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

Meaningful Work For Adults: A Discipline Challenge

I believe the key difficulty lies in that adults of this time and place try to relate to small children through words and through the perception that the small child should be treated the same as an adult- provide logical explanations, more explanation, more talking, more experiences – in order to make discipline go well.   The fact that the child then does something that was never done to them (“Why is my child hitting me and biting me?  We don’t do that to them!” or disappointment when “She could have cared less that she was being wild and disrupting the baby’s nap.  Why can’t she have consideration for the new baby?”)

Disappointing indeed, to discover all those parenting books were wrong, and to discover the completely different consciousness of the child.

The child of birth through seven should be living in their bodies, and we should be able to hold discipline through rhythm, through using song along with movement, through silence and loving authority as we  keep calm and carry on.  Less words, more warmth, more work on our parts.

In order to help our children, we have to become agents of doing.  This is what a small child relates to.  When we don’t show our children any meaningful work within a meaningful consistent rhythm, they are rightfully confused. Continue reading

The Angry, Aggressive Six Year Old

I have written before about the really active, can-be-aggressive small child in several back posts of varying nature, but I had a few thoughts I wanted to share today. ( Please be sure to note I am dealing here with fiery temperaments, not especially with children dealing with sensory or developmental issues affecting behavior).

If you are struggling with a six year old who still seems rather “stuck” in immature behavior that involves physicality, I want to encourage you tonight.  It doesn’t seem as if people really talk about this at all in parenting resources; it seems it is well- assumed that tantrums or any physical response to a limit is over by age three.

From what I have seen, six year olds can definitely still have a hard time controlling their hands, their emotions, their reactions, their physical responses and such.  To those of us involved in Waldorf Education, this seems like of course!  Has anyone ever read the book “Ramona The Brave” by Beverly Cleary?  Here is a passage about fiery Ramona, six years old and in first grade at school, when she becomes completely angry at a classmate (for those of you who have not read this book it is a paper owl and Susan had copied what Ramona had done to make hers, which is why Ramona is angry in this chapter): Continue reading

More About How To Create Meaningful Work For Toddlers

 

“We have to remember that there is nothing more “enriching” for a young child than exploring his own world of home, filled with natural playthings and the work of caring for a family – housework, laundry, cooking – and exploring his own backyard.” – From Sharifa Oppenheimer’s “Heaven On Earth:  A Handbook for Parents of Young Children, page 19

 Liza wrote such a beautiful post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/28/guest-post-meaningful-work-for-toddlers/  and I hope it was inspiring to those of you who have toddlers as your oldest children and you are trying to create your family life “from scratch”.  I have a few things I would like to add as well to this meaningful post. 

 If you are wondering where to begin, Continue reading

Guest Post: Meaningful Work For Toddlers

(I asked my dear friend Liza to write this guest post because she has experience in weaving a life full of meaningful tasks that her twin toddlers do to help nurture their home.  What a wonderful experience they are having, and I thought her experience could help some of you out there who might be wondering about what kind of work toddlers could do!  Enjoy!)


Dear Friends,

I am a new mom, almost three years into parenting twins, and am humbled each day by what my children teach me.  How it is the simple things that bring them the most wonder:   the slow and steady journey of a snail’s trek across the patio, grandmother moon shining bright on a sunny day, how every flower on our morning walk is met with reverence and a deep inhale.  From them I am learning to slow down and settle into the sweetness of their early years.

I have also come to learn that time spent with my children at home is ultimately the most rewarding, for them and for me as well.  It is better than a visit to the playground, an organized class, or family adventure.   A bowl of sudsy water and a cup is like a trip to the ocean, dawdling around in our urban backyard feels like foraging through the forest and work- real work done with their hands (and mine) is deeply enriching. So we nest a lot, building and strengthening our home, caring for the objects and animals that surround us and attending to our rhythm.  Basically…doing lots of things with our hands.

When Hannah and Eli were born I joined the Christopherus Waldorf at Home Forum and there (enter angels singing and skies parting), was a group of mothers whose wisdom, humor and intelligence cradled my nascent mothering soul. Carrie was one of these inspired mothers/mentors.  I brought to this group my deepest anxieties, my ‘silliest’ questions, my fears and self doubts.  And trust me, there were a lot. But ultimately I brought to them my children to help me nurture, support and love more fully.

The sub-forum for those with children under seven was a particularly lively and active group.   We discussed everything about living with small children- from the practical aspects of coordinating nap-time, to building rhythm into our days, to finding love for your children when they do not seem so lovable. Overwhelm, burn out, and irritability came to the forum most days, right along side sibling conflict, strong emotions (formally known as tantrums), and whining.  From beneath the words of encouragement showered on each mama’s struggles you could almost hear the soothing siren song of this unspoken mantra:

slow down sweet mama,

take a deep breath,

you are doing a great job.

look gently within (take responsibility for what you might be contributing

and then forgive yourself),

connect back in with that little spirit who wants only to be loved.

