We have followed the anthroposophical book “Tapestries” on this blog, which is a look at the seven-year cycles through the adult life span, and we are slowly making our way through this book. I want to finish this book up as I would like to move forward to our new book soon! Stay tuned for a surprise announcement as to what that next book will be!
Judy Arnall kicks off this chapter by reminding us of the world of the preschooler. Children this age: are learning about reality versus fantasy (although I would argue that elements of that fantasy world hang on strongly until the nine-year change; how many six and seven year olds still believe in Santa; how many still have that innate ability to feel one with nature? But I digress..); are having experiences with the natural consequences of their behavior:are becoming aware of power and are learning about that by engaging in power struggles (please do NOT confuse this with willful manipulation or defiance! If you need a primer on “defiance” in the under seven crowd please see this post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/ ); beginning to learn about socially acceptable behavior; beginning to learn about rules (Carrie’s note: the knowledge of right and wrong really begins at about age five and it is just beginning; your three and four year olds still don’t have a great grasp on it all!); are engaging in fantasy play and may have imaginary friends and such; may lie as a result of wishful thinking and fantasy but NOT MALICE (remember, four year olds are Master Boasters and Exaggerators, not liars! :))
She runs through the developmental milestones for age three (here are posts on this blog about that: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/peaceful-life-with-a-three-year-old/ and this one: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/18/three-year-old-behavior-challenges/ and realistic expectations for a three year old here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/28/realistic-expectations-day-number-ten-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/). She mentions improved appetite, using a fork (although I know many a four year old who would rather eat with their hands :)), very, very active; may drop afternoon nap, can take off all clothes and put on simple clothes; imitates speech of others, can peddle a tricycle. Judy mentions a three year old can play cooperatively with children. I disagree, unless there are other adults to model off of and hold that space or older children about to help carry it all. There is a reason school used to start around age five! She mentions children this age are beginning to express feelings with words, that three year olds are egocentric in thought and action with some empathy beginning to develop, anxious to please, accepts self as an individual. The author also writes that no logical reasoning is present, a child this age believes inanimate objects are real, and that “mythical and magical explanations are readily accepted for natural phenomena”, attention span is about fifteen minutes.
For the four and five year old milestones, she notes such things as proficient with fork, spoon and cup (and again, I know many four and five year olds who would be very content to eat with their fingers :)); no naps but sleeps 12 hours at night; very active with skipping and hopping on one foot; can throw overhand, can ride a scooter or two wheeled bike with training wheels (and some can ride a bike without training wheels as well is my note); hates to lose games, beginning of sex identification; has beginning emotions tied to social interaction with others such as guilt, insecurity, envy, confidence, humility; begins to respect simple rules (Carrie’s note is that four is the height of many out of bounds behavior, see the defiance post!); tensional outlets can be high, very honest and blunt; don’t really understand cause and effect at all; asks many questions about everything; beginning to distinguish between edible and non-edible substances; sentences are three and four words long; memory is rote and must start from the beginning to remember items in their order such as numbers or song verses; often confuses sequences of events; attention span is about 20 minutes. Judy Arnall writes, “Does not recognize limits. Just beginning to learn them.” “Learning self-control but takes much practice.” For further information about the four year old, see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/08/discipline-for-the-four-year-old/ and for the five-year-old see here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/
She writes an UNHELPFUL parenting behavior is “Expecting more reason, understanding, and logic at this stage. Not within the child’s capacity yet.” Ways to parent helpfully for a child of this age include responding to questions simply, teaching and modeling appropriate behavior, talking about a limit (and I would add along with physical re-direction; words alone are not going to do it!); having predictable routines and rituals; nurturing child through touch, words, actions, feelings; parental self-care and all the helpful behaviors she listed in the babies and toddlers chapters.
THE MOST IMPORTANT DISCIPLINE TOOL FOR THIS AGE ( I would say outside of CONNECTION) is the ability to set a boundary and stay with that boundary. You must honor your words, you must have thought things through ahead of time, and if you agree to do something, you must do it. Judy does mention, “Again, at this age, use as few words as possible.” (page 248). This backs up my view that we work with the BODIES of small children. The author advocates choices; I would say many children do not do well with choices at this age and become frustrated as they pick something and then want the other thing, etc. Please do think about what works for your child. “Tell your children exactly what specific descriptive behavior you expect.” I would add, SHOW THEM, do it WITH them. This is important. Judy Arnall advocates asking reflective questions; I think less questions for this age group actually. The author talks about how changing the environment, so effective for younger ages, still works wonders for this age group. Other helpful tools mentioned include parental time-outs, being polite and firm and kind, picking your battles and giving positive feedback. There are other tools the author mentions, but I picked those out to highlight.
Modeling is very important! Judy Arnall writes, “Watch especially how you treat other people, from your partner all the way to the grocery clerk who gave you the wrong change. Your children are picking up tone of voice, words, actions, and reactions, and they will copy them.” “Modeling is such a powerful force, that it’s included as a tool in all age categories. In fact, if all parents did was model correct behavior and didn’t correct their child on any negative behavior, children would be keen to learn how to behave properly in society, based on how the adults act.” Love this!
There is so much more in this chapter, including a checklist of natural consequences, a discussion regarding preschoolers and self-control, power struggles, how to nurture your child’s creativity, stages of play and how friendship evolves, timeless toys for all age groups, strategies to prepare your child for the arrival of a new baby, remedies for sibling rivalry, how to resolve issues without resentment, manners, chores or allowances or both?, building a healthy self-esteem.
This is a great chapter, pick what resonates with you. Parent with COURAGE! You can do this! http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/05/parenting-with-courage/
Moving along to the six to twelve year old!