Attachment And Individualization

I think as homeschooling families, one of our  main goals is always the connection of the family and how we stay attached to each other in a society that sometimes doesn’t seem to value that at all.  Some of the homeschooling families who read my blog, many of them, are also what has been termed and made popular in the common literature by Dr. Sears as “attachment parents.”

But what I want to talk about today is the development of the independence of the child  within the context of attachment.  I don’t think attachment and becoming more of an individual, more independent and more capable are mutually exclusive at all – we can still be attached but have separate psychological identities.  In fact, I would argue,  in order to become an adult that has a meaningful role within their own family and and as a citizen of the world, this has to happen.  We have all heard the jokes or seen instances of people whose adult lives were totally enmeshed with their parents.  It is funny for a television show, but not so funny in real life.  Enmeshment prohibits a child and an adult from reaching the fullness and freedom of who they are.

I think healthy attachment starts not only with connection, lots of connection and including but not being limited to extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but with loving authority and boundaries.  I think if you have read this blog for any length of time I have made that abundantly clear.  I think I have also talked a fair bit about boundaries.  Boundaries, in its essence, is not just how “strict or loose” your parenting style is; it is about how you GUIDE your child to HEALTH as a growing, developing SEPARATE individual.  It is also about creating balance, and creating opportunity for right growth, especially for those children where self-growth and self-development are not initiated.

Separation, to me, starts around the child is age three and says “I” for the first time.  That is the beginning, the spark of recognition that “I am myself.”  I may not know or understand all that means yet, but I am me.  Bernard Lievegoed, author of “Phases of Childhood,” marks this as a stage of self-awareness.  This can also be a phase of negativity from the child; by pushing against the outside world the child begins to develop the self.

It continues with the six/seven year old change.  Some parents write me and say, “My child went through the six/seven year old change.  They slammed doors, said they hated me, said that I was not the boss of them.  Then they were done.”

Okay, but let me put this out to you:  the six/seven year old change, to me, is not just about “you’re not the boss of me.”   It is about finding a psychological identity that is separate from parents – that they have a role in the family or at school, they know what that treasured and valued role is, and that they do  feel accepted and loved but also a bit “separate”, a bit ready to take a view on something…there is a shift toward the child having real opinions about the world, that may be different than the parent’s view, and that in this view that the child has a continuous self and therefore can participate in learning.   At this stage, children in the six/seven year change usually  also are interested in having friends, being a friend, in having community outside of their family.  I think many times this is neglected and not mentioned in Waldorf Educational literature, because the assumption is the child is at the school in community.  I think this is an important point for homeschooling families when looking at the development of their child.  To me, turning outward toward community and peers and not just within the family, is a hallmark of the six/seven change.

This process can take up to a year and a half, I think especially for sensitive children who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be around  other children, or just children who develop a little bit slower.  They may not be as interested in peers until the nine –year change, but then I have personally observed that that change may be a much more difficult one than the six/seven year change.

I think one way we can gauge where are children are in the six/seven change is to look at their play(see the many, many back posts on play on this site about how play changes during the six/seven year old change), and to  look at their drawings of human beings, a house and a tree.  Here is an interesting, brief look at drawings made by two thousand German five and six year olds prior to school entrance, comparing drawings made by those who did and didn’t watch media, those who did and did inhale passive cigarette smoke, and those with psychological disturbances:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/RB13_2rittelmeyer.pdf  There are whole books on working with children’s drawings in Waldorf Education; you can check Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop for those titles.

For the nine/ten year old going through this change feels utterly and sometimes desperately alone, apart from humanity, out of the Garden of secure family.  They have an experience of self and it is a tragedy; there is no shelter of the family or of being with friends. Therefore, I believe firmly that children who do not have a strong sense of community and belonging built up through early childhood through family, extended family and strong friendships can have an even more fragile nine year change.  Boundaries and loving authority can also make this change better, along with loving connection.  The child is becoming an individual.

From the viewpoint of Waldorf Education, three things are traditionally seen as helping a child become an individual:  childhood diseases, what author Edmond Schoorel in his book “The First Seven Years: Physiology of Childhood” calls “naughtiness” (which made me chuckle!), curiosity, and we develop memory.  One that Schoorel mentions briefly, and that Bernard Lievegoed discusses further is that of the force of antipathy.  “Very often there is the tendency to concentrate only on positive feelings.  This is impossible.  It destroys  the drama, the basic law of feeling.  Any attempt to present only positive feeling results in superficial sentiment.  Feelings are brought forth from contrast and the nature of their polarity…It is not a matter of guarding children  from negative feelings or denying them as such, it is a matter of presenting the feelings as opposites in the correct way.” (Lievegoed, page 170).

