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

What If Gentle Discipline Doesn’t Work?

Sometimes parents will tell me they are trying hard to set boundaries in a gentle and positive way, but it seems like it’s just not working or that they are afraid they are “babying” their toddler too much……

Sometimes it just seems as if gentle discipline doesn’t work.

I really don’t think there is an alternative to gentle discipline though.  Or, I guess if the alternative is to be cross and yelling and screaming and hitting a child, I don’t want to live in a house like that.  I don’t want to do that to a child.  I don’t want myself to be the adult doing that.

Raising children is physically exhausting at times.  Children are messy, loud, and  immature.  Their development is SLOW.  Part of YOUR job is to have PATIENCE with the developmental process.   Part of your task is to re-frame how you look at parenting – raising a child should not be an inconvenience or a task of raising a child to “obedience”  but the thought of raising a healthy adult who is going to contribute to society. 

Does this mean no boundaries?  Does this mean that it is not frustrating?

Of course not.  You must have boundaries, you must guide, but you must also be prepared that it may take 500 times for something to “stick”.  You must be prepared that it will take more than just words.  You must be prepared that the first seven years have the most pronounced physical behaviors, which do seem to trigger parental anger.  Face slapping, running away, kicking, hitting, biting, melt-downs, – all there.

Go back to realistic expectations for each age. Remind yourself that children generally do not work well with only  verbal directions well until they are about seven, and even after seven they completely get distracted and need your help to keep on track.  Children really do need pretty constant supervision until around age 10 or so to avoid destruction of property.

Go back to your rhythm and how much outside time your children are getting.

Look carefully at the alternatives to gentle discipline and imagine what those will get you in the long run.  It may provide short-term obedience through fear, but will it foster your goals for a healthy childhood, for a healthy adult future?  You shape, you guide, but you also project confidence that this is a phase (that will be replaced by something else!)

Connect with your children, stay with your children during the times of their melt-downs.  I am very against time-outs, I have not seen any other country where sending a child off to their room to melt down in a torrent of emotion is seen as acceptable parenting.  I know this is not common in Europe.  Maybe some more of my readers in foreign countries can help me out here?  Is this common?

Part of parenting is CONTROLLING YOURSELF.  Calm down, and GUIDE.  That is your part in this.  Guide, guide, guide.  “Let me help you.”  “You may not do that, but you may do this.”  “I cannot hear you when you speak to me like that, please try asking again.”  Movement, fantasy, re-direction!

I find over and over that while parents have concerns regarding age 2 and 3, the bulk of “am-I-doing-this-right” really comes in at ages 4, 6 and 9 –which are ages of enthusiasm, exuberance, over-the-top behavior coinciding with developmental disequilibrium and the six/seven and nine year old change.  Please do go back to the posts on those ages, and the ones filed under the Gentle Discipline header if you need extra help.

Hang in there, and get support!  If you need brainstorming as to handle something from a gentle discipline perspective, you can write me!  I will try to help!  Hook up with your local La Leche League or Attachment parenting group!  Join an on-line gentle discipline forum – the Mothering Magazine forum has a good subforum on this!

Be confident that gentle discipline is not only the right path, but really the ONLY path.  Be confident that there is strength in setting a boundary, and that you can be gentle while you are doing it.

Much love,

Carrie

Looking For Your Discipline Challenges

What discipline challenges are you currently facing?  I am especially interested in those of you who have babies/toddlers and also those of you who have children who are over the age of eight.  What help do you need with gentle discipline?

Please leave a comment in the comment box if there is a particular concern you would like to see addressed…there really is no question too small because if you have a question about that, I am sure someone else does as well.

I believe as a community of mothers we should all help each other and give back to each other.  Therefore, thank you  for sharing  your “challenging” areas with us, and here’s to future blog posts!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Renewal: Commit Yourself to Gentle Discipline

During this forty days of renewal,  re-commit yourself to gentle discipline!

Look  at your child as this small being who has a completely different consciousness than an adult and work with that child to guide that child and leave everyone’s dignity intact.  Small  children really don’t look at things the same way that you do as an adult, because they do not have logical reasoning.  No matter how verbal they are, they still have a different consciousness than you do as an adult if they are small. 

You are the leader, the guide, on this journey because you have more years of living.    Commit yourself to looking at discipline as guiding instead of punishing.  You are trying to raise a capable, responsible, loving, compassionate adult.  Please do not give them a childhood that lands them distanced from you, please do not give them a childhood where they feel badly for being a child and being immature and making mistakes because that is what all children are and that is what all children do.

