Other Questions Parents Have About Six/Seven Year Developmental Change

Parents have many questions about the developmental leaps of the six/seven year old.  A few key points for this age:

I highly suggest you go back to all of these back posts for review as these will most likely cover some of these questions:

For more about the intricacies of peer relationships at this age:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/02/05/peer-relationships-for-the-six-to-eight-year-old/

Favorite books for gentle discipline to inspire you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/27/favorite-books-for-gentle-discipline/

Hitting:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/28/boys-under-age-7-and-hitting/

Potty words:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/20/how-to-handle-potty-talk-in-small-children/

A review of my favorite book for the six/seven year change:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/19/a-book-for-parents-of-the-five-to-seven-year-old/

How To Best Support Your Child’s Development During The Six/Seven Year Change

From about five and a half onward, the six/seven year transformation is a time of change. It is can be an overwhelming but profound period for children.  Children at this time are working out of not just imitation, but also with short, simple and clear phrases. They  need to be supported by speaking in pictures to them, not intellectually, and by setting strong boundaries.

During this time, many children often experience the need to be the boss. A “bossy” six year old is pretty typical of this age.  (Alhough I personally think if the child was spoken to as a little adult and given a myriad of choices from early on the bossiness in the six and eight year old years is probably worse than in children who were not parented that way). 

My favorite book on this subject is “You’re Not The Boss of Me: Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” as edited by Ruth Ker and available through Waldorf booksellers.

Here are some ways to best support your child in this challenging phase:

  • Do your  own inner work and personal development.  Your authority and your calm response to things, whether it is door slamming or saying “I hate you, Mommy!” is really, really important.  They do not have equilibrium in this stage and you must have it for them.
  • Matter of fact responses are best:   “Teacher (Mommy) knows the lay of the land.”  “This is my job to help you.”  “You may do x” 
  • Don’t forget though, that movement and imagination and speaking in pictures still predominates – no lectures, no intellectual debates, no reasoning. 
  • Focus more on what you do want, rather than the behavior that is challenging you.  Help guide the child and cue them to what you want.
  • A strong rhythm is important, even if they are fighting against it.  You do the things in your rhythm.
  • Practical work is paramount at this time as the children are in a crisis in play.  You may need to sit down and plan longer projects, and really figure out where they can help alongside of you.  Here is a great article regarding work in the Waldorf Kindergarten written by an Atlanta colleague and friend, Karen Smith:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/purposefulwork%20doc.pdf
  • Assisting younger children is also helpful
  • Loving authority and boundaries—authority is demonstrated through knowing how to do something and through our calm and unruffled presence.
  • Manners are another way to provide form and boundaries for children.  Manners are very important to bring to the child gradually, through modeling, through treating the child respectfully.  Here is a lovely blog post from over at Christopherus pertaining to small children and manners:   http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/03/helping-little.html
  • Spending time in nature so the child can soak in quiet impressions is important.
  • Sleep, rest, warming foods are anchors for the day.
  • Love your child, be with your child, enjoy your child.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Peer Relationships For the Six to Eight Year Old

I have fielded quite a few emails and questions from mothers in my community about this issue, so I finally thought it was time for a blog post on the subject!

The question I get is from mothers who live in a neighborhood with lots of other children zooming about, and how the six year old girl or seven year old boy is all of the sudden very obsessed with playing with these neighborhood friends every minute.

This, by itself, may not be such a problem (I am sure those of you who grew up in neighborhoods, just like me, remember the “neighborhood gang” fondly), but what is happening in these cases is that the six and seven year old is picking up bad language, is acting surly towards their parents, is protesting vehemently when any kind of limit is set forth regarding not being able to go out and play.  Sometimes the neighborhood children are at these mother’s doors the moment the school bus rumbles away.  Sometimes the children of the mothers writing me are just waiting to play and staring at the neighborhood children’s door waiting for any signs of someone being home and therefore ready to play!  Does any of this sound familiar?

I am all for community, but I do feel in this situation one needs to have boundaries for one’s child.  Possibly very strong boundaries.  The peak of this behavior truly can be the seven year old boy and six year old girl, and since children under the age of 9 are prone to “emotional excess”, they may need your help in balancing things out.

