“Discipline Without Distress”: Discipline Tools for Toddlers 1-2 Years: Action

Judy Arnall starts this chapter with this observation that I  see all the time, “Parents believe if they don’t nip many behaviors in the bud at this stage, the behaviors will grow and become monstrous later on and their children will be destined to become criminals because they were too lenient when they were toddlers.  NOT TRUE!”

The toddler stage does not involve reasoning.  There is no reasoning yet.  Toddlers are just realizing they can’t always get what they want, and this leads to temper tantrums.  Your toddler is “doing” and the best you can do as a parent is to childproof, supervise, redirect, distract, provide substitutions, pick up your toddler and move them around with your gentle hands away from danger or situations that they shouldn’t be into. 

Toddlers can sometimes follow two word commands.  On this blog, I write from a traditional perspective and also a Waldorf perspective.  The Waldorf perspective on this would be to engage the child’s body and not expect a tiny child to follow a verbal command only.  You cannot parent a toddler from the couch. :)  GET UP!

A toddler is going to express negativity. “ No”  has power, “no”  has meaning.  Toddlers often use their body to express their negativity – hitting, biting, pushing – because their words are not totally there yet.  Even the ones that are “verbally” advanced lose their words when they become upset!  They want to be independent (the “me do it” stage), but still need help.  They don’t play with other children yet, they have fears of things such as thunder or animals or vacuum cleaners.  Their thinking really is “this is here, this is now” without much  memory involved.  They do, however,  IMITATE what YOU do!

Saying no frequently is not helpful in guiding your child – tell them what you would like to see, and better yet, SHOW THEM.   Childproof your environment so you don’t have to say NO fifty times a day.  Also, Judy Arnall points out that “parents have no control over eating, sleeping, toileting, and learning.  The parent can facilitate those processes, but not force them.”  This is something important for a parent to come to grips with.

She lists a page of discipline tools for toddlers including staying with your no, changing the environment, planning ahead, having routines, holding and carrying and restraining the child as needed, giving encouragement, ignoring some things if you can, time-in (see my take on “Time In for Tinies” here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/  ), saying no another way, letting the child have their feelings (my note is that you can’t “fix” how another person feels!  Let them have their feelings!), supervision, parent time-outs, modeling, redirection, holding, hugs and many more tips. 

The author recommends anticipating problems ahead of time and planning ahead.  She also says “avoid play places if you know they get frustrated and hit other children.”  Provide toys whilst changing a diaper or change the diaper standing up or in front of a mirror.  She talks extensively about the fact that toddlers love routines, and also gives examples of some “routines” that small children can do – for example, hanging towels after taking a bath, putting clothes in the basket, everyone carrying their things in from the car.  Essentially, you are laying down the house rules and chores that will become embedded in the existence of a three and four year old.  A three and four year old really knows and understands how things work in your house!

Judy Arnall has sections in this chapter regarding toilet learning, handling emotion, toddler sleep problems, why toddlers don’t understand rules, separation anxiety and how to deal with it, picky eating, toddler aggression and tips for handling this….Another great chapter!

This book deserves a home on your shelf!  Check out Amazon for a copy!

Many blessings,

Carrie

So How Do I Live Peacefully With My Two-Year-Old?

Two and a half is an interesting age; there are ages of “disequilibrium” that occur before this, yet in our society we often hear about “the terrible two’s” as if this is the only stage of disequilibrium on the path to the teenaged years.    I have had many parents tell me they felt two- and- a -half was more challenging, but I have also heard many attached parents say they felt like two was not that bad and that three –and- a- half or four was much more challenging!  (That’s not much comfort if you are feeling out of sorts with your precious two-year-old, though, is it?)

So, how does one live peacefully with a two-year-old? 

I think the first thing one must do is to become very clear with one’s view of the small child and of what gentle discipline means to you and to your family. I have many, many posts about that on this blog.  Here is an oldie but goodie to start you off:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/12/where-do-i-start-with-gentle-discipline/ 

As always, it really does begin with you.  You must get as absolutely  centered as possible yourself because if you feel like you are going to lose it every  time your two-year-old does, it is going to be a long year indeed, unfortunately.  A two-year-old has a complete excess of emotion and impulses; they can’t regulate it at all.  Think of yourself as a sponge that sponges up all that excess emotion; yes, it is exhausting and draining but it is part of  parenting.  So some kind of inner work for yourself where you build up your own life forces, for lack of a better term (in Waldorf we would call this building up the etheric) is a priority; artistic work is especially good.  Can you make it a priority to paint, draw, sculpt, craft for several times a week for half an hour?  It really does help!

Also, get your support in a row.  Do you have other like-minded parents around you?  Not ones that will say, “Oh my, that two-year-old is manipulating you!” but ones that understand what a two-year-old is really about; ones that can help you brainstorm ideas from a loving and warm perspective!

As far as guidance, two-year-olds cannot read non-verbal gestures well in terms of “I am frowning at you and crossing my arms  because I am getting angry with your behavior!”  In fact, a two year old is imitative at best and may just frown back at you or do whatever it is that you are doing at the moment because they are imitating you and really have no idea that you are angry.  Some mothers have told me their two-year-old laughs when they are angry.  This is NOT a defiant, I-am-so-glad-to-see-you-angry- laugh, this is because they understand something about your emotions are different, but again, they don’t really know what to do or how to fix it. Think of this as their way of showing insecurity in the situation if that helps you re-frame it!

So, looking at how you view anger is very important.  What will you do in the heat of the moment? What is your plan?  And what tools are you going to use to help guide your small child instead of yelling or scowling or what have you?