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I do want to leave you with a few teasing comments by Edmond Schoorel:

  • “Children do not need to understand everything; it is even better when they don’t..It is essential for children to have the opportunity to ask questions; yet they do not need answers on the level of their understanding.  Mysteries are interesting because we do not have an answer.”  (page 260)
  • “When children have too little curiosity, we face the question:  can we stimulate curiosity?  I think that we can do this only in an indirect way.  When weakness has to do with the child’s constitution, we may have to work with movement development.” (page 248)
  • “Naughtiness can be a first exercise in waking up.  With naughtiness, the child turns away from the order of which he or she was a part.  It is a first step toward freedom and individuality.”  (page 246)

And this process of connection to others, and connection to ourselves,  continues as we grow and change throughout our lives. And sometimes we realize, yes, our circumstances and such may have been specific to us, but the tumult of different ages was by no means unique but being part of the human race.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Boundaries

Friends, I have been hearing from a lot of you recently via email and many of you are struggling with boundaries in your lives.  I am not a counselor, and I am not a psychologist, but I wanted to tell you a few things I have learned about boundaries along the way in the experience of my life and I hope it will be helpful to you. I encourage you if you are having challenges with this to go and talk to a qualified counselor.  This can be so helpful in getting your life, your family and your parenting going the way you want it to!  What a wonderful way to start the New Year!

Boundaries, to me, are a skill that many of us have to learn.  Perhaps our ability to set boundaries was damaged in childhood or early adulthood.  Perhaps we are not even sure what a boundary is or why we would want boundaries.  Or perhaps we have too many boundaries and have erected relentless walls in order to keep the world out.

Yet, healthy boundaries are so necessary.  A boundary is something we set in order to separate ourselves from other people; it tells us how far a person can go with us and how far we can go with another person.  It keeps us from becoming enmeshed with another person:  enmeshment is a complete state of feeling so empathetically with that person that we take on the other person’s feelings, responsibilities,challenges and problems completely and wholly as our own.   As parents, we are separate from our children; we are different people. And, boundaries not only separate us from our children, but it also shows how we are linked together in familial roles.  We are linked together, but we are not the same.  We are the adult.  The relationship is not an equal one.  We have more experience and more guidance, more logic and reasoning to bring to any situation.  We also have a duty to honor the developmental stage of our child and we can do this with boundaries.

Relationships without boundaries cause dependency and stunted emotional growth for both ourselves and the other party involved.   If we have too many boundaries, no one can get close to us at all and we end up isolated and alone.   With good boundaries, we learn to develop an appropriate sense of roles amongst family members and the other people in our lives. We learn to respect ourselves and others.  We can trust and listen not only to ourselves, but to others.

Specifically in parenting, boundaries allow children to feel safe and secure.  Boundaries helps children learn self-control and how to function with people outside of their immediate family. Parents who set good boundaries for themselves and for their children are modeling for the children, how, in turn, to set emotional and physical boundaries for themselves.  If we can be calm as a child tests out what the boundary and line in the sand actually is, then we are modeling for our child how to handle this in their own lives.   We help them learn how to function in the world.

For parents who have trouble setting any boundaries for their children, out of “respect” for the child,  I often will ask the parent: Continue reading

How The Shy/Fearful Child Learns To Expand Their World

So, I have no  research studies on this at all…this is from my own experience and observations in working with families who have had extremely shy and almost fearful children.   I am not really talking about children who are more inward; all of us are on the continuum of extrovert to introvert if we look at personality.  I am thinking hear of children who are rather socially anxious, fearful a bit… Many of these children whom I have observed were only truly comfortable with their mothers and no one else.   Many of these children were first-born children, but not all of them, and many of them were girls, but again, not all of them.  This is my special small population sample.

This is how I have personally observed this type of child’s progress into the world outside of his or her mother: Continue reading

The Essential Soul Tasks Of The Early Years

Dearest Friends,

During my time of moving houses, I have had several very important issues swirling about in my head with no opportunity to write them down until tonight.  So, you will be seeing some deeply thought and deeply held posts coming from The Parenting Passageway over the next several days.

