your toolbox with the useful and the beneficial.
If you’ve ever grown any kind of plant, you know that pruning is an important part of encouraging new growth. It’s a wonderful mystery of the natural world that cutting off dead weight allows a plant to flourish. Sometimes as parents, we are distracted or busy or just plain exhausted, and we don’t realize that we’re allowing our kids to hang on to some things that need to be pruned.
I recently realized that our three year old had started responding to anything she didn’t like with, “I HATE that!” I didn’t realize how it sounded until she said it in response to a dish she was served at someone else’s house. I knew right then I had some pruning to do. We have been working with her to replace hateful talk with Good Manners talk, and we were able to do so as we pruned “hate” out of her daily conversations.
On the surface, pruning looks painful or negative, but the truth is that cutting away that which is unwanted is necessary for spurring on beautiful new growth.
Till the soilPhoto by OakleyOriginals
And speaking of new growth, spring is a wonderful time to consider how we are tilling the soil. Ground that has been sitting dormant needs to be tilled up so that it’s ready to receive new life.
In what area is your child ready to grow? Perhaps new growth is waiting to happen socially, academically, in a sport or talent, or spiritually. What can you do as a parent to guide them into a time of growth? Do they need to be challenged or encouraged? How can you help be the catalyst that both prepares and nurtures growth in the life of your child?
Prepare for storms
I had to laugh when I recently heard a comedian say of his three-year-old daughter, “Board up the windows, there’s a hurricane coming!” As a fellow parent of a Three, I can so relate!
In our part of the country, spring brings stormy weather. This is the time of year when we make sure have fresh batteries in flashlights and a tornado safety plan. In the same way, as parents we can prepare for the temporary storms that each age and stage of childhood brings.
I have written often on the concept of equilibrium and disequilibrium in child development because I have seen it played out so accurately in my own children. It has been a profound encouragement to me to know that the rough storms we weather together (particularly at those half-age marks) won’t last forever.
I prepare myself by parenting in the right mindset — that rocky behavior stems from turbulent feelings from within. When I am prepared mentally for this as a parent, it makes managing the hard phases a little easier.
Spruce upPhoto by LadyDragonflyCC
Finally, when we’ve removed all that old debris, cut off dead growth, and spent time working over the soil and recovering from storms, we get to celebrate and enjoy by sprucing things up. How about finding a way to say “yes” more often than “no”? Is it time to grant some new freedoms to your children? Is there something you’ve been putting off doing as a family? Why not do it now?
Just as we have discovered in simplifying our houses, there is so much freedom on the other side of the hard work of spring cleaning! And there is no question that a good spring clean involves lots of labor, but oh, how wonderful the rewards.
Make sure that after you have assessed where you are as a parent at this moment, take time to fill your lungs with a deep breath of joy and gratitude. The work you are doing is useful and beautiful, indeed.
Do any of these spring cleaning categories apply to your family? What are some areas where you can see a need for growth and change? How will you, as a family, celebrate and encourage change?