Teaching Children to be Happy with Less - Minimalism for Children

Mar 30, 2020

Locked down and quarantined, safe in the comforts of our houses, we are all dealing with this pandemic crisis in different ways. Parents however, across the country, are more or less dealing with similar concerns, on how to keep their children busy and entertained. While some children get busy with video games and toys, others find joy in scrolling through the phone. However, many would complain, that despite all the technology and toys at their disposal, children stuck at home, are still bored and unhappy. A good look at how children spend their time in quarantine, and you’d be surprised, that there isn’t much difference in how they spent their time earlier. Barring school schedules and going out to play, children continue to be dependent on several materialistic things to be occupied and happy. From the collection in their closets, to the clutter in their rooms, they seem to be holding on to more and more things, falling prey to the same consumerist lifestyle as grownups around them have. We live in an age where advertisement jingles and YouTube toy reviews are constantly convincing children that they need more to be happy. But does having too much stuff and too many choices equate happiness? The answer as opposed to what many think, is NO! In fact, having too much to choose from, often takes children’s focus away from what really matters, while also bringing about additional problems, such as entitlement, absence of gratitude, anxiety, etc, making it all the more important, that children learn the value of being happy with less. But how do you teach a child to do that, to not get carried away with popular ideas of attaching happiness with things that leads them to believe, more is good? Well, the Japanese may have a thing or two to teach us in this regard, through their ideology of Minimalism.

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What is Minimalism?

Although Minimalism is gaining popularity around the world in recent times, with more and more people consciously choosing to be happy with less, letting go off the hoarding culture, the Japanese have been practicing Minimalism since centuries. Their Zen philosophy, advocates simplicity, to achieve inner freedom. From art to architecture, from homes to lifestyle, the Japanese have well adapted minimalism, as a means to finding joy within simplicity. The focus is on living a life rich with experiences, not material. The idea is to get rid of clutter, including the things that you think you need, but can certainly do without, and are weighing you down. In simple terms, minimalism means, living with less, and learning to find joy in it. Minimalism is a lifestyle that encourages clarity and simplicity. Clutter free, simple living sure seems to have its desired effect, considering how minimalism is gaining popularity among different cultures across the world. There is a reason why Japanese author Marie Kondo is becoming a household name across the world. Her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up, advocates getting rid of things that do not spark joy, in other words, the author advocates getting rid of clutter, to not just transform your house, but your mind and life too. Clutter is often associated with chaos, the more cluttered your surroundings are, the more cluttered your mind will be. Unlike popular belief, Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean to live extremely, or below your means. One doesn’t have to get rid of modern necessities, but simply be conscious of their purchases and possessions, and what they allow in their space, time and life. It sure is a contrast in this fast paced world that continually convinces the average man that happiness comes from buying things, but perhaps that is what makes it so effective – to be independent in a world that wants us dependent on things to find peace and happiness, which ironically, never happens, but instead leaves us wanting more.

Why Your Child Needs Minimalism

“But I work so hard only for my children to be comfortable and happy. Why shouldn’t I spoil them with choices then?” many parents may wonder, as the world advocates being happy with less. The more important question to be asked though, is “Does my child really need so many things to be happy?” If the answer is yes, then there’s a bigger problem at hand. Parents often work towards instilling the right values in children, that won’t just help them be happy now, but shape their attitude and character in the future. While material possessions may make them happy at the moment, they may be doing far more damage in the long term. Being happy with less may seem to be the need of the hour for adults bound in the web of consumerism and a constant need for peace, but here are a few additional reasons, why children need minimalism too.

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1.     Clutter and Chaos Free: The next time you complain about your child not cleaning up their room, you may want to question why they have so many things in the first place. Physical clutter is known to create mental chaos as well. The less clutter a child is around, the more calm their mind will be.

2. Gratitude: Things tend to lose their value, when they are available easily and abundantly.  Children who follow minimalism, won’t just appreciate the little that they have, but learn to be grateful for it too.

3. Getting Rid of Entitlement: When children are brought up with too many choices at their disposal, it brings in them a sense of entitlement, which unfortunately, doesn’t just end with things, but seeps into their attitude in general.

4. Creativity: Not being bogged down by things, gives children the space to explore their own creativity and imagination, skills that are slowly depleting in this generation, owing to technology and overexposure.

5. More Time Outdoors: With the less is more attitude; children learn to limit their screen time as well, encouraging them to spend more time outdoors.

