Time-in, Time-out

(I had a lovely mother email me about time-in versus time-out and she bore the brunt of listening to some off-the-top-of-my-head musings, so I just wanted to thank her for inspiring this post…Hopefully this post is my coherent than my initial ramblings…)

Time-in is still getting a lot of press around parenting circles in the United States this summer.  To me, the traditional version of “time-out” complete with naughty chair and one minute for every year of the child’s age is the equivalent of emotional spanking.  You can read what I have written about time-out here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/  and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/23/discipline-without-distress-chapter-four/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/why-should-i-consider-time-in-instead/ 

I also have just a common-sense kind of beef with time-out:  if your child is that calm that they can go and sit in a chair to “think”, then they probably could have been addressed with other methods of positive discipline to guide them.  I am all for helping to  guide children.  Try some different ideas than time-out here in this post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/23/gentle-parenting-and-boundaries/

The opposite end of this spectrum is that when children are not calm and they are falling apart, this is not a teachable moment.  If you need a time-out as a parent, I am all for that.  However, for the child end of this equation, if your child is so upset and they are melting, how is sending them with their overwhelming feelings to sit in a chair going to help them make the most of this opportunity to learn? Please look at that “More About Time-In For Tinies” post listed above for some tips on handling meltdowns!

I also find that Americans and the Brits are really the only groups where time-out seems to come up at all.  So I think there is a strong cultural component that is influencing the use of time-in in parenting in this country. 

That being said, some people are saying some things about time-out that I wanted to bring out.  In the book “Attached At The Heart”, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, founders of Attachment Parenting International, argue that “time –out” should be re-defined:  “We would like to take back this term, remembering its original intention:  stopping the activity, taking a break, and coming back with renewed perspective.  Keeping this in mind helps parents work on their relationship with their child, rather than focusing on the child’s behavior, and make efforts that strengthen the parent-child connection.”

Some people have argued that time-in is not much of a deterrent toward changing behavior.  What time-in gives a child is the chance to connect.  Time-in is not a punitive strategy;  it is a strategy toward making a teachable moment happen and calming everyone down.  Lawrence Cohen, PhD and author of “Playful Parenting”, has a whole section in this book entitled, “ Choose A “Meeting On the Couch”  Over a “Time-Out” (page 234).  I would encourage everyone to read this book, and this section in particular as he talks about time-outs were supposed to be a humane alternative to hitting children and have now ended up as the ultimate tool of positive discipline but that time-outs “enforce isolation on children who are probably already feeling isolated and disconnected.”  He goes on to talk about how one COULD use time-out in a better way:   1.  By inserting yourself into a child’s play when things are ramping up and play with the child(ren) (to me, this is like the way I say “Hold The Space”  This may work well for sibling fighting!  You could say “Time-out!  I am going to play with you all now too!”  2.  Providing a time-out for YOURSELF (which I am all for!) or 3.  Giving children a cozy place they can go to and calm down in when they choose to go there, for however long they choose to stay there (I find this can work for children coming up on 9, but that many small children just do not understand the concept of being by themselves to calm down; they need your help!)

He also talks about how punishment gets a child’s attention, but how our goal should be to get a child’s attention  in order to connect with that child, not to scare them, not to show them “who is boss”.  To me, every single thing you do and say and construct within the rhythm and environment of your home should be modeling how a calm and compassionate adult functions and lives; not punishment!  My nine-year-old said to me tonight, “Mommy, how did grown-ups get to be so smart about everything?”  She is surrounded by smart, confident, wonderful and caring adults in our neighborhood, our church, through our friends.  These are authentic, real people, not people who pretend to like children and grit their teeth and smile.  She is impressed with these people, and so am I!  She doesn’t need punishment to get attention or to figure out that adults know things; she sees this modeled each and every day!  Keep your eye on your ultimate vision for your children as laid out in your Family Mission Statement and the gentle tools that are appropriate for your child’s age in order to guide them!  If you need help understanding your child’s development stage by age, please do see the posts on the one-year-old, the two-year-old, the three-year-old, etc, all the way through age nine on this blog, and go back to those posts on the Family Mission Statement if you need help there. 

I like this quote from Lawrence Cohen’s book (please do see his website here:  http://playfulparenting.com/index.html – there is now an AUDIO version of his book out, for that I am excited!  I have the book, but I could envision listening to the audio version in my car, etc.)…  He writes, “We are often reluctant to give out love to people who have been bad, even when it’s what they need.  I have always liked the poem by Edwin Markham, which A.S. Neill quotes in the beginning of his book Freedom—Not Licensel:

He drew a circle that shut me out -

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!”

