Small Child, Your Challenging Behavior Is About As Interesting To Me…

As a piece of lint on the floor. Ho-hum, ho-hum.  I am over here doing real work, and please come join me.  I hear you,  I see you, I will connect with you and help you move into work and movement.  I will help you with a good sense of humor.  I will help you stick to the boundary I set,  but with my  ho-hum.

A fifteen month old will arch and protest over what he does not want to do.  A two-year-old will experiment with “no” about a million times.  A four-year-old will get wound up and use “potty words”.  A six-year-old will tell you they hate you and slam doors.  A nine or ten year old will experiment with swear words (which is about the equivalent of a four year old saying potty words).

Ho-hum.

It is hard not get emotionally wound up about challenging behaviors when they stem from our own children, when these behaviors  stem from pushing against the boundaries we have set, and when we have to live with this pushing against forms 24 hours a day.

Yet, the more you can be warm and loving but ho-hum, the better life will be.

The more we can stop and think before we say something or do something, the more we model that temperance for children that is so important.  However, by the same token, we do not model passively sitting by and doing nothing when something clearly needs to be done.  There needs to be a Middle Way, which is something that Waldorf Education frequently talks about.

We want to raise a generation of children who can take that moment to pause and to think before they act, but yet  we also want to raise a generation of children who will grow up to DO.  We want to raise a generation of children who are healthy enough in their bodies and their minds that they can do what will need to be done to make our world a better place but to  do it with thoughtfulness and reverence.

And it all starts in the home, with us, the parents, being able to distinguish and discern when to act, when not to act, what to say and what not to say.   It starts with us, the parents, being able to give our children a childhood that is real and authentic and not a watered-down version of adult reality.  It requires boundaries and it requires love.  A whole lotta of love.

And it requires a ho-hum attitude.  

Be peaceful.  Be authentic and be real, but know when to raise a fuss and when to be ho-hum.  Big things require big reactions, but little things do not.

That is part of the parenting path and work for us as parents in this year and in this time.

Many blessings,

Carrie

How Do I “Keep Calm and Carry On”?

Kathy, Lura, Stephanie and all you other wonderful mothers out there:  How do I “keep calm and carry on?”  Wow, that is the question, isn’t it?  Many of us realize after some time in parenting and in homeschooling that we actually are the ones who set the tone for our families.  However,  it can be a “whole ‘nother ball of wax” trying to figure out the steps to take to do this consistently and effectively.

What you are looking for is to cultivate a really peaceful energy of quiet joy in homemaking, parenting and in life.  I do think some of this comes just with time and experience.  I know that for myself as a third-time mother I am much quicker to set boundaries in a calm manner and follow through in a patient way.  It is always my goal to cultivate that same sort of interest in challenging parenting situations as I see in picking up a piece of lint off the floor.  Ho0hum, ho-hum, ho-hum.  I really think any parent who has a child of any age can do this though.  It really is just a commitment to practice, just like practicing anything else you have learned in your years of living.  Practice, and don’t give up!

I don’t think the goal is to be a “valium mother” where you are not authentic or real, but I think over time you learn to save your big reactions for the big things and you hopefully have perspective from knowing development of the holistic human being in body, soul and spirit.  That is what this blog is all about!

I am an Episcopalian, and one analogy often used to describe the basis of this religion is “the three-legged stool”of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. I would like to borrow that analogy for a moment.  See if you can picture a simple, wooden three-legged stool in your mind’s eye.   Do you have it?   On the seat of the stool is the word “Calm” or the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On”.  On each leg of the stool  the following words are written:   “RHYTHM”  “THOUGHTS/WORDS” and “TIME”.  Let me explain each leg:

1.  The first leg of this stool is RHYTHM.  We all want peace in our homes.  Well, the opposite of peace is CHAOS.  If you would like to tame your chaos, then you need a rhythm to your day.

A rhythm is not a “schedule by hour”, but it is a flow and an order.  I have many back posts on this blog about establishing rhythm.  Rhythm  is the best and most important place to start in establishing peace and authority (remember, not mean and nasty dictator authority but loving authority!)  in your home.  Start around awake times, meal times, nap times and bed times.  This includes a reasonable bed time and awake time for yourself. 

Once this is established, then move into more of the details:  outside time, time to have a practical activity that you focus on each day of the week, inside play, time for singing, maybe adding in a time to tell a story.  Time for in-breath and time for out-breath. 

Rhythm also goes along with the festivals of the year, so you have to spend some time with your journal, a piece of paper, your significant other and think about what festivals your family will celebrate and why that resonates with your family and how you will celebrate.  Then you can move into planning for those and working those things into the DOING with small children at home.  The doing becomes pieces you can fill in for the practical work of your daily rhythm – baking, crafting, creating.

