Freedom Versus Form

This has been a season where the theme of freedom versus form has been coming up repeatedly in my life, and as usual, I took this as a sign that I should write about this subject for my readers.

During one of the first few weeks on her Yahoo Group for homeschool planning called “Sketching It Out” that in homeschooling, Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie wrote something to the effect that we have a freedom so different than what is found in the Waldorf schools in bringing the impulses of Waldorf Education to the home, but then we have to create the form.  I have been mulling this thought around for several weeks now, where it has been germinating in my heart.  I  know from my own experiences in talking to  so many mothers and families that creating the form seems to be the most challenging part for families not just in homeschooling, but in parenting.

A small example in  parenting, for example,  Continue reading

Authority: The Challenge of Our Times

Authority is so necessary for parenting in  today ‘s fast-paced world.  Authority, sharing its root with words such as authentic and author, gives us the number one way to guide our children into peace.

It is not a big house, or a small house.

It is not the amount of money we have or don’t have.

It is not what activities our children are enrolled in or not.
It is how we connect to our children through authority.

Authority is a special way of holding the space for our children in such a way that the child can enter fully and wholly into the world without anxiety, worry or distress.  They do not have to enter into the adult world but can be an innocent in childhood play and the childhood repetition of play, work, being outside, submersed in the rhythm of the year.

The challenge of our times is that so many of us grew up in homes where Continue reading

Boundaries For Gentle Parenting: Why? How?

Often in  the world of gentle discipline we are implored to look at our child’s needs and wants when they are acting in a way that we don’t understand or want. However,  I often think that just attributing a reason “why” a child does something is really not enough or honestly, even always necessary. I have known and worked with a lot of children and their families, and I just don’t know as every childhood action that is trying or challenging  to adults is the result of an unmet need that the parent needs to decipher. Yes, sometimes there are things going on that the child is feeling stressed about and cannot articulate well.  Yes, we live in a fast-paced world and many children have an awful lot to deal with.  Connection and attributing positive intent  to a child’s often immature but developmentally appropriate actions are so important. But some actions are just things that children do for whatever reason, many times without really thinking at all. Continue reading

Parenting Tuesday: Expectations: Friend or Foe?

I was recently looking through Michele Borba’s book, “Parents Do Make A Difference: How To Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts,” and this sentence jumped out at me:

The kind of messages we send our children is critical.  Expecting little from our kids limits their success, because they lose the incentive to try new possibilities.  Unrealistic expectations can also damage our kids:  “Why didn’t you get all A’s?”  “How did you not make the team?”  “You got a 98 percent – which two did you miss?”  Pushing our kids because we want the best for them may be misinterpreted by them as “You’re not good enough.”  Successful expectations gently stretch our children’s potential to become their best without pushing them to be more than they can be.  And these expectations never destroy children’s feelings of adequacy.”

The author goes on to discuss using the parameters of “developmentally appropriate, realistic, child-oriented, and success-oriented” as barometers for whether an expectation is healthy or not.

I talk a lot about development on this blog, and have included realistic expectations as part of the developmental posts for each age.  You can access many back posts to look at that.  However, here is a quick rule of thumb:  Continue reading

Part Two: Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

The first part of this series can be found here, including some really interesting comments regarding attachment parenting and enmeshment, attachment parenting and children learning to have self-reliance:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/01/23/attachment-parenting-whats-going-on/

So, on with my list of the ways I feel attachment parenting as sometimes been misconstrued and misunderstood, coming from my experience of being in the attachment community for the last 11 years:

Number Two:  The only way to guide a child is to talk to them, and talk some more, no matter what the child’s age.  I think if we look at the child as moving through the stages of imitation, short explanations, needing a loving authority figure,  going into cause and effect reasoning around the age of twelve and then moving into mentorship, apprenticeship, and such during the teenaged years, a completely verbal approach cannot and should not be the answer for children of all ages.  I have written about the idea of combining thinking, feeling and willing for the guiding of a child many times and in many ways on this blog.

Sometimes I think attached parents use excessive talking to a child to not only communicate and explain, but, (in all honesty!) in hopes that the child will agree with them. This way we can still all be friends!  This can be a very passive way to set a boundary.

Just because you are attached and connected to your children doesn’t mean they are always going to agree with you!

