Follow-Up to “The Need to Know”

A mom wrote in response to the original  post “The Need to Know” (the original post I wrote can be found here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/31/the-need-to-know/ )  and talked about how her first child was very verbal and thrived on lots of explanations.  She recognized she has explained many things to this child and she also recognized her second child doesn’t seem to need all this.  This led to the question below, that I wanted to share with you all:

As I was pondering all this, I thought about the future, and how it may be possible that I would have both older and younger children at the same time, and how the younger children might end up hearing explanations given to the older ones… I wonder how one would work out the differences in parenting that would be given to all the children and how to keep the younger ones from getting involved in the more grown-up conversations of the older children.

This is a great question, and I have several thoughts on this and other matters after reading her comment.

My first thought actually is in relation to the first child’s verbosity.  I am not trying to make generalizations here, but I have heard this MANY  times from mothers with first daughters (not all mothers with first-born daughters, but certainly many).  We are a gender that revolves around feelings, words and explanations, and relationships, and  since the first child has no older siblings to imitate and pattern off, they only have YOU to imitate.   This is, as mentioned above, at least partially  a gender issue for these first time verbose children, as I have not only heard this from many attached parents whose  first child is a girl but I have also heard this from mothers who have had two, three or four boys and then they have a girl!  These parents are blown away at how verbal, and explanation-seeking and  different these girls are from their boys.  However, this can  be  not only a gender issue but also a parenting issue and a parenting challenge as well.

If there is a chance that our girls, especially our first girls, are geared toward being in their head early and being very verbal and over-involved in adult matters early, I think that it  is even more reason to STOP TALKING SO MUCH.  Girls tend to take everything you say and remember it and think about and come back to it.  A child under the age of seven, and even under the age of 9, does not need this awareness.  Period.  It does nothing for most mother-daughter relationships except provide the child with lots of words to press against and strong emotions to ensue.

But I digressed for the moment -back to the original question poised above!  The way that this works with older and younger children in the same household is that as your child gets older, you can actually say to the older child, “Honey, please take your little sister into the other room and play for a few minutes while Daddy and I talk.”  This is certainly hard to do with a three or four year old, but not that hard to do with a seven or eight year old.

If there is something that you need to discuss with an older child, but not a younger child, chances are the younger child will go to bed before the older child and you will have a chance to talk without the younger child present.

As all children in the family grow and give up naps, there is a better chance of them going to bed at an early hour and you having some time to spend with your partner to talk about things without the children present.  There is also a better chance at this stage that you will be able to have some time away from your children to spend with other mothers without the children present.  This will feed your soul, and will keep you from overloading your children with adult information and questions.

Lastly, though, I want to point  out that even 7, 8 and 9 year olds do not need to know everything going on all the time and decisions are still the responsibility of the parent.  One example that came quickly to my mind was the election.  I saw during the election how the public schools made a huge deal about the election, held mock elections and really talked about the election and the candidates.  The result of this for many of the 7, 8 9  and even 10 year olds I saw was either complete joy or tears on election day, not understanding how their friend and their friend’s family could like one candidate and their own personal family did not , not really understanding how all this worked but feeding off the emotions everywhere– this, to me, underscored how again society takes a 7, 8 and 9 year old and tries to put them into the position of an adult – this time the position of a voting adult! 

Steiner talks about the age of reasoning starting at age 14.  When my great-grandmother was 16, she was married, working  with her own business and starting a family.  This may not be ideal in this time and place, but I do think the way we often treat small children is like adults in this country but then we micro-manage  and over-manage our teenagers when they are supposed to be making decisions, (even in the area of small decisions where making a mistake is not harmful!).  This is rather baffling – teenagers are at the beginning of logic and reason, but this is still the time to gain experiences and reasoning skills – but not at the age of 7 or 8 or even 9.

Small children deserve to be treated with respect and delight; please do not dump the adult decision-making process on them at this point.  That is your job as a parent.

So, hopefully this not only answered the question but also provided a bit more to ponder and meditate on.  Are you treating your 4 year old like a 9 year old?  Are you treating your 9 year old like a 16 year old?  Are the tools and explanations and choices you are providing appropriate for the age of your child?

One place to garner more information is through the wonderful compilation of Steiner’s lectures in “Soul Economy’.  These lectures really do trace the birth through teenaged years and provide many practical points of knowledge for you to take away and use in Waldorf homeschooling and in life.

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

When A Child Balks At Rhythm

Some mothers have asked me what to do when my child balks at our rhythm or a particular activity within our rhythm?  I have several thoughts about this subject,

First of all, in general, if rhythm is new to you, start small around mealtimes and sleeping times and build up from there.  It may be that your child is balking at the rhythm because there is just too much going on that is new and it is all taking place too fast.  It may take several months or longer to really get in a full rhythm of the day and the week.  Your seasonal rhythm may take even longer than that as you start small with festivals and then add things to each individual festival each year or even add festivals each year that you have never celebrated before.

As I mentioned above, some of this depends on age.  If your child is under the age of seven, I would respectfully ask that you look to yourself first.  Are you being rather ADHD about your rhythm and starting things and not finishing them before you are moving on to something else?  Is there one particular activity that is problematic and is this activity one you yourself enjoys or one that you secretly dread?  Your child can pick up on this feeling even if you do not verbalize it!  Is it the right season to be doing whatever activity you have planned – for example, many mothers have told me they do not like to knit in summer.  If this is you, it may be hard for you to teach knitting to your first grader in July!   Is the rhythm so complex that you can’t even carry it?   A rhythm is a gentle flow to the day of in-breath and out-breath activities.  This should include more of an order, blocks of time than a minute-by-minute, play-by-play kind of schedule.  So, the first place to start with a balking child is with yourself.

If your child is under the age of 7 and your child is balking about the rhythm, here are some ideas.  Parents have asked me, “ What do I do when it is gardening time, and my child just won’t get their shoes on to go outside?  They don’t want to garden then.” 

There are no blanket answers for this per say, but here are some ideas:

  • With a small child, the rhythm and the outcomes of things that happen within the rhythm are mainly carried by YOU.  So, if your child doesn’t want to garden, and he or she has gone to the bathroom and had a snack and is generally okay, perhaps YOU garden and they join in, or they just play while you garden.  You may only get a small amount of practical work in.  Rudolf Steiner said somewhere in his lectures that a child seeing even 15 minutes of quality work was worth this effort and time. 
  • The other question to this is:  have you built in time for preparing for the activity and cleaning up from the activity?  If we always put our gardening pants and shoes on while we sing a song about gardening, then it is habit to wear shoes.  Building up anticipation through preparation for a task, singing about the task, and  having an allotment of time to clean-up from a task  is just as important to the child as the task itself.
  • Also, try to look at your task from the child’s point of view.  Yes, the task is for you and being carried by you, but it should also include child-friendly elements.  For gardening, this might include watering, planting large seeds a child can handle, digging for worms.  There should be songs and stories!  The practical work of life should be fun!
  • A child under the age of 7 is at the height of imitation.  Imitate with happiness the task at hand, use songs and wonder, and the activity will be fun. If you start the activity by saying, “Now we will go garden,” and the child envisions hours of you pulling weeds, they may very well not want  to do it!
  • The other question that always begs to be asked is:  Does your rhythm need to be changed?  Maybe your child really wants a story before you go outside.  Can you make up a story about a worm, or a butterfly, or gnomes helping to put the seed babies to bed?  Maybe your child needs a game before they go outside or maybe a game once they are outside before they can settle down enough to do a small task at hand.  Go back again and think your in-breath and out-breath of activities.

For a child over the age of 7, I would think not only of these things, but also the worthiness of authority for this age group, as according to Steiner himself.  Your very gesture and mood permeate the task and the rhythm and sometimes the answer to this is just working with the child’s will to complete something.  This does not have to be as harsh as it sounds, but many seven and ten year olds will grumble at the prospect of doing work, but then are very proud of their accomplishments indeed if you can just help them persevere through it!

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

The Need to Know

(I was going to wait until after the Holy Nights were over to publish this post, but then it occurred to me that some of you may be meditating on this very subject during this time.  I hope this helps someone out there……Here goes!)

How much do our under  age 7 children need to know about things going on in the family and life?  This can be such a delicate subject because it gets at the heart of how parents talk to and relate to their children, but I believe it to be an important one.  Please do take what works within this post for you and your family and what resonates inside of you from this writing.  You know your family and children best, but I thought some of you may be curious to how Waldorf views this subject.

According to Steiner’s views of  the seven year cycles, a child under the age of 7 should be in their bodies, and in a rather dreamy state.  You would not want to do things in this period that would call the child’s attention to himself or to promote having a child think in a grown-up way.  The child should be immersed in feelings of warmth and delight by the parent, but not so many words.

How much we tell a child, how much we explain to a child,  and how we answer things can be part of what leads to premature intellectualization, premature analytical ability, and essentially putting the cart before the horse as we use discipline tools that are beyond the child’s developmental maturity level.  A three or four year old cannot reason, and they cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes.  They need to have gentle discipline methods that reflect this reality.  They can certainly learn all the words that you say, and how to answer back “correctly” and play a very verbal game with you,  but this is NOT the same as truly being able to internalize and rationalize. The ability to do this really does not come in until the child is of age 14 or so, according to Steiner.    If you have a child who you think can do this at such any early age, I would argue that this child is 1. very verbal, but perhaps is not as advanced as you think and cannot understand the ramifications of things the way an adult does and 2. if the child is trying to do all this verbally with you, the child has been intellectualized too early and it is your job as the parent to bring this child back into balance.  More on that in just a moment.

Why do we get ourselves into this difficulty in the first place?  This is just a hard shift for many attached parents, especially with the first child.  After all, many attached children are just “always there, always around”, (and if you are co-sleeping they are even there at night!)    There is not much time without the child to work on or talk about grown-up things.  Furthermore, many attached parents have had to work so hard to surrender themselves to being an attached parent, to learning how to read an infant’s cues and how to breastfeed according to these cues, that they have difficulty not carrying this surrender over into other areas.  Breastfeeding and co-sleeping with a small child under the age of 3 is a wonderful, opening experience in which the mother and child almost seem as one.  The mother grows to feel her child is an extension and a part of her.  According to Waldorf, all small children under the age of 7 are under an extension of their mother’s etheric “Madonna Cloak” – in essence, sharing their mother’s energy and life forces, for lack of a better description.   Donna Simmons has more information about this notion here: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/11/introducing-the-madonna-cloak-project.html

However, as a child heads past the age of  three, more boundaries need to be in place.  The child, at least according to Waldorf tradition, does not need to be privy to adult conversation and adult topics.  The child under the age of 7 does not need to know everything going on with you and your life.  The child under the age of 7 does not need to see how the adult decision-making process works.  They do not need all the answers to their questions in adult terms, even simple adult terms, and they certainly do not need your adult views and baggage. Let them dream and come up with their own fantastical answers!This comes up all the time within Waldorf – but children simply do not view things through the adult veil and experiences in which you view them.  Things in life can co-exist in many improbable ways for the small child that would be impossible for the adult.  This is developmentally normal, and please do not try to rush your child into adult logical thinking. Enjoy this stage with the wonder that your child has for life! 

If you have a child who has been intellectualized early, it will make integration into the Waldorf curriculum harder.  The child will have a tendency to take the fairy tales, the heart of the Waldorf kindergarten and first grade, very literally and with great difficulty.  The child will have difficulty accepting less explanation and will have difficulty coming up with their own explanation – they will be looking for the “right” answer, instead of being able to be an out of the box problem solver and imaginative person.  This will become an impeding factor in science and later for such subjects as creative writing.  But most of all, you are setting yourself up for very rocky teenaged years if you cannot let your child be a child when they are under the age of seven!

If this is what has happened to your child and you would like to change this, (and it is not too late, even for a child that is seven or eight!)  here are some suggestions:

  • Get rid of all media exposure for awhile. 
  • Do not discuss world events and household affairs in front of this child. Do not discuss the happenings of your child’s friends and their families with your child unless it is a small, happy, warm event that can be described in a sentence or two.   Your child should be in a dreamy state.  There will be plenty of time to know about these things, and about people and events.  The child should know that the world and the people in it are good.  Do your own inner work if you cannot believe this, because this is YOUR baggage, not your child’s thing to carry around.
  • Stop any back and forth bantering you do with your child.  Just. Stop. It.  These verbal games are not appropriate to play with a small child.
  • A child under the age of 7 can be told things pretty much right before they are going to happen, or you can use your daily, weekly rhythm to carry what events are going to happen.
  • This child does not need a myriad of choices when recovering from early intellectualization; they don’t need to think all the time – this is your job.
  • They do not need to have all their “why’s” answered – hum, a warm smile, a hug, a very simple statement is all that is needed – and to move on to practical work and involve them in that.  Don’t you ever remember being told when you were little, “We will talk about that when you are older?”  We vowed as parents to never do that to our children, but guess what, there was common sense in that for some situations!  Let your child tell you their own explanation for something – answer their why with “Hmm, I wonder about that too. ”  Guaranteed they will come up with something creative and wonderful and free of adult baggage and gray-ness.  They live in a world of black and white, and a world of fantasy where things co-exist; this is normal developmentally.  They should not live in gray-ness, in the land of seeing all the exceptions to the rule.
  • Use your songs and verses to announce what is going on next.
  • If your child is asking for “something to do”, get something out and start playing with it – without words!
  • This child needs to be outside in nature for hours a day without you explaining everything to the child about nature and why the leaves turn yellow and brown.  Let them be!  Let them come up with their own names of animals, and their own explanations! Joseph Cornell, in his wonderful book “Sharing Nature With Children” (and yes, this one absolutely should be on your bookshelf!) says this:

Don’t feel badly about not knowing names.  The names of plants and animals are only superficial labels for what those things really are.  Just as your own essence isn’t captured by your name, or even by your physical and personality traits, there is also much more to an oak tree, for example, than a name and a list of facts about it.  You can gain a deeper appreciation of an oak tree by watching how the tree’s mood shifts with changes in lighting at different times of day.  Observe the tree from unusual perspectives. Feel and smell its bark and leaves.  Quietly sit on or under its branches, and be aware of all the forms of life that live in and around the tree and depend on it.

This, my friends, is the heart of not only nature education at its best, but of Waldorf education and the way to relate to small children under the age of 7 who are one with everything in the world.

  • Think about the concept of warmth with this child – warm foods, warm foot baths, warm beds, candlelight, warm thoughts.
  • Provide liberal doses of oral storytelling and simple made up stories.
  • Provide lots of experiences with baking, gardening, wet on wet watercolor painting, and imaginative play all through story and song, not verbally oriented instructions.
  • If your child is doing something that you do not like, if it is at all possible, involve the child in practical work.  If it involves an item, gently take the item away without words and then  immediately involve the child in practical work!  This does not mean to IGNORE the behavior, but to have the child make restitution later with their hands or their bodies (but do not intellectualize it for them).  A simple sentence is all that is needed!
  • If your child balks at the new rhythm, the new way of doing things, so be it for right now.  This is important, and you have to be the one to carry this one.  Your child will quickly adapt and be better for it –  a better problem solver, a better imaginative thinker down the road, a more reverent and observant person, a better listener.  You do not have to explain why you  are not explaining anymore, LOL!
  • The work for you in this period is to stop talking to your child so much about everything!  Get some time with other adults for you, and stop putting your child into the adult role.  Do your own inner work and see how you can bring the joy, humor, fun and warmth back to this little being.  The other work for you is to find out about normal childhood development.  Many parents are amazed when they read books such as the Gesell Institute books ‘Your Three Year Old”, “Your Four Year Old”, how children really do typically view things such as pregnancy, death.  They realize their totally verbal child actually understands much less than they originally thought!

I know this is so hard, but if you have ever wondered why your child speaks to you like they are a grown up, if you have ever wondered why your child asks why constantly, if you have every wondered why your child takes every single story so literally, try this plan for eight weeks and see what happens.  You may have a different child on your hands at the end of eight weeks!

And lest you be worried this will somehow stunt their maturity or developmental growth, let me assure you you will only be putting them back on track, back into where they should be….And when they are seven, or even nine and closer to the age of separation of themselves from the world, the parents and the plants and animals, then you start answering all the questions.  There is a time to answer questions!  There is a time to move forward!

However, protection is developmentally appropriate and normal and right for a under 7 aged child.  They are not miniature adults with less experience. Honor that within this first seven year cycle.  If you are interested in Waldorf, you most likely are not the type of parent to let them watch 15 hours of TV straight, or eat chocolate all day long (um, except for holiday cookies? ha ha), or stay up all night.  Just as you would safeguard against those physical things, you as the parent are now learning how to safeguard their imagination, their innocence, their problem-solving ability and their future adult physical health.

Please consider trying this plan, and do let me know how it goes.  And again, please take what works for you from this post.  You may agree, you may disagree but thanks for reading!  You can leave a comment below.

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

For All The Jellyfish In The Sea

I recently had several “self-confessed jellyfish”  mommies contact me.  They had read my post entitled, “Developing Healthy Boundaries,” but still were unsure about what they should really enforce in their homes as “none of it seems worth fighting over.”

I am not advocating fighting with your child.  If you approach a child that way, even just in your head before you open your mouth, the whole exchange between the two of you is lost.  I am saying, however, that your child  does deserve the dignity and respect that a peaceful home and good behavior provides.  You are worthy of a child who eventually embodies self-discipline, self-motivation and self-responsibility. Your family is worthy of  having a clean, peaceful home to live in.

My suggestion for “things worth quibbling over” would include the following:

Having the child respect himself, others and the Earth with his or her body and words.  Everyone deserves to be safe. 

Keeping the home environment picked up and clean within the child’s ability and with the parent’s help.

Everyone should have the right and ability to rest when they need.  Quiet time and the need for quiet activity should not be a dirty word within the home.

Manners that will serve your child well throughout his or her life are worth demonstrating and working on.  Good manners include such things as how we speak to others, table manners, how we act in different environments outside of our home with other people, even the importance of being on time in our culture.

Some people write a family mission statement to try to embody the things that are most important to them.  This may be helpful to you.  Remember though, with small children under the age of 7, we mainly show these things through modeling and physically helping the child.  This will mean infinitely more than a bunch of  head-oriented, verbal demands.  Please see the post entitled, “Take My Three Day Challenge.”   We command by using our Authentic Leadership, we do not work with our children by verbally wearing them out!

These are just beginning thoughts and I would love to hear from all of the wonderful mothers out there:  What is vitally and essentially important for my little jellyfish of the sea to think about in their homes?

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

Developing Healthy Boundaries

My last post was written toward an audience of parents who are using spanking, hitting or yelling as their main disciplinary tools.  Today we are going to tackle the opposite problem – that of a child with a parent who feels almost overpowered or overwhelmed by their child’s behavior.  Becky Bailey, in her book entitled,”Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline”, writes that in the past, if a child’s needs and an adult’s needs collided, the adult’s needs would take precedence, mainly because the parent considered any strategy that negated the child’s  needs a success.   She notes that this has reversed in our society today:  “Powerful, strident children seem to dominate powerless adults.  Parents who know that they do not want to repeat the patterns that governed their childhoods, but lack a better approach, have simple flipped the equation.  They have negated their own needs and let the children rule.”

There are certainly situations where children have special issues and needs that cause the parent to feel overwhelmed, but this post is focusing on the parent feeling this way because of the choices they make in their parenting. Barbara Coloroso, in her book, “Kids Are Worth It!  Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline” discuses two types of families that she terms “Jellyfish A” families and “Jellyfish B” families.  “Jellyfish A” families are described below; “Jellyfish B” families are composed of parents who are having personal problems of such magnitude that preclude them focusing on their children, such as parents recovering from addiction issues or other personal issues.   Of interest, she also includes in “Jellyfish B” families parents who are intense work-a–holics or pursuing personal and professional goals at the expense of their children.

Of the “Jellyfish A” families, Barbara Coloroso writes, “The first kind of jellyfish parent was taught what, when and how to speak, act, and react; he was not taught how to think  So when it comes time to develop a backbone structure in his own home, he doesn’t know how…..He is frightened of repeating the abuse he knew, but doesn’t know what to replace it with.  So he becomes extremely lax in discipline, sets few or no limits, and tends to smother his children.  Anything his child wants, his child gets, even if the child’s wants are at the expense of the parent’s own needs.”

Parenting advice columnist and family psychologist John Rosemond (whom, I have to say, is not at all attachment oriented and someone with whom I certainly do not agree with most of the time) had this to say in a newspaper column entitled, “Parents need to be husband, wife first” (October 4, 2008).  He writes:  “ The 1950s mother went about her child rearing with an almost casual attitude.  It was “all in a day’s work,” as opposed to being all of her day’s work.  She exuded a sense of confidence in her authority; therefore, her child recognized her authority.  She established a clear boundary between herself and her child (as in, “I don’t have time for you right now, so go find something of your own to do”) that today’s mother feels prohibited from doing.  Thus, today’s mother often feels as if she is under assault from her children from the time they wake up until they consent to occupy their beds.”

These are  interesting perspectives to think about, even if you do not agree or feel that way in your own family at this time.  These quotes got me thinking!  However,  if you are feeling slightly stressed by your own children -who seem to never get to bed on time, who don’t want to eat what food you have, who seem to do the opposite of everything that you desire and suggest, and you are feeling powerless to change the situation – I have a few encouraging thoughts for you.

My first thought is that for many attached parents, the want and need to set some boundaries actually takes time to develop, and many attached parents do feel challenged by the shift in parenting that must occur as the baby grows up.  The relationship between mother and baby in an attached relationship is a unified one.  This is because the biology of the baby actually screams for the mother and baby to be one unit.  I think this is the main point that John Rosemond actually misses in many of his columns when he discusses the need for leadership and boundaries before establishing involvement and connection.  In my opinion, he misses the fact that a human baby is hard-wired for connection from the point of birth,  and, that if we follow the baby’s cues at all, connection must take place first.  All infant reflexes are present in order that once the baby is born, the baby can make its way alone to the mother’s breast and attach to the breast without assistance.  Connection!  We are mammals who by the very nature of the fat content of human milk are going to be frequent feeders.  Connection!  Human babies are born essentially underdeveloped neurologically because they cannot remain inside their mothers any longer and still pass through the birth canal. Connection!   Human beings mature slowly compared to most other mammals and need support for a much longer period of time than other mammals.  A mother who has practiced listening to her baby’s cues, breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping in order to satisfy frequent breastfeeding has worked with the biology of her baby to foster a close bond that will serve this baby well over time.

Again, connection to our children is so important and the connection between the mother and father and baby sets the stage for wonderful social adaption in the later years and for good health in so many ways.  I do not in the slightest want to downplay the connection that babies and all children need from their parents.  Yet, as these attached babies grow, many mothers I have met seem to  feel their slightly older toddler (who was and is still a baby), is not perhaps their equal, but almost a small friend or semi-peer.  They seem to  feel their small child’s every opinion needs to be seriously weighed and measured.  Sometimes parents are then caught off guard when the toddler or preschooler’ behavior does not live up to the picture of the child as a small friend – the first time the child yells,”I hate you” when they are a preschooler, the first time the child has a huge temper tantrum, the first time the child hits or bites or kicks – the parent feels like the wind has been knocked out of them because they realize the relationship is changing and that the child is not as mature as they thought!  Or perhaps the child’s ever-changing opinions are just a source of fatigue!  All of this is the beginning of the gentle shift toward more boundaries that happens as the child grows and can also help signal where a child is in their own maturity.  It can be challenging to move from that “one-ness” of babyhood and early toddlerhood into an area of a bit more structure, a few more boundaries, a sense that there are certain limits within the family and to hold that space and those limits with gentleness and love.

The toddler and preschooler is certainly deserving of dignity and respect and of being guided in a way that is gentle and loving.  We will continue to talk about these tools in future posts.  However, another thought in this picture is this:  in my stance from a Waldorf perspective,  the best way to preserve your toddler and preschooler’s dignity and show them respect is to understand they were just a very little  baby a year or so earlier and to not expect them to make decisions that an adult should be making and to not burden the small child with adult concerns.   Please do not give them the burden of adult decision-making in the guise of being fair and respectful to your child.  Provide a wonderful, child-inclusive environment, love your child, find humor and wonder with your child, but do not equate the child as your equal in this loving relationship. 

Eugene Schwartz, a Master Waldorf Teacher, has this funny little scenario regarding what we do to our children every day, published in the book Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, page 115:

Good morning, dear.  What do you want to wear?

A sleeveless jumper, a short-sleeved dress, or long-sleeve dress?  Flared skirt, denim skirt, or flowered skirt? Short-shorts, capri pants, hiking shorts, or pants?

Pants and a shirt.  Good.  Which ones?

Red, blue, green, striped, checked or plaid pants? Straight-legged, flared, roll-up, or regular-cut designer jeans? Tank top, turtleneck, short sleeved, or long-sleeved shirt? A shirt with a cartoon character, cereal box hero, or plain front?100% cotton, cotton-polyester mix, cotton with lycra or spandex?

Let’s have breakfast.  What would you like to eat today?

Orange, cranberry, grapefruit, or mango-tangerine-guava juice? Granola with nuts, honey, brown sugar, or with organic fruit? Served with 2%, 1%, soy-based milk, cream, or low-fat yogurt? Regular or cinnamon toast, English muffin, or bagel?”

And the list goes on.  It is one of those scenarios that is funny but rings true for so many of us.

I have parents who tell me they never “pick battles” with their children, that there is really nothing that big to get upset about. I do understand.  But there are times when your children will need to know and see that you can be a wall for them to bounce off of when they are spinning out of control and that you will not crumple because they need you to be the parent, the more experiences adult,  at that moment.  There will be the time when you realize, as a parent, that all the things they want are not all the things they need.  There will be times when they will not like you – this is part of parenting and part of transitioning from the “oneness” between mother and baby to the separation required for a child to go out into the world and have his own experiences.  Waldorf looks at the child separating from the parents later than most developmental sources, with what is called the nine-year change frequently typifying the beginning of separation. In looking at childhood development, we expect the parent to understand more about life than a small child under 7 and to use their wisdom and experience to guide their child.

So, in my view, the best way to be attached to your young child is to be the authentic leader, the model of the emotions you own, the person who thinks about the rhythm of the day, the person who sets a gentle and loving tone for your very own home.  And you see your wonderful small child as just that – a small child who has an intense need to be  home, a need to be loved by his or her parents, and yes, a need to be treated as small.

I know many attachment parents who would disagree with this view (and I said in my very first post that everything you read here may not resonate with you and your family!)  However, if you think I am on to something, try it out for a few days.  Offer very limited choices if you have to offer choices at all, stop talking so much and explaining so much to your small child and just let your child be in the wonder of your day – working, playing, being outside, listening, resting.  Structure your rising times, nap times, bed times and meal times.  Have a rhythm to your day that involves your child.   Work toward that earlier bedtime so you can have some time to just be, and to be with your spouse.   It is difficult to present being on the same parenting page if you never get a chance to talk to your spouse without your child present and listening.  

Just as a parent who is working to develop patience needs to stop and think before they open their mouth, a parent working to develop a more authoritative (not authoritarian, not demanding!) parenting style needs to think and have something to say that involves a bit of direction to the child that is younger and has less experience.  This is your job as a parent.

Remember these wonderful words from Adventures in Gentle Discipline:“Bear in mind that to say children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from, and these are assets you bring to the child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 11).

Work toward parenting your child toward the wonderful adult you know he or she will be, and respect the natural progression of childhood.  Give your children a childhood that is free from adult concern, but yet asks for respect and responsibility from your child within your family and home.  It can be done!

Next up, Big Tools for the Big Picture of Gentle Discipline.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.  Thanks for reading!