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

How To Work With The Love Languages of Children

We took a brief look at “Loving Children In Their Love Language” in our past post and today we are going to delve even deeper into the five love languages and how to apply them to your children.

Remember, we want to use ALL of the love languages and be familiar with all the love  languages as mentioned in the book, “The Five Love Languages For Children” by Gary Chapman and  Ross Campbell.  However, if you can identify your child’s primary love language and keep the child’s emotional love tank filled, it helps decreased behavioral challenges and it helps you to think carefully through how you discipline.  The authors bring up such things as if your child’s love language is quality time and you are using time-out (and you all know I do NOT believe in time-out, please see back posts) as a way to discipline the child, then you are using that child’s love language in a negative way.  There are many examples in this book; I encourage you to get a book and read it!

To review, here are the five love languages and a few notes about each love language:

1.  Physical Touch – the authors note many parents only touch their children when necessary (ie, to help them get dressed, etc).  I like this quote: “Babies who are held, hugged, and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.”

Things you can do in this language:  Greet or say good-bye to your children by hugging them; picking natural toys (hhmm, sounds like Waldorf!); ask your child if they want to be held; holding hands whilst saying blessings or prayers

2.  Words of Affirmation – this means expressing love and appreciation for the child themselves, not words of praise for what they do.  This does include using words that encourage.

The authors note:  “ The greatest enemy toward encouraging our children is anger.  The more anger present in the parent, the more anger the parent will dump on the children.  The result will be children who are both antiauthority and anti-parent.”

Also included in this category are words of guidance:  positive and loving guidance. 

Things you can do in this language:  encourage your child daily, and find the things your child is good at and tell them something positive whilst they are doing it;  call your child when you are not home to tell him you love him; leave your child notes saying you love him or her. 

3. Quality Time – this includes being present with each child individually and sharing thoughts and dreams and eye contact. 

Things you can do in this language: include your child in your daily activities and chores; stop what you are doing and make eye contact;  cook together; play with your children;  take family vacations together; hike together

4.  Gifts – “Yet for parents to truly speak love language number four-gifts- the child must feel that his parents genuinely care.  For this reason, the other love languages must be given along with a gift.  The child’s emotional love tank needs to be kept filled in order for the gift to express heartfelt love.”

My note is that for children who enjoy the love languages of gifts, these gifts do not have to be expensive store-bought gifts.  They will admire a flower from the garden left on their pillow, a unique small crystal, a feather you found, a picture you drew for them, etc.

Things you can do in this language:  make special snacks for your child, find things from nature as gifts, keep small gifts tucked away for rainy days or other occasions.

5.  Acts of Service- the authors talk about how parenting is the ultimate act of service, and that in order to do this, we must ourselves be balanced since serving is physically and emotionally demanding.    What is your own physical and emotional health like in this moment?

I thought this was a great quote: “the ultimate purpose for acts of service to children is to help them emerge as mature adults who are able to give love to others through acts of service.”

Things you can do in this language:  regular involvement as a family in volunteering; setting up play scenarios for your children to find and play with; assist a child in fixing something or doing homework together.

There is a whole chapter on how to discover your child’s primary love language; I highly recommend it! 

Here is a link to this book on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Five-Love-Languages-Children/dp/1881273652/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276710971&sr=8-1

Connection, love and helping the child make restitution are the big keys to discipline…Bring on the love!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Loving Children In Their Love Language

Many of you have heard about the book, “The Five Love Languages:  How To Express Heartfelt Commitment To Your Mate” by Gary Chapman.  It was a runaway success, and after that book Gary Chapman teamed with Ross Campbell to write “The Five Love Languages of Children.”

The thought behind this book is that each child has a “primary language of love, a way in which he or she understands a parent’s love best.”  When you read this book, you go through ALL the love languages, because children benefit from all expressions of love, and also because over time your child’s love language might change. 

I like this particular quote as to why love and connection are important: “In this book we will emphasize the importance of love in rearing your child.  The ultimate goal is to rear your child (or children) to become a mature adult.  All aspects of a child’s development require a foundation of love.  For instance, a child’s feelings of anger can be channeled positively when he senses a parent’s love.  He is more likely to consider and accept your suggestions when he perceives your love as genuine and consistent.”

The five love languages are

1. Physical Touch

2.  Words of Affirmation

3. Quality Time

4.  Gifts

5.  Acts of Service

Loving your child in their language on a consistent basis helps a child feel loved through the more challenging times.  Loving your child in an unconditional way and keeping that connection filled, but still holding fast to the boundaries you set, is very important.  These principles hold the  keys for good parenting; I have written about this time and time again on this blog.  Gentle parenting does not mean an absence of boundaries.

You are the parent.  You have more life experience with which to guide your children.  You should know yourself what boundaries there are in your own home and with each other.  Children without any boundaries do not grow up to do well in the world because they have had everything handed to them on their whim and demand.  You can be a gentle parent, an authentic parent, AND you can still do the hard work of keeping the boundaries you have set in your home.  In fact, this is a must for your children to grow up to be healthy adults.

However, your children must feel loved in order for these boundaries to work, and  love languages are a huge piece of this.  You can say you love your child all you want, but if they do not “feel” loved, that is their perception.  Love languages can be this bridge between your world and the world of your child.  It can help provide that connection that forms the basis of a healthy family.

