How To Be A Minimalist Parent

How can you enjoy life more and do less if you’re a parent? It seems like mission impossible. But a new book, Minimalist Parenting, written by Christine Koh of Boston Mamas and Asha Dornfest of Parenthacks, tells moms and dads exactly how to do that so your schedule, home, and brain don’t always feel like they’re bursting at the seams.

The authors

With smart, reality-checked strategies for divvying up more responsibilities with your partner, dealing with chores (who knew bill paying could be so Zen?), de-cluttering, streamlining the school year, managing meal planning and more, the book isn’t about being a crappier parent—it’s about rethinking and tweaking your parenting habits. There’s also a free online workshop—MinCamp—a series of 14 daily tasks to help you do less and get more out of life.

And how, you might wonder, does this apply to parenting a child with special needs? I wrote an essay for the book, and I’m sharing a portion of it here with the authors’ permission.

1. Let go of over-therapying your child.

Max gets a lot of therapy. So for his downtime, I don’t load it up with classes, reading time or intellectually-stimulating anything. As much as I’m tempted to, I let go—and let my son explored what he’d like. Going through a car wash twice? Sure! Sitting near an airport to watch planes take off? You betcha. I step back and let Max tells me what he wants to do and explore. It’s all good for his brain. It’s stimulating, in one way or another. (Well, we do draw the line at letting him watch “Cars 2″ five times in a row.) Max has a lot he can’t control in his life, from the stiffness in his arms to his challenges with speech; letting Max control as much of his free time as possible empowers him.

2. Let go of helping too much.

For many years, my husband and I had to spoon-feed Max. He had trouble grasping utensils and getting the food to his mouth. One day, when Max was six, I went to his school to fill out some forms. I stopped by his class at lunchtime. There sat Max at his desk, peacefully feeding himself. “He feeds himself?”! I asked his teacher, astounded. “Yes, of course!” she said. Hel-lo, codependency! Max was so used to us feeding him that he didn’t bother to try at home. When we finally started insisting he do so he resisted, but eventually he came around. It’s tempting to step in when Max’s physical challenges prevent him from doing things; I so desperately want to help. But in order for him to succeed, I have to help him less.

3. Let go of a timelines.

Back when Max was a tot, I tortured myself by reading books and newsletters about child development and milestones. Baby Max wasn’t hitting most of them, and I would despair. I finally gave the books away and unsubscribed from the newsletters. I accepted that Max was going to do things in his own time. I am grateful that they happen—not when they happen. This, I think, is good advice for any parent. Every childish unique. Every child does things when they are ready to, be it picking up a ball or potty training. Comparing your child to other kids does them (and you) no good. Let go.


Images courtesy of Christine Koh

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  1. by Jessica

    On March 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I absolutely suffer from helping too much. Thank goodness my son has school. They focus so much more on building independence and at home I’ll suddenly realize he can do something I didn’t think he could.