Book Club : Simplicity Parenting Chapter Four


Today I will be summarizing and discussing the fourth chapter of Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting In a world where childhood seems to be flooded with too much, too fast and too soon Payne helps parents clear the way to a simpler, more connected and whole-hearted family life. After reading this book parents will feel empowered and ready to declutter spaces, establish stronger home rhythms, cut down on screen-time and most of all to slow down and prioritize meaningful moments with their children. Most remarkably, the book is truly applicable for all families regardless of their diverse faiths, backgrounds and values. It is completely free from dogma and instead, offers practical and adaptable advice to all.

Chapter Four: Rhythm

  • too often there is no ‘typical’ day in the home but there are still rhythms there (school, work, sleep, holidays to name a few)
  • the first rhythm we’re exposed to is our mother’s heartbeat in the womb
  • “… children learn that there are movements and changes that, with their regularity, can be counted on[…] A child’s sense of security is built upon these predictabilities. ” p. 96
  • there are a lot of pieces to fit into a daily rhythm
  • “Increasing the rhythm of your home life is one of the most powerful ways of simplifying your children’s lives”

In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes

p. 98


  • predictability is intimately related to rhythm
  • children need a level of clarity about how their day is going to unfold
  • tell children the night before in bed about their day – give them a preview of the day to come
  • children are pictorial so describe the day with visual details (eg. You’ll be waiting by the tree outside of school and my big grey car will pull up and pick you up tomorrow”)
  • how you describe the day matters too- choose a time to preview that is relaxed and unhurried
  • give advance notices when a change in the rhythm is about to occur (eg. “Soon Mama is going to ask you to pack away the toys so we can go and pick up your sister at school”)

Establishing Rhythms

  • start small gradually adding more and more consistency in your life
  • anything repeated can be made more rhythmic, children ages 2-6 naturally love rhythms and rituals
  • make sure you’re committed to creating the rhythm and stick by it for a month or so until it becomes second nature
  • “start small, stay close, insist and follow through” – Secrets of Discipline by Ronald Morrish
  • with older children you need to discuss the change beforehand and discuss “what’s in it for them”
  • little breakfast rituals like previewing the day are helpful, practising an instrument after breakfast
  • after school time is great for unscheduled free, self-directed playtime
  • “The rhythms of family life provide consistency; the best ones also offer connection” p. 108

Relational Credits

  • often connection happens in the stillness or “doing nothing” moments before bed or upon waking or one-on-one with your child
  • a sense of rhythm can increase the number of these moments of pause
  • “By eschewing some of the distractions that could easily consume our time and attention- limitless media, activities, and stuff- we leave our emotional door open for our loved ones” p. 110
  • establishing these relational habits early helps to reenforce the bond in adolescence- it is the way you are together and always have been
  • Listening, waiting and pausing
  • Create connection by discussing the rose & thorn, affirming your child’s actions in quiet moments

Family Dinner

  • when children are included in preparing the meals they are more likely to enjoy and eat their food
  • studies have shown children who eat regularly together with their family have higher vocabularies, are less likely to smoke, drink, do drugs, suffer from depression or struggle with asthma and eating disorders
  • “The family dinner is more than a meal. Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food, and attention… all of these add up to more than full bellies. The nourishment is exponential.” p. 115
  • a symbolic start to the meal helps to create ritual around family dinners- a blessing or moment of silence

Simplifying Tastes

  • food is another realm that has become overwhelming for adults and children
  • limit choices and complexity- simplify options, tastes and ingredients
  • is the food designed to nourish? entertain? stimulate?
  • did the food exist 50 years ago?
  • wean them off of highly processed foods and snacks- reseting their palates takes about a month
  • grumbling is short term, benefits will last
  • “as they simplified their kids became less and less picky about food” p. 120
  • if you want your child to try a new food they have to try it at least eight times

Simplifying Dinner

  • simple themes for each night eg. Monday Italian Night, Tuesday Soup, Wednesday Rice etc.
  • rhythms make stepping out of them a novelty Eg. “I know it’s soup night but we’re going to make pizza for Sarah’s birthday”
  • evening meals need to be sacrosanct in the family
  • with consistency and connection older children are still able to feel comfortable and confident talking about a wide range of subject with their children
  • evening meals together are grounding for children

