Spring cleaning, parenting style

The first weekend of April has come and gone.  After I took my seat in church Sunday morning, I had to grin as I looked around to see so many sunburned faces, necks, and arms. Spring has descended on our part of the country, and up and down the streets of our little town, people have been taking advantage of the sun-warmed days to get outside and clean up the remnants of winter.

Here at the Art of Simple, many of you have joined together to do the hard but invigorating work of Project Simplifyclearing hot spots, organizing all that is useful and beautiful, and creating homes that reflect who you are as a family. Spring has a way of inviting us to take stock of what we have, who we are, and who we want to be, doesn’t it?

Perhaps it is a good  time for us to take a peek into our parenting toolboxes and do a little spring cleaning with what we find inside.  Inspired by the work going on in our houses, let’s take a moment to direct our attention on all that we do with the little ones whose footsteps and fingerprints fill the space of our homes.


Photo by Robert S. Donovan

Open your parenting toolbox and assess its contents. Have you been using broken tools?  Do you find that tucked amongst the helpful tools, there are traces of philosophies that are irrelevant, unhealthy, and just plain don’t work?

When my oldest was a new baby, I tried very hard to follow some parenting advice passed on to me by those I love and trust.  It wasn’t a good fit for her or for me, yet I found that even after I had discovered and began practicing a different parenting philosophy, the words from that first parenting guide played over and over in my head like a broken record, convincing me I was making poor decisions.

Through lots of positive self-talk, I was finally able to turn off that broken record and found the freedom to practice a parenting philosophy that was right for us.

Many of us hang on to the cumbersome tools passed on to us, not because they are helpful or useful, but because we don’t know what else to do. Are you holding on to some tools that just don’t work?  Go ahead and toss them in the trash.  Only then will you be ready to fill your toolbox with the useful and the beneficial.


If you’ve ever grown any kind of plant, you know that pruning is an important part of encouraging new growth.  It’s a wonderful mystery of the natural world that cutting off dead weight allows a plant to flourish. Sometimes as parents, we are distracted or busy or just plain exhausted, and we don’t realize that we’re allowing our kids to hang on to some things that need to be pruned.

I recently realized that our three year old had started responding to anything she didn’t like with, “I HATE that!” I didn’t realize how it sounded until she said it in response to a dish she was served at someone else’s house.  I knew right then I had some pruning to do.  We have been working with her to replace hateful talk with Good Manners talk, and we were able to do so as we pruned “hate” out of her daily conversations.

On the surface, pruning looks painful or negative, but the truth is that cutting away that which is unwanted is necessary for spurring on beautiful new growth.

Till the soil

Photo by OakleyOriginals

And speaking of new growth, spring is a wonderful time to consider how we are tilling the soil.  Ground that has been sitting dormant needs to be tilled up so that it’s ready to receive new life.

In what area is your child ready to grow? Perhaps new growth is waiting to happen socially, academically, in a sport or talent, or spiritually.  What can you do as a parent to guide them into a time of growth?  Do they need to be challenged or encouraged?  How can you help be the catalyst that both prepares and nurtures growth in the life of your child?

Prepare for storms

I had to laugh when I recently heard a comedian say of his three-year-old daughter, “Board up the windows, there’s a hurricane coming!”  As a fellow parent of a Three, I can so relate!

In our part of the country, spring brings stormy weather.  This is the time of year when we make sure have fresh batteries in flashlights and a tornado safety plan.  In the same way, as parents we can prepare for the temporary storms that each age and stage of childhood brings.

I have written often on the concept of equilibrium and disequilibrium in child development because I have seen it played out so accurately in my own children.  It has been a profound encouragement to me to know that the rough storms we weather together (particularly at those half-age marks) won’t last forever.

I prepare myself by parenting in the right mindset — that rocky behavior stems from turbulent feelings from within.  When I am prepared mentally for this as a parent, it makes managing the hard phases a little easier.