Still not convinced?  I am all for boundaries!  You can still be gentle and have boundaries.  You can still love your child and keep boundaries.  In fact, I think if you truly love your child, there MUST be boundaries.    But I am also all for understanding a child’s developmental stage and working with that in a positive way.  As Barbara Coloroso, author of “Kids Are Worth It!  Giving the Gift of Inner Discipline” says regarding discipline:  Leave your child’s dignity intact. 

Help your children by guiding them with LOVE.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Celebrating Children Who Say “No!”

Sometimes we can smile with a small toddler as they reach for something in an obvious gesture of embrace but are still saying “no”. However, in general, many parents frequently feel frustrated when small children start using the word “no” (and yes, I do know this is because your precious one has said “no” literally 800 times today!).  It also seems as a society we rarely celebrate our older preschoolers or older children being able to say “no” to us .

No really can be a cause for celebration if you look at it in the right way.  Why do I say this?  The word “no” is a true expression of My Own Will.  Without the ability to say no, there are no boundaries between Me and Other.  And boundaries are something that can really serve your children well when they are adults!

I am reading this interesting book called “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  This book was published in 1992, so perhaps some of you have already read this.  One of the points in this book is that the word “no” is a basic word we use to set boundaries in our lives, and boundaries can help us as adults answer such questions as how can I set limits and still be a loving person, how do I answer people who would like my time/money/love/energy, how do we set boundaries without feeling guilty.  Anyway, I don’t agree with everything in this book, but it is worth a look if this is an area that is challenging for you!

I also like what Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears say in their book, “The Discipline Book:  How to Have A Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten”:  “Saying no is important for a child’s development, for establishing his identity as an individual.  This is not defiance or a rejection of your authority.  Some parents feel they cannot tolerate any nos at all from their children, thinking that to permit this would undermine their authority.  They wind up curtailing an important process of self-emergence:  Children have to experiment with  where their mother leaves off and where they begin.  Parents can learn to respect individual wishes and still stay in charge and maintain limits.  The boundaries of selfhood will be weak if the self gets no exercise.  As your child gets older, the ability to get along with peers in certain situations (stealing, cheating, drugs, and so on) will depend on her ability to say no.” (page 67)

I have also seen the opposite:  mothers who rarely say no to anything.  Saying no is not negative; I have written about “The Power of A Well-Placed No” here for your reading pleasure:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/06/the-power-of-a-well-placed-no/

So how can we as parents better embrace and respond to when our children say “no”? 

1. For small children, do look at what is behind the “no” a child is saying.  Maybe the no is really I don’t want to go to bed (but I really am tired).  Maybe the no is I don’t want to stop playing to go to the bathroom.  Maybe the no is something else.  So being able to look behind the no to see what is the true need or want is important, and will help everyone get their needs met.

2.  Give small children your time to help transition, and have a rhythm to things.  If small children are engaged in something, give them time to switch gears with your help.  Songs and verses for these  transition points are helpful here.  A rhythm is also helpful because then a child knows what comes after what every day. 

3.  If there is a natural consequence for a child not doing something, then  you must follow through.  I know everyone is going to write and ask for examples of this, but really this is variable family to family and also depends upon the age of the child.   Perhaps an example would be with a child who won’t wear a coat to go outside on a freezing cold day.  No coat, no outside.  When the coat goes on, the child can go outside. 

4.  Please don’t let your child’s resistance to something make you doubt yourself.  Your child is not choosing to get cavities just because they don’t want to brush their teeth.  I don’t mean this to give an excuse for some really authoritarian parenting, but I do want you to feel empowered that you do know something about what your child needs!

5.  Recognize that older children say “no” in different ways, such as the famous “You’re mean!” “You’re not the boss of me!” or things to sidetrack the whole original issue. Less words and a calm tone can be helpful here.  Don’t get sidetracked and feel as if you have to verbally respond to everything your child is saying.   Love your child, be warm, but stay the course.

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Discipline Without Distress” – The Last Chapter!

Well, we did it – we are now on the last chapter of “Discipline Without Distress” by Judy Arnall and ready to move on to our new book, “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.  You can order it through Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Hold-Your-Kids-Parents-Matter/dp/0375760288/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279245565&sr=8-1

Let’s finish this book up!  This last chapter is entitled, “Technology Without Distress: Educate, Not Ban.”   Despite the title of this chapter, the author makes a great case for the fact that babies, toddlers, and school-aged children do best with hands-on learning and have no need for technology in the Early Years and Early Grades (see for yourself on  pages 368-371).

