So we are up to Chapter 14, “Collecting Our Children”. Are you excited to get here? I am! Connection (to our inner selves and our child) plus boundaries (along with the tools to help the child meet the boundary) is what makes discipline hum. This was actually a very exciting post to write because I think it will really help you put all the pieces of parenting together!
The authors start this chapter by saying, “At the very top of our agenda we must place the task of collecting our children – of drawing them under our wing, making them want to belong to us and with us. We can no longer assume, as parents in older days could, that a strong early bond between ourselves and our children will endure for as long as we need it. No matter how great our love or how well intentioned our parenting, under present circumstances we have less margin for error than parents ever had before. We face too much competition.”
So, the question becomes how we collect our children DAILY and REPEATEDLY. This fits in so well with Waldorf parenting due to our extensive use of rhythm in parenting.
The authors outline the four steps of the attachment dance:
1. Get in the child’s face or space in a friendly way. Evoke smiles, look into their eyes. With children who are older sometimes the only contact a parent has with these children is when something is going wrong: it is cited in this book that the average toddler experiences a prohibition every nine minutes to direct them somewhere else. Then, as children grow past the toddler stage, parents are with children less and less to just be together, to just spend time together and the majority of time is spent on correcting behavior.
We must collect our children after any separation. Separation includes not only school or when a parent goes to work, but after a child is occupied in something such as play or reading or homework or spending time with a screen or upon waking up! How this is done will vary family to family, but start by greeting your children after they have been gone from you, connect with them. Connect also with the children of your friends and the children in your neighborhood.
My thought is also that de-cluttering how many activities your family is involved in outside the home and holding dear such daily rituals as cooking and eating together will also provide a strong basis for attachment rituals.
2. Provide something for the child to hold on to emotionally from you – warmth (hmm, another Waldorf principle! Imagine that!), emotional warmth, attention, interest, listening, a hug or a kiss, a pat on the back or a rub on the head. Whatever suits that child! “The child must know that she is wanted, special, significant, valued, appreciated, missed, and enjoyed. For children to fully receive this invitation – to believe it and to be able to hold on to it even when we are not with them physically – it needs to be genuine and unconditional.”
Carrie’s note here: This is very important even if you don’t feel like it because your child is in a difficult developmental stage. Connect with this child, love this child. Guide this child and hold those boundaries because you are the mature adult with life experience. If you have the attitude that you are going to raise this child to be a good human being, no matter what, then you will be committed to doing this! There are many posts on this blog about this.
The authors write: “We cannot cultivate connection by indulging a child’s demands, whether for affection, for recognition, or for significance. Although we can damage the relationship by withholding from a child when he is expressing a genuine need, meeting needs on demand must not be mistaken for enriching the relationship……This step in the dance is not a response to the child. It is the act of conceiving a relationship, many times over.”
For children who are insecurely attached, the authors note that this can be exhausting to parents and that “the condundrum is that attention given at the request of the child is never satisfactory: it leaves an uncertainty that the parent is only responding to demands, not voluntarily giving of himself to the child. The demands only escalate, without the emotional need underlying them ever being filled. The solution is to seize the moment, to invite contact exactly when the child is not demanding it. “ I think this is especially effective in situations with blended families with step- children.
3. Invite dependence. The authors look at the process of courtship, where one is continually offering help with a polite and happy attitude. “Can you imagine the effect on wooing if we conveyed the message “Don’t expect me to help you with anything I think you could or should be able to do yourself?”
Dependence begets independence in the right season. To push separation of a child evokes panic and clinging.
I think one thing the authors do not point out here, though, is looking at this through the lens of normal developmental behavior and what typically comes when, when children are experimenting subconsciously with power and what are developmental wants and what are developmental needs. Some parents need to have their children become more dependent upon them and need to learn to respect the older child’s cues for not separating and such, but I also see some parents where the child is ready to separate and needs this, but the parent fails to recognize that the child needs support to try and do things apart from the parent. I think depending upon the age of the child this can be a fine line and one that a mindful parent must navigate in a very conscious way for the older child.
4. Act as the child’s compass point. We must guide our children. The authors write, “Things have changed too much for us to act as their guides. It does not take children long to know more than we do about the world of computers and the Internet, about their games and their toys. ….Despite the fact that our world has changed – or, more correctly, because of that fact – it is more important than ever to summon up our confidence and assume our position as the working compass point in our children’s lives.”
The authors, on page 191, have a list of phrases that may help orient a child, such as “Let me show you how this works” “This is who you need to ask for help” “You have a special way of…..” “ You have what it takes to…”
These are the ways I see this step in real life: showing your child REAL work and how to do things through imitation at first (birth through age 7) and then helping them accomplish real work on their own; finding their strengths and building up their confidence in those areas and using that to help them tackle areas that are more challenging for them; grounding your child in a spiritual life of DOING; orienting them to how you perceive the world through your actions and how you treat family members and people outside of your family. By being an upright human being yourself – if your personal life is not aligned with how you would want your child to act, then you better change it and show them what being a moral human being means. There is no disconnect in raising children.
Most of all, the child’s compass points includes boundaries in a loving way with the right tools for the right time. For all ages, controlling your own anger and using your own maturity to be adult enough to guide the child is imperative. For all ages, showing the child HOW to make restitution is so important, it is key. For the under –7 child you have imitation, using your gentle hands to help, singing, rhythm, distraction, stories for a sideways approach, painting pictures with your words and using movement to help you help that child. For children five and a half or six, you can add more pointed phrases about what needs to happen or not. For seven and eight year olds, a brief explanation with still much protection from being overstimulated. For those past the nine year change, a sincere connection, talking, problem-solving.
I hope this chapter really helps you, as a parent, put the pieces of connection and boundaries together to make guiding your child in a gentle and loving manner, a mature manner where you are the adult, a reality.
All of this is in the striving; we are not all perfect, we have ALL had times as a parent where we second-guess ourselves or wonder if we are doing the right thing, if we are “messing” our child up for life; yes, we have ALL been there! But have confidence and joy in your parenting; with connection and boundaries for yourself and your family you will raise a healthy adult!!