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

How To Best Support Your Child’s Development Ages Birth Through Three

I spoke last night at The Waldorf Connection regarding development from a Waldorf perspective within the first seven years.  I will be posting some notes on this blog from my talk because I believe it is helpful to hear things more than once and to see it in writing and to hear it.  The next step would be to take a piece of paper and a pen in order to write down your own thoughts and how you would work with some of these concepts in your own family.

Childhood in Waldorf Education  is considered those years of birth through age 21.  The human being is seen as a spiritual being who has come down from spiritual realms and one who takes time to get used to living here on earth; a being who is changing and evolving throughout the lifespan of being human in approximately cycles of seven years.  One can search this blog for a chapter by chapter look at the book “Tapestries” by Betty Staley as to characteristics of each seven year cycle from birth through adulthood.

As Waldorf parents and home educators, we are working with every aspect of the child – body, soul, spirit – as we consider the human being to be a whole three and four-fold human being.  We work with things from the most physical to the most mysterious and strive to be continually conscious of being an upright moral example that the child can imitate. We work  to provide an environment conducive to development, a protected environment for optimal development of the 12 senses and the child, but yet one where the child can develop unhindered.

In the second lecture compiled in “Curative Education”, Steiner talks about The Pedagogical Law in which it is who we are that teaches and educates, that children can perceive the gesture behind our words and how what we do matters more than what we give lip service to (my paraphrasing there, of course.  He says it much more eloquently. Smile).  Steiner lectured about the great responsibility we have as educators of small children (and this of course includes parents, as you are the first teacher of your child!) In “Soul Economy”,  one of my favorite compilations of Steiner’s lectures, Steiner said in the lecture regarding children before the seventh year:  ”Anyone in charge of young children – especially those who work in children’s homes- who is aware of the activity of destiny must ask, Have I been specifically chosen for the important task of guiding and educating these children? And other questions must follow: What must I do to eliminate as far as possible my personal self, so I can leave those in my care unburdened by my subjective nature? How do I act so I do not educate a child toward human freedom?

These questions begin at birth…… The child comes to us with a head full of wisdom and growth forces that direct the physical body and help mold the physical body. The child imitates everything, and is a large sense organ. Steiner talks in “Kingdom of Childhood” about the affects of anger upon a child and other emotions because the impressions coming from the outer world directly affect the physical constitution of the body – the formation of the inner organs, for example. This is part of Steiner’s work that really unnerves parents because they feel as if they have done everything wrong and carry such guilt. Guilt does not move one forward in parenting, so I advise parents to try to let that go and start from now.

So, back to development..During the first three years, the spirit, soul and body are seen as being in unity and walking, speaking and thinking are unfolding.  First, the child attains an upright position.  And then from that, speech arises in the second year. In helping a child to speak we must be inwardly true, this is the time of TRUTHFULNESS , for those of you who have heard of Steiner’s truth-beauty-goodness. Truthfulness is the foundation of communication, even for infants. In true speech we use adult speech, not baby talk! Thinking then arises out of speech in the third year. Clarity from our own thinking helps our children’s thinking to be developed.

What we can do to support our children birth to three:

Heal our own past; recover from anything in our own childhood that is amiss. What are we modeling to our children and what are we passing on for our future grandchildren? What are our own patterns of behavior, our own reaction to stress.  Create truth in your life by aligning your values throughout every sector of your life.

Create a healthy attachment to your baby and toddler

Strive to work on ourselves in order  that we are worthy of this child to imitate our gestures, our movements, our work. In “Soul Economy”, one thing that Steiner said was, “…the children become perfect mimics and imitators. This imposes a moral duty on adults to be worthy of such imitation, which is far less comfortable than exerting one’s will on a child.”

Other ways to support children during the first three years:

We do not place the child into positions he or she cannot attain on his or her own, because the child is orienting themselves in the world through their upright orientation and their striving for that. Joan Slater talk about this in the book “The Incarnating Child”, this concept of  keeping infants horizontal until they can move into a position by themselves. This is important, because from this challenge and this struggle to attain an upright position and from that upright position comes speech and then thinking.

Protect the senses of the child and establish a rhythm to help support the etheric body of the caregiver and the child. Our growth forces are  tied to that of our small children and it is important that we  build ourselves up through rhythm, through warming foods, through warm clothes, through kind words and speech, through artistic endeavors.