And find some work to do with their hands

And so while the first four tasks are surely all parents’ karmic work (we have chosen the ultimate “path of service” it seems- the one that gives us access to expansive love…and a whole mess of other feelings), I leaned into the challenge of finding jobs for my children. And you know what?  It works.

At eighteen months we started small: stirring mama’s tea in the morning, grinding daddy’s coffee beans, making the morning eggs.  That bowl of sudsy ocean water soon had spoons and a sponge in it- a towel on the side to dry them with. The spray bottle entered our world and washing windows began- bliss was known.  Folding laundry became a game of discovery, an opportunity to run through the house delivering missing washcloths to the bathtub and napkins to the napkin drawer.

As time passed we found more work to do.  We stirred pancakes, made endless batches of muffins (and delivered them to the neighbors promptly lest they were all eaten by mama), made soup, pickles and bread.  The salad spinner is just as likely to be found on the countertop as it is the floor, the back deck…the living room.  Did you know you can spin almost anything?  We learned to pour with a pitcher, cut with a knife, peel with a peeler, use the cherry pitter, cheese grater and whisk.

We wash woolies in the bathtub, then wrap them in towels, stomp on them like grapes and hang them from a makeshift line under the kitchen island. That is a full morning’s work.  Bringing in the groceries one by one down our long apartment hallway to the kitchen still ranks high in the ‘fun things to do with daddy’ category- running fast like kitty cats with the apples, slow like turtles with the eggs.

There is a pride that emanates from a little one who has just accomplished a task they have watched you do over and over.  You can see it in their faces, their bodies and their spirit.  When they ask, “Mama, I do it!” I nudge you to let them try.  It is indeed messy, there is of course some risk, you may need to come back later and do it over.  But really, the rewards are huge.

I am still working to “de-mechanize” our day so that my daughter, whom I keep close to my side lest she finds her very capable hands pulling her brother’s hair or knocking over his carefully constructed ‘hayride’, is included in my housework.  Then my son who is only sometimes interested in working can play nearby and join in when he is inclined- apparently they have an agreement that he has claim over the salad spinner when the time comes to use it. And so it goes that sibling conflict is greatly reduced when we are busily working.  Self-esteem and positive exchange between all family members swells.

I recently bought some special wool felt to make a banner for the children’s play space- an attempt to add crafty to my day.  I put this little project in a basket in the living room so that I could attend to it when there was a free moment- idealistic I know.  When my daughter happened upon the basket of carefully folded rainbow felt she exclaimed, “my laundry!” as if it had been missing for years.

Yes, love, that is exactly what it is.

She has since added some kitchen towels, a couple of matchbox cars…a wooden chicken.  I often find her in the window folding her laundry and singing a little song. “Just a moment,” nodding over in my direction, “I am almost done folding the laundry”.

And so it is that imagination trips on the heels of imitation.

The forum ended a few months back and I missed the chance to heart-fully thank the women for all they had given me, to my children…to our family.  When Carrie asked me to write something up about work and toddlers I thought- what could I, fledgling mama, share with you?  And then I heard that siren song and I remembered the mantra, the trick that helps me shepherd two  often cranky toddlers through the day… and helps them back into their much more important work of play.  Thank you Carrie.  And thank you mamas.

Here are some ideas for including toddlers in your work…and play.  I would  sure love to hear what you are all up to!

  • Load/unload the dishwasher with supervision
  • Wash silverware ( in a little basin)
  • Learn to use a sharp knife; grating
  • Practice pouring into a glass
  • Stir, pour, play with flour/dough, etc.
  • Make coffee for daddy- press button on grinder
  • Spread butter on toast
  • Pick the leaves of kale, tear lettuce, spin in dryer
  • Shell peas
  • Scramble eggs
  • Unload groceries
  • Spray and wipe windows and bathroom walls
  • Wash tub with sponge and baking soda
  • Polish wooden toys/furniture
  • Hand me items from the laundry basket as I fold and then help carry to each room/drawer OR I have a basket ready in each room and I hand the kids an article each from the clean laundry and they deliver it to the appropriate room.
  • Sweep
  • Help take out garbage cans/bring back in
  • Get napkins and silverware for table
  • Water plants outside
  • Dig hole for new plants
  • Practice training dog with treats
  • Learning to iron
  • Polishing silver
  • Help make bed

Some additional resources have supported me:

Allison Carrol, Director

http://www.sfwaldorf.org/programs/earlychildhoodprogram.asp

And this verse by Steiner:

Into my will,

let there pour strength.

Into my feeling,

let there flow warmth.

Into my thinking,

Let there shine light.

That I might nurture this child

with enlightened purpose,

caring with heart’s love

and bringing wisdom

into all things.