Judy Arnall writes in the beginning of the chapter about how we are currently in a generation gap due to technology.  She equates things such as instant messaging to book discussions thirty years ago, the internet to encyclopedias, books, microfiche thirty years ago.  She notes that “of all the electronic devices designed to make adult and children’s lives easier, computer and video games, as well as instant messaging and the internet, are the major concerns of disciplining and parenting.”

Her first topic to tackle is one of safety on the Internet and how to discuss this with children, how to talk about the fact that what one says in email and on the Internet is permanent (including photographs and video).  I think one could also add that the computer should be in a public place of the house, and that there should be ways to block certain content of the Internet.

In her section regarding “Games, Games, Games….What’s the Difference?” the author equates an adult getting a scrapbook kit or golf clubs and being told you can only scrapbook or  play for one hour on Saturdays.  She writes, “You are probably feeling disappointed, angry, and frustrated at the limitation, especially in spite of this whole new world opened to you.  This is probably how a child feels for the first time she experiences a computer or video game.”

I personally think this makes a great case for introducing technology later rather  than sooner.   I think that small children especially can have a rather “more”-ness about them with rather poor self-control as this is part and parcel of being a child.  Adults can be like this as well, but hopefully an adult can temper the “more” they want and look to themselves for happiness, for creativity.  I am not certain video games provide a helpful teaching tool for that, especially after all my research on boys and how boys can become easily “visually addicted”.  I will refer you to Don and Jeanne Elium’s “Raising A Son” for more regarding this. 

Judy Arnall cites the good things about gaming, including academic benefits, life skill benefits, and socialization benefits.  She talks about the need for moderation and considers if her teenagers are involved in other activities that it is all working out okay, and she advocates for a balanced life.

I personally feel most of the suggestions in this chapter, especially the section on gaming, was aimed more at teenagers (except for the pages 368-371 listed above) than smaller children.  However, one certainly is seeing a big push for computers and games for small children in pre-school and kindergarten and certainly in the elementary school years, at least here in the United States.

Judy Arnall admits she has a “pro-gaming” stance.  For the other side of this argument, I will direct you all to this post from the Alliance For Childhood:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/learning-more/articles-on-aspects-of-waldorf-education/fools-gold-a-look-at-children-and-computers.html

Please share with other mothers how you handle media (TV, computers and gaming) in your homes along with the ages of your children.  Help other mothers make informed decisions for their families.

And please do look for the first post in our next book study!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Power of a Well-Placed No

As attached parents, we often act as if we are afraid to say the word, “No.” We become good at structuring our homes so we don’t have to say “no” all the time to our babies and toddlers.  This is a good thing.   For the preschooler, we become masters of using fantasy and movement to re-direct a child.  We use distraction. We pull out every tool in our toolbox….

But sometimes a child needs to hear a well-placed “no”.

As adults, we know that life often hands us a “no” that is not couched in any other terms. We are  living in a society where parents are scooping in to rescue older children who have been dealt “no’s” through consequences.  Parents who are trying to have the school pass a child who needs to fail.  Parents who are so emotionally invested in their children that they need to detach a bit and let a “no” settle on their child, even if it means their child is not going to pass a grade, not make the team, not gain admittance to that college program. 

What are your non-negotiable “no’s” and why do you feel badly saying this word?  “No” is not a bad word!

Yes, we try to offer what a child can do along with the no. Yes, we try to leave the heart and spirit of the child open and not crush them with this powerful word.   But I strongly feel that not every “no” needs to be followed by this.  Sometimes just “no” is truly enough.

If you are a loving parent, please accept that “no” can sometimes be the most loving thing that you can say, and that we are doing a disservice to our children if they do not hear a few well-placed, loving  “no’s” from an early age.

Many blessings today,

Carrie

Stages of Discipline for Boys

Let’s wrap up our series of posts about raising good men.  I  like this quote:  “Without a seasoned heart connection between parents and sons, the teenage years feel like wartime…..The balancing of limit-setting and parent-son relationships begins at a boy’s birth.  The father who waits to become alive in the family until his son is a teenager and making trouble puts himself at a great disadvantage; he will have little effect with his son.  If he starts “laying down the law” the son can just leave.  A thirteen-year-old can live for days by going from one friend’s house to another.”

Discipline, as I have written about time and time again, begins with CONNECTION:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/22/the-number-one-way-to-discipline-a-child/

Here are some ideas for discipline and general parenting through age 12.  Please do take what resonates with you and leave the rest behind.

