Personal Development In Parenting–Part Four: Concrete Ideas

In order to handle the rigors of family life, I have posited in the last few posts that we must think about biography, balance of the physical body and the inner bodies, faith and faithfulness (our beliefs, and how faithful are we in ACTION to our beliefs).  In addition to the things I already mentioned in the first three parts of this series, I want to name some concrete actions you could take to start your own inner work so you can be centered for your best parenting:

 

  • Create a space in your day for meditation and prayer.  It may be that you do this whilst you nurse a baby or in the shower.  As a parent, you may not really get even fifteen minutes to yourself to sit quietly, so you have to be open to cultivating a new kind of practice that entails quieting your mind whilst moving or doing something else.  This is just a season; children do grow!
  • Watch your computer habit.  Most mothers I speak with use their computers as an escape tool at times.  Force yourself to be present even if you don’t want to.  If you are trying to escape because you are tired, bored, resentful, work on trying to fix the root cause of those feelings with action, not escape. 
  • Practice cultivating silence in the home when you can.  Less words, more warm smiles and hugs, soft humming, silence and reverence together.
  • Work in the arts:  music, painting, sculpting, crafts, reading all build up your reserves of energy. 
  • Have an area of your own personality, will that you are working and striving to cultivate.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Have rhythm in your life.  Keep striving for this if it is a difficult area for you.  Write down what you want to do in the area of rhythm, and do it for forty days.  If you “fall off the wagon”, get back on.
  • Keep in mind that each minute is a new start.  Keep striving and going.
  • Balance your year by season – there are some seasons where we are move active in outside the home activities and some seasons where we might be home more.  Look at your year.
  • Look at your monthly rhythm – many women feel tired around the time of their menstrual cycles, and it may be worth it to plan this into your monthly rhythm as much as you can to honor that time.  This is a beautiful time, not a time to be medicated and rushed through.
  • Where are your “no’s” in life?  What are your boundaries for you personally?  No’s help maintain balance, no’s help us find the time to be home and centered for our own inner work and parenting in an unhurried manner.
  • Wake up before your children.  If you are rubbing your eyes and the children are already fighting, making a mess, helping themselves to what is in the kitchen, then the morning is not off to the best start.
  • Keep a day of rest, a Sabbath.  This is important during the weekly rhythm.  You yourself must hold how to do this. 
  • I think it is important to work toward being objective in parenting. Many times if we can just pull back and look at things without so much emotion, we find the right answers for our children.   If we can let go of guilt, which does NOTHING to move any situation forward, we can reach more joy in our homes. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Personal Development In Parenting: Part Three: Faith

For this Lent, I have been reading the words of our Early Church Fathers and I have also been doing a Beth Moore Bible Study called, “Believing God:  Experiencing a Fresh Explosion of Faith”.  I think this is one of the best Bible studies, if not the best study, I have ever done.  If you like Bible studies and haven’t done this one, I encourage you to check it out.

One thing that Beth Moore mentions in this study is the difference between faith and faithfulness.  She writes, “……I conceptualized faith as believing God, while I tended to imagine faithfulness as obediently serving God and keeping His commands.  Though faith certainly encompasses serving and obeying God, I am opening my spiritual eyes to the fact that faith is the root of all faithfulness to God. In fact, we might say ultimately, faithfulness – serving and obeying God – is the outward expression of  an inward fullness of faith.”

Let’s apply this to parenting for a moment, shall we?  I think this is an important part of inner work and personal development in parenting.

Faith makes me think about belief.  So what are your beliefs about parenting?   If you homeschool, what are your beliefs about homeschooling?   Have you elucidated this for yourself and your family?  This does take time to figure out, but one must at least make the effort to think about it.

And then,  the question becomes, does this faith, do these beliefs that you carry in your heart about parenting  translate to what you do every day:  are you faithful in the details, in how you make these beliefs reality in your own home?

This is not about perfection.  No one is perfect.   There are always mistakes and things we wish we didn’t do.  There are always times of challenge.  There is always learning and growing in parenting.  Even if you have been through one particular developmental stage with five children, that sixth child is an individual or his or her own and it will be different.  So perhaps part of faithfulness is also forgiveness.  Forgiveness when you do something the way you didn’t want to do.  Forgiveness for being human.  Forgiveness for being fallible.

