Peaceful Living with the Six-Year-Old

Now that we have peeked at the traditional childhood development of the six-year-old and the anthroposophical view of the six-year-old, it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of peaceful living with the six-year-old.

The first we need to do is establish a framework in which to work.  If you have not read these posts in the past, please do so now and then come back to this post:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/29/top-10-must-have-tools-for-gentle-discipline/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/05/thoughts-on-challenging-developmental-stages/

There is also a  post on “Anger in Parenting” if you have not read that one.

So now that you are being held within the framework of being an Authentic Leader within your own home, now you are ready to tackle some of the methods for peaceful living with your six-year-old.

Here is a great quote from the article “Meetings with Parents On the Topic of Discipline” from the book “You’re Not the Boss of Me!  Understanding the Six/Seven-Year-Old Transformation” to start us off:

The young child instinctively expects guidance and when it is not forthcoming, the child tends to feel  insecure and frightened.  Growing up without guidance, without boundaries, often translates into being left alone to flounder in a world that the child is not experienced enough to understand.  Constantly being consulted by adults about what the child  wants is not only bewildering, but can create an egoist, unprepared for the world awaiting him or her.  Many parents believe that choices strengthen their child, but, on the contrary, too many choices can undermine a child.

  • So, my first thought for you is to develop your own internal framework for handling Authentic Leadership.  This takes inner work, inner thought and talk with your spouse or partner.  You must also take care of yourself- if you are angry, resentful, not getting enough sleep, eating poorly,  frustrated—all of these things affect your relationship with your child and how well you set the tone in your home for your child.
  • For your six-year-old, you must be the wall  off which your child can bounce.  (In a nice, quiet and calm way, not a mean or authoritarian scary kind of way!)  Six-year-olds will test the boundaries of what is expected and allowed.  You must show them that you are dependable and they can lean on you as they need to as they sort things in life out.  If you crumple and fall, this shows them that you do not hold the authority and answers for life that they desperately are searching for at this point.  Be the calm wall. Choose how you will respond to your child.
  • Six-year-olds are DOERS.  They are not deep thinkers.  They do not need a lot of words.  With something you need done, it helps to walk them physically through what you need with movement and imagination.  Get the child moving before you speak, writes Nancy Blanning, a well-known Waldorf teacher.
  • Remember, a six-year-old can also have direct words to help them – but very short, to the point and POSITIVE.   Again, think of these “rules” as skills they are learning, not just something they must do or if they don’t do it they will fail and need to be punished.  Change your framework.
  • A six-year-old may be picky about what they asked to do, not wanting an activity that is “for babies”.  Think about what you are asking your child to do before you ask them and how your child might respond.
  • Go back to your rhythm. Six-year-olds need a strong rhythm.  They need to know the home for things, that every thing does have a place, so they can put things away for themselves.
  • Do not offer choices if there is really no choice. If it is time to leave or go to the bathroom, it is time to leave or go to the bathroom.  Maybe the choice is they can hold your hand to leave or hop like a bunny to leave, but it is still time to leave. 
  • Use stories to help your child do things, and help your child physically along as you tell that story.
  • Nancy Blanning also writes that from a Waldorf perspective, “Each adult responsibility you take care of for your child allows his or her energy to be available for growing.  We do a child a great service by pre-thinking and pre-planning how things will happen – by creating a “form”- which will support both the child and ourselves, so there is order and predictability.”   My personal  note to this is:  This does not in any way mean the child shouldn’t have to do things for themselves or help the family or help around the house, but it does mean that you, as the parent, have thought through how, when and where the child will take over their own routine or chore or whatever they are being asked to do, and that you have shown them step-by-step how it needs to happen.
  • Pick your battles.  The minute you engage in a struggle with your child, your battle is lost.  Help your child, and come up with ways both of you can win if it is possible.  Use matter-of –fact phrases and say what you need, and wait.
  • Think about warmth; how can you show your child warmth?  This is important when you are in one of those stages where you just are not liking your child’s behavior most of the time.  Try and find something you can say that they did that you actually did like, no matter how small.  Find time for smiles, hugs, kisses, being present to play a game, walks in an unhurried manner and just be there.  It will pay off in your relationship with your child!
  • Give as few direct commands as possible; this goes back to picking your battles and letting your rhythm and order carry things.  Think to yourself, if I ask them this, and they say, “NO!” do I have the time, the energy, the patience, to see this through at this moment and do I want to pick this as my focus today?  If it is very important to guiding your child’s life and future development as an adult, then by all means, go ahead.  But if not, please think about it.  And even if you ask something,  and they say “NO!  Make me!” you can honestly change your mind.  I would not do this too often, but everyone can make a better choice, right?  Even us!
  • A six-year-old will take things that are not theirs and will often not tell the whole truth.  Help them. Ask them how something happened, not if they did that.  Put away those things that are tempting to them to take.  Remember that a six-year-old is restless, can be destructive, often can be at the height of sexual play and may need a bit more oversight than they did before if they are like that.  This is a developmental phase that will not last forever, and as a parent, it is still your job to keep your child safe and your property safe as well!
  • You may consider limiting time with friends, playdates and certainly the size and activities of a birthday party.  Six-year-olds are aggressive with friends, belligerent, go wild quickly and have strong emotions that often ends up with the child in tears.  Keep things easy, small and short.
  • Do not carry around baggage about your child saying “I hate you!” at this age or acting as if you are the most unfair mother in the whole world.  A six-year-old will do this, a six-year-old will take out things on their Mother, and it is not up to them to fill your cup.  Do things outside of your child to fill your own cup.  Be fair, be calm, hold the space and try to think compassionately even when they are not being nice.  You are the adult.
  • Do not get into verbal games – “You don’t love me, Mommy.”  Give them a hug and a smile and move on.  Likewise, you can listen to the drama of a six-year-old for so long, and then give them a hug and say.”I have heard you.  I am going to do the dishes now, and I know how sad you are.  I can listen more to you later. Come and have a snack.”  Be calm and limit your words!