I can recommend several things:

1.  Make it clear that playing with friends is dependent upon being nice within the family.  We don’t take the ugly out of the house. Smile 

2.  Some afternoons are “family only” or family outing kind of afternoons.  And after our outing or playing at home, gee, it is time for dinner and getting ready for bed.  We can play with friends tomorrow.  Six to eight year olds are still very little, and the world will not stop turning if they do not play with peers all the time. 

3.  Communicate with the neighborhood children’s parents and work out a sign or signal that your children are available to play whether it is the garage door being up, children being outside, front door open with just screen door shut, etc.  Sadly, sometimes the reason the children are at the door the moment the school bus rumbles away is because there is no one home at their house.  Sometimes this has to be confronted between the adults of the families as well.

4.  Plan things for the children to do before you they move into  free play – I have had success in the past with juicing lots of oranges by hand, taking turns rolling and cutting out gingerbread men, setting up obstacle courses, etc.  In this way we can all work on using kind words, taking turns, using good manners, including all children, before we go off to play on our own.

5.  Look carefully at the children your child is playing with and your child’s behavior afterwards.  There may need to be limits on how often your child plays with particular children, or where they play.  Some friends just play better together outside.  I find this to be especially true with eight year olds who will often take on the “persona” of the oldest child in a grouping and emulate that behavior, so again, limits are key.

6.  Know the families of the children your child is playing with.  Do try to ensure that if your child goes to a neighbor’s house that you know that family well, and that the playdate will not just turn into a screen fest when the children should be out and expending physical energy in the afternoon. 

7.  Do take the time to arrange play time with children of families that have similar values to yours.  Build that community, and pick the activities outside of your home that involve these children.  It may be easier to hang around with the children in the neighborhood (no driving to a park or whatnot), but as children grow they are able to tolerate going out a little bit more, and if your child never spends any time with the children you want to be that child’s community, the children that live closest will always be ranked as better friends in the eyes of the child.

These are just a few suggestions; I would love to hear your experiences in the comment box!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Preparing for the Six/Seven Year Change: The Importance of Boundaries

One of the most pressing issues for the child of the traditional preschool age (ages 3 and onward) is learning to deal with boundaries.  I find many attached parents, especially first-time attachment parents, are rather slow about using boundaries.  It seems as if they equate boundaries with not being a good attached parent.  Attachment parenting does not mean letting the child do whatever they want at the expense of the needs of everyone else in the family.  That is not what attachment parenting is, and it sets your child and you up for difficulties that are much harder to un-do as your child grows older and the things you are dealing with become much bigger.

Children naturally are experimenting with boundaries during the years of  three to six  and beyond!  A child of three or three and a half really has their own will starting to emerge and is looking to see what the rules of the family are.  It is also an important time for the child to see what the social rules are beyond the immediate family.  A small child needs you to model manners and to help them.  We are certainly kind and respectful at home, but there are also certain ways we act outside of our home depending upon what we are doing and where we are.  What are the rules of conduct at the park versus the rules of being at a place of worship?  These are the things that small children are learning.

A sense of right and wrong can not be especially elicited before the six/seven year old change, but that certainly does not mean you just let things go and slide away.  You take your four year old by the hand and say “thank you” to the neighbor who has brought him a gift, even  if he is too shy to say it for himself.  You take your child who is being disruptive in a quiet place and step outside.  You physically help your three and a half or four year old draw a picture for the smaller sibling whom they were not gentle with. 

If you can start by putting these boundaries in place when children are small, then when your child moves into the ages of seven  and nine, they will come to see you as the loving authority that you are.  They will see that what you say means something and your voice will be a guide of wisdom.  I am sure as teenagers you all will remember certain things your parents would say, and  even  if you didn’t follow your parent’s advice about something, you probably could hear their voice in your head!  The parent’s loving authority is often like a conscience for the child as they work to  develop their own morality and their own right action.

But the groundwork for this is laid in the Early Years.  I cringe when I see three and a half, four, five and six year olds just doing whatever it is what they want to do with no regard for the feelings of others because the parent is not guiding the behavior at all.   Yes, children have temper tantrums, children melt down, children have difficulty playing together, things happen.    That is life with small children!  However, it is the job of the parent to help guide that child toward the boundaries that exist, to structure opportunities for success,  and yes, to step in a gentle physical way to help guide the child.  There is no “voice only” parenting from the sidelines with the small child. They need your physical presence. 