But perhaps faithfulness in the details also means having a plan, having a vision, and most of all,  overcoming our own inertia and weakness.  For me personally, for that, I have to ask my Creator.   We have to WANT to not be stagnant, we have to want to grow and change.  We have to work, and tweak things as we go along and discover.

I think the other part of faith in parenting is having a self –confidence that you can indeed be faithful and show these beliefs concretely in real life and in  your real actions.  How many times have we heard, “Actions speak louder than words”?  That is truth. 

How confident are you as a parent? You are the expert of your own family.  I believe there are some essential truths to work with in childhood development and parenting, but the application may look different depending on the family.  Perhaps thinking about your beliefs in parenting and  how your life would look if you could strive to be true to what you believed would lead you to increased authenticity and confidence.  Perhaps this would lead you to stop comparing yourself.

So, what do you believe about parenting?  About homeschooling?  How do you find forgiveness for yourself? How do you use your beliefs to be more confident in your parenting?

Many blessings.

Carrie

Personal Development In Parenting–Part Two: Biography and Balance

Parenting can be challenging.  Some parents actually have children that I feel are pretty easy to parent, and some parents  have children that are truly challenging.  However, how we view and respond in parenting, like anything else in life, begins with us.  How calm are we?  What is our temperament?  What are our challenges?  What are our triggers? 

But, most of all, how can we grow and strive and improve? 

I think there are two fundamental places to start in personal development in parenting: one is biography and one is assessing  balance in your life. 

Biography is the process of looking at oneself, one’s story.  What patterns are in our life when we look back through it?  What responsibility have I taken for my own life, my own actions?  How do I accept myself, meet myself?  What people have I really connected with during this lifetime?

Can I think about my life?  What do I remember?  Can I put them within seven year cycles as talked about in “Tapestries” by Betty Staley?  We went through “Tapestries” chapter by chapter on this blog; fascinating!

What  do I feel about these events?  What empathy do I have for myself, for others connected to my story?  To other’s stories?

What can I do with this for the future?  What goals do I have? 

Biography is the first piece in knowing oneself and in being able to do that in order to connect with others.  It is the first step too, toward looking at your parenting patterns.

The other critical piece, I feel, is balance.  I see so many mothers that seem either to only live for their children with no thought for themselves or their spouses or go the other way and the children are deemed almost an afterthought or an inconvenience.  Where is the balance?

Where is the balance between the outer and inner selves?  The outer self, the physical body, is often seen by many as diminishing in the 40s…but this doesn’t mean that the physical body should be ignored.  Too often I see mothers who seem to not take great care of themselves.  You are important to your family, and your body is an important part of who you are!  Vibrant health, physical activity, clothes that make you feel good and influence how you feel – what is the place of all of these things for you?

The inner self is the other part that is equally important in this balance.  This is the piece people seem to  think about in regards to personal development more often than biography or balance.  How does one develop the inner self?  We tend to think of developing certain characteristics such as patience or calmness; we may look to spirituality and religion to help us meet those goals.   I feel if spirituality is our attitude and concern toward  the Divine, then perhaps religion is the way we express that.    

One thing that has helped me immensely in developing my inner self  is the use of rhythm in the day, the week, the year.  Liturgical rhythm through my religion.  Meditation on what I hear from God  and prayer to God.   These pieces, along with nurturing the physical body and the use of art, help keep me in balance. 

Our personal development impacts our health, and our health in turn provides the foundation for our family. 

Biography and balance.  Just a thought for today with a bit more about inner work to come in the next post.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Personal Development in Parenting–Part One

In parenting and education, we recognize that every individual brings not only a hereditary history with him or her but also an individuality. Waldorf Education recognizes the individuality in each and every child that exists from before conception and birth and recognizes that each child has a personal destiny.  I guess a Christian perspective of this would be that God knows the child before the child is born and that the child has a destiny.   

Throughout this time of childhood we are working with the whole child, with  every aspect of the child – body, soul, spirit. We work with things from the most physical to the most mysterious and strive to be continually conscious of being an upright moral example that the child can imitate. We work to not provide hindrances to the child’s development.  We also work to provide an environment conducive to development, a protected environment for optimal development of the 12 senses and the child, but yet one where the child can develop unhindered

In the second lecture of “Curative Education”, Steiner talks about The Pedagogical Law in which it is who we are that teaches and educates; how children can perceive the gesture behind our words. Steiner lectured about the great responsibility we have when we raise small children. 

