There is a time to treat children one way in Waldorf, and there is a time to adjust how you treat your children as they grow older. This is part of the Waldorf way and view of childhood development. The hallmarks of the early years are repetition, reverence, imitation and modeling, less words, protection of the child.
Now I would like you to read what Steiner said about the seven to fourteen year old in the lectures compiled in “The Education of the Child”: “The development of the ether body occurs in the period from the seventh year until the sixteenth year in boys, and until the fourteenth year in girls. It is important for the rest of a person’s life that feeling of respect and veneration are fostered during this period…..People around the children, with whom they have contact, must be their ideals; children must also choose such ideals from history and literature……This is the age when memory, habit and character must be established, and this is achieved through authority. If the foundation of these traits is not laid during this period, it will result in behavioral shortcomings later. “
Steiner goes on to talk about what things influence the ether body – he discusses things that “promotes feelings of health and vigor” – he cites gymnastics (not the typical gymnastics, these gymnastics were a series of specially created exercises), art – especially vocal and instrumental music, and “most important of all is religious instruction. Images of things supersensible are deeply imprinted in the ether body.”
Steiner said, “The task to fulfill between the ages of seven and fourteen is to create a basic set of habits and to stimulate memory development…..We form a strong memory, not by explaining all the “whys” and “wherefores”, but through authority.” He page 151 of the lectures compiled in “Soul Economy”: “This sense for authority in children between the change of teeth and puberty must be respected and nurtured, because it represents an inborn need at this age. Before one can use freedom appropriately in later life, one must have experienced shy reverence and a feeling for adult authority between the change of teeth and puberty.”
He also goes on to say that while imitation and example are the hallmark of the early years, the years of 7 to 14 are for discipleship and authority. Note Steiner does not say this is the age for reasoning either, because logical thought does not come in until around the age of 14 years or older.
As part of your Holy Nights meditation, meditate and ponder on this: Am I using the right tools for my child, based upon their age? Should their world be still completely closed or should it be opening up a bit? Am I putting the cart before the horse by using more grown-up tools with my four year old? Am I instilling reverence and authority in my ten year old? How am I doing, and what do I need to do to feed my child’s soul?
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.