This list was not in any particular order, I hope some of the points were valuable to you and yours.  If you have other techniques that have worked particularly well with your six-year-old, please do share in the comment boxes.  Let’s all help each other!

Your until next time,

Carrie

The Six Year Old: An Anthroposophical View

We peeked at a traditional view of the six-year-old child in one of our last posts and now it is time to look at the Waldorf view of the six-year-old.

Six is obviously the end of one seven-year-cycle and at the cusp of beginning a new seven-year-cycle.  It is also traditionally the time the child should be in the last year of Kindergarten within the Waldorf school system and getting ready to transfer over to the first grade by the age of six and a half or seven. I have heard lately of Waldorf schools transitioning early six-year-olds into first grade and feel this is incredibly wrong.  Just wrong!  From a traditional point of view it makes no sense at all; Gesell Institute is pretty firm about what a rocky age this can be, it is an age already full of tensional outlets and all kinds of misery, they are firm that it is a terrible age for teaching numbers and letters and writing, most six-year-olds can’t sit still to save their own lives – so yes, by all means, let’s throw academics into the picture!  That make perfect sense from a developmental standpoint!  And, from a Waldorf standpoint, it makes even LESS sense to have an early six-year-old in the first grade.  I have two more posts to write in this series about the six-year-old – one about peaceful living with a six-year-old, and one is going to be about what to do that last year of Waldorf  homeschooling kindergarten,  so stay tuned!  I feel very passionate about the little six-year-old! Okay, done with my rant now…….

Back to the anthroposophical viewpoint of the six-year-old. 

In Waldorf Circles, this time is often called the “first puberty” or “first adolescence”.  The book “You’re Not the Boss of Me!  Understanding the Six/Seven-Year-Old Transformation”, edited by Ruth Ker, mentions some of the following characteristics:

  • The appearance of the permanent teeth are seen as a more obvious and outward sign of all the things going on internally with the child.
  • The six-year-old year is a time when the etheric of the child begins to separate from the parent.  If you are confused about what etheric means or have forgotten, please do go back to the post about “Peaceful Life With a Four-Year-Old” – that explains the fourfold human being and may be helpful to you.
  • For the first time, thinking and feeling are just as strong as the will in the child.
  • This is seen in Waldorf circles NOT as the time to provide adult intellectual reasoning, more complex explanation but to instead latch on to the child’s sense of fantasy and imagination.
  • Steiner wrote that children at the change of teeth need “soul milk” from us; Ruth Ker has interpreted this to mean authenticity.
  • Children race around, have frenzied movements, and seek out plenty of movement.
  • The child’s limbs begin to lengthen, body fat begins to disappear, waistlines become present, formation of the “S” shape of the spinal curve.
  • The children of this age enjoy physical challenge and enjoy work
  • This may be a crisis time of play where the child literally cannot play.
  • Children of this age are working  to develop symmetry, balance, dominance, crossing over midline – still!
  • Children of this age want to be the boss.  They are bossy, they correct people (including parents!)
  • They may try to “play” with “adult” themes that are not so lovely to us – weddings, drinking, trying to get others to do things that are not right, rhymes with off-color words and phrases, being silly and giggly. The word “hate” enters the vocabulary now.
  • You may see play that excludes other children.
  • A six-year-old plays with boundaries.

 

Of course, with some of these children, these behavior do not show up until age seven (hence the title the six/SEVEN-year-old transformation) and some children may hit it early, but these are some general characteristics of this age from a Waldorf perspective.

In our next post we will look at what to do to guide these behavior and be an Authentic Leader.  If you need inspiration until then, do hit the “No Spanking” tag in the tag box and that will bring up the series of posts I wrote about being an Authentic Leader.

Until next time,

Carrie

The Snazzy Six-Year-Old

Ah, six.  The beginning of the six/seven year transformation as described in Waldorf circles, and judged even by traditional childhood development experts as the age that is completely different than the other ages before it.

This is also the age where many parents I have spoken with feel a bit of despair, as if all of their good parenting up until this point was in vain, because now their six-year-old is “defiant”, “physically aggressive”, “mouthy and disrespectful”, “good in school but terrible at home”, “drama over everything and anything”.  Tensional outlets, sexual play and the ilk that signifies significant disequilibrium is back, only it seems worse to parents at this point because after all, six is the age of schooling and being grown-up, not like when the child was two or four.

Hhhmmm.

I urge you to strongly consider six the way Waldorf circles view the age of six – a transitional phase as the child moves into the grades at school and into a new seven-year-cycle.  I urge you to look carefully at the traditional and anthroposophical behavioral characteristics of this age so you do not over- react to this age.

Let’s start with a quick quote from The Gesell Institute’s “Your Six-Year-Old”:

Your typical Six-year-old is a paradoxical little person, and bipolarity is the name of his game.  Whatever he does, he does the opposite just as readily.  In fact, sometimes just the choice of some certain object or course of action immediately triggers an overpowering need for its opposite.

The Six-year-old is wonderfully complex and intriguing, but life can be complicated for him at times, and what he needs most in the world is parents who understand him.  For Six is not just bigger and better than Five. He is almost entirely different.  He is different because he is changing, and changing rapidly.  Though many of the changes are for the good – he is, obviously, growing more mature, more independent, more daring, more adventurous- this is not necessarily an easy time for the child.”

Typical Developmental Characteristics of the Six-Year-Old, Traditional Perspective

  • Usually ambivalent, wants two opposite things and cannot make up mind
  • Frequent reversals of numbers and letters (The Gesell Institute says that six is NOT the age to do formal teaching of reading at home or at school.  So why the United States school system is so heavily focused on this, I do not know!)
  • Stubborn, hard to make up his mind about things but once his mind is made up it is difficult to get child to change his mind
  • Adores his mother, but at the same time,when things go wrong it is usually Mother’s fault and the Six year-old will take out everything on their Mother.
  • The child is now the center of their own universe; the Mother is not the center of the child’s universe – the six-year-old wants to be close to Mother but at the same time wants to be independent so there is conflict, ambivalence in this relationship but also increased growth and maturity
  • The Six-year-old wants to win, wants to have everything
  • Worries about everything as he moves to be separate from his mother
  • Can be violent, loud, demanding, expects perfection from parents – but not to be “bad”, mainly because he is anxious to be first, to be loved the most, to be the best. (In other words, a very insecure age).
  • Insecure, and high emotional needs.
  • Cannot bear to accept criticism, or bear to lose.  Very small failures, small comments or criticisms hurt them deeply.
  • Cries a lot about physical hurts.
  • Lots of enthusiasm, loves to ask questions, loves to be read to.
  • Can be very happy, warm, full of laughs and smiles.

TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SIX-AND-A-HALF To SEVEN-YEAR-OLD, TRADITIONAL PERSPECTIVE

  • Increased equilibrium
  • Lively intellectuality
  • Amusing, has a good sense of humor
  • “A certain maturity”
  • Loves new places, new things, new ideas
  • Enjoys life

 

Many parents I have spoken with found early six to be fine, and some of the characteristics that the Gesell Institute describes not to come in until six-and-a-half.  Like so many things in life, your child’s own individuality plays into all this.

Some Further Characteristics of the Six-Year-Old:

TEACHERS:  If the child attends school, the teacher is well-liked, well-respected, what the teacher does is right,  typically the child behaves well in school (but may fall apart at home).

SIBLINGS:  Most six-year-olds are  not at their best with younger siblings.  May enjoy teaching a younger sibling things, but overall may be very competitive, combative (I personally think though that this has much to do with the age of the younger child, although Gesell does not seem to take this into account).  Tends to be very jealous of any attention or objects given a brother or sister.  May argue, tease, bully, frighten, torment, get angry or hit siblings, according to The Gesell Institute.

FRIENDS:  Friends mean a lot to children of this age, but again, it is often hard for the six-year-old to get along with friends.  “Children of this age tend to be very aggressive both verbally and physically.  They are also quarrelsome, belligerent, boisterous, argumentative, excitable, emotional.”  Six wants to “boss and win.”  Usually very little sense of humor with their friends, finds it hard to forgive.

EATING:  May stuff mouth with food, talk with mouth full, grab for food, knock over his milk, dribble, kick chair leg, teeter and totter in chair, fall off chair.

Tends to eat very slowly, but likes to eat and may eat all day long.

SLEEPING: Usually goes to bed well, naps are done, child ready for bed by seven o-clock or eight o’clock according to Gesell Institute.  Most sleep through night well.

TENSIONAL OUTLETS:  At a high:  wriggling, kicking, and swinging arms, sharp verbal comments to outright temper tantrums. Biting and tearing of fingernails, scratching, grimacing, grinding teeth, chewing pencils, nose picking are all common tensional outlets as well.  Child is generally restless,

HEALTH/PHYSICAL ABILITIES:  Child suddenly very clumsy.  May have many complaints about physical health, even when not sick.  Allergies are high, mucous membranes are frequently sensitive and inflamed, communicable diseases are at a high, scalp very sensitive to brushing, child tires easily and fatigues easily.  Baby teeth may fall out and secondary teeth may come in.

SEX PLAY:  Also at a high, just like at age four.

SENSITIVITY TO CLOTHES:  Usually peaking at six and seven years of age.

That’s a quick view of child development at this age from the Gesell book; there is much more in this book and I highly recommend you buy this book and have it on your bookshelf for reference.  It can be found very cheaply used on Amazon and it well worth the price!

Our next posts will look at the anthroposophic view of the six-year-old and then at how to have a peaceful life with a six-year-old, and what homeschooling a six-year-old in Waldorf homeschool kindergarten may look like.

Happy reading until next time,

Carrie

Is It Too Late?

I have had several mothers call me lately who are feeling what I call “the Waldorf guilt”.  They are looking, in most cases, at very verbal and sometimes physically aggressive 5 and 6 year old little girls and wondering if it is too late to start the Waldorf lifestyle with their little ones.  They feel the way they parented their children before may not have been as age and developmentally appropriate as it could have been.

First of all, please be very  easy with yourself if you find yourself in this situation.  We all are the best parents we can be with the information we have at the time.  Forgive yourself for any perceived inadequacies and move on.

Second, I would say it is never too late for the healing benefits of Waldorf.  However, I do think this takes sincere effort, planning, and change within the family.