Become a confident parent who can set boundaries with those who seek to undermine your parenting, including yourself if you are prone to negativity and doubt in your parenting.  I think this is key, as many parents today seem to meet parenting with increased anxiety and  fear and stress. In our generation, we really  have to find some way to meet that fear with joy and with love and with humor. We have to find a way to really put out warm thoughts for our children because our children develop from taking in the world and we are the ones creating their world.

Just a few thoughts; take what resonates with you. 

Other posts that may help you in this endeavor are these:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/13/back-to-basics-emotional-and-physical-warmth/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/02/trust-your-intuition/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/11/07/the-one-year-old/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/22/the-twelve-to-twenty-two-month-old-a-traditional-perspective/

Many blessings to you,

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

Peaceful Guiding of Children

There are several steps to peaceful guidance of small children.

1.  It is important to  work hard at connection with these children during happy and joyful times.  Connection that is built up over time, and connection that is built in the moment of crisis are both needed. 

2.  It is important to attempt to guide from a place of understanding of developmental stages.  Many parents try to guide from emotion (ie, anger, yelling) or guide from a place of reasoning and extra explanations and such so the child will essentially agree with them regarding discipline and the action taken by the parent.  Neither is effective.  Guidance from place of developmental understanding and other tools are necessary.

3.  It helps to be working on yourself, and also to understand your own family culture.  Try this back post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/what-kind-of-family-are-you/

4.  Boundaries are important!  Children need to learn how to function in society. What are the boundaries in your home? What are the rules?  It should not be all willy-nilly!  It matters what boundaries you set, so think about them and set them in confidence and love!

5.  The needs of ALL the family members matter!  The rhythm of your day, bedtimes, mealtimes, etc have to work for EVERYONE.  You are the designer of your family life and if something is NOT working, you must change it!

This is a brief summary of gentle discipline techniques according to age, up through age 8.   These are not all-inclusive lists, but just some things to get you started and thinking!

Children ages 1 -2:  Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, limited words, singing and verses and movement instead, avoid DIRECT commands because they will turn around and run the other way!  Don’t be afraid to pick your child up and move them.  Shape  the environment – don’t put all the toys out, etc.   Rest is important!  Getting the energy out is important!

Children aged 2:  Keep out of the home excursions very limited and simple.  Simple words (remember a child of 18 months is about at the “coat-hat-out” phase so a 2 year old is not too far ahead of this!  Do not provide choices about big things, esp at 2 and a half – they have a really hard time choosing and are likely to dissolve into a puddle of tears.  Have confidence, find your rhythm.  Do not expect two years to share! Shape the environment. Use imagination and fantasy for daily tasks, for changing activities.  Sideways, sideways, sideways instead of direct head on commands and demands.   Rest is important. 

Children ages 3 and 4:  Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out,  limited words and explanation, singing and verses and movement instead.  Let some of the behaviors go and ignore instead of trying to address every single thing. 

Children ages 5 and 6:   Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, limited words but more pointed phrases regarding behavior, verses, this is a time when children say things like “You’re not the boss of me!”  “no I won’t do that!”  “Make me do that!”  Calm down, and don’t respond in an angry manner.  You are the one shaping the situation, not them.  Be calm!

Children ages 7 and 8:  Connection, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, simple explanations, distraction still works to a limited extent. 7 year olds have a really, really hard time stopping to do what they are doing to do what you asked, so you can warn them in advance if that helps, and give them TIME to complete a task. 

Peaceful days in March and many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf In The Home With The Three- And Four- Year Old

Well, this is the controversial post of the day, mainly because I disagree with some of the typical Waldorf School Kindy activities for home for these ages.  :)  I wrote about the one-and two-year old here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/    and today we are going to move on to the three-and four-year old.

If you need a refresher as to where the three-year-old is developmentally, please see here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/peaceful-life-with-a-three-year-old/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/18/three-year-old-behavior-challenges/.   For the four-year-old .please see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/08/discipline-for-the-four-year-old/  

I am going to depart from so many of the hallowed and sacred texts of Waldorf, and tell you that Waldorf “homeschooling” (I really dislike that term!  How about just living?) for a three-and four-year-old looks a bit different at home than in the classroom.  This is especially true for those three and four-year olds who are the OLDEST in their families.