Spruce up

Photo by LadyDragonflyCC

Finally, when we’ve removed all that old debris, cut off dead growth, and spent time working over the soil and recovering from storms, we get to celebrate and enjoy by sprucing things up. How about finding a way to say “yes” more often than “no”?  Is it time to grant some new freedoms to your children?  Is there something you’ve been putting off doing as a family?  Why not do it now?

Just as we have discovered in simplifying our houses, there is so much freedom on the other side of the hard work of spring cleaning! And there is no question that a good spring clean involves lots of labor, but oh, how wonderful the rewards.

Make sure that after you have assessed where you are as a parent at this moment, take time to fill your lungs with a deep breath of joy and gratitude.  The work you are doing is useful and beautiful, indeed.

Do any of these spring cleaning categories apply to your family? What are some areas where you can see a need for growth and change? How will you, as a family, celebrate and encourage change?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Stephanie - Green Stay at Home Mom

    We’re working on pruning some phrases out of my oldest daughter’s vocabulary. She says “This is yuck” when she doesn’t like a food. I think it helped to point out to her how awful it would sound if we said that to her about her artwork or something else she had worked really hard on.

    • Megan

      That’s where we are – trying to focus on building and nurturing empathy to help get rid of mean words. It’s a process, that’s for sure!

  2. Kara @Simple Kids

    Thank you, Megan, for writing this and getting the wheels spinning this morning.

    The declutter of the parenting toolbox is one I think we get hung up on a lot. I am re-reading Simplicity Parenting and in the introduction Kim John Payne talks about how we should think of things as a “menu not a checklist” – picking and choosing the best things for OUR family, not just doing everything because someone else said it was a good idea.

    And, yes, prepare for storms: we don’t get mad at the wind for howling or the rain for pouring, we prepare for it.

    Thank you, friend. This “Spring Cleaning” work is too important to overlook 🙂

    Best Wishes!

    • Rana

      Kara, I just checked that book out at the library. It’s next on my list of reads. I’m looking forward to getting great suggestions from this book.

    • Rana

      Kara, I just checked that book out at the library. I’m looking forward to reading this next.

    • Megan

      “we don’t get mad at the wind for howling or the rain for pouring, we prepare for it.”

      I shall be repeating that to myself over and over today. Thanks for the wisdom-sharing.

      (STILL haven’t read Simplicity Parenting! AH! Never-ending To Read List!)

  3. Larissa

    Thankyou Megan for your wonderful words of wisdom.
    Lately I’ve just been either ignoring those behaviours I’ve disliked (currently ‘we’ are running away and ‘hiding’ behind the couches by the wall in the loungeroom when it is bath and/or bed time, and refusing to wash hands when requested) or let myself get cranky, raising my voice and threatening some ‘appropriate’ punishment or bribing her (“If you don’t come out right now, no feed before sleeptime!” … she wants the feed, so she’ll come out and comply however grumbly).
    Your words have helped me see these behaviours in new light, and helped me begin to re-focus my thinking about them – rather than ‘reacting’ or ignoring, I’m going to try to find ways to bring them to light, prune and rekindle with new growth. I loved the thoughts : “What can you do as a parent to guide them into a time of growth? Do they need to be challenged or encouraged? How can you help be the catalyst that both prepares and nurtures growth in the life of your child?”
    You’ve definitely challenged me to think and plan more thoughtfully rather than just randomly (‘Oh, I think I’ll try this today’).
    Thankyou again, and God Bless.

    • Megan

      If there is one thing I am learning over and over again, it’s that parenting is about me – The Parent. Only after I’ve corrected my own negative words and actions can I begin to work with my kids to correct them. That’s a hard thing to walk in every day. Good for you, mama, for recognizing areas that need changing and for having the courage to go head-on into change!