With love,

Liza, mama to Hannah Simone and Elijah Moon

Thank you Liza, for sharing your experience…

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

This Week In Discipline–MAPIT

M-  Movement.  Approach your under the age of 7 child with an idea about movement.  Use movement with your words to get done what needs to be done.

A- Attachment.  You can be home all day with your child, yet never really connect.  Connect with your child.

P- Positive Attitude and Patience.  Children are little, you are going to have to go over and over and over this.

I- Imitation.  Children imitate your every gesture, and what you do in your work in nurturing your family.

T- Take your time.  Calm down, breathe, give a minute to answer.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Benign Neglect

Lately I have been receiving emails from mothers who are frustrated with their children’s behaviors and can recount every small thing their child does (or does not do!)  The cycle seems to be a difficult one to break as mother and child get locked into battle positions.

May I suggest something to try? 

Benign neglect.  A tad of benign neglect.  Benign neglect is that art of discernment in parenting; in knowing what really needs your full attention and truly needs to be addressed, but in also knowing what needs to not be seen and what should  have a blind eye on the part of the parent!   It is being fully present yet knowing that the best way to respond at times is not to respond.  For example, the discernment of knowing that your child can come up with a cure for their own boredom, for example,  when you stop drawing such consciousness to it and keep on with your own work whilst being fully present.

Therefore, based upon that, I think one of the best ways to work with benign neglect is rhythm and real work.  Everything does not fall apart when one child falls apart.  That child is loved, but dinner is still served, joy is still there and life is happening, come back and join us, small child.

The other place where benign neglect starts is through your own inner work.   You must carry your own confidence and know that putting every behavior to psychoanalysis is not only unnecessary, but also harmful.   I see so many mothers today putting out fear and anxiety in their parenting.   Sideways parenting through just planting the small seeds of things is ever so much more effective in the long run of parenting.  Think stories, think your own work and space and time.

Give your child space to breathe.  Give them room to make mistakes and to fix those mistakes.  Laugh and find the joy and humor.

Live your life and enjoy it.   Here is a rather old post on the topic of letting go, but I think it still stands:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/28/letting-go/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Collecting And Connecting To A Challenging Child

In our last post, we looked at the four things the authors of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” outlined in regards to “collecting” our children after separation.  You can see that post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/02/01/hold-on-to-your-kidscollecting-our-children/

I got a wonderful comment on this post that basically stated it didn’t seem as if the steps outlined in this chapter would really work for a child that was either in a truly difficult developmental stage and where parent and child were feeling disconnected or perhaps in a situation where a lot of separation was going on due to life circumstances.

I have a few thoughts about this and I hope if you are in this sort of  situation you will go through these suggestions and take what resonates with you and your family.

  • If you are in the situation where separation is occurring frequently, is there a way to pare things down?  Sometimes families cannot pare it down due to work obligations or school, but if the separation is due to things outside of school and such, perhaps it is worth investigating cutting activities outside the home down.  Can you pare down how many hours you are working outside the home?  Could you possibly homeschool this child to give them extra time at home?  What can you do with extracurricular activities?    Many families will put a stop on sports for part of the year and just enjoy family activities.  Some families will say no activities at the dinner hour.  Perhaps if separation is occurring due to these extra activities, these need to be looked at within the context of the needs of the whole family.  Sometimes we have to give things up in order to gain things.  Simplify.
  • Get out a piece of paper and write down what separation is occurring each day and what happens before the separation and what happens after you and your child are reunited.  What rituals are there around going out the door, or reconnecting after school or work?
  • Do you cook and eat dinner together most nights?  This is really important and well worth the effort.
  • Do you parent your child to sleep?  This is important for all children, but for children nine and older, this may be the ONLY time they open up about their day. It is important to be able to give your child this time.
  • What do you do on weekends?  Is there a family activity one afternoon a week?  Even if children protest, this is an important ritual to establish. It does not have to be expensive, and can involve something as simple as hiking, taking a walk, bathing the dog, having tea.
  • Are you speaking this child’s love language?  Here are the back posts on that: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/16/how-to-work-with-the-love-languages-of-children/   and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/13/loving-children-in-their-love-language/
  • What kind of language do you use daily with this child?  (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/)   Do you connect with this child through your warmth and love throughout the day?  Do you consider yourselves on the same side and maintain your calmness whilst you help your child meet the rules and boundaries of your family?  
  • Boundaries foster security.  If you are being a jellyfish in your family,  (see this back post for an explanation of what a jellyfish is:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/what-kind-of-family-are-you/) now is your time to stop.  It is not punitive to consider logical consequences for behavior that you would not want your child to do to any relative or friend!
  • If your child is very enmeshed with peers, is there a way to change the scenery?  Is there a way to limit time with peers?
  • If you are going through a rough patch with a child, actually spending more time together and not less is often a key to drawing closer and communicating.  Some mothers I know have even brought their most difficult child home to homeschool with excellent results.
  • Meditate and pray about this child and carry this into your sleep and see what new insights come to you in the morning.  You have the keys to help this child within yourself. You really do!
  • Go slow.  Things are not going to change overnight.  I suggest you look at this as taking at least a six month period.  Write things out on a piece of paper, your plan, and put it into action.  Tweak as you need to, but start small with something tomorrow. 