So, I wish the attachment parenting community would Continue reading

Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

I wrote about the intersection of attachment parenting and Waldorf education some years ago in a back post, but it has been on my mind again lately…And then, just this week, there was a wonderful thread regarding this topic on Marsha Johnson’s waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com list.  Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie of Wonder Of Childhood (http://thewonderofchildhood.com/) had some particularly wise and insightful things to say about the journey of the parent  as a part of Waldorf parenting  (which we often see in the work of biography in Waldorf Education, as we, the teacher and the parent, strive to heal and understand ourselves because we are not just teaching academic subjects but teaching how we view the world and who we are!) and how this intersects with attachment parenting.

My husband and I have attachment parented three children ages 11 to 3 as of this writing.  I have been involved and am still involved in attachment parenting at my local community level, and I receive a lot of mail and questions from attached parents all over the world, so I think I am in a unique situation to know what’s going on in the world of attached parents.

So, today I want to write about some of the ways I  personally think attachment parenting has been misunderstood and misconstrued.  Again, this is my opinion, so please take what resonates for you, and leave the rest behind.  There really are no road maps for the attachment parenting of the older child; I believe there is a book out by Isabelle Fox on this subject and I think I read it a long time ago but yet I have little impression of it at this point Therefore, these are just some of my observations from seeing attached children that are now over the age of seven, up through the teenaged years.

The attached mothers I have spoken to who have children over the age of 7 or 8 wouldn’t change the fact that they are attachment parenting but many of them would change HOW they did it.  Most of the things they would change has to do with rhythm, how they communicated with the young child, and boundaries for the entire family.

So, without a road map for the older child, here is my perspective after being in the attachment community for eleven years now:

Number One: Some feel that in order to be an attached parent, the approach must be completely child-centered – ie,  the child sets the rhythm, whatever the child wants to do the parent does their best to make it happen,  anything the child says and does requires the attention of the parent.   Yet, Jean Liedloff herself wrote about the unhappy consequences of being completely child-centered here:  http://www.continuum-concept.org/reading/whosInControl.html

Actually,  I think the attachment literature that has sprung up has done Continue reading

Helping A Child Learn To Rule Over Himself

“Second only to learning how to bond, to form strong attachments, the most important thing parents can give children is a sense of responsibility – knowing what they are responsible for and knowing what they aren’t responsible for, knowing how to say no and knowing how to accept no.  Responsibility is a gift of enormous value….We’ve all been around middle-aged people who have the boundaries of an eighteen-month old.  They have tantrums or sulk when others set limits on them, or they simply fold and comply with others just to keep the peace.  Remember that these adult people started off as little people.  They learned long, long ago to either fear or hate boundaries.  The relearning process for adults is laborious.” – page177-178,   “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

“Sad at heart, the King stepped from behind the screen, took the Prince by the hand, and led him away from the school.  When they reached the royal palace, the King spoke thus to his son: “Anyone who has to be King someday and to rule over other people must first learn to rule over himself.” – From the short story “The Prince Who Could Not Read” in the book “Verses and Poems and Stories to Tell” by Dorothy Harrer

Helping a child learn to take responsibility for themselves is one of the hardest and most challenging tasks in parenting and also one of the most necessary. Continue reading

Walking The Walk

The Collect for today, Easter Thursday, has to do with showing in our lives that which we profess to believe.  It seemed a very nice way to say that statement so many of us have heard: “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”

In many times, this can be the most daunting part of parenting. Our lives become transparent and our children see all the parts, even the parts we think we have hidden from them.  We cannot be less than our authentic selves; our children know.

This leaves us with really having to work on ourselves.  What do we honestly think is real, true, sacred, noble?  How do we show this in our lives to our children without saying a word?  Are there areas in our lives that don’t match up with what we say we believe?  And if this is so, how do we make all areas of our lives align with what we say we believe?

This alignment comes with sacrifice sometimes, and requires an exertion of will.  If we do the same things over and over again with less than satisfactory results, than we must overcome our own inertia and do something different.

We live in this strange age where thoughts and feelings fly over technology; action is done by a push of a button. We have forgotten how to live in concert with the season and almost seem surprised when weather intrudes on our lives.  It leads to a situation,where quite frankly, we often don’t have to do much  exertion of  our own will anymore.  I wrote a post about developing the adult will some time ago and was just looking at it today:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/the-adult-will-and-how-to-develop-it/

Rudolf Steiner gave an interesting exercise to help in the development of initiative and control of the will.  He proposed choosing an activity that is simple and perhaps unrelated to what you normally would do at that time of day, such as just opening and shutting a door or window or watering a plant, and do it at the same time every day.  