In the lectures compiled in “Soul Economy”, Steiner said in the lecture regarding children before the seventh year:  ”Anyone in charge of young children – especially those who work in children’s homes- who is aware of the activity of destiny must ask, Have I been specifically chosen for the important task of guiding and educating these children?  And other questions must follow: What must I do to eliminate as far as possible my personal self, so I can leave those in my care unburdened by my subjective nature?”

This can be a tall order where sometimes just surviving in parenting is where we are – and maybe just where we should be if we have children under the age of five.  It can be a tall order where things don’t go the way one wants them to; this happens to ALL of us because we are human!  Raising children is hard work!

One thing I think that can help, though, is this idea of non-judgmental self-review (um, the key is non-judgmental, to view yourself and your actions through the eyes of being a friend to yourself).  Here is a wonderful article about self-review for the teacher that would work equally well for parents of small children:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW57schweizer.pdf

I do love how this article asks us to look at ourselves and what we do during the day with our rhythm, our work and the children.  But, remember, do forgive yourself if things were not what you wanted.  Self-forgiveness and striving (and asking for help when you need it!) is so important.

During this season of Great Lent I wonder how we can work with both  our physical body and our spiritual body in order to benefit our families.  Like all things in Waldorf parenting and education, balance is a primary goal.  Dogma and rigidity is not.  Finding the Middle Way is of great import. 

Our next post will deal with concrete ways to work with our own physical and spiritual lives.  You must want to do this work, but we must be careful to maintain balance as we strive.

More to come.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Trust Your Intuition

I have been at the La Leche League of Georgia conference listening to the very talented Diane Wiessinger speak (see her informative website here:  www.normalfed.com).  She was speaking about the fact that breastfeeding is something that we have turned into a sometimes complicated act that undermines a mother’s feeling that she can own this experience without a professional telling her what to do.  One example she gave was about the times mothers call her and want her to help them learn to nurse lying down, when really mothers could lay down on their bed with some pillows and experiment!  Some things in life are really just up to you to figure out!

Sometimes it is easy to forget that you really are the expert on your own family and children.  Many of you know I come from a background of working in  Neonatal Intensive Care Units.  I have worked with  some very fragile premature infants and their families, and the families often felt as if the medical team knew their infant and what their infant needed better than they did.  They often felt the medical team could read their infant’s stress signs better than they did, and the team, not them, knew what their infant needed.  How discouraging and challenging!  I always tried to encourage the families I was working with, that whilst they didn’t have a medical background, that their  infants certainly knew THEM and their smell and the taste of thier mothers’  milk and how no one in the world could mother this baby the way that family could.

Here is a different sort of scenario, but with similarities: how about the  family with their first child, and then when that child hits about three or four years and is so “challenging” and different from before?  The child’s own will is emerging, and it can be so difficult to support that child where they are.  Every book may hold an answer, every expert may know better than the parent.  But at the end of the day, the family knows that child best.  It may take trial and error, it may take experimentation, but instead of viewing this as a failure and that an ‘expert’ could have figured ‘it’ out faster, perhaps a more productive attitude toward this would be to note that the journey is in the striving, and this striving must come from within. 

It is popular to say these days that, “Well, this works for that family and this works for that family” and almost everything is deemed okay if it works for that family.  I am here to say that there are essential truths to work with in childhood, (you can see this blog post for some of the things I consider essential in parenting:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/23/carries-laws-of-childhood/       ) but thankfully one of the essential truths is that you learn to trust your own intuition, if you can remain calm long enough to discover what your intuition is telling you. Build up your confidence and surround yourself with people who will encourage you!

You are the best mother for your child, your child loves you and you are doing your best.  Even if you are making different choices now than what you made in the past, you made the best decisions you could at the time with the information you had.   

Mothering is also a process of growing and developing and maturing. Your own inner work to be a calm parent, your own ordering of your home, your own rhythm to the day, and most of all, your own love for your child is there.

Many blessings to you today!

Carrie

What Are The Benefits of Rhythm In The Home?

I am getting ready to give a talk next Saturday regarding a peaceful family life as supported by rhythm, and today I wanted to highlight this portion for all of my readers near and far to meditate upon:

What Are The Benefits of Rhythm In The Home?