I think this much is true in both the  environments of Waldorf at Homea nd Waldorf at school though: the work of the three- and four-year-old is play. Play, fantasy and being outside.  These are the true things one needs to be working with on a child of this age. Mothers often write me and feel they should be worried about handwork projects, wet on wet painting and other things.  I say worry about the quality of your child’s play ( if you feel like worrying!), and think of ways to stimulate that if you feel the need to be “doing something” outside of the rhythms and things we talked about for the one and two year old.

For the one and two year old here are the things I mentioned as being important, with some added notes to build on for the three-and four- year old.

Bodily care, toileting or diaper changes, is HUGE. I cannot stress this enough.  Times for bodily care should involve love, their involvement, singing and joy.  This is still big for a three and four year old.  Your four year old is not at school and being expected to wipe themselves independently after a bowel movement, this is home, and these bodily care situations still deserve time, attention and dignity. 

Meal times.  Again, unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.  Use your meal time now to start working in things to develop their movement – kneading bread, using a rolling pin, sweeping the kitchen floor, scrubbing a countertop, etc.

Nap times/Rest Times.  Sing lullabies, have a blanket that is special for sleeping, have a routine involving physical touch of gentle massage or foot rub.  

It can be very hard with a three or four year old who has stopped napping, but shooting for some time that is quiet is a great goal.  They may not be able to do it on their own (although some will happily play with a play scenario you have set up), but that may be a time to read a story, a time to tell a story, a time to sing soft songs whilst massaging their hands or feet, and just dim the lights and be together and rock in the rocking chair for a bit.  You may also catch some down time for yourself at this time or during outside time if your child gets engaged.

Bath times.  Singing, finger plays and toe plays, gentle rub downs with the towel (those textures again)

Outside time.  This is the time to think of some creative things for outside. 

Being outside is of extreme importance and to provide opportunities for physical movement outside. No going outside to just sit there!  If your child is a reluctant woodsperson, try some of the following suggestions:

  • Make a “carpet” by laying down sticks in squares and then filling in the squares with things the child can find.
  • Find the natural objects to make plates, forks, spoons, for a fairy feast
  • Make pinecone people by getting a pinecone and decorating with leaves, small twigs by pushing the objects into the pinecone.
  • Show your child how to rub their chins with flowers and see if they like butter, how to make flower chains, how to take the caps off acorns, how to grate dry leaves into dust and powder, how to roll a snowball and look for tracks of fairies and giants in the snow.
  • Get them things to lug, tug, push, pull, dig.
  • Play in the sand and in the mud, make mud pies, hunt for worms and bugs.
  • For other suggestions, please see these  posts:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/25/nature-day-number-8-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/24/connecting-your-children-to-nature/ 

Participation in household life.  Your very gesture is so important, it should not be you rushing around trying to get the whole house clean in one day.  It is taking each article of laundry and smoothing it out, folding it tenderly, putting it in the pile to be put away with love for your family. What is important is not only that the child sees the work being done, but imitates that gesture of love and care.  That extends into caring for plants and animals, this is the very first “environmental education” that a child gets with you, right at home.

To this we add the thought that physical work is very important, not only outside, but inside as well.  Can your wee one help you wash lettuce?  Peel carrots?  Peel an apple? Grind wheat? Knead bread?  These experiences are the first form of handwork for the young child.

Music – as mentioned many times, music and rhymes and verses should take precedence at this point over any written word. 

Inner Work/Personal Parenting Development:  The most spiritually mature people should be the ones coming into contact with the youngest children.  This is a very important time for your own work and  development.  If you are anxious, practice being calm.  If you are impatient, practice being patient.  If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent.  This is a time to develop your spiritual and religious beliefs.  It is a time to become more aware of the things unseen. 

And to this list we now add a few things:

1.  We work on building up the first four of the twelve senses:

The Sense of Touch: Holding, cuddling, taking baths together, swimming, piggy back rides, games that involve holding hands and singing, wrestling and roughhousing, tickling games if your child likes that, rolling around on the floor together,  being outside in nature, natural materials to touch and play with and wear

The Sense of Life:  RHYTHM, humor and joy!

