Summer Rhythm

 

Happy Summer to all!  It is summer here in the United States, although some parts of the U.S. are having colder than usual weather, to be sure!

 

One thing in summer is to enjoy the expansive space and time of the endless days of heat, warmth and sunlight and a time of rest from academic work and a rhythm better suited to colder days.  However, I also receive many letters from readers asking about a rhythm to the days, about what to do with sibling bickering, should they continue doing circle time with smaller children…what  to do, what to do.

 

I used to not plan for summer at all and was content to let the endless days of swimming here in the Deep South unfold.  However, the older my children have gotten, and the more children we have had, it was clear some bit of rhythm was being craved by all.  Having a simple framework for when at home in the summer can be a big help towards staving off any summer bickering and a relief to children to know they have long stretches of time to play, but also special things to do, even at home that makes special summer memories.

 

For my youngest little three year old, I am thinking of having a small circle time of songs and fingerplays and footplays three days a week, along with a story this month.  We have been doing the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears for almost a month now, which is  still well-loved and enjoyed, so that will be the story I will continue.  My older children enjoy time for crafting, preparing for festivals, painting and baking, and all of us enjoy time to be with friends.  I look at what days we will be home and what days we will be out. I also look at what days we will swim, what days we will be with friends and are there any days of the week in which we may just be home (no swimming and no friends to play with but just a good ole’ family day).  I also use this summer time for things I mentioned a few posts back on a Simplicity Monday – decluttering, planning for fall homeschooling, and regular cleaning and cooking.

 

We have had an expansive time of summer so far with travel and horse camp, so this coming week will be a week to settle into summer and being home.   A sweet summer circle and story, crafting, Father’s Day preparations, and baking, along with lots of swimming and being with friends, should round out the week nicely.

 

If you are interested in ideas for summer, here are a few back posts that you may find enjoyable:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/09/guest-post-creating-a-magical-summer/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/05/24/summer-stories-and-summer-nature-table/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/21/summertime-bickering/

And the famous July Doldrums!  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/31/down-and-out-the-july-doldrums/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/05/the-july-doldrums-again/

 

Can’t wait to hear all of your wonderful ideas and plans for summer! 

Love,

Carrie

Why Do I Yell At My Children So Much?

I think whenever there is a lot of yelling going on in a household, it signifies the possibility of several things:

1.  The household, or you, are under complete stress.  What  can you do to simplify your schedule, your rhythm, your life?

2.  Lack of nourishment for you at a physical level, an emotional level, or a soul level.  What can you do to fill your own bucket so you can be steady?  Do you need a break? If you are feeling stressed, how can you change the mood?  Being in nature is a huge help.

3.  I find sometimes the most gentle people are gentle up to a point, and then they explode.  I think this goes back to boundaries.  Sometimes gentle people can be too lax in boundaries, and all the small irritations build up until it all explodes.  I think what one finds with folks who have older children, who have multiple children, is that they are much quicker to set a boundary in a kind but firm way before it all escalates.  Always think about boundaries. Continue reading

A Complete Approach To Real Discipline

 

Much of the popular bookstore literature regarding discipline of the small child to the pre-teenaged years are sorely lacking, in my opinion. 

 

These resources typically demonstrate one of two approaches.  The first approach is to focus solely on cause and effect (ie, carrot-stick, bribe or punishment), which does not take into account that children do not really even begin to develop the ability to use cause and effect reasoning until the age of twelve.  A kinder and gentler way of this approach is to talk the child to death in hopes that all your explanations will lead to the child agreeing with you.  These are really two facets of this same approach, and neither one is developmentally appropriate.   

 

The second approach is one that focuses on empathizing with the child.  I am not saying that this is a bad thing, to connect with the child when there is a challenge, but only using empathy can lead both child and parent bogged down in how each one feels and why without much resolution, or just lead to endless talking (circling back to approach number one as described above).    Kim John Payne, in his book “Simplicity Parenting”, talks about how children under the age of nine developmentally display a more diffuse manner of feeling “good” or “bad”, unless they have really been coached in labeling feelings. 

 

I propose a more balanced approach to discipline.  After all, the first approach is focused on thinking: cause and effect.  Yet this is such a fallacy.  Children developmentally don’t think the same way adults do.  The second approach is focused on feeling.  Whilst   connecting to a child through the feeling life is important, there are other ways we can do that besides words, which frequently seem to get ignored:  the warm smile, the holding of a steady rhythm in the midst of anxiety and stress, the hug.  These cues often seem to get ignored and lost in the literature that focuses on a feeling approach to discipline.

 

A balanced approach involves not just thinking (mainly on the part of the adult!)  Were is the child’s consciousness in this situation?  That is for you, the thinking adult, to realize, and to bring your patience and persistence to this), feeling (are you feeling compassionate and loving toward your child?  But loving does not mean the child has to be responded to right away or that the child gets what they want!  Wants and needs are two different things in children above the age of 2!) but also involves willing.  What can the child DO in action, to help the situation.