One thing that I was thinking about fervently was the essential soul tasks of the small child.  If you have been a long-time reader of this blog, I hope over the years I have convinced you of the utmost importance of the physical development of the small child through time and space outside.  We think of a very tiny child of ages birth through three as struggling through space over time to achieve being upright, then progressing to speech and from speech flowing into thought.  During the Early Years, we also develop our  twelve senses, and I often think of such things as the awareness of our bodies (what is us?  what is others?).  This is done through work and also through imaginative play.

But on the soul level, there is a very important task for this age, which is relating to others, and how the child finds their place within a group.  The small child’s experiences with trust of others, belonging with others, finding safety and acceptance of others and within others is all part of this experience.  So is the reverence that we often cannot fully see until we stand present with another.  I have had the wonderful experience of my almost three year old and his very best friend on earth whom I shall call Little Friend.  He and Little Friend adore each other; they run to see each other in the utter thrill that only two best friends can share and laugh in joy.  They chase “moonbears” (their code name for grasshoppers) through the grass, wonder at each spider web and bug, and show such deep reverence and awe at each step of Creation.  It is amazing to watch and it has shown me the deep ability of the small child to love outside of his own immediate family.  For some of you, this is a moment of “Duh!” and for some of you this is a moment of thoughtfulness.  If you can think back to your smallest days, where did you feel safe?  Where did you feel loved?  Where did you feel you belong?  Where were you part of a community?  Did you feel accepted and loved or on the outside?  Why?  How would you answer these questions about your own children?

I have received three separate emails this week asking about five or five and a half year olds and finding the balance of being home and the need for friends (or not).  I think many homeschoolers would say there is no need for interaction outside the family per se; especially perhaps for those with larger families.  But for those with smaller families or children who are close to age six with only a baby perhaps to “play” with, the question remains…  And then people tell me they have tried to look for community and nothing that resonates with them is available, so what do they do?  Do they do classes?  How do they meet people?  Is playing with a friend once a month or once every few months enough? Continue reading

This Could Be My Favorite Post

…. ( A reader alerted me on 11/7/2012 that this link didn’t work and she couldn’t find the original post.  On quick search I couldn’t either, but this post is similar: http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2012/08/lets-talk-about-learning-with-little-ones.html   Enjoy!)

,,,,of all the things Elizabeth Foss has written.  Go and check it out!

http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2011/07/lets-talk-about-learning-with-little-ones.html

 

How is that for lovely heading into the weekend?

Many blessings,
Carrie

Strong-Willed At Three and Four Years of Age

This is a question that comes up frequently in my local groups and in my email inbox: what to do with children of three and a half or four who have very strong wills, where everything is a struggle?

One thing I find interesting is that this question typically comes from parents about their first-born child.  It also comes from parents who have had all one gender of children and now have a child of the other gender approaching three and a half or four.  Just an interesting side-note I have observed over the years.

First of all, take a deep breath and step back for a minute and evaluate.  I have often talked about the shift in parenting that occurs (or should occur) at this age, which can be very challenging to attached parents who felt they were essentially one with their very small child.  Suddenly, the child has their own ideas and their own will, and for perhaps one of the first times the parent really has to figure out how to set boundaries as the child begins to exert some will and push against the forms of the day and the rhythms you have crafted.  This can be a hard task!

It very well may feel as if  your child is pushing against everything and anything.  So please take out a piece of paper and answer these questions before you read the rest of this post. I think one of the essential questions is:  is it really and truly everything, or what is it specifically?  Is it transitions?  Coming in from outside?  Or eating?  Or clothing?  What is your rhythm like, and what are you doing to take care of yourself?  If you are not a single parent, is your partner or spouse stepping in to help as well?  Does that change up the energy in a good way?  How does your spouse or partner feel about your child’s behavior?    How is your environment structured so you have thought about things ahead of time and your child can’t get into things you don’t want him or her into when you are not right there supervising?

What are the boundaries, how are you guiding this child toward those boundaries and what happens if the child is not working within the boundaries?  A strong, strong rhythm and unhurried life is really key with the three and four year old.  Even a five and six year old will get completely out of character when their rhythm is off and the family is doing too many things and going too many places and being outside of the home too much.   Try this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/07/back-to-basics-how-to-do-gentle-discipline/  and this post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/15/gentle-discipline-connection-plus-boundaries/

The second thing I want you to do is to write down what language you are using when you are talking or thinking about this child on your piece of paper.   Are these words that are making you feel loving and connected to your child, words that make you feel like you can set boundaries for this child and guide this child toward those boundaries or are they words where you are creating a battlefield where you are one side of the line and your child is on the other side?   Many of you long-time readers know I have a particular aversion to the term, “high needs child” for older children…You can read my small rant about that here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/05/parenting-the-high-needs-older-child/