Rhythm also needs to include when you will do your housework.  Again, there are many back posts about this subject on this blog.  I personally like www.flylady.net for mothers trying to tame their homes.  I like Flylady because I think her plan is actually “do-able” with small children because it tends to work in small chunks of time, it asks you to start where you are, and it works in baby steps.  Many mothers I personally know have found success with the Flylady system, including myself.  Smile

2.  The second leg to this three-legged stool is “THOUGHTS/WORDS”.  Change your thoughts, change your words, change your life.

Change your perception of anger:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

Change your attitude:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/17/the-power-of-being-a-positive-mother/

Be kind in your home:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/03/kindness-in-your-home/

Change the words you use with your children:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/23/changing-our-parenting-language/

Set boundaries in a loving way, referred to on this blog as “holding the space” and “being the rock”.  Here is my favorite post on that subject:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/02/re-claiming-authority-part-one/

3.  The third leg to this three-legged stool is “TIME”.  If you know what your values and priorities are because you made a Family Mission Statement, are you using your time in a way that reflects that?  Or are you wasting a lot of time wandering in circles feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start?  Go back to rhythm!  Plan your week out on a piece of paper!  Start somewhere!

Are you wasting time on the computer?  I find for many mothers the biggest time waster is not TV or even the phone, but the computer.  Many mothers, especially mothers of small children, seem to spending an awful lot of time looking at blogs of so-called “perfect homes” and “perfect families” instead of spending their time planning or actually being with their families!  For the most part, I keep pictures OFF of this blog for that reason.  You should not be comparing your family to mine or to anyone else’s family, and pictures make this a really easy trap to fall into!   It is so tempting with these blogs to feel inferior and as if everyone has it all together, so why don’t we?  I guarantee that I am just a humble work in progress with real life days and so are all the mothers of those beautiful blogs.  We are all  just real human beings!

I think one of the biggest ways we can become guardians of our time and to redeem our time is to spend it in PMP.  PMP is my way of saying prayer, meditation, and planning.  If you pray over your concerns, meditate and see what that small quiet whisper tells you and plan, you will make better decisions for you and your family.  Life will flow!

Remember: rhythm, thoughts/words, time.  The keys to keeping calm and carrying on.  If you need to, tack up some reminder words or pictures on pieces of paper.  Come up with your plan for what you will do when that last boundary is crossed; how will you react and how will you de-escalate the situation when it is no longer a time for learning for anyone in the household?

These are things worth pondering during these Holy Nights.

Much love and many blessings!  You can do this this year!

Carrie

The Mini-Rant: Keep Calm and Carry On

Are you feeling a bit grumbly right now, looking about at a house strewn with holiday decorations, new holiday gifts that don’t have a home yet, the vestiges of company and entertaining, the children running about and no rhythm to speak of going on?

‘Tis the time of year.

Sometimes all of us stop and think and want to whine and  complain:  “But I don’t WANT to be the one to set the tone in my home!  Why can’t it be someone else!”

“Why can’t it be my spouse?”

Well, because if you are mother reading this, you know small children under the age of 9 are rather tied into your energy.

“Why can’t it be grandma?  Grandma lives with us, let it be her to set the tone!  Really!”

Uh, grandma can give you The Wisdom of Tradition, but she has raised her own family and now it is your turn to raise yours.

“Oh, drat.  I know, let the CHILDREN set the tone!  That’ll do it!”

No, really, YOU must do this.  The children cannot do it. You have many more years of living, of experience, of wisdom to guide them.  They are full of emotional excess, of raging willing and feeling.

You must set the tone in your home.  Because you can either set it intentionally or unintentionally.  But you are the one doing it!

I wrote a post about this awhile back in which I likened this to being the Queen of Your Home.  In that post  (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/19/cultivating-how-to-hold-the-space-the-inner-work-of-advent/)  I said:

“If you were the Queen, you would not be running around like a chicken with your head cut off (my great-grandmother’s saying!), trying to accommodate three or four children’s wishes and desires of any given moment.   Instead, you would be calm and collected.  You would have a kind way but a Queenly Way.  You would probably think before you decreed something, and you probably would not explain the heck out of yourself……

You would not be swept away by the torrents of wee ones’ tantrums and emotion because you would know your number one job would be to hold the balance when your child cannot hold it for themselves.  This does not mean to be an unemotional  rock, but it does mean you can understand how words can be just words, feelings can change on a dime and if you can just hold on, your child will eventually calm down.  You will understand that you are being a rock for your child to hold onto so the torrent of emotion doesn’t escalate for the child.

Again, this does not mean being unfeeling!  You can hold your child, pat your child, move your child, but you may  not fall apart with your child as they fall apart.  You may not unleash your own torrent of emotion on a small child and expect them to not crumple in front of you.  Behavior that is not fabulous in an under-9 child generally needs to be treated in the same ho-hum tone you would use to ask a child to pick up a book off the floor.  Then you can move into having the child FIX his poor action, because the child is a WILLING and DOING being at this point.  He needs to DO to fix it!  But he cannot fix it if he is falling apart and you are falling apart with him!  He is learning, help him!

