Small Child, Your Challenging Behavior Is About As Interesting To Me…

As a piece of lint on the floor. Ho-hum, ho-hum.  I am over here doing real work, and please come join me.  I hear you,  I see you, I will connect with you and help you move into work and movement.  I will help you with a good sense of humor.  I will help you stick to the boundary I set,  but with my  ho-hum.

A fifteen month old will arch and protest over what he does not want to do.  A two-year-old will experiment with “no” about a million times.  A four-year-old will get wound up and use “potty words”.  A six-year-old will tell you they hate you and slam doors.  A nine or ten year old will experiment with swear words (which is about the equivalent of a four year old saying potty words).

Ho-hum.

It is hard not get emotionally wound up about challenging behaviors when they stem from our own children, when these behaviors  stem from pushing against the boundaries we have set, and when we have to live with this pushing against forms 24 hours a day.

Yet, the more you can be warm and loving but ho-hum, the better life will be.

The more we can stop and think before we say something or do something, the more we model that temperance for children that is so important.  However, by the same token, we do not model passively sitting by and doing nothing when something clearly needs to be done.  There needs to be a Middle Way, which is something that Waldorf Education frequently talks about.

We want to raise a generation of children who can take that moment to pause and to think before they act, but yet  we also want to raise a generation of children who will grow up to DO.  We want to raise a generation of children who are healthy enough in their bodies and their minds that they can do what will need to be done to make our world a better place but to  do it with thoughtfulness and reverence.

And it all starts in the home, with us, the parents, being able to distinguish and discern when to act, when not to act, what to say and what not to say.   It starts with us, the parents, being able to give our children a childhood that is real and authentic and not a watered-down version of adult reality.  It requires boundaries and it requires love.  A whole lotta of love.

And it requires a ho-hum attitude.  

Be peaceful.  Be authentic and be real, but know when to raise a fuss and when to be ho-hum.  Big things require big reactions, but little things do not.

That is part of the parenting path and work for us as parents in this year and in this time.

Many blessings,

Carrie

How Do I “Keep Calm and Carry On”?

Kathy, Lura, Stephanie and all you other wonderful mothers out there:  How do I “keep calm and carry on?”  Wow, that is the question, isn’t it?  Many of us realize after some time in parenting and in homeschooling that we actually are the ones who set the tone for our families.  However,  it can be a “whole ‘nother ball of wax” trying to figure out the steps to take to do this consistently and effectively.

What you are looking for is to cultivate a really peaceful energy of quiet joy in homemaking, parenting and in life.  I do think some of this comes just with time and experience.  I know that for myself as a third-time mother I am much quicker to set boundaries in a calm manner and follow through in a patient way.  It is always my goal to cultivate that same sort of interest in challenging parenting situations as I see in picking up a piece of lint off the floor.  Ho0hum, ho-hum, ho-hum.  I really think any parent who has a child of any age can do this though.  It really is just a commitment to practice, just like practicing anything else you have learned in your years of living.  Practice, and don’t give up!

I don’t think the goal is to be a “valium mother” where you are not authentic or real, but I think over time you learn to save your big reactions for the big things and you hopefully have perspective from knowing development of the holistic human being in body, soul and spirit.  That is what this blog is all about!

I am an Episcopalian, and one analogy often used to describe the basis of this religion is “the three-legged stool”of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. I would like to borrow that analogy for a moment.  See if you can picture a simple, wooden three-legged stool in your mind’s eye.   Do you have it?   On the seat of the stool is the word “Calm” or the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On”.  On each leg of the stool  the following words are written:   “RHYTHM”  “THOUGHTS/WORDS” and “TIME”.  Let me explain each leg:

1.  The first leg of this stool is RHYTHM.  We all want peace in our homes.  Well, the opposite of peace is CHAOS.  If you would like to tame your chaos, then you need a rhythm to your day.

A rhythm is not a “schedule by hour”, but it is a flow and an order.  I have many back posts on this blog about establishing rhythm.  Rhythm  is the best and most important place to start in establishing peace and authority (remember, not mean and nasty dictator authority but loving authority!)  in your home.  Start around awake times, meal times, nap times and bed times.  This includes a reasonable bed time and awake time for yourself. 

Once this is established, then move into more of the details:  outside time, time to have a practical activity that you focus on each day of the week, inside play, time for singing, maybe adding in a time to tell a story.  Time for in-breath and time for out-breath. 

Rhythm also goes along with the festivals of the year, so you have to spend some time with your journal, a piece of paper, your significant other and think about what festivals your family will celebrate and why that resonates with your family and how you will celebrate.  Then you can move into planning for those and working those things into the DOING with small children at home.  The doing becomes pieces you can fill in for the practical work of your daily rhythm – baking, crafting, creating.

Rhythm also needs to include when you will do your housework.  Again, there are many back posts about this subject on this blog.  I personally like www.flylady.net for mothers trying to tame their homes.  I like Flylady because I think her plan is actually “do-able” with small children because it tends to work in small chunks of time, it asks you to start where you are, and it works in baby steps.  Many mothers I personally know have found success with the Flylady system, including myself.  Smile

2.  The second leg to this three-legged stool is “THOUGHTS/WORDS”.  Change your thoughts, change your words, change your life.

Change your perception of anger:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

Change your attitude:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/17/the-power-of-being-a-positive-mother/

Be kind in your home:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/03/kindness-in-your-home/

Change the words you use with your children:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/23/changing-our-parenting-language/

Set boundaries in a loving way, referred to on this blog as “holding the space” and “being the rock”.  Here is my favorite post on that subject:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/02/re-claiming-authority-part-one/

3.  The third leg to this three-legged stool is “TIME”.  If you know what your values and priorities are because you made a Family Mission Statement, are you using your time in a way that reflects that?  Or are you wasting a lot of time wandering in circles feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start?  Go back to rhythm!  Plan your week out on a piece of paper!  Start somewhere!

Are you wasting time on the computer?  I find for many mothers the biggest time waster is not TV or even the phone, but the computer.  Many mothers, especially mothers of small children, seem to spending an awful lot of time looking at blogs of so-called “perfect homes” and “perfect families” instead of spending their time planning or actually being with their families!  For the most part, I keep pictures OFF of this blog for that reason.  You should not be comparing your family to mine or to anyone else’s family, and pictures make this a really easy trap to fall into!   It is so tempting with these blogs to feel inferior and as if everyone has it all together, so why don’t we?  I guarantee that I am just a humble work in progress with real life days and so are all the mothers of those beautiful blogs.  We are all  just real human beings!

I think one of the biggest ways we can become guardians of our time and to redeem our time is to spend it in PMP.  PMP is my way of saying prayer, meditation, and planning.  If you pray over your concerns, meditate and see what that small quiet whisper tells you and plan, you will make better decisions for you and your family.  Life will flow!

Remember: rhythm, thoughts/words, time.  The keys to keeping calm and carrying on.  If you need to, tack up some reminder words or pictures on pieces of paper.  Come up with your plan for what you will do when that last boundary is crossed; how will you react and how will you de-escalate the situation when it is no longer a time for learning for anyone in the household?

These are things worth pondering during these Holy Nights.

Much love and many blessings!  You can do this this year!

Carrie

The Mini-Rant: Keep Calm and Carry On

Are you feeling a bit grumbly right now, looking about at a house strewn with holiday decorations, new holiday gifts that don’t have a home yet, the vestiges of company and entertaining, the children running about and no rhythm to speak of going on?

‘Tis the time of year.

Sometimes all of us stop and think and want to whine and  complain:  “But I don’t WANT to be the one to set the tone in my home!  Why can’t it be someone else!”

“Why can’t it be my spouse?”

Well, because if you are mother reading this, you know small children under the age of 9 are rather tied into your energy.

“Why can’t it be grandma?  Grandma lives with us, let it be her to set the tone!  Really!”

Uh, grandma can give you The Wisdom of Tradition, but she has raised her own family and now it is your turn to raise yours.

“Oh, drat.  I know, let the CHILDREN set the tone!  That’ll do it!”

No, really, YOU must do this.  The children cannot do it. You have many more years of living, of experience, of wisdom to guide them.  They are full of emotional excess, of raging willing and feeling.

You must set the tone in your home.  Because you can either set it intentionally or unintentionally.  But you are the one doing it!

I wrote a post about this awhile back in which I likened this to being the Queen of Your Home.  In that post  (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/19/cultivating-how-to-hold-the-space-the-inner-work-of-advent/)  I said:

“If you were the Queen, you would not be running around like a chicken with your head cut off (my great-grandmother’s saying!), trying to accommodate three or four children’s wishes and desires of any given moment.   Instead, you would be calm and collected.  You would have a kind way but a Queenly Way.  You would probably think before you decreed something, and you probably would not explain the heck out of yourself……

You would not be swept away by the torrents of wee ones’ tantrums and emotion because you would know your number one job would be to hold the balance when your child cannot hold it for themselves.  This does not mean to be an unemotional  rock, but it does mean you can understand how words can be just words, feelings can change on a dime and if you can just hold on, your child will eventually calm down.  You will understand that you are being a rock for your child to hold onto so the torrent of emotion doesn’t escalate for the child.

Again, this does not mean being unfeeling!  You can hold your child, pat your child, move your child, but you may  not fall apart with your child as they fall apart.  You may not unleash your own torrent of emotion on a small child and expect them to not crumple in front of you.  Behavior that is not fabulous in an under-9 child generally needs to be treated in the same ho-hum tone you would use to ask a child to pick up a book off the floor.  Then you can move into having the child FIX his poor action, because the child is a WILLING and DOING being at this point.  He needs to DO to fix it!  But he cannot fix it if he is falling apart and you are falling apart with him!  He is learning, help him!

For children over the age of 9, as Queen you would realize feelings are predominant.  Feelings were also important before, but feelings were more in an undifferentiated kind of state. Now feelings are so specific!  Being Queen, you would be able to hear feelings expressed immaturely ( meaning not always in a way pleasing to the Queen’s ears!) and still be able to be a calm rock with a ho-hum attitude to help the child learn to fix this challenge!   Feelings can be acknowledged without judgment because most of all,  The Queen is a problem-solver, and if she can model being calm, solving the problem, being respectful, then the child will as well!

For children over the age of 14, they are interested in your thoughts, in the nature of constructing an argument, in your thoughts and why you think that and how you got there in your thinking.  It is hard!  Don’t you remember being a teenager?

Barbara Coloroso, in her book, “Kids Are Worth It!  Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline” :  “If you are raising adolescents, you are in a high-risk category for a coronary.  You’re up against someone dealing with a major hormone attack:  feet are too big, hands are too big, bodies are too big or too small, voices are up, voices are down, zits are coming out all over their faces.  They come to the front door, all smiles; two minutes later they are in the bathroom crying.  You ask what happened.  “She used my comb.”  “He wore my shirt.”  “She didn’t call like she said she would.”  Are we going to make it through this?  Yes, but we can’t keep hooking in to our kids’ adrenaline.”

A Queen is the Ultimate Helper, problem-solver, balancer, peacemaker.

Can you be that Queen for a day?”

No, really you must step up, even if you are whining and kicking and complaining and screaming INSIDE and be the one to be calm and carry on!

Smile, you can do this for your family!

Tackle your most important priorities first and do it with a good attitude.  Pray; get your house in order; assess where your children are and  get your plan for parenting and homeschooling in order.

Be the keeper of your time this year, 2011.  Find your values and your priorities and plan your time around those.  Look carefully at commitments outside of your family; look carefully at what nurtures community for your children.

Be calm and carry on!

Many blessings to make 2011 a year of DOING,

Carrie

Gentle Discipline = Connection Plus Boundaries

We have been talking quite a  bit of late about power, authority and boundaries in parenting.  Our book study of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate spurred the discussion, but boundaries are something I have ALWAYS discussed on this blog.  You can go through the archives or use “boundaries” in the search engine to pull up back posts.

If things are not going well in your home with discipline, here are a few quick tips:

1.  Where are you emotionally and spiritually?  It all begins with you.  Children need to see you modeling how they should be behaving and what values you hold dear.  What comes when as your children grow? When can they go to a friend’s house without you, when can they walk somewhere alone, when can they ride their bike to the corner store, when can they have their first sleepover?  Befriend some mothers with older children and see what issues are coming up for older ages; this helps you plan because you will be there one day as well!

How do you show reverence, how do you show gratitude?

Where is the rhythm of your home?  Where are your moments of laughter, joy, fun, wonder?  What are you doing for demonstrating real work, what is your child doing for real work, what are you doing for sleep, rest, warming foods and nourishment for the soul through singing and verses and stories?  What are you doing to get energy out/outside time?  These things help children of all ages!

How do you speak kindly in your home?  How do you use your words to help each other? 

Are you communicating to your small children that the world is a good place?  That people are helpful and kind?  How are you showing your older grades-aged children beauty?

What is your physical health like?  It can be  hard to be emotionally and spiritually stable and growing if your physical body needs your attention. Sometimes illness, bed rest, an accident can all be a blessing and force us to grow in ways we otherwise would not have, but I am generally speaking here of mothers who run around in their day to day mothering without a thought of water, healthy food or exercise for their own bodies.

2. Are you trying to do this ALL ALONE?  Many mothers are, for a variety of reasons.  Some just will not let their husbands do anything; some are single mothers; some are alone in their marriages.  I have written quite a lot about marriage and even some posts on being alone in marriage, you can refer to those for some encouragement.

You cannot do this all alone; it takes a community of loving family members and friends to help raise a child.  By the time your child is five, this community is increasingly important and by the time your child enters the grades even more so. 

Where do you fit into the equation of the family’s needs? 

3.  Are you connected to your child?  Connection is the basis of discipline.  You do not need words to connect with the small under 7 child, and even the child of 7-9 does not need so many words.  A nine year old does not have logical thinking and less words are truly better!  Connect through being warm and loving, through a steadiness in the home, through physical touch and through play.  Connect with your child by being emotionally stable yourself!

Meditate and pray about your child, look into your heart and see where they are and what they need.  What would uplift them THE MOST at this very moment? 

Sometimes growth comes in spurts with regression, especially for a younger child, and we can tailor our rhythm to these demanding stages. However, very often what an older (six and a half year old and up) needs as they struggle with emotional growth in childhood is to not be rescued and have that feeling of being uncomfortable taken away and alleviated.  Older children, as they grow, need to learn to deal with all of their  feelings, positive and negative, with peers and with people who do things differently. 

4.  What are your boundaries and do you understand what tools are available for each age to help you stick to those  boundaries?

What do you do when your child will not adhere to the boundary?  Sometimes a time-in together or just a little bit of space together outside in the backyard can change the energy just enough – but you still have to go back to the boundary.

Is what you are asking REASONABLE for the age of the child?  And remember, we don’t ASK small children to do things – we do it together.  Exhausting, but alleviates so many problems.

Parent your child for the age that they are – do not treat your ten year old like a three year old and do not treat your three year old like a ten year old!

Look for the next few posts to be from our book study.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Re-Claiming Authority: Part Two

Many of you have written in and wanted to know how to start to be the authentic leader in your own home. 

You have authority because you are the parent!  Whether or not you choose to recognize the fact that you are the authority in their own home or exercise BEING the authority is up to you.  All you have to do is claim it and own it, that you can do this in a kind way.  Again, do not confuse “dominating and misuse of power” and otherwise being mean and nasty with authority.   You can be kind and loving and  still set boundaries in your family.  When you are being an parent who is an authentic leader, you will be guiding your child toward right action.  This is love in parenting!  Help your child learn and grow!

However, in order to have your child do the right thing you have to know what the boundaries are in your family.  What are the VALUES of your family, what kind of person do you want your child to be when they grow up and how will the boundaries you set now guide them toward that?  Love them enough to grow up to function in society as a moral human being.

This requires THINKING and TALKING to your partner.  Get on the same page, or at least agree to follow sometimes and lead sometimes.  Compromise on areas where you disagree.  Get a community behind you.  I am a proponent of having a spiritual community, or a parenting community, or some kind of community, so your child sees these moral messages everywhere, not just at home!

Here are some other “helps” for re-claiming authority:

1.  One is to believe in yourself that you can have boundaries  that make your family function in a healthier way, a way that meets the needs of everyone in the family, and that boundaries are okay and you are not being “a dictator.”  Rules are okay and it is not a dirty idea to have a healthy, happy family.  Smile 
Have confidence in yourself and the decisions you make on behalf of your family.  

2.  Forgive yourself!  Some mothers really feel badly that they have not handled guiding their children  differently.  Here are two back post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/27/forgiving-ourselves/  and the wildly popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/my-kids-deserve-a-different-mother/ 

3.   Again, figure out what your family values; this will help you determine what boundaries are important to you.  Sometimes creating a Family Mission Statement can be a big help.  Your own inner work is essential.  Here is a Christopherus blog post about this:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/discipline_ques.html

The main way we use our authority is by modeling RIGHT ACTION.  What are you modeling based upon the values of your family?

4.  Figure out where your children are; sit and think about them and meditate and pray about them at night.  There are so many posts on here about each age from birth through age nine and what typically happens developmentally at these stages.  These posts should give you a “heads-up” as to what typically challenges parents at these ages.  Just because something is developmentally normal does not mean it does not have to be guided, however!

5.  Love your children and make a list. What are the things that are challenging you right now about the behavior of your children? Can you pinpoint a cause that will prevent this behavior?   Does this behavior need a boundary?  What will you do when this behavior happens?  How will you walk your children through it?  What tools will you use that are right for the age of your children?  How will you be consistent about this?  How will the “consequence”  of this behavior come out consistently? 

I see from the messages in the comment box many of you are getting hung up with the idea of consequences.  Try this back post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/23/gentle-parenting-and-boundaries/ for help with what consequences look like by age….

By consequence, I don’t mean mean and nasty punitive punishment!  I just mean fixing the problem, working together, and being a rock when it comes to right action.  Spilled milk?  The consequence is we clean it up together.  Broke your sister’s toy?  The consequence is we fix it or we use part of your allowance money to buy a new one.  For all ages above about four and a half or five,  restitution is the key!  Here is a back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/

This includes being okay with “ the community” I spoke of above also providing consequences when appropriate.  If your older child doesn’t do their homework and gets a zero from their teacher, I would hope one would not go to the school and argue with the teacher.  I personally am fine with the parents I know helping to provide guidance for my children.  I welcome it because I have a community of people I trust, and I am grateful these men and women are there for my children as they grow to back up the ethics and moral character building blocks we are teaching at home.

 But again, the age and developmental stage of your child matters!  Do not use tools for a 12 year old with your three year old.  Your three year old needs connection and needs you to help him or her 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.  There are many, many posts on this blog about the Early Years and how to infuse your guidance with singing,verses, imagination, stories whilst STILL sticking to the BOUNDARY.  These are not mutually exclusive things!!

This leads us to…..

6.  Know your parenting tools.  Connection and attachment are the first foundational keys!  For the under-7 crowd you also  have such things as prevention,  imitation, working in pictorial imagery and movement, less words, less choices, rhythm, using your gentle hands to help move your child, singing and verses, outside time, distraction  and having the child make restitution with you helping them.   Restitution is really important: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/

Pictorial imagery is one that can be difficult for parents to put into practice.  I have written about pictorial imagery before here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/     and here is a lovely blog post from a mother who put this into practice with her children: http://flowingwithmyducklings.blogspot.com/2010/12/talking-pictorially.html

7.  Commit yourself to 40 days of Being Queen Of Your Home. Cultivate that energy and attitude of a peaceful rock;  here is a back post that may assist you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/19/cultivating-how-to-hold-the-space-the-inner-work-of-advent/

Love your children, build that foundation of fun and love and trust, and be ready to be THE ROCK that weathers the storm!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Re-Claiming Authority: Part One

We have just had an interesting discussion about the differences between power, authority and respect.  To see that discussion, see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/01/power-authority-and-respect-in-parenting/

Where do things go so wrong for parents? My original thought in the post above was that there are two kinds of parents who have problems with all this:   harsh parents who have a hard time connecting with their children and who shove their children aside emotionally; and attachment parents who do wonderful with attachment and connection but not so great in setting boundaries for their children.

I have mentioned before what a  big shift I see in attachment parenting as that first child approaches three and a half or four.  Parenting really shifts at this point, or it should.   I find some attachment parents make the leap well, and some don’t.  If it doesn’t shift at this point with the first child, then you will have catch-up work to do later on, which I will talk about in tomorrow’s post.

What leap?  I am so glad you asked!  Here you go:

2010-11-08 at 01-18-18

(Thank you to my friend Samantha Fogg for letting me use this picture).

This is moss growing on a big rock.  Now, before you think I have lost my mind, let me explain!

This rock is steady; it is not sagging because it has moss on it.  It is not crumbling because it has moss on it!  It is steady.  It is calm; the rain comes down on it, the snow, the wind – and there it sits calmly.  It doesn’t get all upset when the weather is not nice.

The forces of nature do help mold it and wear on it over time, yes, but the original essence of the rock is there and untouched.

Good parenting is like this.  We are like calm, immovable stones.  Our children do shape us, but our essence remains the same because just like a rock cannot help being a rock, we cannot help but be a parent.  Just as moss lives on a rock, we are creating and shaping life for our children.

Small children deserve dignity, respect, unconditional love, gentle hands and gentle voices.  They also deserve the gift of boundaries. I find many parents are reluctant to place boundaries in their lives with their children, but then blow up at the child when the boundary should have been placed and kept the first of the twenty times the child does something.  Why are you blowing up at your child when you failed to set the boundary and help the child stick to that boundary the first time?

One of my dear friends, a terrific mother of three boys, gave a parenting workshop several years ago that I attended.  She related how one day she had her boys in the car and they were in line for the drive-through of a fast food restaurant.  One of the boys spit on the floor of the car.  The boys were all talking and did not notice her easing out of the line.  In fact, they didn’t notice until she was almost home.  They protested, “Hey!  We were going to get some food!”  Their mother replied, “I don’t buy food for boys who spit in my car.”

Well, when she told this story, this sweet little mother with an only child that looked to be about three or four, piped up and said, “Well, if they apologized and calmed down, would you turn around and bring them back to the drive-through?”

Uh, no.

As parents we absolutely have the right to give children second chances.  Absolutely and yay for being human!  But if you give second chances for everything, always couch things without a direct rule involved, make up for your child every time they do something that wasn’t morally good …well, then you are not being a rock!

One of  most important things you can give your child is the gift of knowing THEIR ACTIONS MATTER.  What they do counts.  What they do has consequences.  And if you do not let them experience this when they are with you and there to help guide them, the world is going to be far harsher in teaching this when they grow up.  Even things that are developmentally normal still need guidance!

You and your child will have moments where neither of you are at your best.  A loving, attached relationship is the basis of grace, humility and forgiveness.  But, if the more negative moments of your relationship with your child is  outweighing everything, or the negative moments are just so intense and color the world of the family, go back and look at boundaries:

What boundaries exist?

When I set a boundary how do I follow through? 

Do I do this EVERY TIME?

What is the “consequence” of my child’s action?  Does this happen every time?

Food for thought,

Carrie

Power, Authority and Respect in Parenting

So we are headed into Chapter Five of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Kids” by Neufeld and Mate, but I had such an interesting comment on Chapter Four that I thought it really deserved a post.  It was regarding the relationship between power and authority and the difference between the two.  Fascinating stuff, and it really got my brain cells ticking!  Thank you so much kind reader! 

This book is a good, thought-provoking read for all parents.  It really is an ultimate attachment book, but because it is dealing with the battle of peers versus the family unit, it may be one that  says things and rubs parents the wrong way until they have the experience of their children being a bit older.  After all, it is hard sometimes to think of authority and boundaries and peers when you have a precious two-year-old who is still such a big part of you.  However, it is very important information for parents of small children to have because the foundation for this attachment is laid within the early years, and also because if one has the idea that gentle discipline does involve boundaries, that this is coming, it is not such a shock when the need arises for the functioning of the family and for the functioning of the children in society.  Those of you who have read this book and have smaller (under the grades) aged children, is this book bothering you or making you think or are you disagreeing with it all?  Please leave a comment!

I have to say I think that most of the chapter four in this book  is right in line with this blog and my thoughts on parenting.  Please do let me explain how I look at it; you all know I usually have a different way to look at things than most people, LOL.

I think this goes back to the question of what is power in parenting?  What is authority in parenting?  And the unspoken question of what is respect in parenting?

I respectfully disagree that power is typically exercised for the benefit of the powerful.  That is misguided and abused power at its best.  Power, in the hands of a moral and ethical person, carries great responsibility. Power is not something we hold over our children’s heads, but is intertwined with the authority we carry.  Webster’s Dictionary says that authority IS power, “ the POWER to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior”, (you can see this definition from one of the very first posts I ever wrote, updated here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/06/back-to-basics-the-framework-for-gentle-discipline/). 

I don’t believe I can earn authority.  Authority in a formal setting or a job is granted.  Authority in parenting comes just because you ARE the PARENT.  The child is always worthy of dignity, of respect, of love, but YOU are the parent.  And just by being the parent you have the authority and the power to guide your child. 

The problem I see is that many parents do not lay down a basis of connection and attachment to their child and then have this rather empty gesture of trying to use force and “power”  in the worst term and way as they become completely frustrated with their child’s behavior.  They try to “power over”  their children, and create this giant battlefield against their child.  (You can see my post about The Battlefield of The Mind here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/    )  These parents  don’t see the child as one who has a different level of consciousness than an adult but as someone who needs coercion to do what needs to be done and be “obedient”.  So yes, the parental “power and authority”,(which shouldn’t be dirty words but words that make the child feel safe in his or her world), get demonstrated badly.

Or contrast this to the other type of parents I see:  those who do a stellar job of attachment and connection, but who do not hold any authority or power in their own homes.  Their little children know no boundaries, and what was developmentally immature  behavior turns into behavior that is disrespectful and impolite to adults outside of the family and infringes upon the needs of parents and  the family as a whole.  I alluded  in my last post to the difficulty some parents have in switching gears in their parenting life once their first child goes through the first show of true “will”.  This developmental stage is only followed by other stages where the child begins to show changes as they come into their bodies and themselves at the six/seven transformation, the nine year change, the twelve year change, not to mention the other developmental stages along the way!

What is lacking in both of these cases is the parent using power and authority as AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP. One of my very first blog posts was this one regarding “Discipline As Authentic Leadership” : http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/.   I just want to underscore that attachment and authority and providing boundaries and being consistent and  yes, protection and bringing things in at the right time (which involves you stepping up and guiding your children according to your beliefs and values) are still hallmarks of good parenting. 

Leadership uses authority and power in an authentic, loving, kind and constant way to guide the child.  It cannot be earned, it is there because you are the parent!  However,  RESPECT can be earned and is important for the child to feel a sense of respect. 

  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you never set any boundaries or if you set a boundary and never enforce it.  (The side note and digression here:  That sounds mean, but I disagree  with the authors here when they say that parenting tools are not needed if connection is good. I think there are parenting tools for each seven year cycle, I think there are ways to talk to children in each of these cycles, and this is where I feel tools CAN be helpful to parents.  We have lost so much of this view of what normal childhood development is that we need a bit of a reminder with what works best when).
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you have no respect for yourself and put yourself completely dead last as a martyr taking care of your family and you have no boundaries for yourself.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you disintegrate into a ranting, yelling lunatic every time your child says they won’t eat their peas or wear their boots.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you never listen to them or spend time with them.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you and your partner cannot get on the same page regarding parenting and life. Sometimes in partnerships we lead, sometimes we follow.  Model this for your child.
  • You cannot earn your child’s respect if you have no rules and no ideas as to what sorts of things should happen when.  When should your child have a Facebook page or a first sleep-over or get their ears pierced or be able to bike to the store?  If you don’t know these things, how will your child?

Constancy.  Authentic Leadership.  Knowing what your values are as a family and guiding your children with that.  Understanding the differences between parenting a three-year-old and a ten-year-old.  Having tools at your disposal.

Anyway, thank you dear reader for a great comment and a great thought-provoking chapter!  Take what resonates with you and your family.  You are the expert on your own family.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back to Basics: How To “Do” Gentle Discipline

 

Please excuse all the hiccups my computer is having…something is very wrong with my keyboard…..

So, in our last “back to basics” post, we looked at how to develop a framework in order to look at guiding our children  in a loving way.  Another post that may help stimulate some thought on this topic is this back post regarding how parents view children as “defiant”.  You can find that post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

When using gentle discipline, the question becomes what tools does one use to guide?  Here is a handy list of things to think about!

1. Your Own Inner Work/Physical State.  If you are exhausted, running ragged, not going to bed, not eating well, not exercising, not dressing yourself and looking pretty, I can almost guarantee that things on the home front will not be going well.  Please, please, step back from everything outside your family and home for a week and get your house in order as much as you can, go to sleep when your babies go to sleep, arrange some help (yes, you must ask! I know how hard that is, but people love you and it gives people a chance to give to you!).  You must have something to give to your children, and that starts with you.  There are many, many posts on here regarding parenting exhaustion and parenting burn-out and what to do.  Please use the search engine on this blog with those terms and see what comes up that resonates with you.

2.  Attachment and connection are key.  This is why I write so much about attachment on this blog.  We have recently been going chapter by chapter through the book “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate, and perhaps that will give you some background and inspiration.

How do you connect with a young child?  A young child is in  their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart.  Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable.  I have written several posts on the “love languages” of children that you can go back to and look at.  What is the love language of your child?  Do you know?  How do you use this EVERY DAY to help you?

Your relationship with this child is what carries the discipline. Please do not use “discipline” as an excuse to squash your child’s will and personality.  Understand your child’s temperament and use that to help and guide you.

Use your words like the pearls that they are!

3.  Imitation Rahima Baldwin Dancy says this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “If you want to teach a certain behavior to your child, one of the best ways is to actually do it in front of (or with) him.  This demands that we as adults get up and actually do something, rather than giving the child orders or directions.”

4.  Humor – Lots of parents take parenting very seriously.  But please don’t take every word that comes out of your small child ‘s mouth so seriously and feel whatever they say is in deep need of serious explanation and weight. 

5. 

Distraction – this is a viable tool for all children under 7, and even children that are 7 or 8  can still be fairly distractible.  However, this takes creativity in the heat of the moment to think of an appropriate distraction.  Distraction is not a bribe; it is a way to change to scene to your advantage.

Distraction can also show itself by changing the environment.  Some children just need to be outside when they are upset!

6.  Using your words to paint a picture in the consciousness of your small child under the age of 7.   This is a Waldorf tool that is very useful with small children.  Instead of pulling children into their heads and into a thought-decision kind of process, try using phrases that paint a picture instead.  This can be anything from “Turn that siren down!” for a noisy little one or “Hop like a bunny over here for some food.”  You are re-directing behavior into something more positive through the images that arise from these types of phrases.  For those interested in more about pictorial imagery, please do see Donna Simmons’ bookstore and look under her audio downloads for her CD entitled, “Talking Pictorially” at www.christopherushomeschool.org.    There is also mention of this with examples on the free Christopherus Audio Download about Waldorf Education as a therapeutic education.

I have written an entire post on this subject here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/ 

And here is a post 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/  

7.  On the subject of words, try limited choices, less words or no words at all – Sometimes just a look suffices more than a hundred words.  Try just helping your child get into their coat while you sing a song that you usually sing when you go outside.  Try just handing your child their toothbrush after their bath instead of a whole book about the necessity of dental hygiene. 

8.  Time-in.  According to Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting,

“Sometimes parents are advised to use a time-out instead of spanking their kids – as though these were the only two options available. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means. If we were forced to choose one over the other, then, sure time-outs are preferable to spankings. For that matter, spanking kids is preferable to shooting them, but that’s not much of an argument for spanking.”  -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 65-66.

“Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 26-27.

So, consider the value of time-in instead.  Some families have a place where adults and children can sit together until they all calm down, some mothers just have their child sit near them while they do some sort of rhythmical work.

9.  Ignoring –yup, you heard me right.  The Gesell Institute books routinely recommend turning a blind eye to some of your child’s behaviors if it is not hurting others or themselves (or just driving you plain crazy!).  There are times to draw a line in the sand, but if you nit-pick every behavior, you are on the verge of demanding, and not commanding as an Authentic Leader.

10.  Physical follow-through – If you say something to a small child, you should expect to have to physically  help them follow through.  You should expect to have to physically hold an upset child if they need it.  The physicality of life with a small child is always there – hugs, kisses, a lap to sit on and help to do things as needed.  The child’s respect and dignity always needs to be respected, so you need to be calm when you are following through, but please remember a young child under 7 is probably not going to function well on verbal directives alone.

Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to authority that is expressed only through the spoken word without being accompanied by actions. With the preschool age child, you need to correct and demonstrate again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it.  Their memories simply aren’t that mature yet.”

11. RESTITUTION – How does the child make this right?  No moralizing, no lecture, just what ACTION can they take to make it right?  Do this AFTER a time-in, after everyone has calmed down!

11.  FREEZE!  One of the best tools in parenting is learning to take that quick pause in your mind’s eye and ask yourself if what you are about to do is going to help your child be the adult they were meant to be; is it going to escalate or de-escalate the situation, is it going to teach your child something or is it just a moment of anger for you that will pass?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back to Basics: The Framework for Gentle Discipline

This month we are headed “Back to Basics” in honor of The Parenting Passageway’s birthday.  We will be taking a look at the hallmarks of peaceful family life:  ourselves and our framework toward the family, children and gentle discipline, the environment in which we live, rhythm and moving into looking at the holistic child and education.  This promises to be a renewing month!

So, to kick us off, here is one of the first posts I ever wrote on gentle discipline (October 2008), updated for today!

GENTLE DISCIPLINE AS AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP

From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.”  THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, published by La Leche League International.

 

“In practice, gentle discipline means making mistakes, working with your own anger, and growing as a person.”  (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, pageXXii).

“We would like to think that children learn the civilizing virtues- caring, compassion, consideration- simply by our good example, but most children need a little more than that. A clear definition of acceptable behavior, our expectation that they can meet the standard, and periodic guidance when they stray- all of these are necessary…..Guiding our children-lovingly-is an important part of caring for them and helping them to be loving and lovable to people within our families and beyond.” (THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 256-7, Seventh Revised Edition).

“Gentle discipline means, quite simply, placing empathy and respect at the very center of your parenting.”  (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 3).

Okay, quick!  When I say the phrase, “Gentle Discipline” what comes into your mind – the first thing? No censoring!  For many of us, gentle discipline equates with permissiveness and the thought of a Kids Gone Wild Video!  For others of us, gentle discipline equates with being the parent, who, for lack of better phrasing, is the “valium parent” –you know, the parent who never raises their voice, the parent who is always calm and composed.  “Okay, you just pierced your little brother’s nose with a screwdriver in the garage?  Okaaaay, maybe next time you should ask before you do that!”

Maybe some of us are sad when we hear this phrase, because we would like to not be yelling at our children, or hitting our children, but we are not sure what other tools we have in our toolbox to use.

What if I told you I see gentle discipline in a completely different light?

Many parents equate discipline to punishment.  My Webster’s Dictionary defines discipline some other ways, including as “instruction”; “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”.  I love the idea of discipline being a way to guide or lead a child. There are consequences to the behaviors we choose as individuals, but many times we punish children for being in a developmentally normal state.

Eda LeShan, in her wonderful article, “Please Don’t Hit Your Kids”, published in Mothering Magazine in Spring of 1996, writes:  “We actually tend to hit children who are behaving normally.  A two year old bites because he doesn’t yet know better ways to deal with problems.  A five year old steals crayons at school because five is too young to control the impulse to take what she wants when she wants it.  A 10 year old lies about having joined some friends in teasing a newcomer at school, since at this age it’s normal to want social approval more than fairness.  It takes many years to learn self-restraint.  This is not a crime.  And making children feel guilty and bad doesn’t solve the problem.  What is called for is help in making retribution, having adults explain why such behavior must be overcome.”

Guiding with loving firmness.  THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 257 states: “Discipline is a much maligned word, often associated with punishment and deprivation. Yet discipline actually refers to the guidance which we as parents lovingly give our children to help them do the right things for the right reasons- to help them grow into secure, happy, and loving persons able to step out in to the world with confidence in their own ability to succeed in whatever they set out to do.”

“Bear in mind that to say children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from, and these are assets you bring to the child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 11).

So, there is another oft-maligned word that  I believe needs to be attached to the idea of discipline as a way to guide a child – and that word is AUTHORITY.  Authority is a word that leaves a bad taste in many parents’ mouths.  “Authority?  We don’t need any of that here!  Our home is not a police state!”

Well, when I looked up authority in my Webster’s Dictionary, it said that authority is “a citation from a book or file used in defense or support”, “a decision taken as a precedent”, or finally, “power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.”   Influencing my child’s behavior is part of my job as a parent, but I felt it did not get across everything I wanted to say in this situation.  Then I noticed that authority and the word a few entries above, authentic, share the same root.  The dictionary says that authentic is “authoritative” and “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to fact of reality:TRUSTWORTHY.”

So, perhaps you could view your path in gentle discipline as a way to authentically guide your child.  You, as a trustworthy, authoritative guide. You, providing loving boundaries that will guide your child toward being a healthy adult.

Truly AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP. 

How can you be an authentic parent today, building connection and warmth with your child to guide them effectively into the adult you would like them to be?  What kind of adult do you want them to be?  What values does your family hold most dear and how do you SHOW that in action to your children?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Children Who Scream

( This post is NOT directed at toddler shrieking!  Toddler shrieking is a normal phase of development.  If you need help with toddler behavior, please see the Baby/Toddler Header at the top of this blog.)

This post is for children aged four and over who scream.

 

Some parents have developed the following general strategies:

  • A place for screaming:  Some families feel a screaming voice is an outside voice, and therefore screaming belongs outside on the grass. 
  • Making sure their children get their energy out in a physical way every day – please do remember that three to  four  hours outside is probably about right.  
  • They model respectful behavior for their children.
  • They work hard to make sure their children are not tired, hungry, over-stimulated. 
  • They make sure  they are spending time with their child and filling up the child’s tank in that child’s love language.
  • They work with their child’s temperament if that child is aged seven or older. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, there are several types of screaming during the ages of four plus  years: 

1.  Screaming during a complete melt-down.  If you need help in handling temper tantrums, please see this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/

2.  Screaming whilst you are talking to another adult in person or on the phone because the child really wants attention. 

Many times, we ask children to please not interrupt us.  However, when they do, we answer their request or respond to the request!  Sometimes this is necessary in cases of utmost urgency, but if your child is interrupting you with an issue that really can wait until you are done with your conversation, then you can politely request that they wait.  Tell that you will be with them in just a moment. 

Importantly, one can think about how and when to have adult conversations.  I think adult conversation is important for mothers in order to garner support for themselves, and I encourage all mothers to take time to meet with other mothers by themselves.  Play dates are often difficult to have adult conversation with four and five and six year olds as they may still need assistance with play dynamics. 

With children of all ages, you can make up little stories about animals who interrupt and what happens.  This is a nice sideways kind of way to address interrupting. 

Children that are older than 4 or 5 often love to be in the vicinity of adult conversations/phone conversations so they can listen in and hear what their parents are saying.  Many parents will schedule returning phone calls at night after their child goes to bed. 

3.  Screaming/whining which is really complaining. In this case, we model using our calm voice and we do not grant requests until a normal voice can be used.   Do not respond to a whining, screaming voice!  Explain to your child that you can help them when they use their normal voice.  If they continue to whine and scream, you may need to calmly repeat this phrase more than once (and yes, this is the hard part). 

Sometimes children are not aware that their voice even sounds screamy or whiny, so you can  model in your calm voice how you would like to be spoken to.  And please do consider instead of “Stop screaming!” to tell your child what you DO want in a nice, calm voice.  “Please use a quiet voice in the house.  Quiet as a mouse.” 

I would love to hear your particular challenges around screaming or whining children; let’s talk about this as a circle of supportive mothers!

Many blessings,

Carrie