But, perhaps for you to really take a hand in this situation, your language must change.  Here is a back post on that:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/23/changing-our-parenting-language/

Okay, now that you have some thoughts down on paper, let’s go on to some of the developmental hallmarks of three and a half or so….Three and a half is very, very little…I wrote a post about the three and a half year old awhile back and am including part of it for you here, take what resonates with you:

“AGE THREE: Three is very, very little. According to Waldorf parenting and pedagogy, the first three years are for the establishment for walking (which takes about two and a half years to be a very mature walker without needing the arms for balance, being able to run, etc); the development of speech and the development of thinking as first seen by use of the term “I”.

Typical developmental things about the three and a half -year-olds include (this is according to the Gesell Institute, not necessarily my personal opinion!):

  • Turbulent, troubled period of disequilibrium, the simplest event or occasion can elicit total rebellion; strong and secure gross motor abilities may turn more into stumbling, falling, at this age; new- found verbal ability such as “I’ll cut you in pieces!” and lots of whining
  • May refuse to do things a lot, or howl and scream, or say a lot of “I can’t” I won’t” kinds of things
  • Three and a half to four may be the height for the most “WHY?” “WHERE?” “WHAT?” kinds of questions
  • Demanding, bossy, turbulent, troubled but mainly due to emotional insecurity
  • May refuse to take part in daily routine – expect some pushing against what you do daily, and have some distraction plans at hand.

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS:  I think one important things, especially for parents where this child is the first-born or an only child, please make sure the expectations for this age are reasonable.  Many times parents whose three or four year old is the oldest child in the house are expecting an awful lot.  Here are some realistic expectations from a traditional physical therapy/occupational therapy perspective -a three-year-old may most likely be able to:

**At three and a half to age four, may use a spoon for liquids; may use a fork with some spilling; may refill his or her glass from a container that holds less than the glass does; can drink from a water fountain an adult turns on.
**Can distinguish between a bowel movement and urination; around three and a half may or may not go to the bathroom at regular intervals
**Can turn off water in bathroom when you ask; may be able to put toothpaste on toothbrush and wet the toothbrush; can put comb or brush in hair; can pull pants up; can get clothing out and put it on by around three and a half, although the average age for complete dressing is age 5. Can pull off shoes and unzip and unsnap clothing.
**Probably knows own name and names of siblings, may know if they or their family members are male or female.
**Can string large beads; roll clay or other modeling material into a snake shape, probably can match objects, cut paper with scissors, may know primary colors, may be able to roll clay into a ball.
**May be able to play a game with another person, such as rolling a ball back and forth; they can usually talk about a game that just finished and start a new game; can take turns in a game at least 25 percent of the time
**Can sit quietly for at least one minute; this moves up to five minutes at three and a half
**Can say please and thank you; request help when needed
**COMPLETES 10 PERCENT OF A TASK WITH ATTENTION AND REINFORCING BY AN ADULT; will start a task only when reminded at around three and a half and at that point may be able to complete 10 percent of the task with little input from an adult. Carrie’s note: Waldorf expectations and ways of working with a child’s will is often more in line with this than mainstream methods we see out there!
**May sing parts and phrases of familiar songs.
(These milestones came from the Hawaii Early Learning Profile for Children ages 3-6).

I think the main thing to remember is that the consciousness of the tiny three and a half year old is completely different than older children or adults. They do not mutter under their breath, make faces or say things you perceive to be rude to be disrespectful or defiant….

Some things that may help:

  • Sit down and make a list of animals and how they move, so you can pull out some creative animal games to “hop over here like a kangaroo” or other animal movements you will need to get something accomplished. Think about what appeals to your boy or girl with moving objects or occupations so you can round up blocks like a shepherd rounding up sheep (clean-up) and other tasks.
  • Think about how to structure your environment so less toys are immediately available without your help; this avoids much clean-up.
  • Think about setting up play scenarios; at three they are just learning how to start fantasy play and making believe and they may need your help to get started!
  • Expect some struggles around bedtime perhaps; think about how to shorten your bedtime routine and how you will handle things when they are not going well and everyone is just tired.
  • Think about less choices and less words all the way around for this age.
    There are many posts on this blog regarding how to stop talking and less choices.
  • Figure out how to be strong and carry the work and rhythms of the day even if your child does not participate!
  • Most of all, you have to be strong, peaceful and centered.  Breathe, give the child a moment before you jump in, do things WITH the small three and four year old and don’t have the expectation they will do things with only a verbal command.  Three and four year olds are really tiny; they need constant supervision and structure.
  • Double check nutrition, media, sleep and food allergies…All of these can contribute toward making behavior better or worse.  Many children whose parents have reported were “out of control” ended up being diagnosed with food allergies.  Media is another culprit, as is lack of sleep.  Double check, double check, double check.
  • Boundaries are so important; there are so many posts on boundaries and respect and authority in parenting on this blog.  Please go back to those and re-read and see where you are and where your spouse or partner is and where your child is.  That could be a key piece to the whole thing.