For children over the age of 9, as Queen you would realize feelings are predominant.  Feelings were also important before, but feelings were more in an undifferentiated kind of state. Now feelings are so specific!  Being Queen, you would be able to hear feelings expressed immaturely ( meaning not always in a way pleasing to the Queen’s ears!) and still be able to be a calm rock with a ho-hum attitude to help the child learn to fix this challenge!   Feelings can be acknowledged without judgment because most of all,  The Queen is a problem-solver, and if she can model being calm, solving the problem, being respectful, then the child will as well!

For children over the age of 14, they are interested in your thoughts, in the nature of constructing an argument, in your thoughts and why you think that and how you got there in your thinking.  It is hard!  Don’t you remember being a teenager?

Barbara Coloroso, in her book, “Kids Are Worth It!  Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline” :  “If you are raising adolescents, you are in a high-risk category for a coronary.  You’re up against someone dealing with a major hormone attack:  feet are too big, hands are too big, bodies are too big or too small, voices are up, voices are down, zits are coming out all over their faces.  They come to the front door, all smiles; two minutes later they are in the bathroom crying.  You ask what happened.  “She used my comb.”  “He wore my shirt.”  “She didn’t call like she said she would.”  Are we going to make it through this?  Yes, but we can’t keep hooking in to our kids’ adrenaline.”

A Queen is the Ultimate Helper, problem-solver, balancer, peacemaker.

Can you be that Queen for a day?”

No, really you must step up, even if you are whining and kicking and complaining and screaming INSIDE and be the one to be calm and carry on!

Smile, you can do this for your family!

Tackle your most important priorities first and do it with a good attitude.  Pray; get your house in order; assess where your children are and  get your plan for parenting and homeschooling in order.

Be the keeper of your time this year, 2011.  Find your values and your priorities and plan your time around those.  Look carefully at commitments outside of your family; look carefully at what nurtures community for your children.

Be calm and carry on!

Many blessings to make 2011 a year of DOING,

Carrie

Re-Claiming Authority: Part Two

Many of you have written in and wanted to know how to start to be the authentic leader in your own home. 

You have authority because you are the parent!  Whether or not you choose to recognize the fact that you are the authority in their own home or exercise BEING the authority is up to you.  All you have to do is claim it and own it, that you can do this in a kind way.  Again, do not confuse “dominating and misuse of power” and otherwise being mean and nasty with authority.   You can be kind and loving and  still set boundaries in your family.  When you are being an parent who is an authentic leader, you will be guiding your child toward right action.  This is love in parenting!  Help your child learn and grow!

However, in order to have your child do the right thing you have to know what the boundaries are in your family.  What are the VALUES of your family, what kind of person do you want your child to be when they grow up and how will the boundaries you set now guide them toward that?  Love them enough to grow up to function in society as a moral human being.

This requires THINKING and TALKING to your partner.  Get on the same page, or at least agree to follow sometimes and lead sometimes.  Compromise on areas where you disagree.  Get a community behind you.  I am a proponent of having a spiritual community, or a parenting community, or some kind of community, so your child sees these moral messages everywhere, not just at home!

Here are some other “helps” for re-claiming authority:

1.  One is to believe in yourself that you can have boundaries  that make your family function in a healthier way, a way that meets the needs of everyone in the family, and that boundaries are okay and you are not being “a dictator.”  Rules are okay and it is not a dirty idea to have a healthy, happy family.  Smile 
Have confidence in yourself and the decisions you make on behalf of your family.  

2.  Forgive yourself!  Some mothers really feel badly that they have not handled guiding their children  differently.  Here are two back post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/27/forgiving-ourselves/  and the wildly popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/my-kids-deserve-a-different-mother/ 

3.   Again, figure out what your family values; this will help you determine what boundaries are important to you.  Sometimes creating a Family Mission Statement can be a big help.  Your own inner work is essential.  Here is a Christopherus blog post about this:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/discipline_ques.html

The main way we use our authority is by modeling RIGHT ACTION.  What are you modeling based upon the values of your family?

4.  Figure out where your children are; sit and think about them and meditate and pray about them at night.  There are so many posts on here about each age from birth through age nine and what typically happens developmentally at these stages.  These posts should give you a “heads-up” as to what typically challenges parents at these ages.  Just because something is developmentally normal does not mean it does not have to be guided, however!

5.  Love your children and make a list. What are the things that are challenging you right now about the behavior of your children? Can you pinpoint a cause that will prevent this behavior?   Does this behavior need a boundary?  What will you do when this behavior happens?  How will you walk your children through it?  What tools will you use that are right for the age of your children?  How will you be consistent about this?  How will the “consequence”  of this behavior come out consistently? 