I think the other piece of developing the will that can be hard in this day and age is  to think and come to grips with the fact that we cannot “have it all” and when we do things on a consistent basis that are not in line with our professed values, it ripples an effect into our lives, and into our children’s lives.  So, I ask you does it foster in you the real, the true, the sacred, the noble?

I know in this impersonal electronic medium, these thoughts have the possibility of coming off as unloving or holier than thou or damning.   None of this is my intent.  It is just questions for you to ask yourself: how does my walk match my talk and how could I align these two things more and more for my own holistic health and that of my children?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Step Up And Be The Parent

Just for today, step up and be the parent.

Just for today, stop making excuses and explaining all the reasons things can’t happen in your household and just make it happen. 

Just for today, live your life in accordance with your values in front of your children.

Just for today, model how you want your children to behave.

Just for today, show your children the world is a place of beauty, truth and goodness.

Just for today, have empathy for all the hardships present in growing up.

Just for today, speak to your children kindly, even if they are not speaking kindly to you.

Just for today, get a sense of humor.

Just for today, set boundaries and stick calmly to those boundaries even  if your children don’t like it.

Just for today, be the parent you want to be for the sake of your grandchildren.

Just for today, have fun.

Just for today, step up and be the parent because you are the only parent your children have.

Love to all,

Carrie

Is “Keep Calm and Carry On” Unfeeling?

No, it is not meant to be at all!!  The main point is to connect with your child, but not “connect” by yelling, screaming, shouting.  Please go back and read the “How to Keep Calm and Carry On”  back post as I went back and highlighted in bold all the sections about loving and connecting.   This whole blog is about love, and I certainly didn’t mean for anything to come off as uncaring. 

Feeling as if your child’s behavior is not the end of the world, ie, equivalent to “please pass the salt” or picking up lint on the floor is simply an inner attitude to help you keep your cool and only part of what needs to happen in a situation of true conflict.  I think this also helps underscore that a child is ONE part of a FAMILY.  A family is a social organism onto itself, and the behavior of one child, one person, should not be enough to upset the whole balance and get the whole family in a tizzy.  That is more what I meant, but you may have to go through some back posts to really read the Keep Calm and Carry On series in context. Guess that is the problem of having a blog over say, a book.     

Connection is your number one discipline tool, I have said this over and over and over.  See this post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/05/renewal-commit-yourself-to-gentle-discipline/ 

Absolutely,you must connect with your child, and you must de-escalate the situation before they get the point the child is having a temper tantrum.  However, whining and laying on the floor saying “I am bored” over and over deserves not only not yelling and shouting but a calm response and an assurance that the family life does not grind to a halt where everyone is tense and shouting because of just simple pushing against forms by a child.  Everything deserves a loving and  calm response.  I am certainly NOT suggesting you go off somewhere else and fold laundry whilst your child is melting down. 

What I am suggesting is that many parents have the problem of being calm in order to help their child.  Many parents blow their fuse almost immediately the moment a child does something normal, small and age-appropriate.  For small things, I think “keep calm and carry on” can help parents find their center.  The trick is being able to be connected and loving to your child on the outside, calm on the inside and show it through smiles, warmth, an “I am here” attitude, and even saying, “I hear you!” 

Sometimes there is only so much complaining and whining one can really hear but you can say to a six year old and older, “I hear you, and I have listened to you talk about your sadness (boredom, etc)  and right now I really am full but I will carry your thoughts with me  whilst I wash the dishes.  Come and help me” and take them by the hand to help you.  Sing.  This may sound harsh to some of you with smaller children, but many small children find it oddly comforting  that family life is still humming and they don’t have the utter power to make the whole family unbalanced.  When a small child can sense that their behavior can de-rail the whole family, that is scary to them.  Does that make sense?

I also honestly think that because many parents are only having one child or two children, these children live closer under the parent’s scrutiny than say, children living in a larger household.  Not everything needs to be so serious and taken so under scrutiny.  Children are not little adults, they deserve attention and love, but there is also something to be said for a bit of benign neglect where children are part of the family, not just something everyone in the family should be orbiting around like a small sun.   I like this post about benign neglect:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/01/a-bit-of-benign.html

Older children, your five and six to ten year olds. really need to see this calmness.  I am sure we all remember instances of being teenagers and not wanting to talk to our parents because they “would freak out”.  If you can be calm(er) in the years preceding these years, hopefully your teenagers will feel they can come to you with things because you will be calm and helpful and listen.

How-to’s of “Connection, Keep Calm and Carry On” in the next post!

Hope that helps to clarify a bit…Many blessings,

Carrie