Many blessings,

Carrie

How To Best Support Your Child’s Development Ages 3-5

Here are a continuation of some notes I made for my talk for The Waldorf Connection on development and how to best support development in children during the first seven year cycle of life.

Rudolf Steiner said that by the time children learn to speak and walk, formative forces released from the head join those being released in the chest region.  Whether or not this description resonates with you, I think one can see a change evidenced by the vivid memory and wonderful imagination children develop between the ages of two and a half and five. The memory is not ready for academic work at this point; it is emerging.  The child is still learning through imitation and play.

Here are some suggestions for the best ways to support your child’s development in these ages:

  • We must continue our own inner work and personal development; to have clarity in speech and thinking,  and to really SLOW DOWN and not speed up.  Things for this age need to be kept SIMPLE.  If we are not careful as parents, this can be a time where we feel pressured to enroll a child in classes, step up “socialization and enroll in preschool.  I have mentioned before that the age of Waldorf Kindergartens used to start around age four and a half and now is starting younger and younger.  To me, social experiences are wonderful to think seriously about when a child is five, definitely by six. Ages three and four are still very, very little.
  • To provide unconditional love and healthy boundaries.  Boundaries with chances for restitution and even with logical consequences are important for this age.  Boundaries involving YOU taking the child by the hand and essentially saying, “You may not do this but you may do this.”  Using movement and singing and verses and fantasy to help the child meet the boundary.

More notes about this important subject:  First you must be clear what the boundaries in your home really are, and what are the consequences (see more on that below), and what would the restitution be?  And three and four is really, really little, so you are going to have to repeat the movement toward the boundary and what is and is not allowed 500 times before the child really and truly understands it.  Some things also work in phases, and some of the things that drive parents to irritation really will pass.  Draw less individual attention to what you don’t want, but keep drawing the child to what you do what.  Keep striving to act as if you are the Leader in Your Home – because you are, and you must be!

Logical consequences for this age (ages 3 and 4) are not so much “announced”, but just happen as part of tweaking your rhythm throughout the day.  For example, if a small child is just falling apart and hitting you and such, then the small child is obviously tired and does not need to go out and play with the neighborhood children.  You don’t need to announce this so the child goes into another fit of tears, but just do it.  Arrange your afternoon so there is something physically repetitive outside, an early dinner and an early bedtime.    You must step up and be the parent for this age.  It is not being harsh, but guiding your child, because  what a child of this age needs is not always what a child of this age wants.  If you are resolute in what should or should not happen, what the rules in your house are, how people are treated with respect in your house (including yourself!  Are you being treated with respect by the members of your  family?), then it is much easier to hold the space and hold what is RIGHT.  You are showing your child how to be an upright moral human being, you are calmly setting boundaries and you are staying calm when the boundary is pushed against.

  • To provide age appropriate expectations – see all the back posts by age on this blog
  • Sensory protection!! Sleep, warming foods, rhythm, physical movement is all important.  Protection from the stress and anxiety of the parents, protection from  negative world news and screens.
  • Connection – how are you connecting with this child even if they are in a tough developmental phase of disequilibrium?
  • The lower four senses are being developed from birth, but I think especially in this period one must look at the sense of touch, sense of life, the sense of balance and the sense of movement.  Some remedial (Extra Lesson) Waldorf Teachers view excessive unruliness as stemming from a disturbed sense of life/well-being, excessive insecurity as a disturbed sense of touch, and a  lack of inner understanding indicating a disturbed sense of movement and balance. 
  • This is not the age to make children memorize things – building a rich array of language experiences through singing, verses and stories is important and children  obviously will be able to remember things, but to not force memorization.  The basis of learning at this point is experiential; hands-on.  Why we are losing this in US schools when every mainstream childhood development textbook points this out is beyond me.
  • Less talking about things and more doing, matter of fact responses and calm responses to about of bounds behavior and language. 
  • Children of these ages need hours and hours a day outside. You can view the posts on Nokken on this blog regarding the concept of a Forest Kindergarten.
  • Show the child practical work – de-mechanize your home as much as possible; do tasks and figure out what your child can do to help
  • Provide a bit of benign neglect – see back post on benign neglect
  • Help foster creative play – see back posts on fostering creative play
  • What are you doing to nourish yourself?  When are your breaks?  How does your spouse or partner play into this picture?  Are you on the same page?  If your spouse or partner cannot help you, would there be someone in your neighborhood who could come over and be a mother’s helper so you could still be home and yet do what you need to do for a few hours a week?  What artistic and spiritual activities are you doing to nourish yourself each and every week? 