How are you moving, in movement, in your body, to help the child?

 

Give your children phrases to use that they can imitate, short phrases that involve not so much thinking but willing – what can they do?  What are your words helping them to do , how are your words entering into the child and helping them create their own will? 

 

Other things that help a balanced approach to discipline include boundaries, the word no, positive words to imitate, real work, and a strong rhythm.

 

Firm boundaries are important, and especially so for small children who live in their bodies. Hitting, spitting, kicking, throwing are all common behaviors of the small child.  The word no is an important word.  Not everything can be phrased completely positively, especially when it comes to the safety of the child or other children.    We can give a child a positive or accepted action, but sometimes it is really important for the child to hear no and live with that boundary before even hearing the positive thing they can do. 

 

Some Waldorf kindergarten teachers use the phrase, “You may…”  Some teachers do not like this approach, and for situations where there really is no choice will use the phrase, “You will.” 

 

Real work is something that turns difficult situations about.  In the home environment, going back to the basics of food, and sleep are also important.  Sometimes as children become tired they get more and more wound-up, and throw and hit and kick and spit more.  Keeping a solid rhythm of warming foods and sleep and rest is a vital component of discipline.    With small children you must plan ahead and keep things on track.

 

You can do this!  Envision how you want your family to be, and use your patience and persistence to make it happen! 

 

Many blessings,

Carrie

All You Can Do

 

 

All you can do in the face of such tragedy, such tragedy and loss that it makes no sense at all…is to gather your family and love them.   Tell your children, show your children this love. Gather your community and sit in intimate love with all of those people.  Reach out to the people in your community who don’t reach out. Help those who need it.

 

All you can do in the face of tragedy is to be as strong as you can.  Go into each day with the assured knowledge that despite the actions of one person, the world is still a good place.  There are still kind and caring people everywhere.  The world is not a place to be feared and it is not a place from which  to isolate your children.  Isolation is not the solution to societal problems. 

 

All you can do in the face of tragedy is to find support in your community.  Your community can carry far more for you and for your children than you ever could on your own. 

 

All you can do in the face of tragedy is create your own home to be a place of goodness, a place of beauty and of stability.  Create a safe and steady rhythm for your days, your week and your year.  Go back to the wisdom of earlier times, to those who knew the cosmic rhythms, knew the liturgical rhythms, and knew the rhythm of man himself in life.

 

All you can do in the face of tragedy is to love your children with all your heart.  Heal your childhood wounds. Do not pass these onto your children.   Tame your words, and take a break if you need it in order to tame your words and actions.   Yet, at the same time, be easy on yourself and on those around you.  Life is not perfect, people are not perfect.  And yet we are all still here and we can all love one another.

 

All you can do in the face of tragedy is to lean on your God when you cannot walk yourself.   Tragedy faces men, yet we rise up in triumph.  Tragedy faces us, yet we persevere.  Tragedy faces us, yet we remain strong.  Tragedy faces us, yet we create anew. 

 

Rise up.  Love one another and start from the most precious place one can start – our own homes and families.  Let our light branch out to the rest of mankind.

 

Rise up.

Mourning tonight with the rest of the world,

Carrie

Finding Center

I am busy reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing The Universe:  The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, And Science” by Michael S. Schneider.  This is a fabulous read, especially for those of you homeschooling fifth graders and up in the Waldorf tradition, where the child moves from movement and form drawing to freehand geometry into geometry with tools.

I was re-reading the first section of the book, on the circle and the number one, and came across this passage:

“Nothing exists without a center around which it revolves, whether the nucleus of an atom, the heart of our body, hearth of the home, capital of a nation, sun in the solar system, or black hole at the core of a galaxy.  When the center does not hold, the entire affair collapses.  An idea or conversation is considered “pointless” not because it leads nowhere but because it has no center holding it together.”

I think parenting is learning how to revolve around our center, and how to find our center again if we loose it.  If our center is kindness, gentleness and self-control, then we have a center to return to in the moment (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/01/23/a-guest-post-take-pause-with-the-10-x-7-rule/).  We also then have a center to set our long-term vision around in terms of what drives the decisions in our family.

However, there is another very real and important reason to find our center:   If what we do and say becomes the inner voice of our children as adults, why not practice now?

Say these critical things to your child:

You are so strong.

You are so helpful.

I love you.

Thank you.

I know you can do this.

I am proud of you.

More importantly, show your child that they belong in your family.  That they make you laugh.  That they make you happy and make you  feel joyous.  Give them a smile, a hug, a kiss.  Tell them they are a precious treasure.  Because they are.

And you are too. If you are feeling dragged down, and lower than low about your parenting, your mothering, your life, please fight against those thoughts.  Some of the Early Church fathers had an idea about thoughts such as these; they called them logismi in Greek.  Thoughts that are not beautiful or joyous , helpful or kind are not from the Divine Source.  Don’t let them take you over.  Don’t wallow in them.

