Break Free Parentally: Raising Youngins Tiny

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.

Odom Family 9.47.25 AM

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.

27 Responses to Break Free Parentally: Raising Youngins Tiny

  1. CleanLiving August 10, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    My wife and I are very interested in the tiny lifestyle, however we are planning on making the switch once our 2 teenage boys head off to college. Hearing that people live with teenagers in a tiny house is very interesting. Do you live with teenagers in a hOMe design tiny house?

    • Gabriella August 11, 2014 at 8:57 am #

      I can speak for us CleanLiving. We have a 14 year old and a nearly 18 year old. Our 14 year old lives full time with us while our son goes to school in CO to play hockey. He is with us on holidays and summer. We have set up on our 5 acres a bit of a compound. We have hOMe and each of the kids has their own cabin. Everything is very close together. hOMe is central base and where everyone spends the majority of their time. Sometimes one of the kids sleeps in the other loft too. It’s nice for them to have their space to go to when doing school work, playing music, doing art, etc. One certainly could live with a teenager full time in hOMe. There is plenty of room. With two teenagers that would become very challenging.

      • Full Spectrum Mama August 12, 2014 at 9:14 am #

        It seems like it would be so hard to get utilities, heat, etc for three cabins…At least in VT where we are…and I do have two kids, so…THoughts?

        • Andrew Odom August 13, 2014 at 3:03 am #

          I don’t think it would be all that hard if you were using “on grid” type appliances. We also have a bit of a compound in that we have a tiny house, a small office/guest room, and an outdoor living space. Our electrical pole is in the middle and we have an outdoor rated wire running from the lug on the pole to each of the units. That powers everything we would need including heat, air, lights, etc.

        • Full Spectrum Mama August 13, 2014 at 11:00 am #

          What I basically mean is, don’t the finances and utilities/technicalities make having three cabins a challenge?

        • Full Spectrum Mama August 13, 2014 at 11:01 am #

          (especially initially w building etc)

          • Mumomia August 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

            I think it would be so much cheaper than the utilities for a ‘normal’sized house.

            From what I have been reading heating is a lot cheaper because the amoubt of space to heat is smaller.

            Could even do off grid and put on solar panels on the roof. Electric would be even cheaper in the long run.

          • Gabriella August 17, 2015 at 11:51 am #

            Yes for sure: less square footage = less resources to heat and cool. Our tiny house is totally off grid (solar with generator for back up) and it works great!

  2. Judith Kopchak August 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    I love the idea of living small especially in the current economy. We raised 5 growing children from birth to leaving home in 1,150 sq feet. Small by normal standards but we made it work. My dad came from a family of nine children. The family home was very small. The girls had the upstairs and the boys found their places in the barn loft. When you view the tiny log dwellings in TN of long ago, you realize the normal everyday family of that era had very small accommodations and with typical large families the only solution for overflow of a growing family was the barn or hay loft. They made it work and with close family ties when the children grew up. We are now lacking in the current century a lot of the benefits of close living and getting along due to necessity! ;0)

  3. Anita August 11, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    My daughter and I have lived in an RV for the past 15 years. She was 3 when we moved into our first RV. She just went off to college and says she could not have lived in a tiny dorm room with a roommate without having lived in our small space. Granted a 35′ 5th wheel with 3 slide outs is not a tiny house but it is much smaller than what most folks live in.

    The one rule we had in our home was this…”A bad attitude is not allowed.” Our thinking was that so many people are super nice to those they work or go to school with and then come home and take out the days stress on their family. We agreed to ‘leave it outside.’ We used to say, “You can’t bring THAT in here!” when one of us had an off day.

    Now that she has moved out, I am downsizing into my own tiny house.

    • Andrew Odom August 13, 2014 at 3:06 am #

      I hear you Anita and I am sure that her moving out is bittersweet considering y’all have shared such an intimate space and intimate moments together. Congratulations on raising a daughter that will enter the world – as it were – without the bad attitude or the feeling of entitlement so many others do. That is awesome.

      Our daughter is only 3 years old so so far she does not have a bad attitude nor the exposure to them. But we have a sort of unspoken here even with my day job. When we come home it is our sanctuary where we create the mood and bad attitudes are certainly not allowed.

      Congratulations on your tiny house adventure getting started!

  4. Adrienne Herom August 14, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    Great post. I have two VERY active boys ages 4 and 7. I laughed when you mentioned the noise factor because it’s not our noise- it is their noise- that makes tiny living seem challenging. They need room to rough house and play. How do you create that in a tiny home?