I see from the messages in the comment box many of you are getting hung up with the idea of consequences.  Try this back post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/23/gentle-parenting-and-boundaries/ for help with what consequences look like by age….

By consequence, I don’t mean mean and nasty punitive punishment!  I just mean fixing the problem, working together, and being a rock when it comes to right action.  Spilled milk?  The consequence is we clean it up together.  Broke your sister’s toy?  The consequence is we fix it or we use part of your allowance money to buy a new one.  For all ages above about four and a half or five,  restitution is the key!  Here is a back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/

This includes being okay with “ the community” I spoke of above also providing consequences when appropriate.  If your older child doesn’t do their homework and gets a zero from their teacher, I would hope one would not go to the school and argue with the teacher.  I personally am fine with the parents I know helping to provide guidance for my children.  I welcome it because I have a community of people I trust, and I am grateful these men and women are there for my children as they grow to back up the ethics and moral character building blocks we are teaching at home.

 But again, the age and developmental stage of your child matters!  Do not use tools for a 12 year old with your three year old.  Your three year old needs connection and needs you to help him or her meet the boundary that you have decided upon  by regulating the environment, the rhythm of eating and sleep, the amount of physical activity, the amount of supervision you are providing.  There are many, many posts on this blog about the Early Years and how to infuse your guidance with singing,verses, imagination, stories whilst STILL sticking to the BOUNDARY.  These are not mutually exclusive things!!

This leads us to…..

6.  Know your parenting tools.  Connection and attachment are the first foundational keys!  For the under-7 crowd you also  have such things as prevention,  imitation, working in pictorial imagery and movement, less words, less choices, rhythm, using your gentle hands to help move your child, singing and verses, outside time, distraction  and having the child make restitution with you helping them.   Restitution is really important: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/

Pictorial imagery is one that can be difficult for parents to put into practice.  I have written about pictorial imagery before here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/     and here is a lovely blog post from a mother who put this into practice with her children: http://flowingwithmyducklings.blogspot.com/2010/12/talking-pictorially.html

7.  Commit yourself to 40 days of Being Queen Of Your Home. Cultivate that energy and attitude of a peaceful rock;  here is a back post that may assist you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/19/cultivating-how-to-hold-the-space-the-inner-work-of-advent/

Love your children, build that foundation of fun and love and trust, and be ready to be THE ROCK that weathers the storm!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Re-Claiming Authority: Part One

We have just had an interesting discussion about the differences between power, authority and respect.  To see that discussion, see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/01/power-authority-and-respect-in-parenting/

Where do things go so wrong for parents? My original thought in the post above was that there are two kinds of parents who have problems with all this:   harsh parents who have a hard time connecting with their children and who shove their children aside emotionally; and attachment parents who do wonderful with attachment and connection but not so great in setting boundaries for their children.

I have mentioned before what a  big shift I see in attachment parenting as that first child approaches three and a half or four.  Parenting really shifts at this point, or it should.   I find some attachment parents make the leap well, and some don’t.  If it doesn’t shift at this point with the first child, then you will have catch-up work to do later on, which I will talk about in tomorrow’s post.

What leap?  I am so glad you asked!  Here you go:

2010-11-08 at 01-18-18

(Thank you to my friend Samantha Fogg for letting me use this picture).

This is moss growing on a big rock.  Now, before you think I have lost my mind, let me explain!

This rock is steady; it is not sagging because it has moss on it.  It is not crumbling because it has moss on it!  It is steady.  It is calm; the rain comes down on it, the snow, the wind – and there it sits calmly.  It doesn’t get all upset when the weather is not nice.

The forces of nature do help mold it and wear on it over time, yes, but the original essence of the rock is there and untouched.

Good parenting is like this.  We are like calm, immovable stones.  Our children do shape us, but our essence remains the same because just like a rock cannot help being a rock, we cannot help but be a parent.  Just as moss lives on a rock, we are creating and shaping life for our children.

Small children deserve dignity, respect, unconditional love, gentle hands and gentle voices.  They also deserve the gift of boundaries. I find many parents are reluctant to place boundaries in their lives with their children, but then blow up at the child when the boundary should have been placed and kept the first of the twenty times the child does something.  Why are you blowing up at your child when you failed to set the boundary and help the child stick to that boundary the first time?

One of my dear friends, a terrific mother of three boys, gave a parenting workshop several years ago that I attended.  She related how one day she had her boys in the car and they were in line for the drive-through of a fast food restaurant.  One of the boys spit on the floor of the car.  The boys were all talking and did not notice her easing out of the line.  In fact, they didn’t notice until she was almost home.  They protested, “Hey!  We were going to get some food!”  Their mother replied, “I don’t buy food for boys who spit in my car.”

Well, when she told this story, this sweet little mother with an only child that looked to be about three or four, piped up and said, “Well, if they apologized and calmed down, would you turn around and bring them back to the drive-through?”

