An Emergency How-To: How To Parent Peacefully With Children Under Age 9

(This post is geared toward those times when you are feeling angry daily with your children, not so much for the occasional angry moments.  This is sort of like “Emergency Management for Chronic Anger”…)

If you are having an emergency in attempting  to parent peacefully, here is a top 10 list of how to do this:

1.  Start with understanding your own triggers for anger.  Write down the things that are “making” you angry.  If every item on that list is child-related, please check and double-check if your expectations are realistic.  Underneath anger are usually other feelings such as fear or sadness.

We are all human, and we do get angry.   Here is a great post about the opportunity that occasional episode of  anger affords children in learning:   http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/08/dealing-with-anger.html  , just to remind you that the complete elimination of anger is not a realistic goal, and that occasional anger is normal and even healthy.  The important thing is to show your child constructive ways to deal with anger AND how one can transfor oneself from “Angry Person” back into “Normal Person” without hurting anyone physically or verbally in the process!

2.  Get support.  Find your local La Leche League group here: www.llli.org and find your local Attachment Parenting group here:   http://www.attachmentparenting.org/.   Call these Leaders on the phone and talk to them.  Both La Leche League and Attachment Parenting put loving guidance/gentle discipline as a main philosophical tenet.  Get a family counselor’s assistance as well.  Many health care professionals will work on a sliding fee scale.

3.  Get support from your family, friends and neighbors.  If you are out of control angry everyday with your children, you may need more support right now.  Even the 10 year old down the street who could come and play for an hour with with toddler while you are there could be helpful.  Investigate all possibilities for help.  Call in your friends and explain that you need extra help right now.

4.  Check out what is going on with you and your family members physically.  Is there a physical reason why you are so tired or depressed?  Is there something going on with your child?

5.  Check your environment – visual clutter can wind many children up.  Clean up their sleeping areas to be restful.

6.  Make a list of what you will do to calm down when you are angry and post it somewhere prominent.  There is no problem that cannot wait a moment to be solved, and on top of that, how many problems can be solved anyway with everyone yelling and crying?  That is not a teachable moment.  It is okay to take a moment before you address the situation.    Remember that your role is to teach and to guide your children toward being capable, loving, responsible adults.

7. Check out your food; dyes and preservatives and common allergens can make behavior worse.

8.  Check out the amount of outside active  play your children are getting!  They need to get some energy out before they can sit still.

9.  Check out what you are requesting of your children; particularly with chores, which seem to particularly anger parents, children under 9 need you there to supervise and assist, to show them how to do itChildren under 7 need to most likely do it with you to have it done to your satisfaction.  Children should be expected to work round the house as part of the family; however, for small children we view the parent working and the child weaving in and out  and then moving into chores that you have helped them to learn over time, and at under 9 they may still need some supervision or they will get distracted by something else along the way.  Check how many times a day you are requesting your children to do something; if it is constant nagging and asking a child to clean up or assist in household chores, that to me is a signal that there 1. Is too many things out in the environment to clean up and/or  2.  is no consistent rhythm to chores on a daily basis or a weekly basis.

Watch what you say to your children!  Use your words like pearls: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

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

10.  Learn how to forgive yourself.  See this post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/waldorf-guilt/

and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/my-kids-deserve-a-different-mother/

Much love and peace to you,

Carrie

Cultivating “No Comment”: The Inner Work of Advent

Yesterday as we were driving home from our farm pick-up, I was aware of my almost five year old’s running commentary on life.  She was tired, and definitely gets “more chatty” the more tired she becomes.  “Mommy, I want to have a sleepover with Timmy.  Older Sister could come and sleep with Timmy’s older sister and I could sleep in Timmy’s bed.  I wouldn’t be afraid…”   “I am so hungry, I am starving!”  “I am bored!”  “It’s cold outside but I am not wearing my hat! My hat itches!”   Chatter, chatter, chatter, complain, complain, complain.

How often do we feel the need to jump in to a tired, whiny, four or five year old’s world and talk them to death about it?  How often do we jump in and negate her feelings?    I could have said, “You are too young to go have a sleepover away from us.”  “If you had eaten your lunch, you wouldn’t have been so hungry now.” “Your hat is fine, it fits you perfectly!”

Why?

What does a tired, hungry, whiny child need?  No comment!  Especially no comment on future plans that are not even in the works with all the reasoning about said future event.  Stop talking!  A smile, some distraction with singing, a reassurance that “we will be home soon” is all that is needed.

A tired, hungry child needs their basic needs for food,rest and connection met.  If they cannot rest at that time (ie, it is dinner time and they need to stay up a bit longer and cannot nap now), how about some soothing repetitive physical activity?  Pouring water, a bath, winding yarn, carding wool are all good choices. 