Here is another old favorite to help you get going with that: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/    There are also many posts under anger; check them out under the Gentle Discipline page here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/gentle-discipline/

So, in brief,  here are your allies and your  tools for peaceful living outside of your own work on gentle discipline and anger:

  • CONNECTION – enjoying being together; nursing, co-sleeping,  holding on your lap, still carrying in a sling, playing games, sharing warm meals.  If four is a good age for sitting on laps, it is important to recognize how really tiny two is!  Connect first!
  • Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm – meal times and rest times are most important (and part of being able to go to bed and rest is having a consistent time for waking up every day)
  • Singing and verses more than direct commands; do not ask questions that will be answered NO!  Hum, sing, promote silence, but please stop with the endless barrage of questions.  You can show warmth and love through smiles, pats on the back, hugs, laughter – not just words!
  • Talking pictorially and working through a child’s body in an imaginative way: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/14/working-through-the-body-day-number-17-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/
  • You taking a few breaths and getting some SPACE before you react!
  • Distraction and re-direction
  • You cannot be afraid to pick up a screaming, tantruming child.  The two-year-old may very well need your gentle hands to come back into himself – see the “Time-in For Tinies” post I mentioned above as to more tips for handling temper tantrums.
  • Lots of outside time – get that energy out; pushing, pulling, squatting,
  • Sensory play – water, sand, mud
  • No choices, or very few.  It is really hard for a two-year-old to make a choice, even a small one and then inevitably the choice is made and then they want the other thing….meltdown.  Please don’t put them in that position!
  • Please try to run errands by yourself if you can.  This in itself alleviates so many problems.
  • Avoid expecting that it will be “a good day” if your two-year-old does not melt down; re-frame your expectations for your day in how well you de-escalated things!  And please do forgive yourself!  We are on a path and a journey and striving!  I spoke a lot about this in my talk regarding the first seven years on The Waldorf Channel.  www.thewaldorfchannel.org
  • Do not expect a two-year-old to share well or to patiently wait or to be quiet whilst a younger sibling sleeps for two hours!
  • Guide your child as to what your family needs as a whole;
  • Do not feel hurt if you are not preferred parent of the week!   It is not personal!
  • Try to enjoy this age!  It really is tiny and precious!

 

Love to hear things that have worked well for you with this age – leave a comment in the box!

Blessings,

Carrie

The Two-Year-Old: A Traditional Perspective

Let’s hop into looking at the two-year-old from a traditional perspective.  Again, my favorite resource on this topic is the book, “Your Two-Year-Old” for a traditional look at the two-year-old.

So, what can you expect from a two-year-old?

  • Tends to be much easier to live with than the eighteen-month old; motor abilities are stronger and less a source of frustration
  • Emotionally calmer, happy more of the time than previously
  • Affectionate
  • Developing speech also makes life easier
  • Likes to run little errands around the house
  • Typically likes to watch all the household activities and take part in them
  • Often a typical time for potty training (closer to two and a half)
  • Likes repetition and rhythm to his day
  • Typically eats one good meal
  • Not a good deal of interaction in a “Playgroup” situation (and you all  know how I feel about social stuff for little people under four and a half, if you are new here and don’t know, you can search for the post about social experiences for the four-year-old!  :))
  • How they feel toward younger siblings really varies from kind and protective to jealous.  Never, ever leave a baby alone unattended with a two or two and a half year old.  :)
  • They can run without falling now, walk up and stairs alone two feet to a step, but they tend to use their knee and foot together in walking, both arms out if you ask for one arm, all fingers out if you ask for one finger or one finger on both hands if you ask for one finger,
  • Vision is also dependent upon touch and manipulation of the object the child is looking at; can look at moving objects in space quite well
  • Lots of impulses, short attention span, touches and tastes everything

Two And A Half

  • Often stubborn and aggressive in that the two and a half year old wants what they want when they want it. 
  • Tense, explosive, rigid, bossy, demanding – Carrie’s note:  but this is because they feel UNSURE and INSECURE, not because they feel confident! 
  • Not a good age for making choices, likes to choose the opposite!  The authors write in “Your Two-Year-Old”;  “Thus, the simple choice between chocolate or vanilla cookies may ruin an excursion to the store.  Possibly, it is better that he stay at home so that this kind of problem, so difficult to solve, will not arise.”  
  • Demands “sameness” ; sometimes has rituals around things and then will have a temper tantrum if the ritual for dressing or eating or whatever doesn’t go how they plan
  • Time is seen by the two-and-a-half year old as a sequence of events…The “Your Two-Year-Old”  book mentions that if Daddy comes home from work early one day, your two and a half year old will still expect dinner after Daddy gets home, because that is what normally happens.
  • Lots of tensional outlets – thumb sucking, increased nursing, stuttering, screaming, temper tantrums
  • The age of “I Want!”  “Me do!” and “NO!”
  • The age of parental preferences; only Mommy can do something or only Daddy can do something. My husband and I used to call this PPW – short for Preferred Parent of the Week. 
  • Frequently fatigues, especially as headed toward age three; whining starts to come up
  • Things really do frustrate them, and to them the frustrations they are experiencing are very, very real! 
  • Carrie’s note – there are fun things about this age, everything is new, their vocabulary is exploding, they are interested in helping and being a part of everything. 
  • In a group social setting, possessions are part of himself or herself, so you hear “Mine!” a lot.  Things are more important than people, this is NORMAL.  Also, cannot really take turns yet. 
  • Improved motor skills – can walk on tiptoes, can jump with two feet, will try to stand on one foot, can speed up and slow down and go around things and arms and legs and fingers are more differentiated now.
  • Will start to imitate adult behaviors – caring for a baby, etc.
  • Sensory play – mud. water, sand – are well-liked and needed!
  • Boys overall, have more difficulties adjusting to a group setting, more tensional outlets, more quarrels about possessions, speech may not come in as much as the girls speech until around thirty months

 

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 One- And Two-Year Old

Sometimes I believe the “Waldorf Toddler Years” are the hardest areas to find information about regarding exact specifics as to what to expect and do, especially in the home environment.  Many of things one reads in the books touted for the Waldorf  Early Years (including Heaven on Earth, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, etc)  seem to be more for children around age 3 (and I would argue that if your oldest is three and in the home environment with no older children around to imitate, that many of these activities should actually be brought in later than in the Waldorf Kindergarten!  More about that in a later post!)

The two main focus areas for the first two years are walking and speech.  Therefore, things to think about include gross motor movement and speech.  Here are some quick suggestions in these areas:

For those children who are  walking – walking and pushing weighted things, getting something off a table and putting into a bucket repeatedly, something where the child is squatting and then standing up to put things into a container, (and then you can do this with the child standing on a squishy throw pillow), toddling outside in all kinds of weather, squatting to play

For those more advanced walkers – walking on different surfaces in bare feet, stepping over things, going up and down stairs with a small railing, climbing on all four’s over things on the floor (to get into a bear’s cave maybe?), different textures to feel and walk on outside in barefeet if possible

For all ages – massage, water play, fingerplays, toeplays, being swaddled and unswaddled in blankets of different textures,  sitting on a blanket and being pulled around the house on a “Magic Carpet Ride”,

But the point is we approach these things with love and with imagination.  Be silent with warm looks or warm  gestures and do what you want the child to do or set a small scene for the older toddler with a few simple words – a  few words really do suffice!  Use music for your simple scenario.  (“My Big dwarf collecting jewels!” and sing a song about a dwarf or   “My beautiful butterfly just emerged from the cocoon!”  etc.)  

For two year olds working on speech, now YOU need to prepare as they will ask you over and over what something is.  You can answer that in one word, but then pull out a Mother Good rhyme or a song to sing.  That will expand their vocabulary even more and keep you from going into Adult Land with scientific explanations of how fish have gills to breathe and etc, etc.

Other things to work on:

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.

Meal times.  Again, unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.

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 rubs

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

Outside time.  This is another place where verses come in handy.  If a child sees a flower, you can recite Mother Goose’s “DaffaDown Lily”, if they see a goose you can recite “

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.

Music – as mentioned many times above, 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.

Joy!  Having a toddler should be joyful.  This age will never come again, enjoy it and marvel with them at their wonder!

Love,

Carrie

“Warmth, Strength and Freedom” by Mary Kelly Sutton

This was a wonderful article by anthroposophic physician Mary Kelly Sutton.  I have permission to re-print it here from the owner of the Greentaramama group where I first saw it –  the list owner has a wonderful store to buy children’s woolens and silks by the way.  Here is the link to that store: http://www.greenmountainorganics.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6
Thank you Michelle for this article and your store! 
“““““““““““
WARMTH, STRENGTH, AND FREEDOM
There are times when I sound more like a grandmother than a doctor in
advising families how to be healthy. ‘Dress warmly!’ ‘Eat a good
breakfast!’ ‘Get to bed early!’ ‘Let your body fight its own colds!’
But each of this advisories is powerful, no matter how simple it
sounds.
WARMTH
Warmth is related to the element fire. All the other elements –
earth, air, water — are easily bounded. Warmth goes through
boundaries. This is no surprise when you think of the love (emotional
warmth/fire) you feel for your children. Nothing stops it. (That is
why you are reading this.)
Healthy human beings have a rhythmic body temperature of approximately
98.6, slightly lower in morning than evening. Cold is a stress for the
body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.
(If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts:
the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
lungs, liver, kidneys).
Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
focus and learn.
In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
first week her mother put her in wool underwear.
Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
into
the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
organs. This is an important way that complications happen from
common illnesses, such as a cold or chicken pox. In medical school, I
first saw in my Internal Medicine textbook, that chickenpox
encephalitis commonly occurs when there are very few pox on the body.
The
inflammation does little damage on the skin, but can do a great deal
of damage in a deeper organ. Keeping the skin warm keeps the battle
with a germ where it is safe for the body. I have heard a German
pediatrician describe how he recommends to parents of children with
measles that the parent rub the calves with dry terry cloth until the
calves are pink. This over-warming action draws the circulation to the
surface, and pulls
the battle with the germ to a safe place, outward and downward, away
from vital organs.
This principle can be applied in daily life simply by dressing warmly,
and being attentive to the warmth of our children’s extremities. We
both prevent illnesses, and keep their course uncomplicated if they
occur, by having warm extremities.
Physical warmth is an early sense for the newborn baby, along with
smell, taste, and hearing. But the child does not sense temperature
accurately until about age 9. You are not surprised when a toddler
runs around the house naked, and older kids and adults are reaching
for shoes and sweaters. We have all seen this. In New Hampshire, the
kindergarteners rush into the lakes on Memorial Day, and the third
graders look at them like ‘what’s wrong with you!?’
So you, the parent, must decide what is the right clothing for the
young person you are responsible for. Don’t ASK the young child ‘what
do you want to wear?’ This question is appropriate at times for an
older child, but it is scary for a young child to be the one making a
decision in the presence of an adult. It is hard in our culture NOT to
ask our
children what they want, because we hear it so commonly. I remember
falling into this and asking my 5 yr old son what t-shirt he wanted,
and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t know. You’re the mommy!’ So
often our kids show us what we should have known. Be willing to BE the
Mommy or the Daddy. Make the decision about the clothes you feel are
right for the climate, and say with surety: ‘Here’s your undershirt
and top, your tights and skirt. Let’s get dressed. You’re set for a
wonderful day!’ Your authority is their security. Their strength is
modeled after yours, so give them a strong, insightful, kind authority
figure.
But what to wear, if hands and feet are cold? The rule I’ve used in
New Hampshire is to begin with is three layers on the top with one
tucked in, and two layers on the bottom. One of these should be like a
second skin, closely investing the body, not baggy. This means long
underwear, or tights, or at the very least an undershirt. If the child
is sweaty,
take off a layer. If the child is still cool to touch, change to a
warmer fabric. Natural fabrics breathe best: cotton, silk, and wool.
Down does not breathe, nor do synthetics generally, so body heat is
trapped if the person is overdressed. Cotton can be both cooling and
warming, and is good for hot countries and Arizona summers. Silk is
more warming, then wool-silk, and wool is warmest. A source for
children’s long underwear is: www.greenmountainorganics.com
A helpful image to use is that foxes and rabbits grow fur, thicker in
the winter than the summer. We didn’t — so we have to put on our fur
to be able to run around outside like foxes and rabbits in the winter.
Hats, gloves, sox are all part of the fur we didn’t grow. Clothed
well, we have new freedom to move outdoors. Long underwear in some
seasons
eliminates the need for bulky outerwear, and movement is less
restrained.
So you have the knowledge of WHAT to do, and are confident in your
authority as a parent being the best thing for them. Then life
happens. The child is simultaneously developing his will, so a
wonderful opportunity comes for the child to say ‘NO!!’ to any
parental statement, including clothes. This requires tact, cleverness,
determination –
every adult attribute in the book. Don’t rush into action. Wait,
watch, assess, and plan HOW to do this thing you know is good for your
kids. A young girl may need stylish (warm) tights or long johns that
you have seen ballerinas wear, because, after all, their leg muscles
dance more beautifully if they are warm. A fierce 4-year-old warrior
may need a swashbuckling (warm) pirate muscle shirt, leggings, and
sash, with a story of how to stand and walk like a pirate as they are
put on. A two year old may just need a chase around the room, a
friendly capture, and a lot of loving contact as he/she is poured into
warm layers. Some children will need to know you consider this so
important that favorite activities are actually dependent on dressing
correctly, or that some other consequence is incurred. And then, you
must stick to your word. Because if you don’t really stay home from
sledding because the long underwear couldn’t go on when you said it
must, then maybe you won’t really follow through on all the promises
of love you have made. The child’s mind is consistent even though it
is not fully conscious. It is better not to threaten a consequence
unless you are one hundred per cent ready to carry it out. Your word
is your word, whether it is spoken as lawgiver, or pledging love
forever.
There is no virtue to overdressing. July in southern Arizona is not
the time to insist on the 3-on-top and 2-on-the bottom. The way to
make the decision at any time is to feel the child’s fingers and toes,
rather than to abstractly apply a rule.
BREAKFAST
Eat protein generously at breakfast. (Breakfast like a king, lunch
like a prince, supper like a pauper, the saying goes — and it can be
changed to the other gender: queen, princess, bag lady.) Protein at
breakfast stabilizes the blood sugar for the whole day. (Lunch protein
cannot do the same job; the window of opportunity is past.) EVERYONE
has better co-ordination, endurance, moods, and ability to learn.
Options: eggs of any sort, cottage cheese blintzes, smoothies with
protein powder (preferably not soy), grilled cheese sandwiches,
cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, fish fillets.
(I had great success with my teenage boys telling them they would not
get a ride to school unless they ate breakfast. We lived 4 blocks from
school. They complained, they ate, I drove. As they got older and were
driving themselves, occasionally, they would wake up so late, they
would eat very little. I would just say ‘do the best you can,’ letting
them know what I think is important, but that I trust them. No rule
can substitute for human judgment, and older kids need some freedom to
vary from house rules and learn from life and how they feel; trust
your instinct and love for them in choosing an approach.)
REST AND RHYTHM
Machines are either on or off independent of environment usually,
while living beings have rhythms, gentle alternations of activity and
rest, breathing in and breathing out, that are fundamentally tied to
the Sun. Every Waldorf kindergarden teacher works very consciously to
provide focused activity, then free play or outdoors time. In this
way, the
child is carried through the day harmoniously, with the least
exhaustion, the least likelihood of overload or eventual illness. And
the greatest chance for unfolding his/her human potential creatively.
Our physical make-up is tied to the sun’s movement, light and dark.
The biorhythms of enzymes and hormones follow the diurnal (daily light
and dark) rhythm, even if we work night shift. Bigger rhythms of month
and year and lifetime are present, and more being discovered.
If we live in sync with the way our body is designed, we will have the
greatest health. For children, whose task is to grow and to learn,
this means regular waking, rest, and sleeping times, and regular
mealtimes. Like the gradual change of seasons brings gradual change of
light, we need not be rigid, but in general have a few anchors in the
day that are
constant. Most important are bedtime and breakfast time, in my
experience.
The hours before midnight are the most restorative. So for an adult,
eight hours sleep beginning at 9 pm is more valuable than eight hours
beginning at midnight. A child needs more sleep, in varying amounts at
different ages, and sometimes differing from one child to the next.
The younger the child, the earlier the bedtime. poem A well-slept
child
generally will awaken spontaneously and be happy. If the child is very
difficult to arouse or repeatedly grumpy, the bedtime should be nudged
earlier until a better morning experience is seen. In adolescence, the
cycle shifts later, and the average sleep need is nine hours and
fifteen minutes daily. Since high schools often start very early in
the
morning, a significant stress is unavoidably part of the school week
for adolescents.
Lavender oil as massage, or fragrance on bedclothing, or as warm bath
as part of bedtime ritual, is very helpful for those children who tend
to be alert at bedtime. The bedtime ritual is wonderful to begin with
very young children, as a habit of letting go develops, leading to
sound sleep, and being secure enough to sleep alone. The ritual can
include
bath, story, tuck-in, prayer, kiss with calm ‘sleep tight. love you.
see you in the morning.’ The young child’s ritualistic approach to
life is hierarchical by nature, with Mommy and Daddy all-powerful in
his/her young eyes. The natural order of the world at this age can
readily include God or Higher Power and Angels or Guardian spirits and
be of value to the child’s sense of order and security in the world.
Later, when the nine-year-change comes, and a child senses deeply his
separateness from his parents, the early images of God and higher
beings protecting and guiding his daily actions and sleep can be
reassuring in facing this first big realization of separateness.
A light supper, with little protein or completely vegetarian, helps
sleep come easily. Remember, we want to wake up with an appetite for
breakfast, the foundation meal of the day’s activities, so it’s best
not to overload at night. Time-honored warm milk is a fine
sleep-inducer. Carbohydrates are sleepy foods, while protein, fat,
salt, and caffeine
tend to wake us up.
Almost all children are born with some tendency to one-sidedness, and
our task as parents is to help them find balance. The rhythm of the
day shows whether it is hard for our youngster to settle down, or hard
to get up and move about, and we can help bring about comfort with
both sides of movement, etc.
Should a child have difficulty waking up in the morning, even after
enough hours of sleep, rosemary lotion in cool water is an
invigorating fragrance and can be applied to the face (forehead, then
cheeks) carefully with a damp cloth to bring alertness. A positive
statement about the day ahead is an important medicine in this
treatment: ‘good morning! what has that robin done outside your window
since yesterday? I have a wonderful breakfast ready for you! rise and
shine! what a wonderful day it is!’
THE COMMON COLD, THE USUAL CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES
Recognize acute illness as an exercise class for the immune system,
and treat in a non-suppressive way. It is not a sign of immune
breakdown, it is a chance for strengthening. The big three to help the
body do its best in fighting acute illness are: WARMTH, REST, and
CLEANSING. Add a few low potency homeopathic remedies and herbs, and
you can support the body in this important immune work, not simply
suppress symptoms. See
separate writing for detailed treatments. person as medicine
CHILD DEVELOPMENT
All of these advisories support VEGETATIVE functions, the unconscious
health-giving parts of a human being that are the bank account we draw
on for growth, learning, and later, our work in life. (This vegetative
bank account is also called the etheric forces in anthroposophic
medical terminology. As adults, the strength of our etheric body
manifests as our vitality, our ability to recover, to have energy, or
to endure.) A child’s job is to grow, and to learn things appropriate
to his/her age. With a strong foundation of warmth, nutrition, rest,
rhythm, immune exercise from ordinary acute illness if the body in its
wisdom allows it — the child’s optimal development proceeds, and a
strong physical
foundation is laid for the entire adult life. The vegetative functions
are sometimes characterized by the cow, who is mostly a metabolic
creature, chewing, making milk, sitting and walking and lying down. No
executive tendencies here, nor highly developed sense organs. A
masterful vegetative existence.
The other pole of the human being, opposite the vegetative, is the
CONSCIOUS pole. The parent (or teacher) does this work in the child’s
life, so the child does not have to draw on the bank account of
vegetative forces by making decisions too early. Judgment, analysis,
logic, decision-making are characterized by the far-seeing eagle,
whose highly developed sense capacity is combined with the cunning and
decisive movement of a predator, a majestic lord of the skies.
As parents of young children (1-7 yr old), you are protectors of the
cow-nature, the vegetative foundation, which your child will use
throughout his/her life. As enormous physical growth takes place, the
child uses limbs and explores movement thoroughly. The child is
imitative, copying the way Daddy sits with the newspaper, or insisting
Mommy sit at only her right place at the table, like a learned ritual
the child has mastered. This physical life is accompanied by a mental
connection with images, not reason. Thus the love of bedtime stories,
preferably told, not read, and repeated till every beloved detail is
memorized. Also you find the young child’s questions more
satisfactorily met by a picture than an analytic explanation. Some
questions can even be better avoided, if they are asking for adult
information. But you can always comment ‘What a wonderful mind you
have! You ask such wonderful questions! Let’s get your teddy bear next
to you for nap/lunch.’ The child has made contact, you have responded
lovingly and appropriately.
You see that spark, the flashes of individuality that is waiting to
show itself fully. Your wisdom holds the child’s day steady, rhythmic,
fed and bedded, building the strength of the vegetative side of your
eagle-to-be. It requires trust and patience to let the child unfold in
his/her own time, and not call on adolescent or adult qualities too
early. This time of life can be boring for parents, who have full
adult capacities and thrive on change and excitement, not routine.
Your sacrifice is commendable. Parenting is among the hardest jobs
there are, and each stage of childhood gives parents an opportunity
for a
different form of selflessness.
The heart of childhood is 7-14 yr old, when a respect for worthy
authority is natural, and feeling opens for beauty itself in the world
around. More than vegetative support is required now. The lion’s heart
of courage and strength must be met, with stories of the same, and
exposure to real artistic expression so the beginning of the moral
nature is fed with the beauty and strength it is seeking. This is
often the age of the least illness, and the most harmonious time of
childhood.
But change comes, and the young Philadelphia lawyer casts a disgusted
glance at the parents who have brought him/her thus far — usually
some time around 8th grade. The eagle’s predatory power is evident. No
more contented baby learning movement and the physical world, nor
sweet-natured heartfelt child growing before your eyes. The intellect
is unfolding, and the first object of critical analysis is often the
parents. It’s good timing that powers of judgment and analysis begin
to unfold just as puberty begins. Let the intellect’s sharp powers
master the hormones that rage. From 14-21, the individuality is more
pronounced, decision making should be shared and guided in preparation
for independence. Privacy is important. Learning results of choices,
such as wise consequences in the home, helps put control of behavior
inside the individual.
The wise ‘governance’ of a child goes in stages somewhat like human
history has evolved. The young child is benefited by a benign despot,
the loving parental authority; in the middle years, the child natively
respects authority, but has a developing sense of contributing his/her
wants and needs though not ready for independent decision making;
democracy is built into the adolescent, and the parent gives the
structure of what is or isn’t tolerated by virtue of a structure of
consequences.
The stages of development are given at their usual ages, but there
will be early hints of what is to come and echoes of prior times
varying with each individual. Behaviors I described may be different
due to the family dynamic, or the particular learning path the
individual child carries as part of his/her destiny, or our culture.
The culture we live in pushes adult information into even the very
young child’s life — computers and IQ testing are part of some
preschool programs. Adult decisions are often part of the oldest or
the only child’s daily diet of conversation. Sexualized clothing and
media surround children of every age, and give parents a challenge to
minimize this early maturation influence. Early intellectualizing and
early sexual information pulls the young child out of the vegetative
physical mode that is home for him or her, and spends the child’s
etheric forces on coping and understanding rather than physical
growth.
****************************************
As nuclear families rear children alone in today’s culture,
grandmothers are hard to come by. The pediatrician and family doctor
assume the role that aunts and grandmothers had in helping with
illness and childrearing. But the swap medicalizes common events, and
we take a further step down the pharmaceutical-answer-for-everything
road.
I hope this work can reawaken faith in the capacity of the human body,
enlarged with the scientific understanding that shows why this faith
is reasonable, reconnect us with the healing gifts of nature as they
are enhanced with human insight and become remedies,
and show through the caring for our children, the presence and power
of the human spirit.
Mary Kelley Sutton

