I have had several mothers call me lately who are feeling what I call “the Waldorf guilt”. They are looking, in most cases, at very verbal and sometimes physically aggressive 5 and 6 year old little girls and wondering if it is too late to start the Waldorf lifestyle with their little ones. They feel the way they parented their children before may not have been as age and developmentally appropriate as it could have been.
First of all, please be very easy with yourself if you find yourself in this situation. We all are the best parents we can be with the information we have at the time. Forgive yourself for any perceived inadequacies and move on.
Second, I would say it is never too late for the healing benefits of Waldorf. However, I do think this takes sincere effort, planning, and change within the family.
Here are some thoughts that I think may be helpful if you are trying to “switch” to a Waldorf lifestyle for the benefit of your child’s health or to work with a very head-oriented child under the age of 7 or 8:
1. Start small with consistent naptimes, bedtimes, and meal times. Think foods made with your own hands and foods that are not far removed from what they really are….a whole apple as opposed to processed apple Pop-Tarts. Think about the amount of sugar, dyes, additives your children are ingesting and work hard to limit those substances.
2. Think about the concept of warmth. I find many of these over-active, over-talkative little beings have a severe problem with lack of warmth, both intuitively from the family in an emotional or spiritual sense, and also perhaps needing more physical warmth.
For emotional or spiritual warmth: If you meditate or pray, can you do that over your child after they go to sleep at night? Soul warmth and energy flow there. Can you laugh with your child, have fun, smile with your children? Instead of all those words, how about a hug, a smile, a kiss?
If you feel your child needs more physical warmth, can you think about woolens for under their clothes, warm coats, hats, mittens? Layering? Does your child need more warmth in whatever space you have – warm colors in their room, layered rugs, curtains?
3. The very verbal child under the age of 7 needs a parent who can stop talking to the child. Lots of “Hhmm, I wonder that as well” kinds of comments, as opposed to the Doctoral Thesis on whatever the child is asking about. Get your partner on board! This is so important, and necessary. If your partner is rather analytical, talk about the concept of doing the right thing at the right time. You are not withholding knowledge of the world to the detriment of the small child, but rather waiting to bring it in at the right time when the child can process it well. You are providing information in the right way in the right amount for the child’s age.
4. I find for the most part the things that these children have said in the past has been given entirely too much weight. I am not saying to ignore what your child says, or to ignore how your child says they feel! But what I am saying is that YOU have to start to distinguish between is this random comment one that you should give weight to as a mother and then act upon or is it just that – a very random comment? In this day and age and in our society we often take our children far too seriously about small things, (and probably not seriously enough about big things as they get older).
5. This child needs HOURS a day outside to just be, and than a balancing of that with an activity that provides them quiet. Have arts and crafts ready, woodworking, cooking projects, storytelling at the ready for these special, intimate moments.
6. No media. No media at all during this transformation. No screens. And model good behavior by cutting down on your screen time…can you do it?
7. Plan some fun FAMILY activities with you, your partner, your child, siblings. Sometimes these often serious and tense children need to see that, indeed, the family can have fun and laugh together. It does not have to be something over the top and expensive – plan something like going hiking, roller skating, ice skating, planting a garden together, star watching. Also do some projects around the house together so your child can see how a family works and plays together.
9. After you have a small rhythm going for the day –to -day kinds of things and weekly things, do start looking at festivals within the year. (And if you need help with rhythm please do hit the rhythm tag in the tags box and all those posts will come up). Not every family who celebrates festivals celebrates religious ones, but Steiner did talk quite a bit about the importance of a spiritual life for the child. Think about your own spiritual leanings and investigate this. If you have no spiritual leanings at all, why not? Perhaps a tradition completely different than the one you were raised with will speak to you. Perhaps this is the inner work you are being called to do at this time.
10. Start working within yourself to be the change for the things you want to see in your family. You set the tone for things in your family, you have a choice as to how you respond to things. You don’t need to nag your partner about all this, but instead model, show, demonstrate, love.
Just a few thoughts to ponder,