The Sense of Movement:  crawling, any sustained movement over time such as learning to ride a bike or swim,

The Sense of Balance: RHYTHM again, swinging, rolling, 

2.  PLAY.  This is the time to encourage play.  A reader brought up in another post’s comments that her three year old liked to play “fireman” and she wondered how much detail to go into about why fireman wear what they wear, etc.  I would say it is our job to “unstick” our children’s play if they are stuck.  So, in this example, if all this little boy could do is sit on the sofa and make the noise of a siren, I would set up something where “Fireman Bob” now got a call to go and rescue a cat up in a tree (a stuffed cat on a bookshelf) and now we must check the kitty and oh, the kitty is fine, but whoa, now the firetruck needs gas and let’s check that tire out and then you slowly back out of the play until your child is playing by himself or herself for a few minutes.

It is our job to help advance their play through setting up play scenarios and helping the child become “unstuck.”  You can see the back posts on fostering creative play and the progression of play by age and suggested toys.

3. Preparation for Festivals. This is a great time to help children participate by DOING, not explaining in words.  There are lots of posts on this blog about individual festivals.  Our next one is Candlemas, there is one you can start with!

4.  Art – okay, here is where I differ a bit.

  • Painting -  I still think three and four is young for wet on wet watercolor painting.  Wet on wet watercolor painting should, to me at least, have a very quiet, contemplative and meditative quality.  It can be done, but I think it is more successful when there are older children about to help carry this meditative mood of experiencing with color.  I know many will disagree, but thought I would throw it out there.  I know it is not especially “Waldorf school style”, but I am all for fingerpainting at these ages.  So politically incorrect, I know.:)
  • Coloring with crayons – I know many three and four year olds who would just make a scribble and run off.  Again, I think three and four year olds are still really interested in developing gross motor skills and I know every child is different and some will love this, but many do not, especially without that group to carry it.
  • Carding wool – can be a hit as it is repetitive sensory movement.  You can buy fleece to wash and dry and card it with little dog brushes.  This is great.
  • Sanding wood might be good as well.  Any thoughts?
  • Modeling – I like the idea of modeling with sand, salt dough, snow, kneading bread.  I think beeswax modeling is for older children myself.  Again, this differs from Waldorf school.
  • Sewing – I know Marsha Johnson talks about having the three year old who can sew little felt shapes or whathave you for festivals, but I also know handwork teachers who would disagree with having a three or four year old hand sewing. I think this one is up to you!
  • Finger knitting – again, I think better for the five and six year old.  
  • Other Arts and Crafts – some can be successful, especially in preparation for a festival, but I think for the  most part recommendations in books such as “Earthways” the age range is always put lower than what I would put it.  Why be in such a rush to do all this?

5.  Storytelling and Puppetry – If you have not had a time where you light a candle and tell a story, now is the time to begin.  Pick a story, memorize it, and tell it at least three days a week for two weeks to a month.  Simple nature tales, stories you make up, repetitive fairy tales such as The Mitten, The  Gingerbread Man, stories from Suzanne Down’s books, can all be used.   I especially like the stories with music in them if you can read music and sing.

Circle Time is the heart of the Waldorf Kindergarten, but can be a complete flop at home.  I love the book “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” (use  the search engine box to find the review), but at home it can really flop.  Still, I think it is worth a try if you can convince your four-year-old to “teach” your younger child, LOL.  Still stick to the verses and songs you have in daily life, and add seasonal fingerplays and seasonal songs.

Other questions parents have?  What to do about the four year old who is writing?  Wanting to write their name or copy words is still different than formal academics, so just being very ho-hum and not worrying about it is the way to go.  Colors are on the nature table and you can point out an orange pumpkin that is round and  not feel bad your child is “being exposed.”  Again, a bit different than formal academics.  Many of the verses and rhymes for childhood have numbers in them, or letters, and that is okay. Again, different than formal academics. 

Social experiences outside the home can still be limited.  I wrote about social experiences with the four-year-old here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old  and took some grief about this post, but I still feel about things the same way as when I wrote it.   You can agree or disagree, and take what resonates with you.

I am sure I am forgetting things about these ages and Waldorf in the Home, but hopefully it is a good start for you as you think about these ages.  Again, take what resonates with you.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie