KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid or as I like to say, Keep it Stupidly Simple
is an acronym and principle initially noted by the Navy in 1960. The Navy discovered that systems with a simplistic design were most successful. This principle worked, and society adopted it, and it remains a commonly used principle. In fact, it is used by software developers when creating new applications and programs.
I am sure some of you have heard of it. My high school math teacher used to tell us all the time “K-I-S-S” (only to be met with giggles, teenagers pshhh). I often refer to this acronym when feeling overwhelmed. KISS has become harder to implement since becoming a mother and sharing a home with three boys and a grown man. There seems to be a lot going on and as the kids grow they develop more individuality and specific needs that need nurturing and attention. Through the beautiful chaos, as I like to call it, we have to find ways to simplify.
The KISS approach can naturally be implemented regarding material possessions to create a more minimalistic lifestyle but what about a holistic execution of the principle? Health, diet, spirituality, relationships, and even parenting.
For this article, I want to focus on KISS and parenting. I often hear parents of young aged children giving these incredibly long-winded explanations. The conversations are usually taking place when a child is in a hurry, frustrated, being disciplined or has asked a relatively straightforward question. According to Child Development Institute, in an article titled The Stages of Intellectual Development In Children and Teenagers, it isn’t until the age of 12 that the following happens:
“Thought becomes more abstract, incorporating the principles of formal logic. The ability to generate abstract propositions, multiple hypotheses, and their possible outcomes is evident. Thinking becomes less tied to concrete reality.”
The way I have always thought about this is that children under the age of 12 do not have the mental capacity to see the many shades of “gray,” so to speak. They see events and emotions as “black or white,” “right or wrong,” “yes or no,” “love or hate,” “happy or sad,” you get the point. In the early years, they need to hear the vast vocabulary in conversations, see the emotions and learn to distinguish between the so-called “gray.” The first 12 years of life are all about learning and conditioning for the second 12 years. Nurturing children into well-balanced adults takes time. It is a learning experience for parents as well as their offspring. As adults, we are here to help them develop into people who are capable of balancing logic with feelings, processing emotions and capable of making decisions that influence their lives in positive ways. However, what if we were to meet them halfway on the communication? Did you know very young children are often more concerned with your facial expressions than your words and they often take things very personally? If mom looks mad then mom is angry, if she looks sad, then she is sad and if she looks happy then, well, again, you get the point. Little kids won’t see a mad face and think “oh, well maybe mom is having a bad day, I should give her some space.” What they think is “mom is mad at me, she looked at me with an angry face, I did something wrong.” I can remember this growing up. I remember looking at my parents and thinking I did something wrong just because of their expressions. I remember how it impacted me and made me feel sad, lonely and lost. I also remember when the adults I loved would smile at me. Talk about lighting you up with joy! Oh my goodness, I still relish in those memories. Their gleaming smiles were looking at me like I was the light of their world!
When choosing words, especially when a child has misbehaved, simple phrases are best understood. Keep it stupidly simple. Don’t waste your words on communication that is only going to confuse the poor little ones. Get to the point in as little words as possible. “Please do not hit,” “Tell me why you’re upset,” “It’s ok to be frustrated, let’s take a break” and sometimes perhaps no words are even needed. Here is your chance to KISS. I’ll give you a personal example: My six-year-old son was at a birthday party yesterday. All the kids had bikes, and he was enjoying running alongside them (way too close). Daddy had told him several times to be careful. Well, sure enough, there was a collision which resulted in my son biting his cheek and skinning his chin, the kid on the bike, who just so happened to be the birthday boy was launched over his handlebars and skinned his knees. So in this example, daddy gave simple instructions as well as the consequences which may result from his actions. My son didn’t heed the warning, and there was an accident.
Were these consequences enough? Yes! My son was so embarrassed because the incident occurred in front of his friends. He also had to see his buddy get hurt which, believe me, that in itself, was enough of a lesson for my compassionate young one. There was no reason to interject verbally, the lesson was learned, on its own, without any parental intervention. It was simple, sad but simple. If we had said anything, such as “well, I told you not to follow so close” that would have only led to hurt feelings and even more embarrassment. Saying nothing and providing compassion and tending to his wounds was the right thing to do. It was all in the K-I-S-S.
Choose your battles wisely my friends. Complexity isn’t good for anyone, especially those growing children.
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Endless love and gratitude,