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

Boundaries

Friends, I have been hearing from a lot of you recently via email and many of you are struggling with boundaries in your lives.  I am not a counselor, and I am not a psychologist, but I wanted to tell you a few things I have learned about boundaries along the way in the experience of my life and I hope it will be helpful to you. I encourage you if you are having challenges with this to go and talk to a qualified counselor.  This can be so helpful in getting your life, your family and your parenting going the way you want it to!  What a wonderful way to start the New Year!

Boundaries, to me, are a skill that many of us have to learn.  Perhaps our ability to set boundaries was damaged in childhood or early adulthood.  Perhaps we are not even sure what a boundary is or why we would want boundaries.  Or perhaps we have too many boundaries and have erected relentless walls in order to keep the world out.

Yet, healthy boundaries are so necessary.  A boundary is something we set in order to separate ourselves from other people; it tells us how far a person can go with us and how far we can go with another person.  It keeps us from becoming enmeshed with another person:  enmeshment is a complete state of feeling so empathetically with that person that we take on the other person’s feelings, responsibilities,challenges and problems completely and wholly as our own.   As parents, we are separate from our children; we are different people. And, boundaries not only separate us from our children, but it also shows how we are linked together in familial roles.  We are linked together, but we are not the same.  We are the adult.  The relationship is not an equal one.  We have more experience and more guidance, more logic and reasoning to bring to any situation.  We also have a duty to honor the developmental stage of our child and we can do this with boundaries.

Relationships without boundaries cause dependency and stunted emotional growth for both ourselves and the other party involved.   If we have too many boundaries, no one can get close to us at all and we end up isolated and alone.   With good boundaries, we learn to develop an appropriate sense of roles amongst family members and the other people in our lives. We learn to respect ourselves and others.  We can trust and listen not only to ourselves, but to others.

Specifically in parenting, boundaries allow children to feel safe and secure.  Boundaries helps children learn self-control and how to function with people outside of their immediate family. Parents who set good boundaries for themselves and for their children are modeling for the children, how, in turn, to set emotional and physical boundaries for themselves.  If we can be calm as a child tests out what the boundary and line in the sand actually is, then we are modeling for our child how to handle this in their own lives.   We help them learn how to function in the world.

For parents who have trouble setting any boundaries for their children, out of “respect” for the child,  I often will ask the parent: Continue reading

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

Taking Stock

I know everyone is focused on the holiday season right now, but it really is a wonderful time of year to take stock as to what has gone on in homeschooling…Really look at your child, look at what you have done so far, and look at what is essential to finish up this year.

Child Observation is such a strong key. This is a good article by Stephen Spitalny regarding the polarities of childhood development and starting points for balance:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=444:springsummer-2002-issue-42-characterizing-the-balancing-polarities&catid=15:gateways&Itemid=10 Continue reading

Relating And Connecting

I absolutely love the book, “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating The Will”, by Master Waldorf Kindergarten teacher Stephen Spitalny.  (If you have not read this book, I really think you should.  Here is the link for it:  http://www.amazon.com/Connecting-With-Young-Children-Educating/dp/1105320820/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351371198&sr=8-1&keywords=connecting+with+young+children+educating+the+will.  It is chock full of wonderful thoughts for the self development of the adult, how to guide small children, and yes, how to work with and shape the will forces of the young child.)

Mr.  Spitalny begins his book with this paragraph:  Continue reading

The Parenting Challenge: Gimme 5!!

 

It can be very easy to slip into a negative pattern of looking at our children’s behavior and to spend our days barking out what needs to happen:

 

“Please put your shoes away!”

“How many times do I have to ask you to take your plate up to the counter when you are done eating?”

“Get ready now!”

“Brush your teeth!”

 

and the list goes on.

More critically, sometimes we also approach our children with the “BUT’s” of life:

 

“Well, you did a pretty good job, but…”

“I was pleased with what happened, but..”

“It was a decent grade, but I know next time…”

 

Sometimes what we don’t say also sounds criticizing to the child and the messages they “hear” are I’m not athletic, I’m not smart, I’m not like my older brother, I’m not cute like the baby, I never do things right.

 

If we want to hold onto our children, and if we know that connection is the first and foremost basis of discipline, then take my Gimme 5 challenge!

 

5 times a day, say these words to your children:

“I like when you……”

“I appreciate when you…”

“You are (smart, funny, caring, loyal, helpful, kind, etc!)

Hug, kiss, pat your child on the back , put your arm around them– 5 times a day!

 

For tiny children under the age of 6, it is not so much about your words but your overall demeanor and attitude:  they don’t always need the words a child ages 6 and above need, but they do need sunny smiles, warm hugs, singing, and you saying short and positive phrases that confirm just how wonderful they are.

 

Because they really are!

Try five a day; it can take the most challenging child and the most challenging discipline season and turn it around.

 

I can’t wait to hear your results!

Blessings,
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

Are You Drowning In Stuff? A Challenge!

This article is a fascinating look at Americans and their things: http://realestate.msn.com/blogs/listedblogpost.aspx?post=e0026a0a-03df-4f70-b1e5-6eaaeec9ec86.   This article is an anthropologist’s look at “stuff”.  In particular was mentioned the accumulation of things that comes with adding more children.  One thing that was amazing to me was one particular child’s room contained 248 dolls!

I actually don’t know anyone in real life that has “stuff” to this amount of excess, to be honest, although I am sure it exists.  It is a sad commentary on American society if this is a normal state of affairs for much of the population. As we become more overweight, more depressed, more anxious – here we are, taking our homes that we are so fortunate to have in comparison to the rest of the world and stuffing them to the brim!

I love the summertime for doing major, deep, significant de-cluttering.  So, I have a challenge for you this week:  set aside a two-week period this summer, and every morning, work on getting rid of your stuff.  No, don’t just organize it! Get rid of it! Continue reading

The Rant Of The Day! Parenting With Boundaries!!

(I think this post has a very uniquely American message, so I apologize if it does not resonate with my international readers as much today.)

Connection between the parent and the child  is a huge help regarding discipline and boundaries because that connection IS the basis of all guiding.  Connection helps us really know our children and helps us get what makes them “them”; what really motivates them.  That is a big help in discipline and guiding and shaping behavior!  It also helps that when we are connected to our children that our children really know us intimately too!  These children have an incredible feeling of being a vital  part of the family, which actually can be a powerful tool:  to be a part of a culture and to have intimately seen and known the rules within that  family culture are vital and important.

However, here is my beef!  If you are a parent and you have structured everything so there is no conflict, your child never hears “no” (and yes, just plain “no”, not a couched “no” with twenty words surrounding the “no”), if you never try to balance your child’s “likes” and “dislikes”  or uplift your child to the next level, are always swooping in to rescue your child, well….. I just think you are wrong.  Plain, dead, worrisome wrong.

Because I worry about children who never hear “no”.

I worry about children whose lives are so perfectly orchestrated that there are never any tears of frustration.  I worry about their future flexibility and resiliency.

I worry about children who count on their parents to buffer them from other adults and other children.

I worry about children who have no boundaries in their own homes – bedtimes, nap times, mealtimes, whose things belong to the parent and can’t be taken and played with, how we treat one another.

I worry about  children who never have to follow through on the consequences of doing something wrong, especially for  those children aged nine and up.  And yes, my friends, sometimes children do things that are just plain wrong. They are learning, just like us.

I worry about children who cannot seem to accept authority from other adults.

I think in America it seems as if the pendulum has tottered from the inherent natural boundaries of the farm, hard work, the rugged individual to lives of relative ease where parents work so hard to provide everything for their children their children have nothing real to cut their teeth on, including boundaries.

Sometimes I do think the larger issue is not that parents don’t necessarily think boundaries are important, but they worry they are being too “authoritarian” and they don’t know HOW to set boundaries.  It seems to me the way we try to set boundaries in our society is to talk our children to death, to treat them as miniature adults with less experience (so therefore if we talk to them more they will “get it”).   Yet, we know there are clear developmental stages for a child, and clear points of neurologic maturation.  We can see this from biologic studies of the brain, we can see this from the work of Rudolf Steiner, we can see this from the Gesell Institute and we can see this from Piaget.

So, the question becomes:  how do we set boundaries in a calm way without treating our children like miniature adults?

Here are a few of my suggestions; take what resonates with you!  Continue reading