The Minimalist Parent

From getting your children into the perfect school to going on the right holidays, modern parents are faced with endless pressures to get it right, says Dr Asma Naheed. But is it possible to declutter when it comes to parenting?

As an old-fashioned mother of two grown-up women, it’s difficult for me to settle on one specific parenting style that works above all others. Parenting has always been challenging but now we see an incredible amount of studies and philosophies dedicated to different parenting methods. When I was a young mother, I, like many other young parents my age, decided to raise my children within my own established environment and within traditional boundaries. The children fitted into our lives. However, today, many parents build their surroundings and lifestyles to suit their children. We fit our lives around our children. Which works better?

Raising a child today is much more complicated when compared to the world in which we ourselves were raised. As millennials, we grew up in the technological revolution: we were born when technology was basic by today’s standards, yet by the time we reached universities, smartphones and laptops had become widespread. Then social media began and everyone, everywhere seemed never more than a few clicks away. Modern parenting can therefore be such a test simply because things are so different today from when we were young.

One issue I have with much of modern parenting is the constant need for more – more expert advice, more gear, more competition, more fears about safety, and more choices about education or career, nutrition, and even entertainment. In our rush to give our children the best, and compete in an ever more challenging world, we have lost sight of the basics. As a result, today’s parents are often overwhelmed, over-scheduled, and overwrought. Recent studies show 75% of parents are too busy to read to their children at night, shares Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own. There are a huge number of children being placed in long day-care centres and after-school clubs as we try to meet the endless demands of the working world. We simply cannot keep up.

Thus, the idea of minimalist parenting emerged. The book Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Life More by Doing Less was written by two mothers, Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest, who wanted to share the idea of going back to basics, giving more emotion to children by giving less physically. Their approach involves less clutter, less scheduling and a more subtle role in a child’s life. The authors define minimalist parenting as both a ‘mindset and a set of recommendations for simplifying and streamlining family life’.

Their approach involves less all around: less stuff and less scheduling, and fewer interventions in a child’s life. By simplifying a child’s world, you help them to become aware of the present moment and give them the space to let their imagination blossom.

The first step in becoming a minimalist parent is to embrace the challenge of change. We need to let our children live, let them make mistakes, let them own their arguments and allow them to get hurt. It’s a learning curve that will instill a sense of responsibility, problem-solving skills and critical thinking in them. Ultimately this will serve them more than a parent who hovers, sweeping problems out of the way with the benefit of age and experience.

This approach can also offer an excellent chance for busy parents to take a pause and prioritise what is essential in their lives. Feeling overwhelmed with excess material possessions – or the need to get them – leads many of us away from the true meaning of life. Minimalist parenting cuts impulse buying, allows more freedom and  improves our mental state, which has been shown to lead to higher levels of contentment and satisfaction with life. Mothers get more time to spend with kids rather than simply taking them from place to place. They can focus more on their health and family, being more creative, and maintaining quality relationships. In short, they clear the clutter and make time for what really matters.