Ideas For Birth- Age 7

  • Closeness and connection through breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, warmth, and lots of time together lay a great foundation for this attachment and connection that becomes the foundation of discipline.
  • Protection of the senses is very important. I have written so much about this on this blog that I am not going to go into all of that here; the other issue to consider is how we deal with a boy’s feeling/emotional life.  It is important to not let your own baggage, your own sense of worry and anxiousness and inadequacies color how you present the world to your child.  Work through your own stuff and you will be a much better parent. 
  • We always need to remember that small children view things much differently than an adult does.  Small children under the age of 7 have an entirely different consciousness. 
  • How will you supervise and structure the day of your small son?  A four and five year old little boy especially needs structure and a way to get physical energy out – they will most likely need to do this first thing in the morning and again in the afternoon.  Life will not go smoothly without this!
  • Boys need to know the rules of your family and they need you to be kind, fair and calm. 

AGE 8- AGE 12:  Suggestions for parenting:

  • You must be involved, because “the boy is no longer satisfied with free play.  He wants to go further, to master physical challenges, make things, and build with a goal in mind.  He requires more parental involvement in planning, supervising, and providing opportunities at home and in the world that help him develop the skills he craves.” – from “Raising A Son” by Rick Johnson
  • Positive role models are very important!
  • Help your son experience success and the value of persistence in learning.  Help boys sample lots of different kinds of skills so they can find their own talents and abilities.    Music lessons, carpentry, drama are all important for this age. 
  • Boys of this age CRAVE time with their fathers and still need their mothers.
  • Boys of this age are working on building up their self-esteem, and how they deal with relationships.  Help them.
  • Children of this age are still impulsive and don’t think things through, so they still need rules that are fair and boundaries to help them.
  • Sexuality is now a topic of interest, so  think how you would like to approach this. There was just a great discussion about this topic over on Melisa Nielsen’s Yahoo!Group at homeschoolingwaldorf@yahoogroups.com .  Please do join in!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Raising Healthy Boys

I mentioned in my last blog post (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/27/boys-boys-boys/)  the importance of a father or other positive male role models in raising boys into successful manhood.  Rick Johnson has a great quote in his book, “That’s My Son”:

Manhood and fatherhood are learned behaviors.  Boys are visual creatures and learn by observing.  By watching how men react in certain situations, what they say, and how they solve problems, boys learn to become men.  Boys need to be instructed at an early age to take on their manly responsibility.  They need to develop a leadership style that appears both noble to men and endearing to women rather than dominant or abusive.  They need to understand a masculine vision of what a real man is.  They need a code of conduct teaching them how a real man lives his life.”

I have written on this blog before about the difference between mothering and fathering, and the importance of both (see:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/ )   .  If you are in a situation where you are a single parent or your child’s father is uninvolved, Rick Johnson, suggests looking at Boy Scouts of America (and yes, I know there are varying opinions about Boy Scouts), Little League and soccer, and male teachers. He also suggests attending things with your son in which men are involved, such as sporting games, etc.

To understand the role of older men in nurturing boys better, I like how authors Don and Jeanne Elium outline the progression of maternal attachment to entering the world of men in their book, “Raising A Son”.  They talk about the importance of fathers being involved with their son even though a small child is primarily attached to the mother during the early years.  They write, “The father who is active with his son in the early years is making a huge investment for the future.”  They note through culture that boys are frequently begin subconscious separation from their mothers around the age of three. 

The psychological identification of boys with their Father begins somewhere between the years of five and eight.  The Eliums write that this does not mean a boy no longer wants, needs or wants attention from his mothers, but that the child often experiences a “push-pull” relationship with their mother and that the boys are often craving a relationship with their fathers.  Rick Johnson pinpoints the ages of around five and adolescence as times where mothers and sons experience challenges as a boy tries to head toward manhood.  Mothers must not take this push and pull personally!

Around the age of nine can often come a time where the young boy is challenging authority more and really needs copious amounts of time with other positive adult males.  At this time, the boy’s relationship with his mother must be expanded and transformed.  The Eliums write that “Boys have to be pulled into the responsibilities of the adult male world with compassion, firmness and father-love……From Dad the son learns not only about his male body, but about the masculine workings of the mind, soul, and spirit.”

John Eldredge, author of “Wild at Heart”  says that “The idea, widely held in our culture, is that the aggressive nature of boys is inherently bad, and we have to make them into something more like girls.”  Indeed, this idea of “shaping behavior” comes up frequently.  Christina Hoff Summers talks about how boys do not need to be “ pathologized” and that whilst aggression and such needs to be channeled into constructive ways, we are forgetting that some of these exact traits are what contributes goodness to society.