Sleep and Pressure Valves

  • children can’t go from full tilt to stop at bedtime
  • falling asleep requires a lot of “letting go”
  • connecting before bed “What was the most courageous thing you did or saw today?” “What was the hardest part of today?”
  • parent offers quiet validation, listening, noticing not advice or analysis
  • pressure valves built into the day help children to let off steam
  • These are opportunities for release and calm: eg. naps, rest or midday quiettime, after-school ritual, moment of silence before sinner, work (especially for industrious types) such as projects, handwork, lighting a candle and snuffing it

Bedtime Stories

  • Stories are another kind of pressure-valve
  • they can relax into their bodies and breathing – stories have their own richness and rhythm- truth, beauty, goodness, struggles and second chances
  • repeat stories again and again

This particular chapter on RHYTHM is clearly a subject dear to my heart. A strong daily, weekly and seasonal rhythm can be such a nourishing way to support the developing child and allows more room and space for meaningful connection. Kim’s “pressure-valve” concept is a valuable one. Our fourth child is attempting to cut her nap at the moment and we are persevering – trying to keep it as part of her daily rhythm- she still needs it! Her nap is definitely a pressure valve and when she doesn’t have it it is actually harder for her to get to sleep at night.

Which part of this chapter struck a chord with you?

DISCLOSURE: This journal entry contains a link to Meagan from Whole Family Rhythms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and Thank you for your support.

Meagan Wilson is a parent educator and author of the now-retired seasonal series of Whole Family Rhythms. After finishing a BA, she went on to complete her Foundations in Steiner Education and Anthroposophy at Sydney Steiner College, as well as her Waldorf Early Childhood Certification at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. She has received her certification as a Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach and has supported hundreds of parents to create a strong family rhythm unique to their own values and culture. She has four young children. Meagan provides resources, support and information to parents who are looking for a bridge to cross between their unique family life and their children’s (often but not always) Waldorf schools.


  1. Camilla on May 28, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    I really love this book, and I am trying to get my husband to read it. He says he will (he always says he will) but haven’t yet. I really hope he’ll get around to it, because I like how so much of what I think is important is being put into words. I have realised that we have a pretty strong rhythm in our society as it is, but it is not everything I agree on. Nevertheless it is common for people to have family dinner (almost) every day sometime between 4 and 6 p.m, “everyone” watches “barne-tv” (half hour tv show for kids called “childrens-tv” sent on the state owned tv-channel every night at 6.p.m) “everyone” put their kids to bed “at a proper hour” (usually 7-8 p.m. depending on age), “everyone” goes hiking in the weekend (at least in summer) and so on… I have never thought about this until I read this book, and then later became familiar with the whole family rhythms guides.

    The chapter on rhythms is therefor not so “overwhelming” and unimaginable for me. We eat breakfast together everyday, we eat dinner together every day, our oldest son has an after school activity once a week. We have dessert every sunday, movie night every friday, when we go to bed it’s like this: evening meal-washing up-pyjamas-brush teeth-book-lullaby-sleeptime. (We started reading short rhymes before bed at about 8-9 months!) I feel like we manage pretty well to make a rhythm for our children, but some things are harder than other. For me sleep and pressure valve section struck a chord, because our oldest son is a highly sensitive child, and sometimes we struggle with that. I can relate to all his emotions and I understand him so well, but he has to go to school, and that is hard for him because of all the things going on there, all the people, the conflicts, the noise and so on. This section felt really helpful, and I started taking him on hikes in the woods nearby our house. Usually I let him talk about whatever he likes, and if he falls silent I don’t talk much, but maybe point out a beautiful flower, some mushrooms of picks a few wild blueberries for him to taste. Walking in the woods has become a way for him to find peace, silence and release some pressure 🙂

    • Meagan on June 20, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Camilla, Such beautiful thoughts and thank you for sharing about your son. I also have some very sensitive children so creating space for them to just BE in nature is so important. The one thing we want to work on more is giving them some time every so often on their own as we are together so often as a family. Your words inspired me to try to focus on this. Meagan.

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