“If we are ever going to see a paradigm shift, we have to be clear about how we want the present paradigm to shift. ” Gary L. Fancione
There are any number of reasons why you may have decided to switch to a holistic minimalist lifestyle. The possible motivations for minimalism are numerous. There are certain overarching themes however that you can most likely identify with and which will impact your kids (or your friends and family’s kids who you hang out with a lot!) outlook on the world. At this critical moment in humanity’s evolution, conscious parenting can have an incredible impact on our society.
Integrating minimalism into your life as a parent can be a truly radical act not only for yourself but for your community and, if enough people get on board the conscious parenting boat, the world. Moving towards a sustainable future on means shifting the current paradigm. Since we all know the culture of overconsumption is a huge part of the problem, it makes sense that raising minimalist kids could be a big part of the solution! If you’ve ever doubted the potential positive impact of conscious parenting, here are several reasons why it could be a major game changer.
26.1 Shifting Paradigms
“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge” Tuli Kupferberg
As mentioned above, one of the main ways parenting as a minimalist can have a positive impact on the world is through the overall paradigm shift it implies. Kids who grow up in an environment where waste and overconsumption are not the norm will most likely carry different values into their adult lives. This will not only reduce their own negative cultural and environmental impact, but will cause ripples in their social circles, workplaces, etc. Raising children who are aware of the value of simplicity, who value experiences over objects, who learn the importance of taking care of one’s space and belongings so as to avoid unnecessary clutter means adding one more “woke” person to a world that has been sleepwalking in the opposite direction for quite some time now. The importance of conscious parenting today can’t be taken lightly (but hey, no pressure!).
Of course there’s always the possibility that your kids will grow up and want to rebel completely against whatever values you raised them with. That’s unfortunately not something you have any control over. The best thing you can do is to offer up your way of doing things and remain open to their input and differences of perspective. It’s easy to forget that “kids are people too,” when in the throws of a logistical argument with your 5 year old. But if you really want your kids to accept and integrate minimalism in their lives you need to find ways that it makes sense to them and have decision-making be a collaborative, family effort as much as possible.
An article by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest, authors of Minimalist Parenting, suggests taking time to really hone in on those core values that you want to transmit by asking yourself the following questions:
Always remember that personal values are a work in progress and may evolve over time! The most important thing is to begin the process of exploration so that things can become more clearly defined over time. If you’re co-parenting then it’s a great idea to get your partner to do the same exercise and to share your reflections with each other, perhaps even keeping a journal on the topic so you can track the evolution of your thoughts and insights.
26.2 The Return of Presence and Valuing of Relationships
“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.” J.R.R. Tolkien
We all know at this point that one of the pillars of maintaining a sustainable minimalist lifestyle is relearning to value experiences over objects. This by extension means relearning to value relationships and presence, two things which get completely sidestepped in the consumption-driven lifestyle. When your focus is on climbing the social hierarchy of material gain or “success defined by financial excess” there’s no time for being present in the moment. Key relationships become secondary to monetary and material accumulation. Stress becomes the elephant in the room. As children we know inherently that relationships are fundamental to our survival and wellbeing. It’s only as we are immersed in education, workplaces and systems that prioritize money over people that we lose focus on the essentials of life.
Now, imagine a generation of kids growing up with parents (and hopefully a bit of surrounding like-minded community) who value presence and relationships more than exponential financial and material gain? If you were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where this was the case, then you probably already know how valuable that type of foundation can be in life.
Think about it. People who value relationships and presence over wealth are much more inclined to respect other people irrespective of their class or income. They’re more likely to value individuals for who they are, rather than what they do. Being valued for who you are as opposed to how much you can earn or what you own is a huge factor in self-confidence and self-love! Especially for kids learning how to be adults from the way the adults around them act with each other! This may sound simple, but in reality when you’re staring down the barrel of a high-pressure job, major deadlines or financial struggles it can be very hard to continue modelling the importance of relationships and presence. It’s a lifelong practice, but one your kids can help you work at over time if you lay the groundwork for those types of values.
26.3 Reskilling and Community Building
“The task that remains is to cope with our interdependence – to see ourselves reflected in every other human being and to respect and honor our differences.” Melba Pattillo Beals
What has all this talk of interdependence got to do with minimalism and child-rearing? Here’s what. Growing up with a minimalist mentality where the few things you own are seen as worth taking care of and cherishing has a lot of positive side effects. One of these is that since you’re thinking outside of the “consume and discard” box you will inevitably be driven to either learn how to fix and upkeep certain things or to find people who can do so for you. This implies a certain level of reskilling as well as a certain amount of community building.
Let’s say you have a piano hanging around the house that you want to keep in useable condition. Either you’re going to have to learn how to tune piano yourself or you’re going to have to seek out the closest piano tuner, build a connection with them and have them in your home at least once a year. In the alternate “consume and discard” paradigm you might just let the piano get used til it’s completely out of whack and decide to replace it with an electronic keyboard. For some this may really be the right solution. But in many cases it’s simply a matter of values. In a holistic minimalist lifestyle the quality and experience of owning a real piano would outweigh the “simplicity” of replacing it with something instead of just taking care of it over time.
The same goes for anything from household appliances, tools to clothing. If you don’t want to fall into the trap of waste-creation and overconsumption you’re going to have to learn how to repair certain basic things and how to take care of your belongings over time. Knowing how to take care of and repair one’s own material goods, be it a computer or a chair, is a huge confidence booster for people of all ages. Your kids will inherit a certain level of skills and/or connections with other people who have skills that they otherwise may never have come into contact with.
Learning to rely on other people for things is one of the main factors contributing to an awareness of interdependence. Not only an awareness, but a positive experience of it. This can be hugely significant in a child’s social development. When you learn early on that it’s ok, and even good, to ask for help from people, be it for their skills or advice, when you have examples set of the importance of communication and relationship building, you have a much better foundation for building strong, resilient support networks in your life. All of this goes directly counter to the isolationist tendencies of over-consumption culture where people as well as things are seen and treated as disposable.
26.4 Minimalism, Positive Relationships and the Environment
“Action has meaning only in relationship, and without understanding relationship, action on any level will only breed conflict. The understanding of relationship is infinitely more important than the search for any plan of action.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
Whether or not having a positive environmental impact is one of your primary concerns in life, choosing a minimalist lifestyle is going to lower your footprint by default, as well as that of your family and children if you’re all participating in the shift. Needless to say, kids who are aware of the true value of anything they own, know how to take care of their belongings and their relationships and who put experiences before objects are likely to be a much lighter weight on the planet.
It’s important to remember that, as the above quote implies, everything really starts with relationship. Basically, we’re not going to get anything to change, be it in our personal, professional or socio-political and cultural lives, if we don’t start by shifting our relationships to each other. Holistic minimalism is really all about reintegrating that idea into every aspect of your life. It’s about repairing your relationship to the material world, to the idea of success and what it really means to you: it’s about shifting the way you relate to yourself and others by honing in on your core values and really living them out fully and authentically. And then, if you’re a parent or parent-to-be, it’s about figuring out how to pass that insight and worldview on to the next generation! Being aware of how all these aspects of holistic minimalism connect to a global context paves the way to making the tough decisions involved in parenting way easier to handle.
26.5 Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Need to Do Now!
“Impermanence and selflessness are not negative aspects of life, but the very foundation on which life is built. Impermanence is the constant transformation of things. Without impermanence, there can be no life. Selflessness is the interdependent nature of all things. Without interdependence, nothing could exist.” Thich Nhat Hanh