Uh, no.

As parents we absolutely have the right to give children second chances.  Absolutely and yay for being human!  But if you give second chances for everything, always couch things without a direct rule involved, make up for your child every time they do something that wasn’t morally good …well, then you are not being a rock!

One of  most important things you can give your child is the gift of knowing THEIR ACTIONS MATTER.  What they do counts.  What they do has consequences.  And if you do not let them experience this when they are with you and there to help guide them, the world is going to be far harsher in teaching this when they grow up.  Even things that are developmentally normal still need guidance!

You and your child will have moments where neither of you are at your best.  A loving, attached relationship is the basis of grace, humility and forgiveness.  But, if the more negative moments of your relationship with your child is  outweighing everything, or the negative moments are just so intense and color the world of the family, go back and look at boundaries:

What boundaries exist?

When I set a boundary how do I follow through? 

Do I do this EVERY TIME?

What is the “consequence” of my child’s action?  Does this happen every time?

Food for thought,

Carrie

Power, Authority and Respect in Parenting

So we are headed into Chapter Five of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Kids” by Neufeld and Mate, but I had such an interesting comment on Chapter Four that I thought it really deserved a post.  It was regarding the relationship between power and authority and the difference between the two.  Fascinating stuff, and it really got my brain cells ticking!  Thank you so much kind reader! 

This book is a good, thought-provoking read for all parents.  It really is an ultimate attachment book, but because it is dealing with the battle of peers versus the family unit, it may be one that  says things and rubs parents the wrong way until they have the experience of their children being a bit older.  After all, it is hard sometimes to think of authority and boundaries and peers when you have a precious two-year-old who is still such a big part of you.  However, it is very important information for parents of small children to have because the foundation for this attachment is laid within the early years, and also because if one has the idea that gentle discipline does involve boundaries, that this is coming, it is not such a shock when the need arises for the functioning of the family and for the functioning of the children in society.  Those of you who have read this book and have smaller (under the grades) aged children, is this book bothering you or making you think or are you disagreeing with it all?  Please leave a comment!

I have to say I think that most of the chapter four in this book  is right in line with this blog and my thoughts on parenting.  Please do let me explain how I look at it; you all know I usually have a different way to look at things than most people, LOL.

I think this goes back to the question of what is power in parenting?  What is authority in parenting?  And the unspoken question of what is respect in parenting?

I respectfully disagree that power is typically exercised for the benefit of the powerful.  That is misguided and abused power at its best.  Power, in the hands of a moral and ethical person, carries great responsibility. Power is not something we hold over our children’s heads, but is intertwined with the authority we carry.  Webster’s Dictionary says that authority IS power, “ the POWER to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior”, (you can see this definition from one of the very first posts I ever wrote, updated here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/06/back-to-basics-the-framework-for-gentle-discipline/). 

I don’t believe I can earn authority.  Authority in a formal setting or a job is granted.  Authority in parenting comes just because you ARE the PARENT.  The child is always worthy of dignity, of respect, of love, but YOU are the parent.  And just by being the parent you have the authority and the power to guide your child. 

The problem I see is that many parents do not lay down a basis of connection and attachment to their child and then have this rather empty gesture of trying to use force and “power”  in the worst term and way as they become completely frustrated with their child’s behavior.  They try to “power over”  their children, and create this giant battlefield against their child.  (You can see my post about The Battlefield of The Mind here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/    )  These parents  don’t see the child as one who has a different level of consciousness than an adult but as someone who needs coercion to do what needs to be done and be “obedient”.  So yes, the parental “power and authority”,(which shouldn’t be dirty words but words that make the child feel safe in his or her world), get demonstrated badly.

Or contrast this to the other type of parents I see:  those who do a stellar job of attachment and connection, but who do not hold any authority or power in their own homes.  Their little children know no boundaries, and what was developmentally immature  behavior turns into behavior that is disrespectful and impolite to adults outside of the family and infringes upon the needs of parents and  the family as a whole.  I alluded  in my last post to the difficulty some parents have in switching gears in their parenting life once their first child goes through the first show of true “will”.  This developmental stage is only followed by other stages where the child begins to show changes as they come into their bodies and themselves at the six/seven transformation, the nine year change, the twelve year change, not to mention the other developmental stages along the way!

What is lacking in both of these cases is the parent using power and authority as AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP. One of my very first blog posts was this one regarding “Discipline As Authentic Leadership” : http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/.   I just want to underscore that attachment and authority and providing boundaries and being consistent and  yes, protection and bringing things in at the right time (which involves you stepping up and guiding your children according to your beliefs and values) are still hallmarks of good parenting. 

Leadership uses authority and power in an authentic, loving, kind and constant way to guide the child.  It cannot be earned, it is there because you are the parent!  However,  RESPECT can be earned and is important for the child to feel a sense of respect. 

