Waldorf and “Addictive Behavior” in Children

I recently have had questions from mothers regarding their small under 7 children and the children’s behavior or tendency to 1 – “wanting to sit around” all day rather than being physically active; 2- wanting to sit and look at book after book after book after book and 3; wanting to sit and have the parent tell story after story after story after story after story and 4; wanting the parent to play all day long with them.  In many cases this is an older child or an only child with no siblings to play with, but I have also seen this happen with restless children who are just not peaceful yet.

Part of the view of Waldorf education is that children under the age of 9 are prone to “emotional excess” for lack of a better term:  they are sensitive to the environment, the stimuli of the environment and are in the stages of learning about themselves.  The children are viewed as starting to view themselves as separate from the environment, their parents, etc around the age of 9.  I am sure we can all recount the four and five year olds who want to grow up to be an animal, a rock, (and at the same time a doctor or artist or whathave you).  That is a good example of the consciousness of a four or five year old.

If a child has a tendency (and we don’t look at temperament until they hit 7, so please don’t say they their behavior is due to their temperament quite yet!) to just sit, or want to hear stories over and over, or needing a parent to play all day long with them, please go back and do the following:

1. – Look at yourself!  Sometimes it is very hard with only one child.  Are YOU physically active outside?  Is that part of your daily rhythm?  Do you garden, walk, hike weekly, go swimming?  Your example and working this into the rhythm will be of utmost importance for this child.

2 – Look at your rhythm!  There should periods of in-breath, of out-breath, periods of being inside and quiet, periods of being outside and running around, there should be time for spontaneous stories but also for that one special story with a candle

3.  Small children under the age of 7 may need your assistance in playing.  Children of this age learn through imitation, and therefore may need your help.  However, this does not mean you need to sit down and play with your child non-stop.  You can start a child with a scenario and help them set up things for them (or set up things for them the night before), and you can move toward being “the grandmother who does the dishes where the train  is going through the town” or some other minor role.  You can help the play get “unstuck” but it is part of our job to FACILITATE play, not completely organize and lead it and be an equal playmate.

4. Have some times when you are UNAVAILABLE.  There may be times where you just need to wait “for the story fairy to bring you a story, but right now is time to peel the carrots for dinner” and hand them a peeler!

5.  Which brings us to an important point:  do not underestimate the importance of getting your child involved in helping with the chores of the day.  Practical work is the heart of the home.  There should be daily chores that are done every  day, and also focus activities of each day.

6. If your child is restless, whiny, etc do not feel you have to fix it.  If they do not want to peel the carrots, YOU go on and peel the carrots and sing a song.  If your child is frequently “bored” (and yes, I have heard very small children use this term), tell them it is okay to do nothing and some idea will come to them through the angels or the fairies.   I reassure my children that sometimes I feel like that, but mainly I can always think of some handwork or cooking I would like to do.   If you have time, you can always take a quick walk and change the scenery. 

Look for a post coming regarding facilitating play in children to come soon.  In the meantime, here is an old post I wrote regarding “Fostering Creative Play”: 

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/29/more-about-fostering-creative-play/

and here:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/05/fostering-creative-play/

With children under the age of 9, it is our job to help them curb their “excesses” by using our rhythm, our calm presence, our help to enfold them in our love and warmth and to MOVE THEM FORWARD.  If you let your child sit and look at book after book for two hours a day, is this moving them forward in their creative thinking, their play, their prowess in moving  their bodies (which is a hallmark of what children under the age of 7 should be doing!)  Have your big picture for the first seven years in mind so you can tailor your decisions around that!

Much love,

Carrie

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10 thoughts on “Waldorf and “Addictive Behavior” in Children

  1. Thank you for this (and all your posts). I’m a bit of the ‘apres-ski’ type like my daughter it seems (my favorite part of skiing is the hot chocolate) but have been working on getting outside before it’s time to settle my baby down for his naps. It’s such a struggle to get her out – thankfully my husband would live outside if he could – he draws her out at every opportunity. She always says “I just want to draw!” but of course once she’s out she’s pretty happy for the most part (but still pretty to eager to draw once she’s back in).

