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

Preferred Parent Of The Week

This is the term my husband and I used frequently when our older children were smaller:  preferred parent of the week.  You are probably familiar with this phenomenon if you too  have small children whose temperaments are not so laid back…”no, no, MAMA DO!”  or “I don’t want you!! I waaaaannnnntttt Daaaaddddyyy!!”

I honestly wonder, in those of you with big families, does this occur much past the third child?  It seems to me, by necessity, that the youngest members of the family often get used to older brothers and sisters helping out, and the flexibility that develops from that precludes the “Preferred Parent Of The Week” syndrome.  I would love to hear from you if you have a comment on that!

Parents always want to know how to handle this.  In our family, we didn’t argue about this for the sake of arguing (“No, you must have Daddy put your fork on the table!”) for small things, but there were certainly times when a child’s desires could not be accommodated.  Mama had the wailing baby, so yes, little four year old, Daddy will have to give the bath.  And yes, there would be wailing.  But Daddy is a parent too.

It can be hard for parents going through this for the first time to  not feel baffled and hurt, especially fathers.  One has to carry on in good humor, this is a small child!  They say all kinds of things and have all kinds of feelings!  Once fathers realize this can be a very normal phase, I think many of them can sort of shore themselves up and not take it so personally.  Whenever our children would go through that, we would just look at it other and shrug, “Guess you’re PPW this week!”

It is important to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing and also a very matter-of-fact, less words, less explaining kind of manner when things are not going the way the child wants.

I have a very astute friend who pointed out that if Dad is never on the “preferred list” for baths, ouchies, bedtime, etc that she wondered if the father and child were doing anything positive through play at all first.  It is hard to expect the child to want Dad during those tired, hungry, hurt and whiny kind of times if the child and father have no positive bond together during happy times.  There should always be time in the family schedule for FUN, with BOTH parents. Build on a happy platform of play as a foundation!

I would love to hear your experiences with “PPW”.

Blessings,
Carrie

Discipline: Eight Facets Of A Healthy Family Culture

 

Discipline is our seventh facet of a healthy family culture.  Discipline, to me, boils down to nothing less than how you guide your child or children toward becoming a mature and healthy adult. Discipline requires authenticity, yes, but also a steadiness and platform of patience and evenness, and an understanding of children’s development and the best tools to use when.  The tools of discipline, to me, differ based on the developmental stage of the child.

 

 Being An Authentic Leader – This is one of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/

 

The first ingredient is of course, you.  Your views, your steadiness, and yes, your family culture obviously influence things.  And no, I don’t think you need to be this completely calm mother who walks around like she in a valium-induced haze.  I know loads of mothers who have incredible energy!  I do think, though, that there has to be a steadiness of not being completely overwhelmed and frustrated.  And that, to be honest, can be really difficult when children are very small.  And teenagers also take a lot of energy!

 

The qualities I think about most in my own mothering were the ones I described in the series “20 Days Toward More Mindful Mothering”.  Some of my long-term readers might remember that series.  Cultivating these qualities is what inner work and personal development is all about.  You can see those posts here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/category/general-wisdom/20-days-toward-more-mindful-mothering/

 

How Do You View Children and Childhood?  Much of this boils down to what you think about children. Do you think they are miniature adults with less experience just waiting to be filled up with knowledge?  Do you think the consciousness of the child and the rationality of the child is the same as the adult?  Many times we would point to teenagers, and laugh, and say, oh no of course a teenager is not as rational as an adult, but yet we parent them by talking them to death and expecting them to come to the same conclusions that a forty-three year old adult would in the same situation.  They might, but they might not!  Smile

 

I often think of the ages of birth through seven being a time of doing, the time of age seven through age fourteen of being the time of strong feelings, and the time of age fourteen through age twenty-one being when rational thought is being developed.  To me, childhood ends around the age of twenty-one.

 

If we concur that development does take time, that children of different ages actually are different in the way that they think and respond to things, then we can look at tools and expectations based upon development.

 

However, the one thing that remains steady through all of these ages is CONNECTION and ATTACHMENT.  You cannot parent without this.  Please do go back and read the posts that summarize the wonderful book “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers”.  Connection is the number one way to discipline a child. 

 

Discipline Tools – So, for me, the methods and tools of discipline looks a bit different dependent upon the child’s age.  I have written many, many, many posts on this.

 

In a brief nutshell, for  the ages birth to seven, your discipline techniques really involves slowing down.  Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, and slowing down really sets the tone for what happens. Small children should be involved in meaningful work, and plenty of  indoor and outdoor play.   Physically moving with your child into what needs to be done whilst you are singing and helping them is most helpful.  Children of this age imitate what you are doing, so making sure you are doing something worthy of imitation is very important.  Words and talking the child to death is the least important part of this picture. 

 

For children ages seven to fourteen, this is a time to be a loving authority in your child’s life because there will be many instances of your child discovering what the boundaries of your home life truly are, and they are searching to see  if you yourself walk the walk of what you are telling your child.  Criticism of the parent seems to start in our times around ages nine or ten, not in the same way that a teenager criticizes, but children of this age certainly do notice if you tell them one thing and then do another!  Calm, sure, steady and warm are hallmarks in discipline of this age.

 

For children fourteen to twenty-one, the parent is moving into more of an age of being the expert guide on life’s issues and the child is of course taking increasing responsibility.  Here is an interesting blog post from over at Christopherus regarding parenting teenagers and talking specifically about dealing with friends:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/07/keeping_one_ste.html

 

Many blessings,

Carrie