A Mouthodometer

(Many thanks to my dear friend Melissa for thinking up the concept of a mouthodometer!  Love to you!)

Okay, a mouthodemeter does not really exist, but wouldn’t it be great to have a little pedometer-type gadget that (instead of the number of steps one takes in a day) tracks  the number of words one uses?  Maybe it could have a shrill alarm when we exceed the word limit per day!    Beyond that, have you ever noticed that many us just open the floodgates of words when we are upset?  Verbosity at the highest level!

Those of you new to this blog are probably wondering what I am talking about, and what  this has to do with mindful parenting.   Perhaps these back posts will help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/

and http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/31/the-need-to-know/

and this one:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

What our children need are LESS words.  Logical thought starts to come in around age 14, so why do we waste so many words trying to reason with our children?  Why do we  talk to your three and four year old as if they have the same adult consciousness as we do?  Why are we talking to our children as if they are another adult friend?

I guess this is where I differ from what I perceive to be the foundation of gentle discipline in the AP movement.  If you perceive your child to be “good”, just less experienced, it makes sense to treat your child almost as an equal with an almost  equal say in things and being able to “talk” your child into good decision-making.  They are learning, but we can converse with them at perhaps a simpler level than a teenager- but we can still converse, right?

I don’t fully buy into this assumption, and one thing that bothered me after I read all the AP gentle discipline books was that almost the same techniques were used for a five-year-old versus a sixteen-year-old.

I have more of an affinity for the anthroposophic view of the under-7 child.  This views the child as a neutral party; a spiritual being on a spiritual path who is learning about right and wrong.  The child is seen as having an entirely different consciousness than an adult.  The small child lives in their will, in their impulses, and therefore they need guidance through movement and imagination.  Because I see the child as learning, I don’t especially expect a child to choose a behavior and develop self-control based upon “good or bad.”   That comes in later!   I recognize that most small children just do things on impulse without thinking. I do have expectations of a child’s behavior, but I try to have realistic expectations.

Most of all, I try to think things out ahead of time, control the parts of the equation that are in my hands, and then be ready to PHYSICALLY help my child.  Less words, more action.  Less talking, more doing.  Following through 500 times until it sticks.

It would be much easier to parent from the couch and to yell at everyone, right?  I have moments where I too, grow weary.    That is when I garner support from my spouse, my family, my closest and dearest friends.  That is when I change the scenery and we all head outside. That is when I stop to breathe.  And I am getting better at asking for help as I get older. 

Stop talking.  Your children don’t need an adult lecture or sarcasm.  They need humor, follow-through, consistency and the chance to make it right.

Try it today,

Carrie

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13 thoughts on “A Mouthodometer

  1. I tell myself to “BE QUIET!” several times during the day. I’m so glad that I found Waldorf philosophy (as well as studied child development) before my oldest was 3 and discipline was even an issue.

    I also am happy that you mentioned adult sarcasm. I don’t think that young children are even able to comprehend this. I believe that it comes off as a “lie” to them as well as very confusing. I have seen it create distrust between my husband and children, and happily he has recognized this and stopped being sarcastic with them

    Peace,
    Carrie

  2. This is a great post, Thank You. I just discovered your blog via MDC and I’m really ‘feeling’ the ideas you share here. You have wonderful insight.
    I’d like to ask your opinion re: a situation with my 27 month old son. Although I very much agree that ‘less is more’ when it comes to talking/explaining things to him… Well, he has a severe speech delay – verbal motor planning difficulties to be more precise – and he only really ‘gets’ the ‘correct’ speech sounds after much repetition and practice. He is just about to begin speech therapy, and I feel so conflicted! On the one hand, I so deeply want to continue to limit verbal directives etc. and just ‘be’ with him… And on the other hand, he is very much struggling to learn to speak intelligibly, he very much deserves to be understood (!), and he seems to need the extra work, extra words (and the therapy) in order to get where he needs to be.
    Do you have any thoughts or feelings to share with regards to this moving forward? Or any Waldorf-minded resources to direct me to?
    Thanks so much,
    Gusty

  3. Before having a child I considered myself a woman who uses few words. Now with my 4 year old daughter I find it so hard to use less words! I’m not talking a lot but it’s still too much and the tone is often disappointed, more than angry. But poor little girl…I wonder with whom am I really disapponted.
    I’m trying every single day to make it better.
    Thanks for helping

    Federica

  4. This was a wonderful post and so true. I also believe in much of Steiner’s developmental milestones. Young children are not ready to have everything explained to them and they don’t need to know why all of the time. However, they do need a loving simple response – even though I might have to repeat it 100 times. We are working through this daily over and over again with my 21 month old to keep him out of what he shouldn’t be getting into… and our five year old – to not instantly let the tears flow when she doesn’t get what she wants right away. It is a constant work and and by consistently practicing love and patience, they do arrive (I am awed by my almost fourteen and sixteen year old sons and how they do truly mature).
    Warm wishes.

