While my husband and I have lived tiny with our two kids and our dog for a year now, the tiny life isn’t for everyone. Our decision to drastically downsize, give away over 80% of our possessions, and sell our 15 acre farm in exchange for a 36 foot fifth wheel was motivated by years of research and reading that supported the idea that a more simplified way of life can promote better behavior and more opportunity for success for children with similar behavior diagnosis to our son.
Even if living a mobile lifestyle or moving to a house that equals 100 square feet per person or less isn’t for you, everyone can take some simple steps to decluttering and downsizing their ‘stuff’ in an effort to encourage positive responses and depress feelings of anxiety for their extreme child.
Here are 8 Ways we’ve found that Simplified Living has Improved Behavior for Our Extreme Child:
Less Stimulation for Sensory Overload
One of the greatest causes of behavior meltdowns is directly tied to either a reaction to a sensory issue or the inability to articulate a feeling or emotion, so it comes out as an explosion. It seems simple, but the removal of the overstimulation for our children’s sensitive senses can relieve a great amount of their anxiety.
Picture the traditional child’s room: a bed with a brightly colored character bedspread, pictures or action heroes dawning the walls, bins overflowing with toys that make sounds or light up. Maybe they have a canopy over their bed or extra decorative and fluffy pillows. Perhaps they have a lego obsession so there are legos, with colors all mixed together, scatter around one corner of their room. In the center of the floor is a rug that looks like a town. It’s texture is scratchy because of the colors painting streets and stoplights for toy race cars.
Just the bedroom alone, never mind other rooms in the home or an additional playroom, can be a haven for sensory overload.
Downsizing the amount of ‘stuff’ each of us own has greatly diminished the sensory overload for our son. He and our daughter now each have two square fabric bins that you can pick up at any department store. The rule is that if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t stay. So, they each have one bin for stuffed animals and the other for dolls or action figures, race cars or a wooden kitchen set. This reduces the drive to choose between so many things, have access to a million different stimuli all at once, and the room is set up and decorated with calming colors and simple decor. They share a bookshelf and a desk and that is it.
Neither child has ever complained that it isn’t enough and the sensory reduction has been a huge assist for our son’s needs.
More Quality Time
It sounds cliche but our kids don’t want millions of dollars of ‘stuff’ from us. they just want us. Drastically downsizing all of the things I had to clean, keep up with, fold, take care of, has afforded us infinitely more hours to just be together.
This means everything from being able to afford to take more trips and adventures to free things like playing outside, going fishing, and teaching each other new things. Before simplifying our lifestyle, we let our son cook with us twice–two times. Now, he loves to learn by measuring ingredients, making shopping lists, or chopping vegetables (after having learned knife safety, of course!).
This simple step has increased how much we sincerely love just spending time together as a family.
Parenting a child with anxiety is a tricky road to navigate because it is impossible to predict all of the things that might trigger them. Additionally, when your child has other diagnosis such as ADHD or ASD, they tend to have anxiety because of their primary diagnosis.
Will kids like me? Will I make friends? Will they play fair on the playground?
The list is a mile long.
Reducing the stress at home has allowed for a more simple approach to getting ready for activities and afforded us to be a one income family. That means one of us stays home a Roadschools our kiddos so our son can learn at his own pace. No more anxiety about school and that is maybe the best thing ever!
The Ability to Tailor Education
You don’t have to be raising an extreme child to understand the pressure of preparing children for school every morning. This simple routine of wake up, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, and out the door can send families into a complete tailspin. Removing this anxiety for our son by opting to educate him at home has been a tremendous relief to our entire family.
Simplifying our lifestyle allows us to cater each lesson to his strengths and weaknesses. That means the majority of his education is hands-on learning that is relevant to real life. He can learn just as well in the grocery store as he does out of a textbook sometimes and that is an incredible joy to instill a love of lifelong learning!
The Freedom to Create Your Own Schedule
Most kids, regardless of age or ability level, function best on a schedule that is predictable. It can be fun to be spontaneous, but for kids with behavior disorders, that can throw them completely off kilter.
While many families spend six days a week running from school to practice, practice to homework, homework to tests, and then spend the weekends at soccer games, tee ball, and dance recitals, we don’t. See simplifying meant reducing our stress in every way.
This means that our kids each get to choose one activity they want to be involved in per season. If they choose nothing, we don’t freak out. I assure you, as a lifelong educator, colleges aren’t going to deny your child because they don’t have 13 years of little league softball on their application.
This simple cut in the schedule frees up so much time and releases hours of stressful go, go, go for the entire family!
Small Space for Small Responsibility
Our kids do chores. That’s right. Even our two year old daughter has her own tasks and, you know what? She loves it!
Having less stuff means there is less on your proverbial to-do list. So, it becomes easier to allow your young daughter to put her own clothes away (and they usually come unfolded–GASP!–Mama, I promise they will live through it and so will you). Our son helps with everything from taking out the trash to doing the laundry.
Today’s kids severely lack in life skills when they graduate so this is a great way to instill responsibility and teach them valuable skills on a small, manageable scale.
Appreciation for Simple Things
In the age of excess screen time, birthday parties with bounce houses, and extravagant summer vacations, kids have a lot to keep their attention and parents feel pressured to keep up. Simplifying our lives and downsizing our stuff has taught us some pretty beautiful lessons through our kids.
See, our almost seven year old son didn’t know what an iPad was until recently. Our daughter would hands-down choose playing int he dirt over watching TV, and both of our kids have spent more hours in a $10 inflatable pool in our yard than they have on any vacation in their lifetime.
You know what? They love it! They love running around outside together playing hide and seek as much as I used to love riding bikes and climbing trees until the street lights came on. It is a simpler way of living but it is teaching them to use creativity, imagination, and problem solving to create whatever they can dream up and it is awesome!
The Lesson of Blessing Others
So we get asked a lot about what our favorite thing has been since going tiny with kids. Truthfully, I sincerely love the nearly zero time I have to spend cleaning now. But my absolute, undeniable favorite part is that we are no longer just saying the typical, “Be kind” to our kiddos. We are modeling it and our kids are implementing it.
Every time they count out their toys and cut that number in half to give half away, they learn how truly joyous it feels to bless someone who has less than them. The importance they once placed on ‘stuff’ lessens daily. They are teaching others (and reminding us) what being kind actually looks like and that is beautiful.