Think of connection and attachment as your number one key to discipline.  There are going to be rough spots, places of disequilbrium as your child grows.   Your child is not you, your child is not the psychological extension of you, and this can be painful as your child grows.  But please don’t mistake the fact that a child can have their own mind, their own will, as something that is horrible that should be broken.  You are there to guide and work with this child, not to break this child!

Here are your helpers in the guiding of a small child under the age of six: (these are in no special order).

1. Connection and attachment

2.  A good rhythm with lots of outside time – hours of outside time a day!

3.  A healthy diet and rest and sleep.

4.  Low stimulation

5.  Less words on your part,  more action, more imaginative phrasing than just a direct verbal command.  I wrote a post on using your words like a paintbrush to paint a picture just a few days ago:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/

6.  Having the child make restitution for their mistakes if it is fixable

7.  Having realistic expectations for the child’s age.

8.  Warmth toward this child on your part – the more the child is acting out of sorts, the more you need to connect with this child.

9.  The setting of boundaries that are not movable. You can still be gentle and set a boundary.  They are going to push against the rhythm, against the boundary,  and you can still be gentle.

10.  A parental time-out when you need it.

11. Time-in when they need it.  There are quite a few posts on this blog about time-in. 

12.  You taking care of yourself!  A frazzled mommy cannot effectively and gently guide their small child.  Take a breather and slow down. 

13.  The ability to forgive yourself and start over the next minute if you need to.  It is never too late to start over, to collect your child and connect to your child. 

What would you add to this list?  Leave a comment in the box below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Peaceful Guiding of Children

There are several steps to peaceful guidance of small children.

1.  It is important to  work hard at connection with these children during happy and joyful times.  Connection that is built up over time, and connection that is built in the moment of crisis are both needed. 

2.  It is important to attempt to guide from a place of understanding of developmental stages.  Many parents try to guide from emotion (ie, anger, yelling) or guide from a place of reasoning and extra explanations and such so the child will essentially agree with them regarding discipline and the action taken by the parent.  Neither is effective.  Guidance from place of developmental understanding and other tools are necessary.

3.  It helps to be working on yourself, and also to understand your own family culture.  Try this back post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/what-kind-of-family-are-you/

4.  Boundaries are important!  Children need to learn how to function in society. What are the boundaries in your home? What are the rules?  It should not be all willy-nilly!  It matters what boundaries you set, so think about them and set them in confidence and love!

5.  The needs of ALL the family members matter!  The rhythm of your day, bedtimes, mealtimes, etc have to work for EVERYONE.  You are the designer of your family life and if something is NOT working, you must change it!

This is a brief summary of gentle discipline techniques according to age, up through age 8.   These are not all-inclusive lists, but just some things to get you started and thinking!

Children ages 1 -2:  Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, limited words, singing and verses and movement instead, avoid DIRECT commands because they will turn around and run the other way!  Don’t be afraid to pick your child up and move them.  Shape  the environment – don’t put all the toys out, etc.   Rest is important!  Getting the energy out is important!

Children aged 2:  Keep out of the home excursions very limited and simple.  Simple words (remember a child of 18 months is about at the “coat-hat-out” phase so a 2 year old is not too far ahead of this!  Do not provide choices about big things, esp at 2 and a half – they have a really hard time choosing and are likely to dissolve into a puddle of tears.  Have confidence, find your rhythm.  Do not expect two years to share! Shape the environment. Use imagination and fantasy for daily tasks, for changing activities.  Sideways, sideways, sideways instead of direct head on commands and demands.   Rest is important. 

Children ages 3 and 4:  Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out,  limited words and explanation, singing and verses and movement instead.  Let some of the behaviors go and ignore instead of trying to address every single thing. 

Children ages 5 and 6:   Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, limited words but more pointed phrases regarding behavior, verses, this is a time when children say things like “You’re not the boss of me!”  “no I won’t do that!”  “Make me do that!”  Calm down, and don’t respond in an angry manner.  You are the one shaping the situation, not them.  Be calm!

Children ages 7 and 8:  Connection, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, simple explanations, distraction still works to a limited extent. 7 year olds have a really, really hard time stopping to do what they are doing to do what you asked, so you can warn them in advance if that helps, and give them TIME to complete a task. 

Peaceful days in March and many blessings,

Carrie

“I Bet Ma and Pa Ingalls Never Had This Problem!”

