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Conscious Close-Up with Simplicity Parenting's Kim John Payne, M.Ed.

by Lauren Schnell

Kim John Payne has an impressive list of credits in the world of education. As a consultant and trainer to more than 100 schools in the U.S. and a worldwide workshop and conference leader for over 25 years, Kim is also the author of the popular book Simplicity Parenting. Kim’s message is seen by thousands as the saving grace to our next generation of children, and, more urgently, our family lives. 

Kim compares his experience of being a trauma counselor in war-torn, impoverished villages in Third World countries to the same behavioral issues that we are seeing here at home with our own children. He says, “Children in the west are just as startled, stressed and traumatized as the children in these war zones.”  He explained, “I didn’t need to travel anymore because there were so many children in the States that are traumatized and need to regain their connectedness to their childhood and family.”  Kim calls this “The silent undeclared war on childhood,” and believes it is extremely destructive to our family lives. In Simplicity Parenting, he goes into great detail as to how we, as parents, can change this outcome with our children. And this is where Simplicity Parenting is so inspirational to read. 

If you aren’t completely humbled by reading his book, Simplicity Parenting, this interview may convince you to join in his Simplicity Parent movement! 


Who was Simplicity Parenting written for? 

“Masses.” This book is reaching the masses and has been embraced by everyone. Ten, twelve years ago the whole idea of simplifying -- and the whole realization that our lives were overheated -- was probably somewhat of a question for some, but now that reality is a reality for many. A question that exists for so many parents these days is, “How do I balance all that my child is asking to do and the school is asking and coaches are asking? How do I balance all that busy-ness that seems to be external?” It’s now the balance between the outer and the inner-- [between] the outer activities and strengthening connectedness with family and giving the child enough down time. That question used to be only carried by a few and now that has become really one of the questions of our time. It is very zeitgeist. You can hardly pick up a newspaper these days without seeing something about our fast-paced lives and its effects on children. 


Do you feel that your book has made an impact on the masses that have read it?

Yes. The reason there is a moderately confident “yes” to that answer is that this book isn’t a book but a movement. Since the book has been released we have trained large numbers of group Simplicity Parenting readers and they are all over the world now. These trained group leaders (called coaches) have gone out and trained their own groups. Think of this not as a grass roots movement but a campfire movement. What we are doing is lighting campfires, which people can come to with their own torch and are warmed.  And back out they go to light their own campfires. Every single hour there is another one lit and another and another. There are these groups all over, very strongly in North America but also worldwide in every continent including Europe and Asia.  The impact of this book is not the fact that it is a book but rather because it is a worldwide movement, with trained group leaders behind it and a strong Facebook presence. This growth speaks to me that it is answering a question that is in most people’s minds.


In Simplicity Parenting, you mention the importance of keeping adult conversations away from our children. Can you be a little more specific about exactly what is “adult” conversation?

Let me share with you my 2012 New Year’s Resolution:

Taking care to filter adult conversation around children is my new years intention.  Before I say something in front of my children I will ask myself 3 Simple Questions:

1. "Is it true?"  To this I can usually, though not always, tell myself, with a sense of righteousness, a firm yes. So onto the second question...

2. “Is it necessary?" Hmm, now I pause. Do my children really need to hear this? They will know soon enough the world is flawed. For now a good world will do just fine.

3. "Is it kind?"  This is altogether harder. Is it kind to this person to say this? Am I modeling being accusative rather than inquisitive? Dehumanizing or humanizing?

I am going to sweat the small stuff by paying attention to the everyday comments I make in front of my children rather than give them long-winded lectures about being kind when sibling relationships have gotten heated.  And if I fail and a zinger passes my lips (after all, election season is coming up), I will try to smile and say to my intolerance, "Hello old friend, I'm afraid we won't be seeing so much of you around the house this year."


What do you say to a parent who is trying to live a more balanced life and really practices Simplicity Parenting but has a “slip-up”?  Whether it is an adult conversation in front of their child, or if their child is in an environment where there is the unwanted distraction of a television?

I would say if I could, blessings on what you are trying to do. Because what are important are not your “slip-ups,” it’s your decision to live a more balanced life. And your decision to do that is all that is important.  It’s not about your successes or failures. They are kind of interesting, but what your children benefit much more from is a parent who is standing on the firm ground of their own values. It is our values that are important, not [our] successes and failures. It is all about being authentic and modeling everyday. It is all about the little things. They are what speak values.


Are there any final comments you’d like to share?

In the undeclared war on childhood we, as parents, need to remember that we can declare peace in our homes and simplify and balance our child’s life! In other words, if there is too much coming at them from the outside and not enough downtime and creativity then the inside world is being overwhelmed by outside demands. When that is going on then it becomes even more important to simplify and balance the child’s life. So it is not a question of where you send your child to school but rather what you want for your child. Simplicity Parenting is not about the past but rather about building resiliency for the future. It’s about being able to empty your child’s cup enough so that they are ready for it to be filled again the next day so that they can absorb all the wonderful things people are bringing to them. In other words, if a child’s cup is not emptied and they don’t get enough downtime, then no matter how many wonderful things they are doing, they won’t be able to absorb it. [One last point] is the importance of clearing away the clutter for our kids on all levels. In spite of the fact that there are TV screens everywhere, including my child’s own pediatrician’s office, our home is the one environment we do have control over!


For more information, visit

Simplicity Parenting of Facebook:

The Center for Social Sustainability:                            


Lauren Schnell Davison is the founder and president of and Nutrition Works at YogaWorks, NYC. She is a board certified holistic nutritionist, yoga instructor, writer and life coach. Lauren resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two girls.


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