The list of benefits could probably go on, but the bottom line remains, that learning to be happy with less, won’t just instil a positive attitude in children, it will bring about some much needed changes for long term happiness. From tantrums to constant complaints, from anger to lack of discipline, minimalism could well be holding the answers to several of your child’s issues. If you’re still unsure whether this ideology is for your kids, look back at the time when your child was much younger and ecstatic over playing in a cardboard box. Fast forward to the present, with all the toys and technology at their disposal, have you ever seen your child as happy as they were then?

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Introducing Minimalism To Your Child

With all the limitations binding us in the lockdown, there may never be a time as good as now, to introduce your child to minimalism.  You may have already begun seeing signs of boredom and crankiness in your child, despite being nestled in a comfortable home with everything they need, so what better opportunity to teach your child to be appreciative of what they have?

1. Lead by Example: Learning often begins at home, and with the amount of time children are spending at home now, there is no doubt about the fact that they won’t just observe your attitude and behavior, but follow it too. To teach your child to be happy with less, you will have to follow the same practice too. So the next time you’re spoiling yourself with choices, remember, your child is watching you.

Collect Moments Not Things
~ Paulo Coelho

2. Have the Talk:Speak to your child about how owning less could make them happier. Focus on the joy of simplicity and clarity. Tell them why you’re choosing to implement the ideology in your own life, and how they can join you too.

3. Do Not Take Extreme Steps: Change of any kind, is bound to raise doubts and resistance. For a seamless transition, it is important that you start small. Minimalism for some means to live with absolute basic necessities only, while some think of it as conscious consumerism. Be sure to find a middle ground, and not introduce extreme changes all of a sudden, as that would defeat the purpose of understanding and adapting the lifestyle change into a long term one.

4. Start with De-Cluttering: Is your child’s soft toy from years ago, stuffed somewhere in the closet, or lying beneath the bed? Does their collection have six different board games, all scattered around? Do they really need that extra set of colour pencils they hardly use? Have you lost the count of videogames they own? Start with getting rid of these obsolete or additional things in their room. The next time you ask your child to clean their room, be more specific – ask them to get rid of things that clutter their room, better still, sit with them and help them choose what stays and what goes.

At its core, Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distract us from.
~ Joshua Becker

5. Encourage Tech-Free Time: It is easy to switch on the TV/laptop or give your phone to your child, to keep them busy, especially now that they have nowhere else to go. However, it’s important that you limit the time they spend overwhelmed with technology. Instead, find ways to keep them busy without staring at a screen. From creative activities to screen free games, there are ways you can keep your child busy, while teaching them about simple joys through old school ways.

6. Focus on Experiences: The next time you ask your child what they want for their birthday, or a special occasion, give them the choice of experience too. Gifts and rewards shouldn’t necessarily be associated with things. How about a day out together, or a vacation, or a fun activity? Get creative with your offers. The best way for children to learn how rewarding experiences can be, is to regularly introduce them to it.

7. Practice Gratitude: Teach gratitude as a concept, going far beyond a formal thank you. How about instilling the practice of writing a gratitude journal, or adding an additional question at the end of the day to include “What were you grateful for today?”. By instilling gratitude in your child, you change their perspective, and teach them to be grateful for what they have. The more grateful a child is, the lesser they will feel the need to ask for more, or compare, thus paving the way to be satisfied and finding joy with the little that they own.

8. Teach Them to Care for Things: Don’t go running to buy another laptop at the first sight of a harmless damage, or don’t rush to replace something in their room when it doesn’t even need a replacement. Instead, teach your child to care for the things they own, to invest time in cleaning and maintaining their possessions. Encourage quality over quantity. Teach them to treat their possessions with care, and you won’t find them needing a new or an additional one often.

9. The Joy of Giving: Encourage your child to donate things they don’t need. When their simple action of sharing what they had in excess, makes someone else happy, and they are there to witness the same, they will part with things they don’t need more often, and without the need for persuasion.

10. Conscious Shopping: Take your child along with you while you shop. Show them how you shop consciously, only picking up things you absolutely need. When your child picks up something for themselves, let them take a moment to check with themselves, if they really need the product, or they just “think” that they need it. Taking a moment before you add a product to the cart, could make all the difference, especially over a period of time, when it becomes a habit.

Kids need to be taught the fundamental difference between WANTS and NEEDS. ~ Sunil Sathyavolu

In a world where children have no dearth of choices, to teach your child to be happy with less, could mean more than a lifestyle change, it’s the foundation on which they learn to find peace and joy within themselves, unaffected by the constantly changing happenings in the world. For all you know, the next time the world is in a crisis, you won’t have to worry about your child getting bored or anxious, because minimalism may well have taught them the key to being content and calm.

Sunil Sathyavolu

Edupreneur | Eco Activist by Passion | True Hyderabadi | Movie Buff | Music Lover | Chess and Cricket