Some mothers have said to me :  why did  Mary and Laura Ingalls seemed to pretty much always do what they were told?  And they never really “talked back” either!  What was the secret of Ma and Pa Ingalls and what are we doing wrong?!

Kim John Payne says that this question actually came up when he spoke, and at first he didn’t know what to say….And then he realized the answer was quite simple:  Pa Ingalls didn’t say too much, so when he did say something, he was listened to by the children!  You can read about this in the book “Simplicity Parenting” (the review is here:) http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/26/favorite-waldorf-resource-2-simplicity-parenting-using-the-extraordinary-power-of-less-to-raise-calmer-happier-and-more-secure-kids-by-kim-john-payne-and-lisa-ross/

Personally, I think there were other factors as well…..Read on!

First of all, I think in our society we equate talking small children to death as a sign of respect.   We believe we are providing dignity to the young child, giving them a voice, when in fact we are giving them choices, options and a give and take way beyond their years and developmental level.  Why is singing to our child, or giving our children a strong rhythm not seen as a measure of respect for where they are in our country? 

Second of all, we seem to think that the more peer interaction a child has, the better off a child will be.  They then become peer-oriented and peer-dependent at an early age.  Gordon Neufeld addresses this beautifully in his book, “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Matter More Than Peers”, available here:http://www.amazon.com/Hold-Your-Kids-Parents-Matter/dp/0375760288/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267010344&sr=1-1      ..I am re-reading this right now, and it spoke to me when my children were very small, and it speaks to me now that my children are a bit bigger but still small.  It should be required reading in this country, where we seem to think it is normal to send a two-year-old off to “school”.  It baffles me that separation from the family, the pressure for an adult day, the academic foisting on small children has changed so much in the generations since World War Two

Third of all, the reason our children don’t listen is that we talk WAY too much and we give them WAY too much insight into how we make decisions instead of just telling them the decision!  We don’t listen enough, and then when we do listen and “factor” this into our decision-making, we prattle on through all the adult choices, all the adult reasoning (and this three or four-year old is listening, and unfortunately, they really don’t see our decision-making process as such I am afraid) and I think it comes off as not being decisive to them simply because they cannot process this adult reasoning pattern. 

So what can we do?

Connect with your children!  Connect with them in the morning!  Connect with them during the day!  How do we connect?  Hold them, laugh with them, sing to them, play with them.  LOVE them, delight in them!  Stop separating them from you when they do something not right – love them and guide them through it!  Have them make restitution, that means much more than sending them off to sit in a chair!  Have them own the problem and fix the problem, and leave their dignity intact!

Listen more and talk less!  Here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/04/a-mouthodometer/   and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/

Go through the decision-making process in your head, not out loud.  Say what you mean and do what you say.  This is called  INTEGRITY, and this is  a good thing to model for small children so they will grow up to be people of integrity.

Have confidence.  It continually amazes me that in this day and age, there is so much complete MIS-information about the small child, the baby.  I have heard parents say their five-month old is “manipulating them” or their one’-year-old is “defiant”.  What??!!  This is wishful thinking, folks!  See back posts on defiance in the small child here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

Develop yourself and have a PLAN for how to improve your parenting.  What is your plan for becoming the parent you want to be?  In business or in your career, you might have had a goal, but you also would have made a plan to get there!  Make a commitment, write it down – what needs to happen in your home and how will you get there? Enlist a friend to keep you accountable!

Many blessings,

Carrie 

PS see the many interesting comments below…some of them focused on the physical punishment part of the Ingalls family….hard for many of us to fathom and painful to read…Steiner talks about the evolution of humanity and human consciousness and how we really don’t understand the consciousness of another time and place because we are different now…something to that effect.  Very interesting stuff, but for the sake of this post I wasn’t really focused on that end of it, more the communications end of it, but thanks for your comments!  It’s just that a lot of  mothers bring up Ma and Pa Ingalls and their listening children…that’s all, nothing really deeper than that!  :)

“I Don’t Like My Child Right Now”

That’s okay.  Loving your child doesn’t always mean you like their behavior. However, I think feeling that way is a good sign something needs to be different (and before you jump in and say, yes, my child needs to do “X” to make that happen!), please read on for a few encouraging words.

  • Please, please work hard to connect with this child in a warm and loving way.  Plan to just “be” together, no agendas, no judging, just observing.  Play with your child, tickle your child, love your child.  If a child is in a difficult developmental stage or the family is going through stress and changes and this is being reflected in the child’s behavior, he or she needs your support and love and warmth to get through it.  You are the adult, and you must be that wall the child can bounce off of, see the boundary that is still there and that you are still  there even if they fall apart.  You really can do this!   Connect, connect, connect – connect when everyone is falling apart.  Try the book “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen if you need some ideas for incorporating play or humor into your parenting.  
  • Gather some support for yourself!  Find some friends who have children around the same ages, call your local La Leche League Leader (did you all know that one of the philosophical tenets of La Leche League is around loving guidance – these Leaders do know about positive discipline!), call your local Attachment Parenting Leader, go to some meetings from these groups about loving guidance and gentle discipline.  But, please, please, please, do NOT talk about your child’s behavior in front of them!  They hear everything you say and take it to heart!  Try to get your support without them in ear-shot!
  • What are the non-negotiable things in your house?  What can you be flexible about?  Are you being creative enough and using humor or are you just being the hammer that comes down?  Are you spending time with your child and enjoying them and  not just saying things to them about how to behave? What does your Family Mission Statement say?  What is important in your family, and does this behavior affect that?
  • Are you getting your tank filled?  How are things between you and your spouse?  What stress are you under, and is that coming out in how you are handling your child?  In times of stress, humor with discipline situations is sometimes the first thing to go!  Make a date to get some time ALONE and some time with your spouse as well…..  It can make a huge difference in your parenting.
  • Do you have realistic expectations for yourself?  It is very hard to work outside the home, homeschool, do this and that and be a great parent.  Are you putting way too much pressure on yourself?  What will happen if you are not perfect?  There is no perfect, there just is being there in the moment.   
  • Are you putting way too much thought around this?  If you ignored a few things, really picked the essential things that had to happen, what would change for you and your child?  If this is your first child, do you think you would be paying so much attention to this if you had two or three other children to look after at the same time? It is harder with your first child when you go through these developmental stages because you have never been through it and you are still creating your family’s culture.  I know mothers who looked back and told me they were way too hard on their first child, and expected way too much!   Maybe this child needs less spotlight on the negative, and more spotlight on the positive.  At the same time, you cannot count it a good day if your child doesn’t melt down, throw a fit, etc.  That is just what kids do.  You can be calm through it; your point is to love and guide and help your child, not look at this situation as a black mark on your day.  You are teaching your child how to deal with life, with conflict, with the fact that there are some things that have to stand, and what to do when we make a mistake. 
  • Do you have realistic expectations for the age of the child?  There are many, many posts about that on this blog.  Remember how very, very small the under-7 child is.  Four is a great age for sitting on laps, and five is just a step up from that.  Six is an age of so-called “rebellion” as noted in traditional childhood resources, but an age where a more pointed statement can be used to guide behavior.  Seven is inward, eight is outward and enthusiastic and nine is the beginning of the separation of the child from the world, realizing that he is not his family, he is not the tree or the rock.  He is I.  A powerful and confusing time! 
  • How much outside time is this child getting?  The behavior is much better when the child has a release for all that energy.  Two to four hours outside per day(or more!) is about right for a small child, depending on the weather conditions and their energy level.  I remember years with  my oldest where I felt as if we essentially lived outside for the whole year!
  • Are you using the right tactics?  Saying something over and over does not make it happen.  Usually the first thing a child says after you announce, “It’s time to…” is “NO!  I am not doing that!”  That is why, to me, it is so better  to have a strong rhythm, to use yourself doing what you want the child to do first, to employ humor, and with small children you simply cannot be afraid to touch them, move them, carry them, hold them.  They often need your gentle hands to help them.  It is part of life with wee ones.  They don’t need a lecture or a book on the subject that they tune out after the first sentence. 

Here is also a back post to help you out:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/05/thoughts-on-challenging-developmental-stages/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Where Do I Start With Gentle Discipline?

Whew, several folks have asked this and this is such a big subject to even attempt to cover in one post, but I will try.  I think actually the first thing to start with is to give yourself permission to be learning, to be human, to be imperfect.  I find that when parents start to learn about gentle discipline, they feel as if they did everything wrong in the past and feel guilty.  Please don’t.  You were doing the best you could at the time with the information you had and that is where you were in your parenting journey. I congratulate you for making a commitment to move forward and toward parenting in a different way, perhaps in even  a more mindful way than before.