  5. Gutsy,
    In anthroposophic circles, I have heard folks say speech is not directly addressed until age 7, and then it is addressed along with the whole body…This is an area where I am repeating what I have heard in passing and am no expert.
    Perhaps you would consider a phone consultation with Donna Simmons or Eugene Schwartz or Melisa Nielsen to discuss this further?
    Another resource would be to search out an anthroposophic physician.
    Best of luck and thanks for reading,
    Carrie

  6. great post. thank you so much carrie. i have recently been quite mindful of this aspect in my interaction with our daughter. it is a big task to implement and as you mention, sometimes at the end of a long day it is hard to ‘think creatively’, but as we work more with this concept, i guess it will become second nature and our ‘natural way’. thankyou again for your insights xxx

  7. You couldn’t have written a more apropo post for me today. We are new to Steiner’s philosophy in the formal sense, but have employed many principles intuitively. We are currently struggling with our 32 month old daughter getting frustrated and pushing her friends/dog, etc. I have been thinking about it alot today and realized that I have been talking *way* too much. I need to remember that she’s 2.5 and doesn’t need me to talk it through ad nauseum with her but instead remove her from the situation. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. This is such a great reminder. I speak of developing capacities in my class, and one capacity you build when you talk at a child all the time is the ability to tune you out. Then they have to be manipulated into tuning back in, and then this “wakes up” an under-7 child, too early. I also see that this is an area that parents genuinely struggle with, especially when in public, and all eyes are on you and your child, or a child does something completely normal but someone is standing there expecting you to say words to the child, like, “say you’re sorry now. say thank you. Say this, say that”…dealing with the social expectations of other adults. This is hard for parents, I think. Plus there is a lot of information about how to help your child deal with their feelings, etc.
    That is why parent-child classes, either ones that you put together or ones at your local Waldorf School are such a good idea. You can support each other in modeling this kind of parenting and learning.

  9. This is so true! I teach at a Waldorf after-care program and my assistant and I have been working so hard at doing more and talking less! When I was class teaching I definitely noticed that the more I talked, the more I tended to get tuned out. Not good. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Hi Carrie, Here I am again! :) I am sorry for any upset or frustration I caused by sharing my inspiration from your info. It was not at all my intention. I really do send you much love and many many many thanks for the wealth of value and insight and inspiration you have offered to our family in the short time I have been reading your blog. DH also read this post and all the links yesterday when I showed him and he was equally as inspired. I even showed your posts to my Mum as I know she loves to understand what it is and why we do certain things! Your words on sarcasm were also very beautiful and were shared with someone who I hope will take some inspiration from the wisdom you provided. You explain things in such wonderful ways and provide just the right amount of information to illustrate a point nicely :)

    We put the talking less concept into action last night in the home and it was so wonderful. It is lovely when both parents are in the same energy of understanding and inspiration with a new concept. DH was able to keep me on track with gentle, soft, indiscreet ques when I was unnecessarily ‘talking’ with DD. We did notice such a wonderfully calm energy in the home and in our daughter from this practice last night. The wonderful suggestion of a foot bath went down beautifully at the close of our evening before bed. DD loved it and it calmed her so much. Thank you. We also used a few tiny felt balls in the foot bath and a few drops of Organic lavender 100% PEO. I had once heard that to have a few tiny balls in the bath and for the child to pick them up with the toes draws the energy down. The recommendation was given in response to a mothers question re how to bring calm to an overly active child. Anyway, I thought to put the few tiny felt balls in as DD quite often when going to bed will have some excess energy, despite having had much free play, outdoor time and a balanced rhythm throughout the day. As we get into bed sometimes she will be on the boobie (I feed her to sleep) and look very tired, about to fall asleep and then she will wake herself up and say ‘sewing, me sew’ and want to get the craft things out! Anyway, last night she was very calm and very happy to go to sleep peacefully. We set the mood nicely for evening with dim candle light, soft voices and a nice song ‘peace bless this home’. We held hands over the footbath (I sat on one side with my feet in and she on the other with hers in) and sang our ‘peace’ song. It was really nourishing for us both. Anyway, I guess I share this as I wondered your thoughts on the felt balls. I had two average round size ones (what you normally envisage with a small felt ball size) and then two tiny ones. I wasn’t expecting her to be able to grasp them in her toes and pick them up (she is 2) but I was just doing it and she was absorbed by it and then was moving her toes around them. She would say ‘more, more mummy, more felt ball pick up’.