What you are doing today with your small child is very important for the future of your child and for the future of society.  What you do today matters!  The Early Years count!

Many blessings,

Carrie

How To Talk To Your Seven and Eight-Year Old

My friend and I were talking about this today:   how exactly do you talk to a seven or eight year old about things?  In Waldorf, we say to speak to the young child under age seven as if painting pictures with our words.  We strive for keeping the young child  dreamy and not just handing the five or six-year old piles of information for which they have no context.  We try to work through movement,through  their bodies, through music.

But what does one do with this age of seven and eight?  A seven or eight year still feels as though they are a part of the world, not separate.  A part of that rock, that tree, that root over there, a part of you and a part of me.  The world is still a beautiful place.   But yet, the world is opening up and they are changing.  We are supposed to be providing more information at this point because they are past that six/seven year transformation. 

What I finally thought of was this analogy:  sometimes with weaning a child, you hear the phrase don’t offer, but don’t refuse.  In other words, if the child initiates a nursing session, go with it if you can but don’t offer if you don’t have to.  I always thought this was a rather simplistic way to approach weaning (and you can see the two weaning posts on here if you would like to see more of my views on weaning!) but today I thought about the spirit of this.

If your seven or eight year old asks things, answer them as simply as possible. Now is the time to start answering things.  However, do take into account that they don’t need a book on the subject, and in fact, most children of this age are satisfied with just a sentence or two about their subject of inquiry.

When offering information, one must always be thinking:  is this topic something they need to know everything about right now?  In a year, when this topic comes up again, can I address it further?  Will this topic come up again in everyday life and can I address it little by little as it comes up?

If I want to bring something up with my child, I always ask myself, do they need this information now?  Is it essential information for them right this minute?  In a year, when they have more maturity, will it be better received at that point?

Parenting often has more of an art to it than people suppose and these are the questions I ask myself.  When to lead, when to follow my child’s lead, how much information to provide and when.  I firmly believe there should be a difference in what we tell an eight-year-old and a fifteen-year-old on  a given topic. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

More About Quiet Time

This comment came in from a reader of the blog and I wanted her to have some feedback regarding Quiet Time.  She writes, “My 4 yr old has not napped since she was three and a half to four, but we continued having “rest time.” I had her stay in her own room to do this since she sometimes would fall asleep, but lately I have had her try doing her quiet time out in the den with me while the one yr old naps. Sometimes she tends to be less focused when I am there and wants to talk to me… I am interested in what parameters others set for quiet times for non-napping kids? Alone in room or out with mom in the den/living room? What kinds of activities – books only, quiet toys, does mom read to the child for part of the time or do they stay silent?

Also, I am curious how interruptions in sleep affect a four yr old… my daughter tends to wake at least once a night, sometimes twice, to use the toilet. And sometimes she just wants to be tucked back in and have one of us lay next to her for a couple minutes. I know at some point she’ll feel confident enough to just go to the bathroom on her own without waking us… But I wonder if this is disruptive to her quality of sleep?”

These are a few of my personal thoughts, but I hope many mothers will leave comments below as to their own practices.

I feel that during Quiet Time, mothers should be resting.  This may change as your children grow, but I feel if you are going about the house doing work, folding laundry, etc. and your child is younger than 7 and in that imitative phase, than they will want to be doing what you are doing.  Also, as homeschooling mothers, I feel it is an important priority for us to have some true down time to think, evaluate in our heads what happened in the morning in our homeschool time and to prepare in our heads for the afternoon activities.

I personally don’t mind if my child wants to be our big bed with me, but I am laying down with my eyes closed! or if they want to be on their own bed.  I also don’t mind when my four year old looks at (a few!) books (not the “ole giant stack!) and then rests, but I also feel many Waldorf mothers would feel this undermining to the point of Quiet Time – which would be the ability to be still and not have to be “entertained” by a book or by reading or by toys.  I don’t know, I would love to hear the perspectives of some of the Waldorf mothers out there!