The second thing, I think, is to explore what gentle discipline brings up for you.  Does it bring forth fears that there will be no boundaries for your child?   Does it seem as if you have no tools to replace yelling at your child?  Does it seem like you chronically lose your temper with your child, and you aren’t sure how gentle discipline is going to help? I think these are things to explore and think about.

Third, look at how you view the small child.  If your view of the child is that the small child is a miniature adult, that they think and rationalize and intellectualize things the way you do, that all they need is information and to be treated by you the way you would want to be treated, then I would say you probably will be disappointed.  Not because children are “bad” or “defiant”, but because they are learning!  It takes a lot of effort and repetition to guide a child!  Yes, children need to be treated with dignity and respect and warmth and love; they deserve this and they will imitate what you do!  Actions speak louder than words!  However, a small child, to me at least, has a completely different consciousness than an adult and I think you need different tools to access this and guide this rather than just your voice.  How many times do you say the same thing to your child over and over and over?  Try something different, try movement and physically guiding and fantasy and play and humor and less words and you may be surprised at how well that works!

Fourth, how well do you know traditional developmental stages?  Each stage has different things that come to light from both traditional viewpoints and anthroposophic viewpoints.  If you know, in general, what the ages of disequilibium are and how that typically manifests, it really helps.  If you know realistically what age a child typically starts to dress themselves or pick  up their rooms, that helps.  I find realistic expectations are often  a strong key to controlling parental anger.  Are you creating a battle with your child in your mind over things that should not be battles? 

Fifth, it is not just about your child; it is about you.  Parenting will make you stretch and grow in so many ways; it is like a yoga pose you cannot move out of sometimes!    What kind of baggage are you carrying around from your own childhood and are you trying to check it into your child’s luggage?  How is anger and other negative emotions dealt with in your home?  How are you and your partner?  How is the rhythm of your home- is that a help or a hindrance in guiding your child?  How much outside time are you getting?  Is the tone of your home generally warm and calm or chaotic or cold?  How is your attitude?  Where is your own inner work?  Is your house a visually cluttered place with too many things?  Where is the beauty?

If you look on this blog, you just might find a few things to start you down a different path.

Hope that helps!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Right Tools in Parenting

This morning as I was preparing breakfast, the two bigger kids (ages 8 and 5)  wanted to build a train track, but the chest of train tracks was in their little brother’s room, and since I had a crying baby I couldn’t lift it and bring it out to the spot they wanted to build the train track on.  Therefore, the oldest decided she could not wait for me to get the train tracks and she would do it little by little herself. After one trip into the bedroom to get tracks, she started saying, “But (little sister) NEVER helps!  She never does ANYTHING to clean up or help!  I guess I will do it all by myself!” and started yelling at her little sister to help her.  In return, her little sister, who just turned five two weeks ago, promptly did a great version of “NANAABOOBOO” and started with the wonderful name-calling that every four and early five year old seems to know how to do.

I actually felt amused, because it provided me this great moment of epiphany:  My oldest was using the wrong tools to try to get her little sister to help!  First of all, yelling at someone never works; second of all, even asking and reasoning with a four or five year old to help is not going to work because they are moving beings not reasoning beings; and third of all, every four or five year old is going to react to being yelled at by their sibling with a version of “nanaabooboo” because that is their level of maturity.

So stop to think!  How many times do we use the WRONG tools in parenting?  When you go to discipline a child, do you ever stop to think if this tool that you are about to use is the right one for the age of your child?  Do you understand where your child is developmentally? 

Or are you flying about with no tools?  Reacting by yelling is essentially flying without a toolbox.  Yelling typically results from frustration, so double check if your expectations are truly in line with your child’s age.  Are they?

The younger child did end up helping her big sister get out the train tracks.  I gave the older one ownership of the problem (she could have waited for me to help her or she could do it herself happily or she could turn it into a game and involve  the younger one in carrying the tracks).   I guided the older one when she got stuck in frustration, and helped involve the younger one.  This is the job of a parent; it is not to say “work it out” until you are certain they have the tools to “work it out”.

Yelling and blaming and spewing frustration at your child are not parenting tools, even though we have all been there and done these things.  Be easy with yourself, and forgive yourself for these things that are reactions and not guiding.   Being a gentle parent is so important, but luckily our children give us many chances to show better sides of ourselves!

Remember movement, games, reasonable expectations, a cheerful attitude on your part, restitution on the child’s part if something did not go well.  There are wonderful tools for a wonderful future adult.

Much love,

Carrie