In the next post, we will take a peek at the characteristics of all five of the love languages.  In that, you may learn something about your child, your spouse and yourself.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Effective Use of the Temperaments in Education and Discipline

So far we have looked at the four-fold human being and had an introduction to the temperaments.  Today we are going to peek at HOW to use the temperaments as an ally in education and discipline.  As I have said in the first two parts to this post, this information was presented to our homeschooling group at a wonderful workshop on the temperaments given by our Waldorf Handwork teacher, Ms. Judy Forster.  She is so knowledgeable and wonderful. We are so lucky to have her as part of our group! 

So to start, a quick common question is something like this:  “Yes, I read all the descriptions of the temperaments and I still don’t know what temperament my child is.”

Yes, sometimes it is hard to tell.  It is easy to confuse the predominant temperament of a developmental stage for an individual temperament.  I have heard Waldorf teachers say typically two temperament predominate.

So, Ms. Forster gave us a tip that one place to garner an idea regarding your child’s temperament is in looking at how they approach handwork,   A choleric child will want to be done first with their handwork, and will make mistakes along the way because they are going so fast because they HAVE to be done first.  A sanguine child may have lots of holes in their loose knitting because they got distracted or were too busy talking, and are content to know that maybe the fairies will come and fix it later.  A melancholic child will take their handwork very seriously, they will be extremely detail-oriented  and will rip a piece of knitting apart for the one stitch that was off that that the handwork teacher  told them was okay to leave alone (but they can’t, so then they have to rip it all out when the teacher is not looking).  Their knitting is usually tight.  The phlegmatic child is hard to get going on anything, but once they get going, it is either hard for them to stop – they may end up knitting a rug-sized piece of something when the project was supposed to be small because they just couldn’t stop – or they may just be steady and be done first (much to the chagrin of the choleric child).   Those examples came  from Judy Forster, our wonderful and knowledgeable Handwork teacher.  Please see her Etsy shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/mamajudes

Here is an example from me.  I think the temperaments show in how your child deals with  social challenges.  For example, the choleric will be telling everyone what to do, what is fair and not fair, and may end up flying into a rage that they feel immensely sorry about later.  A sanguine child will know who said what and who gets along with who and will be flitting around like a butterfly and taking in everything that every person does.  A melancholic child will figure no one will like them, no one will pick them, and they think that  if they do get picked they will end up with a challenge (ie, disaster) that  no one else in the world has faced.  A phlegmatic child will spend most of the time eating and warming up and getting ready to participate, and by the time they are ready to join in, it will be time to go home.

Hope that gives you all some ideas!  Anyway, on to how to work with these temperaments most effectively!  People act as if our goal should be to eradicate the temperament that the child displays, but that is not the case.  All the temperaments have good things about them; perhaps the case is more how to balance and harmonize (which for most people will not completely happen until they are in their 30s), and also how to use the temperaments as an ally in parenting and education.

CHOLERIC:  Choleric children are actually  really fair and they have big hearts, so appealing to the choleric in that way helps. I once was friends with a very choleric little guy who would break everything.  When he came to my house, I always said something like, “You know, I love how strong you are and you are so fast!  I have this pile of ten oranges and I was wondering if you could squeeze them all by hand so we could have juice for snack.”  Worked beautifully.

When a choleric rages and breaks something, if the child is between 7 and 9, I would wait until the next day to talk to them about it.  Usually by that time they are so regretful they have punished themselves more than you ever possibly could.  The worst thing to do would be to get wrapped up in their anger personally.  You must be the wall for them to bounce off of. 

SANGUINE:  Interrupt their work and give them little tasks to do before they take off and interrupt their own work.  You are in charge of the interruption during homeschool, for example.  You need something delivered to a neighbor, you need the tomato plants watered, the dog needs something, whatever.  If you keep interrupting them, they will finally settle down to work!  Work on building up their endurance in this way – the first week interrupt their work so many times a hour and then the second week drop the number of interruptions and then keep lengthening the time that they are focused on a task.

Also, sanguine children love beauty, so be beautiful!  Put flowers in your schoolroom, wear something beautiful.  They will notice.  It will captivate them.  This is also a good way to work on this temperament if you are not naturally drawn to beauty in your daily life..say if you are predominately melancholic and pre-occupied with worry.  :)

MELANCHOLIC:  Melancholic children have great sympathy, so appealing to what you really need and what obstacles you have yourself your day and if the child could just do “X” how helpful that would be.  I think the other place to work with melancholics is through story telling regarding perfectionism.  Donna Simmons has a good example of a story for a melancholic in her First Grade Syllabus, and there are many more examples out there.

The other key to a melancholic child is to just listen and to feel truly compassionate.  The child truly feels these things do not happen to anyone else on earth,  ever in the history of mankind…So listening, and then perhaps sharing something similar from your own childhood.  The melancholic child will be most interested in stories where the hero overcomes enormous hardship.  :)

PHLEGMATIC:  To me, this group is the hardest.  They will sit like small little lumps for quite some time.  Our handwork teacher recommends ignoring that they are even there for a time being (which is hard without a classroom of children  to carry, I find).  Some of them will be motivated to do something if it has to be done before snack time comes.   I think rhythm is  a great help to the phlegmatic because transitions can often be hard.   When they say they are “bored”, give them full permission to be with their boredom. Encourage it.  :) 

The other thing I learned at the temperament workshop is that Fourth  Grade, when children are ten and obviously after the nine-year-change, is when one starts to see “Extraverted” and “Introverted” categories of these temperaments….So, for example, an “introverted melancholic” may be a child to watch closely in the school years for obvious reasons. 

The other little note I thought of is that if you feel you are predominately one way or the other way, what could you do to enliven the other temperaments within you?

Many blessings,

Carrie