Break Free Parentally: Raising Youngins Tiny
This post on how to raise children in a tiny house was written by Andrew Odom of Tiny r(e)volution. We are all often asked what it’s like to raise children in a tiny house and Andrew gives some valuable insight below. Raising children of all ages in tiny houses is not only possible, but a wonderful unique experience. Certainly our own experience of living tiny with our two teenage children has been extraordinary and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. From their perspective, they love it too and feel proud to live the tiny lifestyle. For a perspective on raising younger kids, enjoy the post below!
We talked the other day about living simply by breaking free. I have since been spending a lot of time thinking about the phrase “breaking free.” For those who don’t live by convention there really is nothing to break free from. But for 99% of the population who has designed their life around “hand-me down philosophy” there is MUCH to break free from. I think for us the most difficult area to spread our wings and escape the V-formation was in parenting.
In the deep South you basically have 2 or 3 types of youngins. You have the mama’s boys and daddy’s girls (this type seems to do no wrong and is forever pushing the limits to be the apple of their parents’ eye), the rebel with a flaw (this type is difficult in behavior but does no wrong in his folks’ eye), and whooping boy (this is the type who has to pay for everything with an inch of a flesh and a switch). There are these types because that is the basic types of parenting in the South. And for those Southerners reading this feel free to call me out or add a few types I may have missed! Whatever the case my wife and I quickly realized that none of these children were what we wanted and that none of those parenting styles would work in close quarters. We had to break free and learn to do things differently. To some extent we had already broken free as we were the married couple with a baby while our friends were watching theirs graduate from high school.
Quite frankly, raising kids in a tiny house or otherwise small space can be a scary scenario as well as a potential foundation for minimalism and simplifying. In a tiny house you eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. Your living room and your media room are the world around you. There is usually not a TV in the house. There are not several rooms to escape to. There is no office/library or even a laundry room. This can prove especially difficult on rainy days, snow days, sick days, or even just the last day of a pay period when morale is down and funds are lower!
While you may think that my number one complaint is the privacy factor in a tiny house with children it is actually the noise factor. For months after our daughter was born I couldn’t laugh out loud, I couldn’t make a snack, I had to use headphones, etc. The least little light or sound was prone to wake her up which was anyone guess as to whether or not she would return to sleep. If we were the dinner party type I can imagine we wouldn’t have been able to have them as proper conversation between courses should not have to be whispered or pantomimed. But yes, privacy was an issue to.
When your space and your child’s space is less then 6 feet apart and separated by little more than a heavy curtain how do you find privacy? Where does Mommy and Daddy get to be husband and wife again? But what about space for yourself? How do you find some solitude in a tiny house with a child? You can’t in all fairness ask everyone to leave. No, you have to improvise. You have to find comfort in ear-hugging Bose. You have to take naps when you can and master the art of sleeping with wide open eyes. You even have to learn that intimacy can be had on a volume of 1 rather than 10.
So how do you break free parentally when your patience is regularly being tried, when you are annoying yourself, when the walls are closing in, and doubt starts rearing its head?
- COMMUNICATE. Without the freedom to speak openly and honestly to your significant other, your child, and even yourself your situation is doomed. It is so essential to voice what is on your heart and on your mind. It is also important to communicate the positives. Be sure to freely share your love for your family and your appreciation of them. An honest “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “I’m glad we’re on this adventure together” can go a very long way.
- DECLUTTER. Nothing makes a small space smaller like a bunch of clutter. I grew up with the mantra “a place for everything and everything in its place.” More times than not this simple saying made life easier. In a small space assigning landing zones for things can help extensively. You can also practice the one in/one out rule that allows for something to be discarded whenever something new comes in. This tactic also serves as a great learning tool for your child. He/she will learn that we can’t have everything in life and that sometimes we must give in to sacrifice.
- TEAR DOWN THE WALLS. Don’t let your small space become smaller by adding a bunch of walls and partitions. Aside from setting aside private space allow your house to be open. Let the fluidity overrun the rooms. There is much to be said for open play spaces/living spaces where a child can happily play with dolls while mom and dad scan Netflix on the iPad for a decent movie to watch. Remember. You live together in this tiny house. Act like it!
- DECORATE NEUTRAL. With this tip I don’t mean to only use shades of white and vanillas. I mean think about decorating age neutral. You don’t want your house to be overrun with Dora the Explorer -OR- french poster art from The Museum Store. Create a home that is equal parts mom, dad, and child. For instance, instead of having a rug that resembles a small town and race track get a rug with texture that a child can pretend are bumps in the road for his/her Matchbox.
- SACRED SPACE. One thing that worked well for us is that early on we sort of claimed our space. “That chair is mine.” “Don’t come in my kitchen while I am in here.” While on the outset they seem a bit rude or territorial they are healthy boundaries for the long run. I think reading nooks, personalized seating, kiddy corners, etc. are great ways to offer a little personal and private space to each member of a tiny house family.