What the Eliums bring up is that we often ignore the soul of the boy as he transforms into a man.  Author Rick Johnson argues that boys, and later men, have needs to have significance in their lives and to have a cause to fight for.  I have written time and time again on this blog about children having chores and contributing to the family so there is something bigger than just themselves.  I have written time and time again about the need for children to see spiritual ideas in ACTION, so they see there is something bigger than themselves in both the spiritual realm and also in the sense of community.  Boys also  crave heroes, and stories about our founding fathers, pioneers, frontiersman, soldiers, athletes for boys ages 7 and up really can be helpful.

It is important that mothers let their boys take risks; that they understand that getting physically hurt to a boy frequently just means they need to try again; that taking risks and attaining success is an important part of developing into manhood.  Johnson says, “A man’s role in life often requires him to persist in the face of adversity.”  Boys do need guidance, but smothering love and over-protectiveness does not help.  The Eliums describe boys as needing parents who are courageous and who can set firm and appropriate boundaries for their sons based upon complete connection and lots of time spent together.

Lots more to say in the next post.

Live big and love your children!

Carrie

Boys, Boys, Boys

Let’s talk about raising boys for a few days!  For those of you raising daughters, I did a few posts specific to fathers and daughters here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/18/fathers-and-daughters-part-one/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/20/fathers-and-daughters-part-two/

Here is another one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/23/raising-a-daughter/

For this topic of raising boys, I really like the book (once again!) by Don and Jeanine Elium entitled “Raising A Son: Parents and the Making of A Healthy Man”.  You can find this book here: http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Son-Parents-Making-Healthy/dp/1587611945/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276131538&sr=8-1

My husband and I also recently read “That’s My Son:  How Moms Can Influence Boys To Become Men of Character” by Rick Johnson.  This is a quick read, and very interesting.   My husband and I really enjoyed this one.   You can find this book here:  http://www.amazon.com/Thats-My-Son-Influence-Character/dp/0800730771/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277684591&sr=8-1

I was wondering what mothers out there are finding most challenging about raising boys?  I would love to hear from you, please do leave me a comment in the comment box!  

Boys are wonderful.  I happen to very much love a little boy who grew up to be a terrific man.  :)  But, the question for many parents of boys seems to exactly be “how to raise a good man.”  After all, the statistics regarding boys quoted in Rick Johnson’s “That’s My Son” are rather dire:

  • Boys are six times more likely than girls to have learning disorders
  • Boys are three times more likely to be drug addicted
  • Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed as emotionally disturbed
  • Boys are twelve times more likely to commit murder
  • Boys have a 50 percent greater risk of dying in a car accident
  • Boys are five times more likely to commit suicide
  • Young boys are seven times more likely to be admitted to mental hospitals and juvenile institutions than girls of the same age/socioeconomic background
  • Boys are twice as likely as girls to have autism and six times as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Boys stutter more than girls and are diagnosed with more speech disorders than girls
  • Boys are more likely to have birth defects, mental retardation and even genetic diseases.

When boys seem to have so much stacked against them, how can we go about raising a good man?

I think one of the first places to start is to understand what makes a boy tick.  Physically, boys are different than girls.

For example, a boy or a man uses mainly one hemisphere of the brain at a time.  Women’s brains have a larger corpus collosum that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, so we tend to use both.  This may account for differences in perceiving emotion and multi-tasking.

Males have less serotonin than females and  have up to twenty times more testosterone.  Testosterone is a cause of more dominant behavior, and also causes more muscle growth and hair.  Males are bigger, faster, stronger.  Rick Johnson writes:   “Due to higher levels of testosterone, males tend to act out in times of stress.  Females tend to become withdrawn in similar circumstances.  In stressful situations (during their parents’ divorce, for instance), adolescent males often become angry and aggressive, getting into trouble and acting act, whereas adolescent females are more prone to becoming depressed and withdrawn.”   Males also have a larger amygdala, the portion of the brain that orders the adrenal glands and other glands into action during times of stress.  This also contributes to increased dominance as compared to females.

But this is just the physical side, and we know that people are more than just their physical bodies.  Males *typically* are better at math, science, spatial relations, logic and reasoning as shown by brain scans. 

The Eliums write in “Raising A Son”:  “…a man tends to fix problems first and consider his relationship with his spouse or partner later, whereas most women consider the relationship in the solution.  Men tend to focus on one problem or task at a time (as at a bull’s-eye on a target) and see any other occurrences in their lives as distractions to ignore.”   Men tend to take in less sensory input from their environment and have shorter overall attention spans than females.