  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you never set any boundaries or if you set a boundary and never enforce it.  (The side note and digression here:  That sounds mean, but I disagree  with the authors here when they say that parenting tools are not needed if connection is good. I think there are parenting tools for each seven year cycle, I think there are ways to talk to children in each of these cycles, and this is where I feel tools CAN be helpful to parents.  We have lost so much of this view of what normal childhood development is that we need a bit of a reminder with what works best when).
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you have no respect for yourself and put yourself completely dead last as a martyr taking care of your family and you have no boundaries for yourself.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you disintegrate into a ranting, yelling lunatic every time your child says they won’t eat their peas or wear their boots.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you never listen to them or spend time with them.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you and your partner cannot get on the same page regarding parenting and life. Sometimes in partnerships we lead, sometimes we follow.  Model this for your child.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you have no rules and no ideas as to what sorts of things should happen when.  When should your child have a Facebook page or a first sleep-over or get their ears pierced or be able to bike to the store?  If you don’t know these things, how will your child?

Constancy.  Authentic Leadership.  Knowing what your values are as a family and guiding your children with that.  Understanding the differences between parenting a three-year-old and a ten-year-old.  Having tools at your disposal.

Anyway, thank you dear reader for a great comment and a great thought-provoking chapter!  Take what resonates with you and your family.  You are the expert on your own family.

Many blessings,

Carrie

How Do I Instill Inner Discipline In My Child?

Many parents see the ultimate goal of guiding and  parenting a child to be that the child will have an ability to “discipline” him or herself, an ability to have initiative but also be able to  think before acting, and that the child/ young adult will ultimately  take responsibility for his or her own actions.

The question is how to do get to this, of course.  Parenting sites all over the Internet talk  about the “obedience” of the small under-7 child, “defiance” and every other thing out there that makes it seems as if children are not part of a family, not part of following the mother and father, but this Oppositional Force To Be Reckoned With.

We have to think of discipline in the light of two things: CONNECTION, and DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES.  I have written about these two things over and over, and I guess I will keep saying it until more parents hear.

Connection is your number one key to discipline and guiding of a child.  Didn’t you ever do or not do something as a grades school child  because you were so connected to your family, to the expectations of your family’s culture?  Not through shame or coercion, but because of love.  That is what I am talking about.  Looking up to a loving authority because it is so.

Small children are not really at this point yet.  Their impulses often far outweigh their thoughts.  It is not that small children do not ever think, please do not misunderstand, but  their physical impulses and lack of impulse control is really, really strong.  They need a lot of physical help from you, a lot of repetition, to really do the right thing.  They are more likely to do what you do rather than to do what you say.  You cannot drive the car of the small child by  using your horn (yelling)- you also have to use the steering wheel (involve their bodies!)    They are SMALL.  A child under the age of 7 is SMALL. 

So, to instill self-discipline or inner discipline in a child is a much longer process than people in American society would like.  They would like the child to be self-disciplined, “obedient”, yet able to problem-solve and think for themselves and be mature, pretty much from the womb.  Be independent, yet fold right into the family culture without so much as a peep.  From birth.

Let me assist you for a moment with my vision of working with a child toward inner discipline, based upon attachment parenting and Waldorf parenting.  Pick what resonates with you and your family’s culture.  You are the expert on your own family.

Birth – Age 7: These are the years to establish TRUST with this child.  This will make a PROFOUND difference in the years of 14-21 if you will just do this one step.  Do not be afraid to breastfeed, sleep with, bathe with, hold this child.    Show this child GOODNESS.  We do this by giving them something worthy to IMITATE.  They are not ready to run around and be independent yet, but they are ready to learn things with you, by your side.  The child is in a period of remarkable PHYSICAL development, and that is the realm in which we must work with the child. Being outside is important from this physical perspective.   This is also your time as a parent to really discern the ESSENTIAL things in your family life, and to find that it is okay to not do everything all at once.   Rhythm is your helper and friend.  Less choices, more relaxed presenting of clothing, food, but also knowing when it is okay that your child wants this over that.  Also, this notion of PROTECTING the child and the child’s senses.  It is okay to do this!  That is the fine art of parenting, and it takes practice!

Age 7-14:  These are the years to present to the child a LOVING AUTHORITY.  Show this child BEAUTY in the world through artistic work, creative work and by being outside, seeing that beauty in nature; children at this point FEEL things so strongly.    This is also the time for community, for other trusted and like-minded adults.  This is also a time for a spiritual practice, a child coming up on nine has many questions about the world, about their Creator, about religion – it really is important that you become clear about how you feel about all this.  This is the time to think hard about doing things at the right time: is it the right time for my child to go to see a movie? Have a cell phone?  Walk to the store alone?  Most of all, these are the years to really cultivate WARMTH toward your child and where they are.  Some mothers wrote in under the post asking for discipline challenges about their negative 10 and 11 year olds – can we have warmth for these children?  It is vital in this stage.  After the ninth year, the child has a MUCH better sense of natural consequences, a stronger sense of self, and now is the time to give weight to his ideas, thoughts, perhaps relax that rhythm a bit, but also to give MORE RESPONSIBILITY.  Negotiation and compromise become more important, but BOUNDARIES are still there.  Finding that Middle Way between the polarities of life.   