__._,_.___

An Anthroposophic View of the Second Year

We looked at the first year here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/07/an-anthroposophic-view-of-walking/  and now we are on to look at the second year.  My main source for this perspective is Karl Konig’s wonderful book, “The First Three Years of the Child:  Walking, Speaking, Thinking.”

Konig points out that speech is something that separates Man from Animal.  “Cries, screams, moans, or other sounds expressing the woes and joys of existence are not speech.  Speech is not merely expression, but naming.”

Anthroposophists see speech unfolding in a three-fold manner:  expression, naming, and then speaking.  “The life of the speech organism begins at the moment of birth.  The beginning has been made when the air current is drawn into the body and tone formation is accomplished with the first cry.  During the embryonic period, this speech organism was at rest, being built up and formed, but at birth its activity begins, enabling the child gradually to learn speech as well as speaking.”    The other three-fold way to look at speech is to see syllables as building the expression, words building the naming, and sentences building the speaking.

Speech is also seen as having two sides:  the motor side (speaking) and the sensory side (hearing).    Speech develops in a three-fold manner:  babbling, meaningless imitation, meaningful reaction to the words addressed to the child. 

Konig makes an interesting point on page 37 and writes:  “  Though the growing baby seems to take in the words and sentences addressed to him with increasing understanding, his comprehension does not yet constitute a word understanding in  its true sense….the word or spoken sentence is not of importance to him, but rather the accompanying gestures and actions, the inner approach.”

From the eighteenth month through the twenty fourth month, the child is typically in a stage of naming.  Everything is named and the child is a joyous discoverer.  The child also becomes what Konig calls a “conqueror” because that which the child can name can also belong to him and become his property. 

The child then moves from naming  into simple, sometimes jumbled sentences into the use of one’s native language.  “Only in talking is the true acquisition of one’s native language accomplished, and this is possible only because the child grows up in a speaking environment.  Speech speaks with the other speakers and expresses the personality of the child.  Speech assumes a social character and the child grows into a language community, that is, into the community of his people.”

Konig’s last point in this chapter is to point out that speech pathologies are actually the “falling apart” of the three-foldness of speech and the lack of harmony between expression, naming and talking.

Happy pondering,

Carrie

An Anthroposophic View of Walking

Anthroposophy views the tasks of the child’s first three years to be learning to walk in the first year; speech in the second year; and the emergence of thinking in the third year (and yes, a later post will address why we start academics around age 7 when thinking begins to emerge before that time).  Today we are going to look specifically at walking and why this is important in anthroposophic terms.

I am currently re-reading Karl Konig’s “The First Three Years of The Child:  Walking, Speaking, Thinking.”  For those of you new to Waldorf and anthroposophy, Karl Konig was a physician who founded the Camphill Movement in Scotland in 1939.  The Camphill Movement includes schools for children who are differently abled and also villages for adults who are  differently abled.

Konig talks about the progression to being upright as starting with controlled eye movements amidst that generalized chaos of random lower extremity movement that begins in the first few days of life.  The sequence of walking begins from the head down, and Konig remarks that “This process seems to be patterned after that of actual birth.  Just as in birth the head is the first part of the body, so here , out of the womb of dissociated movements, coordinated movement is born and oriented step by step toward standing and walking.  At the end of the first year the process of the birth of movement is completed.”

The head occupies an important place with learning to walk because as long as the head is “restless and wobbly”, as Konig puts it, walking cannot be attained.  Other important things leading up to the development of walking and seen in newborn includes a positive support response (ie, a newborn will take weight on his or her legs when the soles of the newborn’s feet come into contact with the ground), a stepping response and a crawling response.  These responses disappear and then come back as the true crawling, walking and standing.  Konig writes, “The ability to stand, the reflex walking movements, crawling and the athetotic movements of premature births differ fundamentally from the new phenomenon of walking.  They must disappear in the course of the first year to make walking possible.”

Most of all, anthroposophy sees walking as very important for several reasons.  Walking upright differentiates man from animals.  “Endowed as they are with a horizontally oriented spine, the animals remain part of the world.  They are overwhelmed by sense impressions and the abyss between self and world does not open.”  In anthroposophic terms, walking is also related to the ability to control feelings and moods and also the conscious use of memory.

Happy hmusings for your baby’s first year of life,

Carrie

Nokken: A Review of Two Books and A Few Thoughts

(Post updated 6/28/2012)  Nokken has come up on almost every Waldorf Yahoo!Group and Waldorf forum I am on, so I thought it was about time to address the work of Helle Heckmann.  More and more, Nokken is being held up as an example within the Waldorf community of what to do right within child care for young children, and as an example of the value of outdoor play and outdoor time and connection with nature for young children.  For this post, I read both “Nokken:  A Garden for Children” by Helle Heckmann and “Nokken:  A Garden for Kids September 2003 Celebration Edition.”  I hear there is also a lovely video about Nokken that I have not yet seen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nokken, Nokken is a Danish approach to  Waldorf-based childcare in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The minimum age for children to enter is walking age.  Helle Heckmann writes, “The child must be able to walk away from her mother and into the world on her own,” on page 26 of “Nokken:  A Garden For Children.”  The center is open for six hours a day only, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  “Our idea is that we share with the parents,” writes Helle Heckmann on the same page.  “We look after the children for six hours, the parents have them for six waking hours and the children sleep for twelve hours.  In other words, the family will still exert influence on the child’s development.”  The staff at the center does not change during the day, unlike child care centers in the United States that are open for long hours that necessitate shift changes.  The children are together in one group from walking age to age 7, and sibling groups are welcomed and kept together, which is again different from the vast majority of child care centers in the United States.  Most Americans would agree this is a huge and vast improvement over the majority of daycare centers in the United States.

Helle  Heckmann writes on page 27 of Nokken,”  It is obviously difficult.  Parents often need longer opening hours, while at the same time they want the world’s best early-childhood program with a motivated and relaxed staff.  This is a difficult task, and knowing that we cannot accommodate all needs, we have chosen to favor the children.  It is a conscious choice we have made as a child-care center. Most of our parents also have to make a choice.  They change jobs, reduce their working hours, or work flexible hours:  the solutions are many and varied as they consciously choose to spend a lot of time with their children.”

She goes on to write that the role of child care has changed; in the past it was for primarily for social stimulation and now,  “The centers must teach children the basics to help them achieve the necessary skills to choose their life style at a later stage.  The parents’ role is mainly to stimulate and organize activities of a social and/or cultural interest.”

Ouch.

Okay, I guess since I am home with my children, perhaps I have a different perspective on this as a homeschooling mother.  Why as a society do we throw up our hands and say, this is the way it is?  People have to work, people have chaotic home lives, so the children are better off in child care than with their own families?  Why are we not coming up with more ways to support and develop parents?  Why in this age of abundant information (yet, often contradictory and just plain wrong information!) are parents feeling so confused and isolated as to what children truly need?  Why is there not more understanding of children as children and childhood development and such as opposed to treating children as miniature adults?