As far as the waking up in the night to go to the bathroom, it seems to me that many four-year-olds are not dry through the night, so this may be a real need.  I think as long as she can really get up and go right back to sleep, then it is just where she is.  However, if she is up and fully awake, perhaps you could investigate a bit further.  Does she wake up at the same times every night to do this?  Could you bring her to the bathroom before you go to sleep yourself and would that change these nighttime waking patterns?  And then observe what goes on during the day…

C’mon mothers, please give your perspectives on Quiet Time and sleep.  Leave your comments in the box below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Twelve Senses

I am going to try and synthesize a few things for you all that I recently learned from Donna Simmons at the Waldorf At Home conference held in Atlanta,  a presentation by Daena Ross for Waldorf In the Home (available through Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s on-line store in CD and DVD versions) and Barbara Dewey’s section on the twelve senses in her book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”. 

I am by no means an expert on the twelve senses, although I will say the twelve senses make a whole lot of sense to me due to my background as a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist.

Steiner postulated in his lectures that there were not only the five most obvious senses that we think of, but actually twelve senses that required development.  This has been proved in the medical community, although sometimes in medical literature and therapy literature you see reference to “systems” rather than “senses” although they are truly talking about the same thing!

The twelve senses are what unites the inner and outer world of the individual and what allows us healthy interaction with other people at the highest developed levels.  It takes a long time for these senses to be developed, but the foundational senses needed to develop some of the upper senses are most developed in the first seven years.  There we are, back to my soapbox about the first seven years!

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross. 

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues, their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting, stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

The Middle Senses are seen in our feeling lives, involve us reaching out into the world a bit, they are seen as “dreamy” senses and manifesting in the rhythmic system.  THE CHILD HAS NO FILTER TO FILTER THESE SENSORY EXPERIENCES OUT IN THE EARLY YEARS.   In the later years, the arts build these senses, which is why the Waldorf curriculum includes teaching through art in the grades.   These senses  include:

The Sense of Smell –  strongly correlated with memory.  This can be an ally in education of the grades age child, but beware of scented everything when your children are in the foundational first seven years. 

The Sense of Taste – Not only on a physical plane, but an emotional plane in naming experiences (a “putrid” experience, a “sweet” experience)

The Sense of Sight  – with two different ways to visualize something:  one is the ability to distinguish color, and the other is the ability to distinguish form (which Daena Ross says is more related to The Sense of Self-Movement).  The best way to help this sense is to protect the eye from media while developing.  A way to bolster this sense in the grades, but not the Early under 7 Years, is through form drawing.

The Sense of Warmth –   Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Higher Senses.  This sense does not fully develop until age 9 and can literally cause a hardening of creativity and new thought as the child matures, but also can refer to a literal inability of the child to be able to tell if they are hot or cold.  Warmth implies not only physical warmth, but warmth on a soul level.  Joy, humor, love, connection are all important developers of this sense along with PROTECTION from extreme and garish sensory experiences that would cause hardening.  This is a very important sense, and children need help with protecting this sense until the age of 9 or 10, so much longer than many parents think!

The Upper or Higher Senses develop during adolescence and require a strong foundation of The Lower Senses and The Middle Senses to come to maturity.  These senses are associated with awakening of the individual, with being concerned with other people and are seen as being centered in The Head.  These senses include:

The Sense of Hearing (which Daena Ross calls “a bridge between The Middle and Higher Senses” in her presentation)  This requires completion of The Sense of Balance – both of these senses involve the organ of the ear.

The Sense of Speech or The Sense of the Word (this is the speech of another person, not yourself) – Requires completion of The Sense of Self-Movement as you must be able to quiet your own speech in order to really hear another person.

The Sense of Thought or The Sense of Concept (again, of the other person, not your own thoughts!) - Requires completion of  The Sense of Well-Being.  Rhythm builds this ability to quiet oneself in order to hear someone else’s thoughts.

The Sense of  the Individuality of the Other (Donna Simmons also calls this the “I-Thou” relationship of boundaries) – This requires integration and completion of all senses, but particularly involves The Sense of Touch according to Daena Ross. 

The most important take-away point for my parents of children under the age of 7 is that children need rhythm, a balance of in-breath and out-breath and protection of the senses from too much stimulation, from media and boundaries set by the parents to wear clothes (VERY difficult with some little nudists!).  The development of these senses is also profoundly related to sleeping and what occurs during sleep to build all of this up.

Waldorf Education is first and foremost about health and the twelve senses provide a glimpse into some of why things are done in Waldorf the way they are!  I encourage you to investigate the twelve senses on your own.  In this age and day of skyrocketing ADHD/ADD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, this should be mandatory learning for all parents. 

With love,

Carrie