Competition, rules and order are more important to boys.   Clear, firm but loving guidance is really important to boys.  In Chapter One of “Raising A Son”, the authors point out that boys want to know things.  They want to know who is the boss, what the rules are, and are you going to enforce the rules.  “To have a strong relationship with a boy, you have to be the boss, and a very kind one.  Only set rules that you can enforce, and always enforce them.  Then you have the basis for the relationship.  From here comes respect, and more importantly, trust.  Then you can be kind, he’ll listen, and he knows that you are on his side.”

Obviously, all children, boys included, are developed through biology, psychology,  culture, the unique and individual “I” that every person has.   However, firm, kind, consistent are words that have come up over and over in the literature I have researched in dealing with the guidance of boys.  Some of you have wonderful boys who may not have needed this approach, but most of the literature seems to support these traits in raising boys. 

The other thing that has come up over and over and over in my research is that boys need a man mentor.  A woman just cannot teach a boy to be a man.  Positive male role models are extremely important in a boy’s life.  Typically a boy starts identifying more with their fathers than their mothers around the age of five.  It is important that fathers have an active relationship with their sons.   This does not mean that mother is no longer important, or the tie to mothers must be severed, but that the relationship of a boy to other men is important in learning how to be a good man.  The Eliums point out in their book that “Ancient peoples wisely anticipated the first show of testosterone’s power.  When boys became unruly, hard to handle, aggressive, and difficult, community members knew the time was ripe. It was time to make a boy into a man.”

Lots more to say, but will stop there tonight.  Thoughts?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Gentle Parenting and Boundaries

I really like this quote by Gary Chapman, author of  “The Five Love Languages” and “Love As A Way of Life”.  He writes in the Foreward to Susie Larson’s wonderful book, “Growing Grateful Kids:  Teaching Them to Appreciate An Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places”:

“Children who are indulged by parents, given whatever they request and allowed to do whatever they desire, are likely to have major problems in establishing healthy adult relationships.  The absence of boundaries does not equip children for the real world.  These children will become “takers” rather than “givers”.  Consequently they fail to find the deep satisfaction that comes from genuinely loving others.”

Many times when parents ask me about gentle parenting, they are asking from one of two perspectives.  The first perspective is a perspective of guilt because they think they yell too much or are essentially too hard on their children.  Their household is not peaceful and they are frustrated with that and want things to change, but they are not sure how to change.  The second perspective parents ask me from is where gentle parenting is equated with no boundaries at all, and they are intrigued but  skeptical.

To me gentle parenting and boundaries involves several steps.  The first step is to get clear with yourself as to what the values and rules are for your family.  The second step is to figure out how you will hold this boundary in the moment, in a calm and unflappable way,  and what are the tools you will use to help your child (hint:  yelling is not a tool .  :))  And, what will you  do if you feel as if you cannot hold the boundary anymore but you know you need to for your child’s sake?  What is your plan?  Third, what does your child  learn from pushing against the boundary – what active ways do you have to help your child make restitution?

Let’s look at each step briefly:

First of all, gentle parenting starts with knowing yourself and what you model for your child through your ACTIONS.   You must have thoughts regarding what the most important things are in your life.  What are the values of your family and what are the rules of your house?  After those boundaries and  rules of the house are established in a Family Mission Statement, in your head, discussed with your spouse, then you must think through how to be consistent with those boundaries and what will happen when a child pushes against the boundary.  Will you be a wall that falls when they push against it (and this “falling” could be giving in or just falling apart and yelling or crying yourself!)…. or will you be solid and calm but not moveable?  Can you hold the boundary because of your love for the child and because you know this is what this child needs in order to grow up and be a wonderful adult? 

So, how will you hold the boundary in a calm way?  Many of us have what I call a ” breaking point”. What is yours?  Is it after your child has been on the floor screaming for over an  hour?  Is it your child hitting you?  Is it your child hitting the baby?  Is it running around the house?  How will you deal with your own breaking point?  We are all human, so what is your plan for when the breaking point occurs?

What does the child learn by pushing against the boundary?  In life, every decision has pros and cons and trade-offs and I think we need to with these small teachable moments.

Sometimes in gentle parenting we hear a lot of talk about “natural consequences”.   With children under the age of 5, they cannot think ahead to consequences at all.  I have one friend who told me once that small children who don’t want to brush their teeth are not choosing cavities.  She is correct, and I think we must be careful with the idea of “natural consequences” for very small children.   With a child under the age of 5, it really  is up to you to help your child 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.  Even a  four or five-year-old left to their own devices is probably going to get into trouble left on their own for too long!  Remember, a child needs pretty constant checking in and supervision up to the age of 10 according to The Gesell Institute books.  Other tools include singing, fantasy and movement, your gentle hands, distraction and giving the child a job to do.  Perhaps your most important tool for the child is that of restitution.  The child will need your help with this, but it is important for a child to see how they can fix something instead of hearing a lecture about the problem.  Things like yelling and such on your part typically indicate you yourself have either no other tools in your toolbox or that you reached your breaking point and perhaps the behavior needed to change for the sanity of the family before it all got to that point. I have written quite a bit about anger and parenting, and feel those back posts could be of service to you.  The posts regarding self-care may also be helpful.