Donna Simmons of Christopherus takes this approach with little children who are “chatterers” here: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/litle_ones_who_.html

Make it your work this Advent season to have “no comment” unless it is essential.  And this is morphing from children into Grown-Up Land, but please consider making it your work this Advent season to listen more than you talk, and  to gather information before you blurt out a conclusion or advice.  Remember what people want most when they talk to you is often just what a child wants – a warm smile, a hug, a bit of understanding.  Sometimes the journey is long and rough, and ultimately one experienced within that individual’s soul.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Requests For Stories

Hi All,

I am happy to share resources with everyone as to where to find certain Kindergarten stories!  However, some of these stories are copyrighted and therefore cannot be shared; you would have to buy the book that the story is from.   I am a writer, so I do feel strongly about protecting other people’s works and ideas.

I know many of you have tight resources, and I try to point out any public domain stories that are suitable but some of the Waldorf favorites are still copyrighted. 

Two Kindergarten resources one might like to consider for Autumn, that you would use year after year, includes Suzanne Down’s Autumn Tales (wonderful stories, including Witchamaroo and Little Boy Knight and many others) and Let Us Form A Ring, which has circle times for all seasons in the front and such tales as A Halloween Story (aka, The Naughty Little Hobgoblin!) and The Pancake Mill and Spindlewood in the back.  You could also consider going to Suzanne Down’s website, http://www.junipertreepuppets.com/ and signing up for her newsletter – a free story and puppetry idea will come right to your email inbox!

Please ask where to find your stories and I will help the best I can.  With limited resources, another thing to consider is checking out book reviews.  Lovey over at the Lovey-land blog  http://www.lovey-land.blogspot.com/  often has book reviews, and I just wrote some book reviews for the Christopherus website:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home.html  If you scroll down on the right hand side you will see a section entitled, “Book Reviews”.

Cheers,

Carrie

“HELP! My puppy is biting my toddler!”

Today I have the great fortune of having a guest blog writer – my dear friend and expert dog trainer Samantha Fogg!  Thank you so much Samantha for this column and your expertise!  Here is what Samantha writes in response to a very common problem:

“HELP! My puppy is biting my toddler!!!”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten a phone call from a panicked parent who is considering sending their new puppy back to the breeder or to a shelter because the puppy is biting them, their child, and they think that perhaps their pup is aggressive, or bad, or that they can’t handle a puppy in a house with children.  Sometimes the parent has contacted other trainers who haven’t offered any help, but who have said things like “never leave a puppy and a young child together unsupervised” and the parent took this to me that combining puppies and children is dangerous.  Puppies and children CAN co-exist in the same household, but it will take a bit of work and understanding, and yes supervision.  But really, I don’t recommend leaving young children unsupervised, whether or not there is a puppy in the mix.

Puppies bite everything.  Human babies do this too.  Remember when your child stuck everything into his or her mouth?  Puppies are learning about their world, and they are exploring, and everything, including your fingers and your child’s hands, are things your pup wants to learn about so into the mouth they go.  Puppies don’t have hands, so where your human baby patted things, and rolled things in his or her hands, your pup can only use his or her mouth.

It may seem like a cruel joke that puppies are at their most oral at the same time that their teeth are the sharpest, and yes puppy teeth hurt.  Dogs need to have exquisite control over their mouths.  They need to be able to exert the precise amount of control to gently lift and carry fragile items, and also to be able to rip and tear food.  Super sharp puppy teeth guarantee that the pup will get lots of feed back about how much pressure s/he is exerting.  When puppies play with each other they wrestle, and bite, and grab onto each other.  If one puppy bites another puppy too hard, the hurt pup will give a high pitched yelp and go a bit limp.  The biting pup should immediately back off.  If the biting pup persists with biting too hard, the one being bitten will refuse to play with the biter.  Thus puppies learn exactly how hard they can bite each other without hurting, and they gain control of their mouths.

The longer a pup stays with Mom and littermates, the farther along in their bite inhibition training they will be, but even a 12 week old pup won’t have mastered his or her mouth so you’ll need to take over where Mom and the littermates left off.  Some people punish a dog for using his or her mouth, and while in the short term this may solve the problem of sore hands, in the long term, the dog doesn’t learn sufficient bite inhibition.  Hurt dogs defend themselves by biting, and if something terrible happens, say your toddler hurts your dog badly, you want the dog to know that humans are fragile, and to be able to restrain himself and only put his mouth on your child, and not scar your child.  Bite inhibition is critical.  To teach this, you (depending on the age of your children, you likely do not want them to do this)  want to solicit play with your hands.  When the puppy bites you too hard yelp like a hurt puppy and let your hand go limp.  Your pup should immediately back off.  When the pup backs off, start the game again.  If the pup is over-stimulated, or overly tired, the pup may have a bit of a temper tantrum, and may repeatedly bite too hard.  If this happens, your goal should be to calm your pup down, perhaps by giving the pup some time away from people, or using gentle friendly restraint.  When you yelp, a small percentage of puppies will react as though your hand is prey, and will attack more, if this happens, cease playing with the pup and ignore the pup for a couple minutes every single time the pup bites too hard.  As with most things in dog training, repetition is important.  The more frequently you work on this with your puppy the sooner your puppy will learn to control his mouth.