Find your center, find your joy again.  Work is a huge help in this.  Meaningful work for ourselves, our children.   A huge part of the Waldorf curriculum, outside of the art and the movement, is work.  Within Waldorf homeschooling, we learn practical skills,  we learn how to do things with our hands to help our family and to help our neighbor.

Find your center of kindness.  Your children can help you work and nurture your home, they can work and help make something for a member of your community who needs it.

You are so strong.

You are so kind.

You are such a good mother.

You make great decisions for your family.

You bring joy to those around you.

Peace,

Carrie

I HATE The Mother That I Am

Every so often, I get emails that break my heart.  This has been one of those weeks.  There are many mothers out there just hating what their mothering is, what they themselves are right now.  And that breaks my heart.

Sometimes I don’t know all the details, all the circumstances.  Is this a chronic feeling and struggle or is it something right here in the moment?  Is it part of or tied to the July doldrums (if any of you have read this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about July here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/05/the-july-doldrums-again/   )

We ALL have moments we feel like this.  We may even be having more than just moments, we may be having rough patches with our children where we honestly feel like this for an extended period of time.  Some seasons of parenting are so difficult, so challenging.  Some children have behavior that is challenging and it just challenges us.

And we don’t always handle it well.  We don’t always handle it with grace.  We don’t  always handle it with love.  Sometimes it is hard to see how to best react when it is your own child and we don’t have that outside view looking at someone else’s child doing the same behavior.

Sometimes we feel our children would be better off with anyone else but ourselves.  I have been there too.  I get to those points too, and all I can say is that for me, it is a sign that there is too much going on.  Too much outside pressure, too harried to respond to things in an even-keeled way,  too many things to tend to, and a clear sign my spiritual footing has been neglected, and most likely a sign that my physical body is not being taken care of.

I often think of the village raising a child – how different than all the shaping of a child being done by mainly one or two parents!  Or I think of my own childhood – at school most of the day, coming home and going outside to play until dark, going to bed.  I wasn’t always around a whole lot.  No one had to “arrange” play dates and things to do back then, and the parents were not involved in every dramatic friendship disagreement or thing at school.

For better or for worse, things have changed on a societal level and we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves.  We talk about not wanting to push our children, but yet we push the hell out of ourselves.  We talk about our children being wonderful, never taking credit for that at all, but when they don’t “act well”, then somehow it is all our fault.

Just musings….So, anyway, once you have a good cry, see if any of this resonates: Continue reading

Discipline That Works!

 

Discipline is about guiding your child so they can grow up and be a wonderful adult.

Think for a moment about what you what your child to be like when they grow up. What qualities would you like them to have?

 

Now, erase that picture. It is not that that picture in your mind doesn’t count; absolutely it does.  You are the parent, you are the loving authority in your family.  It is just that children bring with them their own unique gifts, unique qualities.  They bring things you could never anticipate nor plan for.  They have as much to teach you and probably more than you have to teach them.  So, the impression of what you want to bring them will stay on the paper as it was erased, but something more important is being drawn over this…

 

That doesn’t mean that we throw up our hands at what our child brings to us, we don’t and cannot abdicate our responsibility in teaching and guiding,  but it does mean that we keep our respect for the child alive and well throughout the process.  It means we keep our sense of humor, and it means we keep our sense of love and warmth.  It especially means, I think and in my personal style of parenting, that we also look for BALANCE for our children and try to introduce balance to them – in their personalities and temperaments, in their passions and interests.  It also means we give them a solid foundation:  they can choose to steer their canoe a different way when they are older, but for right now, we help them along the rocky shoals by giving them the basics of our own family culture, our own spirituality, our own boundaries.

 

If you are feeling lost lately with being positive with your children and guiding your children well, take a deep breath.

 

Remind yourself that this is the heart of parenting, and that keeping yourself calm and ho-hum is the first step toward being able to connect with your child in the moment.  Guard what comes out of your mouth!  You cannot take those words back!

 

A child’s actions do have consequence, all of it does have import, and it does carry responsibility.  Make sure you are not hindering the possibility of your child learning how to be a responsible member of your family and of society by imposing inconsistent, unfair, unclear and emotionally-driven punishment as opposed to moments of consistent, fair, clear and calm direction.  Ho-hum.

 

Make sure your expectations are realistic. Know you are going to have to say the same thing 500 times, and that you will have to be physically by their side to make sure what needs to happen actually happens.  That is parenting. 

 

Parenting is loving and connecting, but it also having boundaries and teaching your child practical things to make life worth living.  I have found in observing my own children and many other children, yes, some behaviors children do grow “out of” but many things stick there until the parent takes charge and helps the child change the behavior.  Do not be afraid of this, this is part of parenting as well.

 

Be confident, clear and calm.  Be the authority and step up and be the parent.  Love your child enough to do this for him or her.

 

Blessings,
Carrie