Here are some thoughts that I think may be helpful if  you are trying to “switch” to a Waldorf  lifestyle for the benefit of your child’s health or to work with a very head-oriented child under the age of 7 or 8:

1.  Start small with consistent naptimes, bedtimes, and meal times.  Think foods made with your own hands and foods that are not far removed from what they really are….a whole apple as opposed to processed apple Pop-Tarts.  Think about the amount of sugar, dyes, additives your children are ingesting and work hard to limit those substances.

2.  Think about the concept of warmth.  I find many of these over-active, over-talkative little beings have a severe problem with lack of warmth, both intuitively from the family in an emotional or spiritual sense,  and also perhaps needing more physical warmth. 

For emotional or spiritual warmth:  If you meditate or pray, can you do that over your child after they go to sleep at night?  Soul warmth and energy flow there.   Can you laugh with your child, have fun, smile with your children?  Instead of all those words, how about a hug, a smile, a kiss?

If you feel your child needs more physical warmth, can you think about woolens for under their clothes, warm coats, hats, mittens?  Layering?  Does your child need more warmth in whatever space you have – warm colors in their room, layered rugs, curtains? 

3.  The very verbal child  under the age of 7 needs a parent who can stop talking to the child.  Lots of “Hhmm, I wonder that as well” kinds of comments, as opposed to the Doctoral Thesis on whatever the child is asking about.  Get your partner on board!  This is so important, and necessary.  If your partner is rather analytical, talk about the concept of doing the right thing at the right time.  You are not withholding knowledge of the world to the detriment of the small child, but rather waiting to bring it in at the right time when the child can process it well.  You are providing information in the right way in the right amount for the child’s age.

4.  I find for the most part the things that these children have said in the past has been given entirely too much weight.  I am not saying to ignore what your child says, or to ignore how your child says they feel!  But what I am saying is that YOU have to start to distinguish between is this random comment one that you should give weight to as a mother and then act upon or is it just that – a very random comment?  In this day and age and in our society we often take our children far too seriously about small things, (and probably not seriously enough about big things as they get older).

5.  This child needs HOURS a day outside to just be, and than a balancing of that with an activity that provides them quiet.  Have arts and crafts ready, woodworking, cooking projects, storytelling at the ready for these special, intimate moments.

6.  No media.  No media at all during this transformation.  No screens.   And model good behavior by cutting down on your screen time…can you do it?

7.  Plan some fun FAMILY activities with you, your partner, your child, siblings.  Sometimes these often serious and tense children need to see that, indeed, the family can have fun and laugh together.  It does not have to be something over the top and expensive – plan something like going hiking, roller skating, ice skating, planting a garden together, star watching.  Also do some projects around the house together so your child can see how a family works and plays together.

9. After you have a small rhythm going for the day –to -day kinds of things and weekly things, do start looking at festivals within the year.  (And if you need help with rhythm please do hit the rhythm tag in the tags box and all those posts will come up).    Not every family who celebrates festivals  celebrates religious ones, but Steiner did talk quite a bit about the importance of a spiritual life for the child.  Think about your own spiritual leanings and investigate this.   If you have no spiritual leanings at all, why not?  Perhaps a tradition completely different than the one you were raised with will speak to you.     Perhaps this is the inner work you are being called to do at this time. 

10.  Start working within yourself to be the change for the things you want to see in your family.  You set the tone for things in your family, you have a choice as to how you respond to things.  You don’t need to nag your partner about all this, but instead model, show, demonstrate, love.

Just a few thoughts to ponder,

Carrie

For Parents of the Five to Seven Year Old

Melisa Nielsen over at A Little Garden Flower wrote a great response with some practical ideas to those of you starting to deal with the six and seven year old transformation (and there is a nice link to this blog in that post!  Thanks Melisa!)

http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2008/12/children-going-through-change-.html

Read and enjoy, I will have more to say about this important stage of childhood development after The Holy Nights are over.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

One of the 12 Senses: Warmth

This is an excellent article regarding one of Steiner’s 12 senses that is important developmentally for young children: warmth.

Please check out this link to read a great article on Warmth, Strength and Freedom:  http://tidewaterschool.blogspot.com/2008/12/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-m.html

Happy, happy reading!!

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.