    • Gabriella August 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

      This is Gabriella responding and not necessarily the views of the author but I wanted to give my insight: Oh I remember those days!! There has never been a noisier boy than our son (now nearly 18 and a WHOLE lot quieter). We practically walked around in ear plugs for years to save our hearing. 😉 Seriously though, it’s important to be honest about needs when considering a tiny lifestyle. If you value space for them to rough around and be able to express their vocal chords, I wouldn’t recommend tiny house living (at least something less than 400-500SF) for you guys at this point. Don’t want to dash any dreams but it’s important to say that tiny house living isn’t fitting for every situation out there. Energetic kids need a lot of space to run around and get their energy out in and tiny houses just don’t provide that. Keep us posted! Would love to hear what you guys come up with bc this is a common question. 🙂

  5. TH August 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    There are some great tips & pieces here but I have to be a little cynical. It seems like no one actually lives IN a tiny house with children old enough to fend for themselves in any capacity and have a strong personality. They either live with babies/young toddlers & then upgrade to a small standard home when their kids develop a need for their own space or have created a compound situation. The compound actually seems like it could be more personal space (and potentially more resource use) than my 800 sqft condo that my family of four currently live in.

    Also, I realize that everyone is different but I can’t imagine having a decent marital relationship in a tiny house with school aged children a curtain away. “…intimacy can be had on a volume of 1 rather than 10.” – not going to be true for everyone, m’thinks.

    • Gabriella August 14, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

      Thank you for your insight TH! I can’t speak to living in a tiny house with younger kids and our situation is unique, as you know, as we do have a compound situation, our daughter is 14 and our son goes to school in CO. I know that the wonderful folks at http://www.tinyhousefamily.com/ live in a tiny house with two kids. They are a great resource for folks looking to live tiny with children.

  6. Teri November 16, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    My family of four lives in a 348 square foot house that my husband built. My children are 4 and 6 years old.

    There are so many reasons that I love living in a tiny house, but to be perfectly honest, our home is too small for our family’s needs.

    We live off grid and are homesteaders as well as homeschoolers. Warm months are no problem- we just go outside to get space, but when it is below freezing, it’s challenging to accommodate the creative needs of my kids, plus the practical home needs we have, like making candles, or working from home.

    Our solution will be to add on an addition, but in the meantime, I feel grateful that we can live debt-free in a beautiful space, despite the lack of extra room.

    • Gabriella November 17, 2014 at 10:17 am #

      Thanks Teri! Great that you guys are getting clear on what your needs are. Also wonderful that you have the ability to add on. Enjoy that beautiful family and your debt free home!!

  7. ally December 5, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    I spent my childhood in a village in Europe, together with my grandparents in one room which was a living room, a bedroom, and a study at the same time.

    That multifunctional room was about 160 sq feet. There were two beds, one (my grandparents’) next to a wall, and the other (mine) next to the opposite wall. By the window, there was a small table with a chair where I did my homework. At the right hand side of the table, there was a wardrobe and the TV.

    The home wasn’t really tiny. There was also a small dining room which accomodated a table for four, a small kitchen and a bedroom. The reason we spent our time in the multifunctional living room was because we couldn’t afford to heat the entire house. Heating was done with firewood.

    We had (the grandparents are no longer alive) a great relationship and cared very much about each other. As a child, I found it totally normal to live the way I lived. Children adapt perfectly to the environment where they grow, but it can be a different story when, in a modern society, they have to downgrade. However, some children are very respectful and grateful to their parents for whatever these can offer them, which is impressive and admirable.

    In my opinion, living within one’s means is always preferable to borrowing from the bank. Hapiness and peace of mind are strongly related to freedom.

    Living in the countryside, I had the opportunity of having quite a big yard which was great because I could also play, read, and study in the yard when the weather was fine. I didn’t have toys (so, no need for a lot of storage in our home), I used to play outside with our animals and with the neighbors’ children and, to me, that was better than toys.

    My dear grandparents were very respectful of my studying. They usually would leave the room, without my noticing it, and would go into the kitchen or outside in order to leave me alone.

    Such wonderful people. It is definitely possible to leave with less if you respect each other. One very important thing is not to relate to what other people have.

    • Gabriella December 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories Ally!

  8. Amy December 2, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    We are planning to move to a 900 sq. ft. 2 bed/1 bath this spring. It is a cute little bungalow in a tiny town. Our kids are 5, 3, 1, and the baby is due in February. Tips on how to prepare our kids for the change? We currently have a 1550 sq. ft. 3/2.