Age 14-21:  These are the years to present to the child TRUTH.  They are THINKERS; the teenager can make decisions and take responsibility for his or her decisions.  Boundaries are there to push against, parents are there to help and to guide.  Keep connecting with this child through the gift of time and listening.    I highly recommend Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids Are Worth It!  Giving Your Child The Gift of Inner Discipline”  as a framework of gentle discipline for these years, really from twelve up.

Many blessings as you discern what is right for your family.

Carrie

More About Holding The Space

We have been having a conversation about this over at Donna Simmons’ forum, and it has raised many important questions about this concept.  Several great threads have popped up about holding the space, please do come join us!

One of the most interesting concerns to me, though, was a question that came up regarding if holding the space was somehow not authentic, and how do children learn about emotion and managing emotion if not from us? I started thinking that the corollary to this is sort of:   If we do all this inner work, then we will be calm all the time, right?

I love this!  To me, “holding the space”  does not mean we have The Valium House and we are deadened to the world.  You are holding the space for your child, the most intimate thing in your life outside of your partner, because you are the adult and you want to help your child. You may very well be angry, but you are stopping to try to hold your reactions in check so you don’t do something you will regret.  You are also doing this so you don’t pass on your baggage and check it into your child’s luggage! So maybe you go outside for a moment and come back if that is safe. Maybe you breathe. Essentially you are trying to take that moment to try not to be sucked into laying down on the floor and having a temper tantrum  yourself next to your two year old.  It is not at all about being a Valium Parent,  it is about being authentic and genuine but also dependable. The child will learn they can push for a boundary against you and you will not crumple to the floor and then the child develops themselves even further.

Holding the space also means you can rise above your own feelings in a way to be constructive. You can show the child how to fix it, how to make things better. You can show your child what to DO with those angry feelings. That is the important thing. When an emotion threatens to topple you into the abyss, how do you regain yourself and how do you make it better? That is the part the child needs to see, and because they live in their bodies, they need to know through movement and action, the doing, not in this reasoning talk that many parenting  books want to use. That comes at later ages!

Children under 7 DO have emotions! Of course!   I like how Kim John Payne describes it in his book “Simplicity Parenting“, how small children have just this pool of undifferentiated emotion and if you do venture to ask them how they feel they generally will say “bad”. They really don’t have that same consciousness to it that we do, but it is okay to describe what you see in the moment.  Sometimes when a child is upset or angry, we want so badly to fix it and sometimes the child just needs to feel it.  A touch, a look, can all be supportive.  Words cannot dam the flood!  Warmth on the level of the soul!  That is healing!

 
Again though, showing what one can do with these strong emotions  to transform it, to make things better is important.   We often want this sense of utopia for our children – peaceful, no conflict.  I think the best thing though is to show how to transform conflict  into something constructive, without a big speech about it.  Or even just seeing how we cry and move on.  How do you let go of things?  Can you show that?

Life with little ones is in the doing, and with the doing comes the power of transformation and potential for healing.

(Part of this post I originally wrote for a thread on the Waldorf At Home Forum, but it has been somewhat transformed like strong authentic emotions  :))

Love,

Carrie

How Not To Be The Angry Parent

To read  this in Spanish, please see here:  http://fabiolaperezsitko.blogspot.com/2010/01/eres-un-padre-enojon.html

Are you ever an angry parent?

Conflict is a part of life, and anger is not a BAD emotion – it is just a feeling like other feelings.  However, many parents choose to discipline their children when they are angry or hurt.  Some parents choose to hit their children when they are angry.  Hitting a child is wrong, (if you need an argument for this please see this post:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/20/getting-past-fear/ )  and when we lose control and responsibility for our actions when we are angry we lose that teachable moment.  A  split-second action in anger can also cause a parent to have remorse and guilt.  It can necessitate an apology!

Instead of losing control, I would like to talk to you today about how not to be the angry parent.  I personally believe the number one reason parents get angry with their children is that their children “are not listening.”  Many times this happens in conjunction with having to complete something on a tight time table.  Sometimes it just seems as if the child is endlessly negative, or the temperament of the child in conjunction with the parent leads to a fragile relationship between the child and the adult.

However, aren’t children supposed to be immature?  Children are noisy, messy, and yes, often immature.  Otherwise they would be born as adults and age backward, right?