In the fifth year, we also recognize that the child begins (BEGINS!!) to be understand a bit about what is right and what is wrong.  As the adult shows over and over what it means to be an upright human being, then faith develops in that adult.  Faith in an adult induces a feeling of authority, which is very  important as a child moves from the fifth year into the six/seven year transformation and the grades.

The next post will be the last in this series, and it will take a peek at how to support development during the six/seven year change.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Four-Year-Olds Who Ask Many Questions

(One of my long-term readers kindly pointed out there are no back posts on this subject, so here it is now!)

Yes, asking many questions is a hallmark of being four years of age.  It does not mean all questions a four-year-old asks needs to be answered directly though (although nor does it mean that we don’t ever answer a question!)  However,  four-year-olds often seem to ask about a million questions a day.  Many of these questions are just a reflection of the wonderfully imaginative way a child of that age has at looking at the world, and it is really important not to shut their ideas down with a very adult way of looking at things.

I think what helps is to certainly be tuned into your child in a warm and loving way, but in a way in which you are busy and not hanging on their every word.  I find this much easier to do myself when I am physically working with my whole body, not just sitting down and using only my hands.  If I am shoveling, digging, planting, scrubbing, etc it is much easier for me to hum, sing, give a warm smile but not have this incredibly involved discussion where the child sits down next to me and we play Fifty Questions About Life.

Humming, singing, and being busy but yet tuned into your child is a  fine art of balancing in parenting.  It is a process and a journey to achieve this.   We can use our warmth, our smiles, our love.  We can answer with neutral phrases such as “I really wonder that too!” (and actually mean it!) or we can say, “I don’t know, but I know a (song, poem, verse) about that!”   We try to answer a four-year-old as pictorially as possible – the time for more pointed answers to questions comes in the grades with short explanations.  If you need help with speaking pictorially, please try this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/

If a child is extremely insistent that we answer a question, we can gently ask the child what they think without commenting too much about what they say.  Give them space and time to complete their own ideas and thoughts.  Sometimes they really can answer their own questions in their little four-year-old way of looking at the world and the universe!

Also, I mean this in a very kind way, but I often see this questioning and chatter more in families where the four-year-old is the oldest in the family or the only child. A four-year-old oldest or only often learns to communicate verbally with an adult for a feeling of intimacy and closeness more frequently than those who have a house full of sibling playmates to attend to.  Smile

If you find your four-year-old seems to be asking just a million and a half questions, here are a few “sideways” tips to assist you:

1.  Be busy yourself with your whole body in work  — sometimes sitting down with just  hands in work becomes an opportunity for a child to just plant themselves next to you and ask question after question.

2.  If your child simply must chatter away, have them do something physical whilst they are chattering. 

3.  Please double check the amount of outside time they are getting.  Some children chatter when they have a lot of nervous energy and don’t know what else to do with themselves.

4.  How is their play?  Here are two back articles about 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/

5.  And, this one might make folks bristle a bit, but good old-fashioned benign neglect is okay.  Your relationship with your spouse or partner is really, really important – a foundation for the home.  It is okay for your child to be at the periphery a bit and not so much center-ring in the family stage.  I mean that with love, so just meditate and ponder on that.  I see so many, many families where the child is really thrust into the position of carrying what should be the adult life  between adults and the child becomes the intimate, verbal substitute for an adult relationship and communication for one or both of the parents.  Disregard this thought if it does not apply to your family, of course. Smile

And remember, the time WILL come to answer these questions in a more factual way – starting in the grades.  This is such a short time period in which to protect your child’s imagination, and their development of a sound  and healthy emotional life.

What thoughts do you have about children who incessantly chatter or question?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. :)

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Discipline For Preschoolers 3-5 Years”: “Discipline Without Distress”

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!

Many blessings,

Carrie