I would love to hear the experiences of mothers who have survived a difficult period of connection with their child and came out even stronger in the end.  Do you have a story like that to share with us?

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Guest Post: Take Pause With The 10 X 7 Rule

I have a lovely reader who told me about a valuable tool she uses to “keep calm and carry on”.  It was so profound that I asked her to write a guest post and share her thoughts with all of you.  Thank you, Jennifer S.!

Take Pause

by Jennifer S.

"Our behavior is a reflection of who we are at the moment. Hating your child’s behavior is like saying you don’t love the part of your child that wants to behave that way." Author Unknown

My mother was a gem. She mothered me like a lot of others mothers did in the early 70’s – the natural way. Quite frankly, she mothered me in the spirit of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings without knowing who Rudolf Steiner was. My memories of how I was mothered, coupled with my inherent nature and my experience teaching Waldorf preschool have all shaped how I mother my 22- month –old- daughter. I’d venture to say to that I am doing an exceptional job. But I do have my moments. We all do. After all, we are mothers which typically means we wear a couple of hundred hats a week. We are allowed to be human and to have not so stellar mothering moments.

For me, the hardest part of mothering is not having that knee jerk reaction to behavior I consider bothersome or unwanted. I get in a tunnel sometimes and when my daughter does something that pulls me out of my mothering tunnel, I find that I react with an immediate exasperated sigh. I hate this. I do it more when I am tired and feeling like the weight of the world is upon me. (Which it is – I am, after all raising a human being!) I am conscious of the fact that I do this and I am also conscious of the downcast look on my daughter’s face.

I know mothers who do this very same thing and often times their reactions are even more extreme. Dealing with unwanted behavior (and by unwanted, I am referring to behavior that is annoying to us as mothers, not behavior that can cause harm to the child or others) is a daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute challenge. So how can mothers put their negative reactions in check in an effort to be a peaceful parent to their child?

When I asked myself this question about a year ago, I thought back to my gem of a mother and some pearls of wisdom she provided me with long ago as I struggled with little ones both as a nanny and in a preschool setting. She told me to “take pause” and consider what impact your child’s behavior will have in seven different increments of time. I asked her what she meant by “seven increments of time.” It turns out that it is very simple and quite frankly works. When your child acts in a way that causes you annoyance, exaggeration, anxiety and the like, take pause and consider the following:

  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 seconds?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 minutes?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 hours?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 days?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 weeks?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 months?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 years?

For me, I usually calm down and am no longer irritated with my child by the time I hit “10 days.” I very rarely have to look much further down the timeline.

Taking the time to play out the effects of my child’s behavior is a calming moment in and of itself and it almost always makes me realize how trivial my child’s actions are and that it is some problem in myself that I need to address. Using this ten by seven rule simply lets a mother catch her breath before she expels it in an exasperated sigh (or worse!)

Honestly, my daughter is too young to know what I am doing but she watches me and realizes that I am taking a moment to push myself into a better parenting space. And she appreciates it. I know this because she will often give me a hug or a snuggle along with a grin that says “you’ll miss my antics when I outgrow them!” And she is right! I will miss her sneaking onto the top of the couch, just to fall off moments later. I will miss her dumping over the entire contents of the cat’s food bowl. I will miss her taking all of the trash out of the trash can. I will miss her unstuffing all of her cloth diaper inserts. I will miss her smearing her food all over the table. I will miss her dumping all of her water on the floor. I will miss all of these things and more because someday she will be off living her grown -up life and I will long for the pitter patter sound of her little feet followed by the perverbial “uh oh.” And I will wish that I had taken more time to savor those moments which caused me annoyance. The ten by seven rule allows me to do this because I ultimately realize that my daughter is just being her “age” and that I need to take pause and enjoy it for it is a mere fleeting moment.

It’s funny but I have seen similar concepts circulating around blog land recently. I would like to think that my mother was the mastermind behind this idea but hence, it really does not matter. What matters is that she gave me a tool to became a better mother. I hope that I have given this to you in turn. And on that note, I leave you with another great quote: “Believe in your child beyond today’s problem or behavior.” Author Unknown

Carrie here:  The other thing I love about this is the demonstration of passing on how we parent to the next generation.  Grandmother to mother to granddaughter. 

What kind of legacy are you leaving for your children in the way you parent?

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