· Gives children a sense of security

· Rhythm can calm a high-needs, anxious, nervous or difficult child

· Children can see the tasks of daily life as process from beginning to end

· Once children have external rhythms, they then develop internal rhythms for eating, sleeping

· Helps the child focus their energy on play and growth and balance as opposed to wondering when the next snack time will be or when bedtime is

· Rhythm helps maintain a person or child’s strength for daily tasks

· Connects a child to nature

· Provides a structure for a child that is neither boring nor over-stimulating; provides a balance

· A True Help in Loving Guidance – because children are so centered in their physical bodies and in imitation, rhythm becomes a real help in avoiding arguments

· Helps children become helpers in the home and in life by building in times for setting up and cleaning up activities within the rhythm; this helps calm nervous and difficult children

· Rhythm helps the adults of the family build up their own self-discipline so we can model this to our children

· A rhythm helps a child feel certain that their needs will be met

· A rhythm is a vital piece in establishing for young children that there is a time for all things

· Rhythm helps parents not only with self-discipline but with enabling the energy of the house to flow smoothly and to support the needs of everyone in the entire family, not just one child or the children

· A disorganized life is not truly free!

I encourage you all to think and meditate on this; start small!  The day starts with the night before, so perhaps thinking about bedtime would be a good place to begin.

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Why Does It Have To Be Me?”

Today my sweet little five- and- a –half -year old looked up at me through a tear-stained face and wailed, “Why does it always have to be me?  Why can’t it ever be big sister?”

Poor little thing; she has so far fractured a finger, nearly garnered a concussion yesterday falling off a swing, cut open two other fingers in a bicycle accident, and knocked the bonding off her front tooth this afternoon.  Needless to say, it has been a rough week for her!

How many times have we said this sort of sentiment in our lives, in our own parenting, in our own homeschooling?  That wrestling with God when we ask burdens to be lifted, burdens that we know we don’t feel confident enough to rise up to face.  “Why me?  I don’t want this path.  I don’t want this journey.  Please just take it away from me, and give it to someone else.”

You all know this scenario of parenting:

We are gliding, and then we trip.

We are rising and succeeding and then we fail.  Perhaps we fail miserably.

We so often forget that the gift of parenting and of homeschooling is in the striving.  There is no perfection, just the journey.  I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”

Isn’t that so true?

How are you going to grow today as a parent, as a wife or partner, as a neighbor, as a friend?

How are you going to set the tone in your home to include peacefulness, reverence, awe?  How are you going to handle your children and meet them not only where they are but uplift them to the next level?  How are you going to love your spouse, your children and most of all, yourself?

What is your plan for parenting?  Do you have a Family Mission Statement?  It is that time of year to review, renew, strengthen our inner reserves as we head into this time of Michaelmas.  It is one of my favorite times of the year.

That question of “Why Me” really can become one of your favorite questions if you can focus on the striving and the progress.  “Why Me?”  can become “Of course it is you, my Beloved. Who else would it be?  Who else has these lessons to learn and this journey to make?”

Love your children and live big today,

Carrie

A Rant: In Pursuit of Perfectionism

I told a dear friend the other day that I don’t want to be perfect; I want to be ME!  There really is no perfection in parenting, in life, in homemaking; there is only the journey.  I am so tired of seeing wonderful mothers beat themselves up day in and day out over not being perfect.  Not only do we not have to be perfect, but why do we WANT to be perfect and pass this striving for “perfection only” onto  our children, especially onto our daughters?

Yes, there are certain truths in parenting and in life to work with.  I believe that.  Some of you have asked if  I am perfect! Hah! No!  The people who know me in real life can only attest to my utter lack of perfection!  And, if you look at the “About” section you will see I started this blog because there were so many things I needed to learn regarding parenting that I didn’t want anyone else to also feel like they had to re-create the parenting wheel.  So I share what I have learned, what I think, what I value here and you can decide if it resonates with you or not.  Decide if it fits with your family or not.  Be mindful and make your choices wisely, but please do not punish yourself for the learning process that the journey holds. 

This blog entails the journeys of so many different families.  I have said this before, that honestly this blog is about less than my own personal parenting journey; it is about the journeys of the  thousands of families I have worked with , observed, counseled, assisted and loved.  I love children.  All of them.  I have worked with so many as a neonatal physical therapist, as a pediatric physical therapist, as a lactation consultant, as a homeschooling consultant, as a worker in church programs, as a friend, a neighbor.  I have worked in the inner city, I have worked in the suburbs.  Those difficult children no one else likes?  Those are the ones I like.  The ones no one wants to deal with because of their special needs, their challenges, their attitudes?  I love those children the best.    I can tell you what I have seen work for so many different families with so many different types of children from birth through age twenty-one.  And yes, those teenagers were also some of my favorites!  I see the precious gift that all of them are.

