Black Friday… that mad, post Thanksgiving rush to buy items that you had no idea you even needed 30 days ago. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Buy, buy, buy. I saw it all over town and TV today, right down to the viral video of two “jolly shoppers” fighting over a bargain in a suburban Minnesota mall. It all just screams love and joy and good times, doesn’t it? And doesn’t it also set quite the example for our children? The mad rush to obtain material goods at the expense of others. Well… I have two words for you… SLOW DOWN! Here is how you can join the slow parenting movement.
What Is Slow Parenting?
Have you heard about the (somewhat) new slow movement? It is based on the idea that modern life is moving at a super fast pace leaving us with not free time and do time to truly connect with others. So what is Slow Parenting? It is exactly what it sounds like. Slowing down our lives, and the lives of our children, so we can actually smell the roses – instead of just buying them as we rush out of the grocery store.
Slow parenting isn’t about less work or doing nothing. It actually can be more work because you have to be thoughtful by being proactive – instead of reactive. It’s about setting rules that family and family time are treasured and come first, and then sticking to those rules. It’s the idea of slowing down long enough to actually ask the question… “Do we like what we are doing and how we are doing it?”
Sounds simple and easy, right? Maybe, maybe not. Paring down to the essentials means making hard choices. It can mean going against the grain when everyone else’s kid is doing multiple after school activities and you and your child have chosen one after school activity or none. (I often struggle with this one personally). Slow parenting requires you to get over the notion that you or your child is “missing out” on something. Ultimately, whatever that something is, with slow parenting you’re gaining something else – precious and quality time together.
How To Start Slow Parenting
Want to S – L – O – W down? Try these basic ideas to get you headed (like a turtle) in the right direction…
Make A Family Calendar
Plan a weekly meeting to go over the calendar for each week. If it goes on the calendar, it should be important. Consider every after school activity, every birthday party invite, every club, every sport, every extracurricular activity and then consider what they all will do to your time together. Most importantly, don’t forget to actually write in family time – and write it in Sharpie so it can’t be changed! Also, try to leave one weekend day completely empty to allow for doing whatever comes up in the course of the day. No schedule, all fun!
Activities That Matter
Truly think about what matters in the long run. Think about if that three day a week commitment for baseball is actually worth it or if you would be better served by simply playing baseball in the backyard as a family.
Parents feel a lot of pressure to provide extra activities, like music lessons and basketball teams, when instead everyone might just be better off simply doing it together. I played organized baseball for years growing up but the best memories I have are not of championship teams but instead of playing ball at dusk with my father in the field behind our house. I can’t tell you anything about a specific season of organized ball but I can recall every detail of those summer nights with my dad.
Let your children try a lot of different things until they find their interests – so they are not feeling tied down to one interest. Let them try things one thing at a time, and if they don’t like it, let them move on. This is not about quitting this is about finding real and genuine enjoyment and interests.
We live in houses filled with stuff, and a lot of it is stuff that we probably never use or need. All that stuff can become overwhelming – literally and mentally. Once you’ve decluttered the calendar, tackle the toy bins and then the closets. Then maybe start reducing the clutter in the garage and the attic, and the home office. See how many meals you can make out of your pantry. Find things to do with your family that you may have even forgotten you even had. Simply your life and simplify your time together.
Build Your Tribe
It takes a village, really it does. Surround yourself with other parents and friends who have similar interests and outlooks.
Try simple things like finding families who have similar tastes in food and taking turns with a night to cook for the other families. Or even simplify it down to a pot luck pitch in. Build up a group of friends to hang out with and lean on when your tank is empty and you need an emotional refill. Organize play dates and get togethers with similar people who can support your desire to slow down and do things a little outside the box.
Slowing down, with parenting and with life, can be a huge improvement on your world. Physically, mentally, and parenting wise. Try it for a month or two and see what happens. Enjoy breakfast a few minutes longer. Ditch the daily routine. Find time for talking and laughing. Whatever it is, start a new habit and stay with it. I think you will find a much calmer, more relaxed (and more in tune) parent the next time you look in the mirror!
Rob Youngblood is a Dad, Keynote Speaker, Life and Communication Coach, Emmy Award Winning TV Host, Writer, and Storyteller. Learn more about him and follow him on Twitter.