    So, yesterday when I read your post, I had no questions, it all seemed to make sense to me – but as it has since been raised, I now have a question regarding this point “Let your child tell you their own explanation for something – answer their why with “Hmm, I wonder about that too. What do you think?” This may seem contrary, asking them to “think”, but guaranteed they will come up with something creative and wonderful and free of adult baggage and gray-ness. They live in a world of black and white, and a world of fantasy where things co-exist; this is normal developmentally. They should not live in gray-ness, in the land of seeing all the exceptions to the rule.” this was one of the points mentioned in the ‘The need to know’ post. I know you have modified the post to remove the bit about ‘thinking’ – so now I am a little confused. The way I interpreted what you had meant was not to ask the child to THINK as such, but the use of this phrase kind of placed the question back in their head where it belonged. I wasn’t planning to ask Chilli to ‘THINK’ as such, but if I used this phrase, then I would not really expect an answer from her but just then move her with her and my hands onto some other handwork. Please can you expand and elaborate a little bit on this point for me as to what you meant. I obviously will not be using this ‘what do you think’ closing to the ‘hmmm I wonder’ statement now, but I wonder what it is that you did mean with what you said. I know in these young years it is not at all appropriate to engage the child in thinking… ahhh – see now I am confused! :) I didn’t interpret asking the child to think as such, more just that it was placing the thought back into the child’s head if they have externalised an internal thing? Does that make sense? AH – probably not – sorry Carrie. So my question then is, when would we start to say ‘hmmm, I wonder that too – what do you think?’ Again, I would not be expecting a response, just redirecting the energy she has externalised as such.

    As always Carrie, I am so appreciative of your words of wisdom. Apologies again for any concern my inspirations caused – not at all my intent. much love to all xxx :) ELKE xxx

    • Oh no. no worries….the way you took it was actually the way Iintended it, although I did start thinking about the time with that older little boy when I quietly asked him that that I shared with you off here…but just so there was no confusion for folks new to Waldorf without your grounding, I did take that out…I think with your liitle one who really is almost in a “talking” “expanding my vocabulary” kind of phase, I think once you answer what the object in question is, perhaps you can smile warmly and have a song or verse at the ready, or a simple smiling and humming….I kind of view the :I wonder too” for almost more of the incessany why’s of the four year old…:)
      Does that help? What a great job you are doing, and how wonderful to have known about Waldorf since birth…most of us come to it much later!

  11. Thankyou Carrie, your response helps very much. I think in for example the instance of the dandelion flower, I could answer ‘dandelion flower’ and then if she was still holding the same flower, I could share a verse we use in our Summer verses about the dandelion puffs. This is a great idea. I am very appreciative. I really see the point about the child who is so rapidly expanding their vocabulary. It was an area I had thought and wondered about in regards to the whole topic.

    Thank you for your kind words. We are very passionate about a most holistic and natural incarnation experience for DD. I must say though, although we have been Waldorf inspired since the early days I sometimes catch myself wishing we had been more Waldorf informed around the birth with the ‘peach blossom’ (not sure if I have that term correct) silk veils for the cradle, really being much more mindful of the twelve senses from those very first moments of life etc – but I am also a big believer in knowing that you did the best job you knew how to at that particular point in time with the information and knowledge that you had. I must also add, that as I have started to read more into Waldorf indications over the past few months, I feel like we really are just discovering it all for the first time. Although we have been Waldorf inspired for a few years, there is just so much we have not been aware of and practicing. But again, how blessed we are to be discovering all of this and making so many valuable changes in our parenting style and values whilst DD is still so young and we are able to offer such wonder and nourishment to her incarnation experience.

    as always, with much love and appreciation xxx ELKE :)

  12. Pingback: “I Bet Ma and Pa Ingalls Never Had This Problem!” « The Parenting Passageway

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