Back to the things that are good about Nokken.  On page 31 Helle Heckmann writes, “Our first priority is to spend most of the day outdoors.  We spend five out of the six hours we are together outdoors.”  The children and staff walk daily to a park with open natural spaces and also have a garden with many fruit trees, berry bushes, sand pits, a hen house, rabbit cages, a pigeon house, a vegetable garden, a herb garden, flower beds and a laundry area.  The children who are younger and need to nap sleep  outside in an open shed, which is common in Denmark.

Children are met in the morning with a handshake, which I find uncommon for Early Year Waldorf programs in the United States.  This seems very awakening for the child, and something I truly only hear of teachers of Waldorf Grades doing with their students in the United States.  Perhaps my Danish readers can tell me if this is a cultural difference?  My husband’s family is from Denmark but have not lived there for a long time, so I have no one to ask!

The daily schedule is something that is lovely and takes into account the ages of the children.  On page 60 of Nokken, Helle Heckmann writes, “We are careful not to let the youngest children participate in story-telling.  If it is a long story, the three year olds sit in another room and draw, because in my experience it is important not to engage them in activities for which they are not ready.”  She also talks about how festival celebrations are mainly for children over 3 as well.  I love this.

The part I have the most difficulty with however, outside of the few things I mentioned above, is the perspective of child development based upon the work of Emmi Pickler and Magda Gerber and their Resources for Infant Educarers.  I realize this puts me outside of most in the Waldorf community, which has embraced RIE.

I liked Helle’s description of the need of the infant to cry as a form of communication.  However, much of the thrust of her perspective of infant care seems to be “to leave the infant in peace and quiet to sleep or, when awake, to get to know herself without constant intervention from her surroundings.  Often it is difficult to show this infant respect and leave her alone. Constantly satisfying your own need for reassurance and your need to look at your beautiful baby will often influence the infant’s ability to be content with herself….By giving the infant peace and quiet for the first months of her life, she will get used to her physical life; the crying will gradually stop, and the baby may start to sleep during the night without waking up at all hours.”

As an attached parent, I believe I can respect my child and still enfold her within my protective gesture and be physically close.  I believe I can still carry her in a sling and nurse her and  have her act as a (passive) witness to my life without overly stimulating her.  I believe in our particular culture at this particular time, parents need reassurance to enfold their child within themselves and their family unit, not to separate their children in their infancy to be independent.  Perhaps this is a cultural difference than Denmark, I don’t know.

However, I also have to say that I  do not believe baby-wearing is an excuse to take my children everywhere I went before I had children.  I believe in protecting the senses but doing this in an attached way.

I do agree with some of Helle Heckman’ s statements regarding infants, including her statement on page 17 of Nokken that, “The more restless the adults are, the more restless the children will be.”  However, statements such as “The less we disturb the infant, the better chance she has of adapting to her life on earth,” rather bothers me.  I agree in not initiating the disturbance of  the infant, but I fear too many parents will take this as license to just set their infant down and let them cry or to keep them passively in a crib.  I do  agree with Helle Heckmann’s assessment that it is difficult to care for children under walking age within a child care setting  because of the high needs of care and because infants need peaceful surroundings.

As a homeschooling mother, what I take away from Nokken is the lovely thoughts of a forest kindergarten, napping outside, using action to communicate with small children and not words (see page 32 of Nokken), using singing as a way of talking to small children (page 51), Helle’s constant inner work and development, her obvious love of the children.

And as a homeschooling mother and attached parent, I don’t like the whole notion that is invading Waldorf Education that children under the age of 4 or 4 and a half should be out of their homes, I don’t like the notion that the child care center, no matter how outdoorsy “shares” the child with the parents, and I don’t like the idea that parents are not as empowered as they could be in childhood development.  Why are we positioning anyone but the parents to be the experts on their children and acting as if someone else knows better?    Waldorf schools are also taking children earlier and earlier into Kindergarten, and I also have an issue with that.   I would like to see more effort to again, empower and inspire parents within the Waldorf movement to be home.   The hand shaking to greet a small child with such pronounced eye contact also baffles me.

There are many wonderful things at Nokken, and many American parents who need child care would be thrilled to find a center such as Nokken in their neighborhood.  Many mothers attempt to create such an environment as part of their homeschooling environment or take in children from outside their family for care so they may stay home with their own children.  These are all realities.

However, I would love to see a movement toward empowering and inspiring mothers to be homemakers, to be truly spiritual homemakers, to encourage families to make tough choices to be home with their children,  because I feel this is where the power of the next generation is truly going to disseminate from.

Blessings,

Carrie

“HELP! My puppy is biting my toddler!”

Today I have the great fortune of having a guest blog writer – my dear friend and expert dog trainer Samantha Fogg!  Thank you so much Samantha for this column and your expertise!  Here is what Samantha writes in response to a very common problem:

“HELP! My puppy is biting my toddler!!!”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten a phone call from a panicked parent who is considering sending their new puppy back to the breeder or to a shelter because the puppy is biting them, their child, and they think that perhaps their pup is aggressive, or bad, or that they can’t handle a puppy in a house with children.  Sometimes the parent has contacted other trainers who haven’t offered any help, but who have said things like “never leave a puppy and a young child together unsupervised” and the parent took this to me that combining puppies and children is dangerous.  Puppies and children CAN co-exist in the same household, but it will take a bit of work and understanding, and yes supervision.  But really, I don’t recommend leaving young children unsupervised, whether or not there is a puppy in the mix.

Puppies bite everything.  Human babies do this too.  Remember when your child stuck everything into his or her mouth?  Puppies are learning about their world, and they are exploring, and everything, including your fingers and your child’s hands, are things your pup wants to learn about so into the mouth they go.  Puppies don’t have hands, so where your human baby patted things, and rolled things in his or her hands, your pup can only use his or her mouth.