  4. Rana

    Right now I’m battling storms with my newly turned 8 year old twins. I think it’s a matter of letting go of somethings and helping them find their voice to say what they need and want in a respectful way. Also helping them to stay calm in stressful situations.
    I’ve been reading a great book called “calm and compassionate children: a handbook by Susan Usha Dermond. It has great tips on awakening heart feelings and calming the body and mind.

    • Megan

      That’s another book that has been on my To Read List for ages. It looks so helpful! Thanks, Rana!

  5. James

    I like the concept of your post and it has really made me think as my Daughter Amelia is 2 years and 4 month and she’s a challenge at the moment and it feels like a constant battle and after reading your post I think it’s worth a rethink. Really well written post and anything that makes me think and question my skills as a parent has to be positive.

  6. Lindsey

    Thanks for this breath of fresh air. Needed this article right about now.

  7. Sarah@EmergingMummy

    Wow! What a unique way to look at it! I loved this – will be sharing. Thanks, Megan!

  8. Nisha @Healthy Mom's Kitchen

    You don’t know how much I needed this message this week! My kids – 19 months and 4 are having major sibling rivalry issues right now! And my older daughter is responding to her brother in ways I often find myself responding to her. We’ve had many heart-to-heart talks this week about being more calm and instructive rather than criticizing, assuming, and getting angry. The advice I’m giving her is advice I needed for myself. Oh to be a parent…. 🙂

    • Megan

      OH YES. I know all too well about hearing not-great things come out of my daughter’s mouths and realizing they are only repeating what I have said! UGH. But that’s okay. It’s all about seeing it/hearing it/responding to it. I bet you will be back on track in no time!

  9. Kristin

    Beautifully written…I love your underlying theme that trusting your own internal mothering wisdom can lead to some important realizations and shifts. Thanks!

  10. Jackie

    This was a wonderful eye opener today. It’s so easy to get stuck in behaviors and using tools that don’t support us. It’s a wonderful reminder that along with all the other Spring cleaning to take a good look at our parenting toolbox. Thanks for such a wonderful and thought provoking post.

  11. Tara

    Love love love this! Couldn’t have said it better! I often talk to the parents I work with about the tools in their toolbox…the one tool that they use over and over (even when it’s not the right tool to use) and often wear out, the tool they use because someone else gave it to them even though it’s not a very good, the tools used just because they’re attached to it for one reason or another but again not necessarily because it’s very effective. It’s always good for parents to look for new and more effective tools. They just need to know the right places to find them AND be willing to use them. Parenting “spring cleaning” like any cleaning is rewarding IF you’re willing to put the work in up front. And there’s the rub. =) Thanks for sharing these wise words! I love the analogy and will send the families I interact with this way to read your lovely post.

  12. Magic and Mayhem

    I love this list! What a wonderful way to look at things, and every one is important.

  13. Nina

    What a great post. I, too, have a3 year old who has started saying “I hate…” everything! Even a train ride on Friday when he usually loves them…at first I was very disconcerted wondering if he had picked that up from me though I make a great effort to not say hate ( my grandmother used to say it hurt her heart if I said that or shut up) then it got old and I was really aggravated…now I’m just trying to figure out the best way to respond and calm suggestions of alternative choices for him.

    I’m trying to look at underlying causes -we’ve had a lot of upheaval in our life moving several times in the past 6 months. And age development.

    And I’m trying to remind myself that he’s three, he’s working out and doesn’t yet know appropriate behavior and ways of talking and i am going to teach best by modeling good calm behavior myself. Of course he’s now started this very aggravating whine that is driving me batty…any suggestions on that?

  14. Debra W

    Oh this was so good, Megan! Ironically, at church last night, both of my kids had bad reports (which pretty much never ever happens). Such a horrible feeling. My 3 year old son chose not to clean up and kept basically debating the teacher/talking his way around doing it. And my 4 year old daughter told a friend she likes another friend better . . . and then called a complete other friend some bad names (which I still don’t know the details on). My heart broke! So clearly, we have some pruning to do about respect (at the root of both).

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