With a child of six, you have the above tools, plus you can add a few more choice and more pointed sentences about what we do where.  I direct you to the fine book, “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” as available through www.waldorfbooks.com  Story-telling can become a fine way to assist your child in seeing the situation from a different persepctive.  I recommend Susan Parrow’s “Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour” as a reference. 

With a chid of seven and eight, now we are moving into even more of the why’s in simple terms.  Logical reasoning is not present, but as children approach nine, they do understand a bit more about what will happen when they do something.  Their responses are immature, often riddled with emotion, but they are learning.  Criticism will tear them down, as they cannot separate your criticism of their behavior from themselves, so do be careful to speak with your child simply when things are calm and to  help the child to make restitution.  Start empowering them to be able to think about fixing a problem rather than just hearing a lecture about the problem.    Children from nine to twelve are really in the beginning of the foundation years for character development as we know it, and the teenaged years even more so.  So much work for the parent to do!

The point is, though, that gentle parenting and boundaries do co-exist.  Parenting is hard and challenging work!  You have to love your child so much that you will put everything else aside when your child needs your help. In this way, they can learn to be a  good human being and how to live and work with other people of all ages. 

Live big and love your children,

Carrie

Patience, Parenting and Verbal Spillage

Part of having a loving attitude toward our children is being PATIENT.  I have written about patience here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/29/five-things-every-parent-needs/      and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/15/the-power-of-patience-day-number-18-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-parent/

Having patience is an important part of loving our families.  I think there are  two very concrete ways you can put patience into action in your marriage and in your parenting:

1.  Practice listening without interrupting, judging or being defensive.  How many times do we cut off our children, or our spouse when they are upset, to promote our own point of view, or our own judgment?

2.  Many women tend to “verbally spill” a cascade of words when they are upset.  It is very difficult to have self-control of one’s words, but well-worth the attempt. Can we just be silent  but warm and loving during times when the children are falling apart?  Can we just be there without verbally (please excuse the term) “throwing up” on family members with our own anger and frustration?    

I think especially in this age where people seem to say whatever they are thinking (uh, in multiple forums such as in person, in email, on Facebook, Twitter), and many times with language that is less than appropriate, it is important to show children that we can stop, we can think, we can deliberate, we can decide and then we can speak. 

Here are some other ways I am thinking about patience today:

Patience does not mean being a doormat and doing nothing, that is being the jellyfish of Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids Are Worth It!” book, right? However, patience does mean being calm enough to do the right thing!  This post talks a bit about that:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/14/how-not-to-be-the-angry-parent/

Patience is knowing that children take time to develop, and whilst you guide the behavior during development, split-second guidance in a rough way in the heat of the moment is not modeling patience or how to deal with life’s upsets.  De-escalate the situation,  guide, go about what you need to do, but show that deliberation.

As the Internet expands, I find we take things more and more at face value in terms of “experts.”  Anyone can put a website up and say they are a parenting expert or a Waldorf expert or whatever.  Perhaps part of patience involves not jumping into believing what someone says right off the bat, about thinking about what is right for one’s own family and then being able to distill what information works best for one’s situation and beliefs.

I was thinking about patience as a part of having a relationship with friends who may not exactly share our same beliefs  but are still people we enjoy and want to spend time with.  Why should we all be the same?  Many Waldorf homeschoolers complain that they have no friends who homeschool like them, but my question is can we look beyond Waldorf to the fact that we are all homeschooling?  Can we look beyond homeschooling to see that many parents are thoughtful and caring and trying to do their best even if they choose not to homeschool? 

In the area of faith and spirituality, I know many people of one faith who have no friends of any other faith.  A faithful and spiritual life can become very insulated without that.  Do you have the patience to develop long-term friendships with people outside of your spiritual beliefs?

Do you have patience with yourself?  Do you forgive yourself for not being perfect and for not being able to do it all?  This is not an excuse for doing nothing, you know my mantra about planning, planning, planning and doing, but mothers tend to be so very hard on themselves.  I have a friend I always say to, “Isn’t it amazing when a child is going through challenging behavioral stages, we always look to ourselves and what we are doing wrong but when a child is having a smooth stage and behaving the way we would expect, we don’t look back to ourselves at all?”