    • /bob December 3, 2015 at 5:20 am #

      That’s really close to the size of our first house. We had 2 kids when we moved into that one, 4.5 and 1.5 yrs old. Both boys. They shared one bedroom. Kids are amazingly flexible and adaptable and will take to it as if it is the natural next phase as long as you are ready to do the same. I know 4 kids would be a little different, especially if a mix of boys and girls. Any additional rooms that may be converted to a bedroom? Our small house had a den in addition to a large open plan living/dining/kitchen room. The den was used as an office/den but could have been used as a bedroom if needed. Dealing with one bath is something learned (that many these days have forgotten about). I grew up with 4 sisters, with me being the only boy, in a house with one bath. All the way up to 6th grade. We managed, and I never thought anything of it until some time after living in a house with more than one bath.

      • Gabriella December 3, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

        I agree with Bob Amy. Kids are so flexible, especially at that age. I am guessing they will totally love it. Most kids want to be really close to their parents and siblings so a small house makes so much sense for kids that age. Bob, you bring up another great point in regards to how things have changed and how many families balk at the sheer notion of sharing a bathroom with just one other person. I literally can’t understand the current trend in which there are more bathrooms in houses than bedrooms. People forget that as a species we are resilient and creative and we all CAN share a bathroom with multiple people. You and COUNTLESS other families have figured it out. And then we step back further in time and think about the times when there wasn’t indoor plumbing, and back before then poorly insulated houses with poor heat sources. We have really lost track of what we NEED in order to survive and thrive. The trouble is that there is a significant cost on many levels for the many upgrades we have come to expect in housing. It’s nice to see the tiny house movement ‘correcting’ for how unbalanced things have become with regards to housing size. Here at hOMe, we are 4 using 1 tiny bathroom. We have a nearly 16 year old daughter and a 19 year old son and it just works out literally without stress and struggle. Enjoy your move Amy!! 🙂

  9. Carrie February 18, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    We live in a 400 so ft house with 2 kids (ages 3 & 1), and have another kid on the way. I think sometimes we forget that globally there are MANY, MANY people that live this way. It’s funny how we discuss it so cerebrally, when so many just accept it’s how life is!

    • Gabriella February 20, 2016 at 11:04 am #

      So well put Carrie! We think we are doing this incredible thing living in tiny houses here in America when people live tiny around the world and have done so much much much longer than people have lived in large houses (when we look at the history of civilization). Congrats on the soon to be bundle of joy!

    • Sarah May 6, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

      We are looking at an 85yo, 391 s/f house and we have 2 kids (3 & 1) as well!! I would love to pick your brain sometime!

  10. Saga April 28, 2016 at 5:02 am #

    I have scoured the internet for examples of families of 3 or more people living tiny or small. Someon I can relate to. It is really difficult to find. I am happy I found this site.

    It seems that mostly it is singles or couples that live tiny or small. Of course one reason is that it is limited how many people you can fit into a tiny house (below 400 sqft). But it is possible to go up just slightly in sqft from tiny to small as to accomodate a larger family.
    Just seems that very few actually do it. People with children seem to consider it impossible to uphold the values of tiny living, and go all in on footprint and mortgage (exaggerating here).

    They are out there, the people that live small with children, as seen in these comments. But they seem to be invisible. I would love to see examples of their living quarters and hear about how they make it work.

    They don’t live tiny, but small, you don’t see them in the tiny house movement.
    And they probably aren’t interesting for magazines about decorating or lifestyle, as many people consider more space = more happiness.

    Many people with children live small out of necessity, but I miss hearing from those that does it as a choice. Who live small because it frees their life. Who a conscious about doing it the best way possible.

    Ehmm..sermon finished. Maybe I should just make that site myself 😉

    • /bob April 30, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

      Agree with what you say about some going all in on footprint and cost in their attempt to fit into a tiny house. Seems they forget, or don’t realize, that Tiny Living must come first and can be implemented in ANY sized home without ever moving into a Tiny House. Tiny Living is essentially minimalism. One of my favorite blogs on that subject is BecomingMinimalist.com. It is by a former youth pastor who realized he was spending too much time cleaning out and organizing his “stuff” instead of playing and giving his time to his son. Now he’s fixed that and yet still lives in a modest sized house. Definitely not tiny, but smaller than the average American house. And he is living the “Tiny” life in it. One of his common tag lines lately is “Fill your life with stories to tell, not stuff to show.” It is really the same as when Jay Shafer says that “Tiny” can be any sized house that there is. You can live Tiny in a 4000 sq ft house just like in a 200 sq ft house. It’s the lifestyle that’s more important than the sq ft. That’s what Tiny Living is about. Living with what you need and getting rid of the rest that just gets in the way of realizing your dreams and desires of how you want to live. Therefore, if you have 4-5 kids, you will not likely be able to live in 200 sq ft. You may need 900 sq ft, or maybe even 1200. Each person needs a certain space in which to live, and it’s different for everyone.

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