  2. I’ve visited your blog before, but I think this time around I’m really ready to “receive” this information. Your blog has hit me like a lightning bolt! :) It seems like all the posts I’ve found are the answers I’ve been desperately looking for. I am eagerly awaiting your post on facilitating play. I’ve always thought that play isn’t something you need to show a child how to do, so I’ve left my 3 year old to her own devices for the most part, wondering why she doesn’t play very well? (She is an only child at this point) And I think the facilitating play post is going to come in very handy to me. Can’t wait! Thank you for prioritizing this blog in your life, it’s suddenly very important in mine. :)

    • Thank you so much for visiting my blog and I am glad some of it resonates with you. You have much time in your parenting journey!
      Be peaceful and welcome! I am glad you are here!
      Carrie

  3. This is such a helpful post for me! I realize it’s quite old at this point. My daughter really fits this description of constantly wanting me to play with her, read story after story after story, finding a funny way to make me laugh and then doing the same thing over and over again. It’s been perplexing for me. I have been reading your blog a lot in the past few days and see it mentioned over and over again how important it is for kids under 7 to be physical and be outside. My daughter (who is 4) is very much up in her head and I’m new to Waldorf and trying to figure out how to change this. My question for you is this: How do you incorporate this with a baby in the house? I have a 6-month-old who naps and for whatever reason I’ve come to believe it’s very important for him to sleep in a quiet room (not on the go in a stroller or in the Ergo) so I have prioritized his sleep over my daughter’s need to be outside. Wondering if you have tips on finding balance in this area?

    • Dear Annie,
      I am not sure where you are geographically, but I will tell you that in Waldorf Early Years Programs the children go outside no matter what the weather – which often requires investing in woolens, boots, waterproof pants, etc. I would schedule to be out most of the morning before naptime, and again after nap. A small infant can be bundled in three or more layers, including a onsie – fleece type thing. I would shoot for three to four hours a day. You will have to keep moving! :)
      Sometimes woods and the like are the best spots – you can hunt for a red bird or a blue bird, listen for certain calls, check the height of certain streams, etc.
      The other piece to “too in her head” is to involve her in LOTS of work around the house – sweeping, baking, cooking, cleaning, polishing, little crafts for the season, finger knitting, candle making, etc. Stop talking to her about anything than what is immediately happening. You should see a big change! :)
      Thanks for being here!
      Blessings,
      Carrie

    • Thanks for this feedback Carrie! We definitely would need to bundle up. I see we can be doing a lot more both in getting her outside and getting her working in the home. My conundrum is that right now I have a baby taking three naps a day (hopefully shifting to two soon) so we are really at home getting him his sleep most days. We can walk to a park with an open field, but in order to get to a wooded area that involves a car ride, where the baby may fall asleep, and then wake up when taken out, and then you face the same thing on the way home, and by the end of the outing the baby hasn’t really rested, which can be stressful for mama. Did you face this with multiple kids? Am I overthinking it? LOL – very likely.

    • Annie,
      When my youngest took three naps, I deemed that for the balance of the family one nap would be in a sling at the park or river or lake. When it was two naps, one nap was out. When it was one nap, we were home. Of course, we also have a yard so sometimes we were just outside in our own yard as well or doing a project in the house. When your baby is big enough, wearing him or her on your back can be really helpful so you can do something with your older one. The trick with the smallest member of the family is that their needs do come first, but if your other child is under the age of 7, they have pressing needs as well to be outside and move their bodies.
      There are two posts on here about transitioning from only child to older sibling, and I think those could be helpful to you.
      Keep thinking of the needs of your four year old and the baby and how you can hit the majority. :)
      It is a balancing act and you will find the right balance for your own children, your own family, since every child and family is different.
      Blessings,
      Carrie

    • Thanks for these thoughts! I’ve actually had that idea about one nap always being outside but then there’s dinner to make and laundry to fold and on and on and it’s just so easy (especially in the winter) to just stay inside. Interestingly I took my daughter out the other day to our park and tried to draw her to the more “wild” area of the park and we had a great time, and when we ended up at the playground she reverted right back to her “look at me!” “I need help!” behavior.

      I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of getting my daughter out for hours every day, but realized I also have weekends to work with – right now my husband is outside with her while I’m home with the napping baby :)

      I enjoyed your posts about transitioning from being an only child to older sibling – it’s definitely been a challenging time for us.

    • Annie,
      I had a dear friend who used to say mommy can breastfeed, but many other things people can step in and do for a baby. The baby won’t remember, but a little three, four or five year old does remember what you do or don’t do with them. Their needs are different than a baby, a baby’s wants are a baby’s needs, but little ones are also in process of attachment and forming memories, so I think it is about moving toward a balance. This seems to flow much easier with children #3 and onwards…
      It is a learning journey how to reach this balance, so be easy and gentle on yourself.
      Love,
      Carrie

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