It may seem like a cruel joke that puppies are at their most oral at the same time that their teeth are the sharpest, and yes puppy teeth hurt.  Dogs need to have exquisite control over their mouths.  They need to be able to exert the precise amount of control to gently lift and carry fragile items, and also to be able to rip and tear food.  Super sharp puppy teeth guarantee that the pup will get lots of feed back about how much pressure s/he is exerting.  When puppies play with each other they wrestle, and bite, and grab onto each other.  If one puppy bites another puppy too hard, the hurt pup will give a high pitched yelp and go a bit limp.  The biting pup should immediately back off.  If the biting pup persists with biting too hard, the one being bitten will refuse to play with the biter.  Thus puppies learn exactly how hard they can bite each other without hurting, and they gain control of their mouths.

The longer a pup stays with Mom and littermates, the farther along in their bite inhibition training they will be, but even a 12 week old pup won’t have mastered his or her mouth so you’ll need to take over where Mom and the littermates left off.  Some people punish a dog for using his or her mouth, and while in the short term this may solve the problem of sore hands, in the long term, the dog doesn’t learn sufficient bite inhibition.  Hurt dogs defend themselves by biting, and if something terrible happens, say your toddler hurts your dog badly, you want the dog to know that humans are fragile, and to be able to restrain himself and only put his mouth on your child, and not scar your child.  Bite inhibition is critical.  To teach this, you (depending on the age of your children, you likely do not want them to do this)  want to solicit play with your hands.  When the puppy bites you too hard yelp like a hurt puppy and let your hand go limp.  Your pup should immediately back off.  When the pup backs off, start the game again.  If the pup is over-stimulated, or overly tired, the pup may have a bit of a temper tantrum, and may repeatedly bite too hard.  If this happens, your goal should be to calm your pup down, perhaps by giving the pup some time away from people, or using gentle friendly restraint.  When you yelp, a small percentage of puppies will react as though your hand is prey, and will attack more, if this happens, cease playing with the pup and ignore the pup for a couple minutes every single time the pup bites too hard.  As with most things in dog training, repetition is important.  The more frequently you work on this with your puppy the sooner your puppy will learn to control his mouth.

Once your pup is able to play with you gently, it is time to let the puppy know that they can only play with your hands if they are invited to do so.  If the pup isn’t invited to play and grabs at your hands, either yelp like a hurt puppy again, or simply walk away.  In the beginning you’ll want to initiate the game a lot so that your puppy can learn the difference between being invited to play (puppy gets to play), and not being invited to play (puppy doesn’t get to play).  Once your pup understands that teeth can only touch human skin if invited to do so, you can gradually stop asking your puppy to play this game at all.

In addition to teaching your pup about bite inhibition, you want to provide your puppy with plenty of puppy-safe toys to chew.  Stuffed kongs, especially ones that are frozen, are a great toy for pups, but take a look at your local pet supply store, and try things out (see www.kongcompany.com for kongs and stuffing ideas!).  Ideally you should get enough toys so that you can rotate the toys out.  Toys that a dog hasn’t seen in a couple weeks are far more exciting than toys that the dog sees on a daily basis.  Remember — puppies NEED to chew, so if you don’t provide things for the pup to chew on, your pup will find things to chew on, and you won’t like your puppy’s choices.

Depending on the age of your children, you’ll need to involve them in this process to a greater or lesser degree, but unless your child is a baby, your child will need to participate in the bite inhibition training.  Fortunately for many children their initial instinct when nipped by a puppy is to scream in a high pitched voice, and to refuse to play with the puppy.  But you still want to practice.  Start before your puppy arrives (or if you already have a puppy, start with the pup out of the room).  Have your child practice yelping like a hurt puppy.  Make this a fun game.  Also have them practice freezing, and going limp.  Make sure that your child does NOT hit the puppy, or get aggressive toward the puppy.

More important than teaching the child what to do when nipped, you want to set puppy and child up for successful interactions.  A great game to help with this is the Invisible Dog Game. You’ll need lots of dog treats for this.  The rules are as follows:

1. Dog must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and the leash must be held by an adult.

2. Dogs who are in a down position are VISIBLE.  Dogs who are doing ANYTHING except lying down, are INVISIBLE.

3. Dogs who are VISIBLE can be patted, talked to, and given treats.  Dogs who are INVISIBLE must be ignored.

4. Don’t talk to the dog or tell the dog what to do.  Just stick to the above rules, your dog will figure it out.

When you first play this game, your pup may have a hard time coming up with the idea to lie down.  That is OK, but you want to make sure that your child stays engaged, so talk to your child about how the dog is invisible and where is the dog, and so forth.  Try to avoid becoming so animated that the dog has fun with this.

As soon as your dog becomes visible (lies down), make a big deal about it.  “Oh, there is the dog!” and immediately give the dog treats.  If the dog leaps back up — and many will in the beginning — the dog is invisible again “where did the dog go?  Wasn’t the dog just here?”  As your dog gets the hang of this, your dog will spend longer, and longer in the down position and you’ll have the opportunity to do things like — “where is the dog’s tail” and as soon as the child touches the dog’s tail, give the dog a cookie, and “how many paws does the dog have?” and give the dog a cookie each time the child touches a paw.  When the dog gets even better the child can sit with the dog, patting the dog and telling the dog stories.

Quit the game before dog and child get tired of the game.

Of course, puppies are learning a lot more than just about how to control their mouths, and puppies, like small children, can have temper tantrums or lose control of themselves.  Puppies who get overly tired, or over -stimulated, may nip more, may fling themselves about, may even air snap.  Puppies benefit from having a rhythm to their days, and to having plenty of nap time.  Puppies tend to be energetic in bursts, and then need to sleep.  Puppies who miss naps are often fussy, and grumpy.  Make sure that your pup is getting plenty of down time.  Puppies who don’t get enough exercise also have trouble controlling themselves.  You don’t want to go on overly long walks, or runs with your pup, but you do want them to have plenty of off-leash play time.

To recap — spend a lot of time teaching your puppy about bite inhibition, give your pup plenty of things to chew, teach your children what to do if the puppy nips them but try to avoid the pup nipping the children as much as you can, play games that teach positive ways for child and pup to interact, have a rhythm to your day that includes both active times and quiet times for the puppy.

Samantha Fogg

work+play positive dog training

Atlanta, GA (The next Babies+Dogs class will start in October!)

http://workplaydogs.com

Thank you again, Samantha!

Carrie