Now that we have peeked at the traditional childhood development of the six-year-old and the anthroposophical view of the six-year-old, it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of peaceful living with the six-year-old.
The first we need to do is establish a framework in which to work. If you have not read these posts in the past, please do so now and then come back to this post:
There is also a post on “Anger in Parenting” if you have not read that one.
So now that you are being held within the framework of being an Authentic Leader within your own home, now you are ready to tackle some of the methods for peaceful living with your six-year-old.
Here is a great quote from the article “Meetings with Parents On the Topic of Discipline” from the book “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven-Year-Old Transformation” to start us off:
The young child instinctively expects guidance and when it is not forthcoming, the child tends to feel insecure and frightened. Growing up without guidance, without boundaries, often translates into being left alone to flounder in a world that the child is not experienced enough to understand. Constantly being consulted by adults about what the child wants is not only bewildering, but can create an egoist, unprepared for the world awaiting him or her. Many parents believe that choices strengthen their child, but, on the contrary, too many choices can undermine a child.
- So, my first thought for you is to develop your own internal framework for handling Authentic Leadership. This takes inner work, inner thought and talk with your spouse or partner. You must also take care of yourself- if you are angry, resentful, not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, frustrated—all of these things affect your relationship with your child and how well you set the tone in your home for your child.
- For your six-year-old, you must be the wall off which your child can bounce. (In a nice, quiet and calm way, not a mean or authoritarian scary kind of way!) Six-year-olds will test the boundaries of what is expected and allowed. You must show them that you are dependable and they can lean on you as they need to as they sort things in life out. If you crumple and fall, this shows them that you do not hold the authority and answers for life that they desperately are searching for at this point. Be the calm wall. Choose how you will respond to your child.
- Six-year-olds are DOERS. They are not deep thinkers. They do not need a lot of words. With something you need done, it helps to walk them physically through what you need with movement and imagination. Get the child moving before you speak, writes Nancy Blanning, a well-known Waldorf teacher.
- Remember, a six-year-old can also have direct words to help them – but very short, to the point and POSITIVE. Again, think of these “rules” as skills they are learning, not just something they must do or if they don’t do it they will fail and need to be punished. Change your framework.
- A six-year-old may be picky about what they asked to do, not wanting an activity that is “for babies”. Think about what you are asking your child to do before you ask them and how your child might respond.
- Go back to your rhythm. Six-year-olds need a strong rhythm. They need to know the home for things, that every thing does have a place, so they can put things away for themselves.
- Do not offer choices if there is really no choice. If it is time to leave or go to the bathroom, it is time to leave or go to the bathroom. Maybe the choice is they can hold your hand to leave or hop like a bunny to leave, but it is still time to leave.
- Use stories to help your child do things, and help your child physically along as you tell that story.
- Nancy Blanning also writes that from a Waldorf perspective, “Each adult responsibility you take care of for your child allows his or her energy to be available for growing. We do a child a great service by pre-thinking and pre-planning how things will happen – by creating a “form”- which will support both the child and ourselves, so there is order and predictability.” My personal note to this is: This does not in any way mean the child shouldn’t have to do things for themselves or help the family or help around the house, but it does mean that you, as the parent, have thought through how, when and where the child will take over their own routine or chore or whatever they are being asked to do, and that you have shown them step-by-step how it needs to happen.
- Pick your battles. The minute you engage in a struggle with your child, your battle is lost. Help your child, and come up with ways both of you can win if it is possible. Use matter-of –fact phrases and say what you need, and wait.
- Think about warmth; how can you show your child warmth? This is important when you are in one of those stages where you just are not liking your child’s behavior most of the time. Try and find something you can say that they did that you actually did like, no matter how small. Find time for smiles, hugs, kisses, being present to play a game, walks in an unhurried manner and just be there. It will pay off in your relationship with your child!
- Give as few direct commands as possible; this goes back to picking your battles and letting your rhythm and order carry things. Think to yourself, if I ask them this, and they say, “NO!” do I have the time, the energy, the patience, to see this through at this moment and do I want to pick this as my focus today? If it is very important to guiding your child’s life and future development as an adult, then by all means, go ahead. But if not, please think about it. And even if you ask something, and they say “NO! Make me!” you can honestly change your mind. I would not do this too often, but everyone can make a better choice, right? Even us!
- A six-year-old will take things that are not theirs and will often not tell the whole truth. Help them. Ask them how something happened, not if they did that. Put away those things that are tempting to them to take. Remember that a six-year-old is restless, can be destructive, often can be at the height of sexual play and may need a bit more oversight than they did before if they are like that. This is a developmental phase that will not last forever, and as a parent, it is still your job to keep your child safe and your property safe as well!
- You may consider limiting time with friends, playdates and certainly the size and activities of a birthday party. Six-year-olds are aggressive with friends, belligerent, go wild quickly and have strong emotions that often ends up with the child in tears. Keep things easy, small and short.
- Do not carry around baggage about your child saying “I hate you!” at this age or acting as if you are the most unfair mother in the whole world. A six-year-old will do this, a six-year-old will take out things on their Mother, and it is not up to them to fill your cup. Do things outside of your child to fill your own cup. Be fair, be calm, hold the space and try to think compassionately even when they are not being nice. You are the adult.
- Do not get into verbal games – “You don’t love me, Mommy.” Give them a hug and a smile and move on. Likewise, you can listen to the drama of a six-year-old for so long, and then give them a hug and say.”I have heard you. I am going to do the dishes now, and I know how sad you are. I can listen more to you later. Come and have a snack.” Be calm and limit your words!
This list was not in any particular order, I hope some of the points were valuable to you and yours. If you have other techniques that have worked particularly well with your six-year-old, please do share in the comment boxes. Let’s all help each other!
Your until next time,