Happy meditating on patience today!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Yelling in Parenting

Judging by statistics I read, spanking is still a problem.  Yet, this doesn’t seem to be something the mothers I know  personally do– none of them spank. (Yes, I live in a bubble, I guess!)

Time-out and the isolation of a child due to  challenging behavior, whilst a problem in the US (and confirmed by my international readers that this really doesn’t come up in other countries), is again,  not something the mothers I personally know seem to do.  (Yes, again, I live in a bubble).

But yelling seems to be almost a commonality.  And most of all, this seems to be something that occurs with even more frequency with children who are over the age of 7 rather  than small children.

It is almost as if the lie of anger wins – you know, the lie in one’s head that says, “My goodness!  They are seven years old!  They KNOW better than that!  They are just doing this to make me angry!  They are trying to push my buttons!”

Anger looks at ONLY the negative, anger makes us feel as if we must “fix” this problem right away or our child will grow up to be this horrible human being, anger makes us feel as if the normal things that children do being children need to be squashed and stomped on instead of being calmly guided.

And underneath that anger, is our own needs.  Our own very real fear.  Our own very real fatigue and loneliness.  Our own distraction with other things that really have nothing to do with our child. 

From an attachment standpoint, yelling makes very little sense because we want to treat our children with dignity and  we know children need our guidance.  But trying to guide a child with yelling is a little like trying to drive a car by solely using the horn.  Your guidance, your message will be lost in the delivery.

From a Waldorf perspective, yelling is not a tool to use for discipline.  A small child lives in the will, the doing, and in the lower senses – and guess what?  Hearing is not one of the lower four senses that make up the willing senses of the small child! 

What can you do instead of yelling?

1. PLAN your day – children need time to let off steam, and children also need time to calm down.  Limit how many places you are trying to get your children off to, because if Mommy is less stressed then everyone is happier!  Children truly need less activities, more time at home, less lessons and classes and more time with family.

2.  CALL IT QUITS – If it is close to bedtime and everyone is falling apart, sometimes all you can do is get through it and get everyone off to bed.  Recognize the times when the lesson will be lost due to hunger, needing sleep, etc.  Raising a child is not a “one-shot” deal – your child can still grow up to be a wonderful adult even if you don’t “hammer the point” over and over.

3.  For the older children, be careful too not equate the 7-9 year old with a teenager in terms of reasoning skills!  Here are some of my thoughts regarding talking to the seven and eight year old:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/26/how-to-talk-to-your-seven-and-eight-year-old/ 

Make sure what you expect is actually developmentally appropriate.

4.  WALK IT OFF – If you feel so angry that you are going to explode, go outside and calm down and then come back and guide.  If you get angry again, go back outside.  You can only effectively guide your child when you are calm. 

5.  STICK TO THE BOUNDARY – None of this is to say the boundary should not be kept.  The boundary needs to be kept!  The behavior must be guided, but CALMLY.

6. TRY LESS WORDS – If you talk, explain, re-hash, lecture, write the book down and leave it on their pillow, you are using too many words and the child is tuning you out!  Less words!  Control your verbal spillage!

7.  MORE WORK- Yes, you will have to do chores with them when they are under the age of seven.  Yes, when they ages seven through nine they will get distracted and will need verbal reminders.  Yes, the effort is worth it, and knowing that  training a child to do chores requires effort will hopefully help you not to yell so much about it!

8.  BOUNDARIES ON FRIENDS – There should be no guilt in having “family-only” time during the week and week-ends.  Simplifying makes life less stressful and less stressful means less yelling!

9. FILL YOUR OWN TANK – It is hard when you have babies and toddlers to get time to yourself, but involve Dad and family.  Also catch those small moments.  Catch a few minutes to read after your child goes to sleep.  Sing while you do the dishes.  Keep filling up your tank, so you can be calm and centered,

10.  JUST BECAUSE YOUR CHILD IS HAVING A BAD DAY DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO!  Your child will not remember ten years from now why you yelled at them; they will only remember how things felt generally and how you made them feel.  If you can model being calm and controlled, think of what a powerful life lesson that could be for your child to see and learn from!

11. CONNECTION – keep connecting with this child; love this child.  That is the most important key to discipline.

12.  SOLVE THE PROBLEM – If your older child is always being noisy during a younger child’s naptime, and you yell, what could you do to solve the problem instead?  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different to happen!

Don’t let the big lie of anger get you!  You don’t have to yell.  Model this calmness during the “breaking points” and your whole family will benefit! During this period of renewal between Easter and Ascension, commit to not yelling.

Many blessings,

Carrie