I believe anger issues actually are OUR problem, the parent’s problem.  Usually we are trying to do something in a tight time frame, we are carrying in baggage from our own childhood (“I NEVER would have talked to MY parents that way!), we are tired and stressed out over things that may or may not even have to do with that child, we are carrying unrealistic expectations of that child’s behavior, or just in general our needs are not being met.

In the heat of the moment, what one needs is the ability to calm down.  This may entail taking a “parent time-out”.  Many parents complain about this because they are ready to explode, they are trying to get away to calm down for a minute, only to have  a screaming child follow them!  Ah, that  youthful immaturity again – an adult probably would give you the space to calm down whereas a child may not!

What do you do then?

My personal vote is to go outside.  I pull a lot of weeds in yard when I am angry, and that helps me calm down before I do something stupid.  My children can be out there, but will often give me a bit of space in an open area (as opposed to going into the bathroom with everyone yelling and screaming on the other side of the door!). 

The question becomes:  What do we want our CHILDREN to do when they are angry and how can we model that for them?  If we walk around yelling and slamming doors, how can we be surprised when our six-year old does that?

After you are calm, hopefully you can return to the situation and work to solve the problem. Help the child, guide the child.  Breathe in and breathe out.

Patience is developed over time.  I am certain I am more patient with this third child than I was with my first child.  Learning to relax into parenting and how to let go of the mentality that every single thing must be addressed so the child will not become a Detriment To Society is also learned.  Set a timer and see if you can keep your patience for half an hour if that is where you are, and work up from there. You can do this!  Fill your own tank so you have something to give.  Get your children into a rhythm with an early bedtime so you have time for you and time for you and your spouse. 

Most of all, be thankful.  Go look at your children while they are sleeping, those small faces, realize how very little ages three, four and five really are.  And in this time of dwindling light and moving into darkness, work to cultivate yourself as a light for your family.

Blessings,

Carrie

Stop Talking!

Yes, I have written about this subject here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/31/the-need-to-know/

and yes, also here, in an extremely popular post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/01/take-my-three-day-challenge/

but here I am again today, to remind those of you with children under 7, and even those of you with seven and eight-year olds, to check yourself today.   How many words are you using with your children?  How much explaining are you doing?  Are you using a simple phrase or does your child need a notebook to write down everything you are saying about a given subject?  What is going on with your rhythm now that we are over the holidays?

If you are talking too much, try focusing on talking less this week.  Are you humming, are you holding the space just by your warm physical presence and your rhythm, are you singing and using verses for transitions, is life slow enough that you don’t need to rush, hurry and yell?

Less talking does not mean being less warm with your child; on the contrary, it gives you the freedom from words that your child may be perceiving in a negative tone (those of you with melancholic or sensitive children know exactly what I am talking about!)  And, for those of you who have children where “nothing works until I yell”, less talking forces you to include the physical piece – using your gentle hands to guide your child to the next thing, using your gentle arms to hold your child and listen. 

Less talking puts your child in the place of being listened to but not being judged.  It puts your child in the position to not have to think about what a better choice would be for them to make in their behavior, but to have you be the parent and gently show them the better choice. They should not have to think about what the better choice is in behavior, or food, or anything else at an age  under 7 – this is for later, where we let our children own their mistakes in preparation for being out on their own and when their logical thought is coming into play.  That time is not now!

Keep working on it.  In our society, which is so very head-oriented for small people, it can be  difficult to change and do differently.  But you are doing your child a true favor if you  treat them in accordance with their developmental maturity in mind instead of forging ahead, putting the cart before the horse.  Stop treating your 6 child year old like a ten-year old and your four-year old like a fourteen-year-old.  Ask yourself:  does my child need all this information now? Can this wait until my child is a bit older?  What is the simplest way I can say this?  What is the most neutral way I can say this?  Will what I say now come out of my child’s mouth later in a judgmental way at myself or someone else?  What is my tone?

Try talking less, use your warmth and your rhythm to really set those boundaries.  Nursing takes place at these times for those older 3 and 4 year olds.  We go outside every day at this time.  Warm smiles, warm hugs, laughter and joy.  Gentle hands and real work.  These are the hallmarks of things, not so many words the child is lost after the first two sentences (and if your child is NOT lost after the first paragraph you say, this is a sure sign your  under-7 child is being older than their developmental stage!  And you can change this if you choose!)

The very verbal, in-their-heads little girls especially need this.  Sometimes we expect an awful lot out of our five, six and seven year old little girls, particularly if they are the oldest in the family.  Sometimes we are just shocked when they actually act their developmental age and want to be held, they feel jealous of a sibling, they don’t want to go somewhere or do something for someone else, they don’t feel like playing with a younger sibling while we do something else or they play roughly.  Normal stages, but somehow we expect more out of them.  Less talking can take a great burden off of these small souls to just let them be.  Let them be just five, six or seven instead of seeing how “mature” they are.  They have time to be mature!  Right now they are little!

Try talking less; you may really enjoy it!

I would love to hear your comments,

Carrie