So why, as parents, as mothers, as the people who set the tone in our homes, do we waste precious time with these beautiful children  feeling guilty, feeling inadequate and stewing about things gone?    I have literally seen wonderful mothers who have taken the  one “wrong” thing they think they did and let it color their past parenting history, ruin the present moment and tarnish the future that has not even arrived.  One bad moment does not a terrible mother make! 

I am not suggesting you throw peaceful parenting out the window – not at all!  I am suggesting you have ideals, I am suggesting you continually strive and work to be the best parent you can be!  But most of all, I am suggesting that you accept yourself as human.   I am suggesting that you have more fun in your family and worry a whole lot less.

Sometimes I feel as if I am running; so much to do and not enough time here on earth to do it all…… If I could do one thing in my life outside of my own journey with my husband and children,  it would be to change on a major scale across this country HOW families view their children.  I want to help mothers especially.  I want to help mothers create a mindful family life, to convince them to have realistic expectations for their children and to help them understand what those might be, to help them in their striving to be gentle parents, to help them  understand the preciousness of this time and how to really connect with their children.  I want them to understand how to set the tone in their own homes, how to hold the space for these tiny beings who are learning, and how to do it with joy!

Hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye as being the mother you want to be; imperfections, flaws and all!  Those things, all of it, is what makes us who we are!  Hold your children close!  Tell them you are glad the storm of anger passed and let’s all get our hands busy and nurture each other and our homes!   Let’s show compassion for one another when we are just human!  Let’s laugh and have joy and have fun together!  No wallowing in the weaknesses, just do better next time!  Life is so short, it is so fleeting, just love one another!

Many blessings on you all tonight,

Carrie

Finding Time To Read

I often get asked, “How do you find time to read as a homemaker?”  Apparently I am not the only one who gets this question!  I thought the author of this Christian homemaking blog gave some great tips in response to this question here:  http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2010/08/finding-time-to-read-as-a-homemaker.html

I think reading about homemaking and parenting and homeschooling is really important.  If you have very young children, I want to encourage you to become your own “Masters of Small Chunks of Time” as I call it.  :)

Here is a list of books related to gentle discipline by age:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/27/favorite-books-for-gentle-discipline/ 

Some mothers have written and asked me what my favorite Christian books are.  Here is a list of a few books that I have read recently and liked: 

  • “The Power of A Positive Mom” – by Karol Ladd
  • “Raising Unselfish Children In A Self-Absorbed World” – by Jill Rigby
  • “Love As A Way Of Life:  Seven Keys to Transforming Every Aspect Of Your Life” – by Gary Chapman (and also The Five Love Languages of Children as well)
  • “The Uncommon Woman”   and  “Growing Grateful Kids:  Teaching Them To Appreciate an Extraordinary  God In Ordinary Places.”  by Susie Larson

What are your favorite reads?  Please leave them below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Self-Control

I think one of the most important things we can develop as a parent and model for our children is self-control. 

Self- control shines in so many areas of life:

  • In Our Words.  How can we use our words like the pearls they should be? 
  • In Our Actions.  Our actions reflect what we are louder than anything else and become the foundation of what our children think is right and wrong.
  • In Our Thoughts.  How do we expect our children to be positive when all we are thinking are grumpy, negative and complaining thoughts?
  • In Buying.  When we have the “gimmies” and nothing is ever enough, our children pick up on this attitude.
  • In Work.  How lazy are we?  How many hours a day do we spend on the computer compared to how many hours we do practical work with our hands?  What do our children see us doing all day long?
  • In Eating and Exercising and Taking Care of Our Bodies. 
  • In Being Home and Being Out.   Must we do everything, be everywhere, make sure our children experience everything before they are fifteen?  Is this healthy?
  • In Flexibility. Can we be flexible or do we fall apart when things don’t go as we planned?
  • With Boundaries.  Are we good boundary-setters for our children, and for ourselves with other adults?  It is one thing to be polite and kind  and it is quite another to just offer ourselves up to be torn apart by others.

In what other ways can you  think of issues of self-control impacting your life?

Many blessings,

Carrie