Once your pup is able to play with you gently, it is time to let the puppy know that they can only play with your hands if they are invited to do so.  If the pup isn’t invited to play and grabs at your hands, either yelp like a hurt puppy again, or simply walk away.  In the beginning you’ll want to initiate the game a lot so that your puppy can learn the difference between being invited to play (puppy gets to play), and not being invited to play (puppy doesn’t get to play).  Once your pup understands that teeth can only touch human skin if invited to do so, you can gradually stop asking your puppy to play this game at all.

In addition to teaching your pup about bite inhibition, you want to provide your puppy with plenty of puppy-safe toys to chew.  Stuffed kongs, especially ones that are frozen, are a great toy for pups, but take a look at your local pet supply store, and try things out (see www.kongcompany.com for kongs and stuffing ideas!).  Ideally you should get enough toys so that you can rotate the toys out.  Toys that a dog hasn’t seen in a couple weeks are far more exciting than toys that the dog sees on a daily basis.  Remember — puppies NEED to chew, so if you don’t provide things for the pup to chew on, your pup will find things to chew on, and you won’t like your puppy’s choices.

Depending on the age of your children, you’ll need to involve them in this process to a greater or lesser degree, but unless your child is a baby, your child will need to participate in the bite inhibition training.  Fortunately for many children their initial instinct when nipped by a puppy is to scream in a high pitched voice, and to refuse to play with the puppy.  But you still want to practice.  Start before your puppy arrives (or if you already have a puppy, start with the pup out of the room).  Have your child practice yelping like a hurt puppy.  Make this a fun game.  Also have them practice freezing, and going limp.  Make sure that your child does NOT hit the puppy, or get aggressive toward the puppy.

More important than teaching the child what to do when nipped, you want to set puppy and child up for successful interactions.  A great game to help with this is the Invisible Dog Game. You’ll need lots of dog treats for this.  The rules are as follows:

1. Dog must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and the leash must be held by an adult.

2. Dogs who are in a down position are VISIBLE.  Dogs who are doing ANYTHING except lying down, are INVISIBLE.

3. Dogs who are VISIBLE can be patted, talked to, and given treats.  Dogs who are INVISIBLE must be ignored.

4. Don’t talk to the dog or tell the dog what to do.  Just stick to the above rules, your dog will figure it out.

When you first play this game, your pup may have a hard time coming up with the idea to lie down.  That is OK, but you want to make sure that your child stays engaged, so talk to your child about how the dog is invisible and where is the dog, and so forth.  Try to avoid becoming so animated that the dog has fun with this.

As soon as your dog becomes visible (lies down), make a big deal about it.  “Oh, there is the dog!” and immediately give the dog treats.  If the dog leaps back up — and many will in the beginning — the dog is invisible again “where did the dog go?  Wasn’t the dog just here?”  As your dog gets the hang of this, your dog will spend longer, and longer in the down position and you’ll have the opportunity to do things like — “where is the dog’s tail” and as soon as the child touches the dog’s tail, give the dog a cookie, and “how many paws does the dog have?” and give the dog a cookie each time the child touches a paw.  When the dog gets even better the child can sit with the dog, patting the dog and telling the dog stories.

Quit the game before dog and child get tired of the game.

Of course, puppies are learning a lot more than just about how to control their mouths, and puppies, like small children, can have temper tantrums or lose control of themselves.  Puppies who get overly tired, or over -stimulated, may nip more, may fling themselves about, may even air snap.  Puppies benefit from having a rhythm to their days, and to having plenty of nap time.  Puppies tend to be energetic in bursts, and then need to sleep.  Puppies who miss naps are often fussy, and grumpy.  Make sure that your pup is getting plenty of down time.  Puppies who don’t get enough exercise also have trouble controlling themselves.  You don’t want to go on overly long walks, or runs with your pup, but you do want them to have plenty of off-leash play time.

To recap — spend a lot of time teaching your puppy about bite inhibition, give your pup plenty of things to chew, teach your children what to do if the puppy nips them but try to avoid the pup nipping the children as much as you can, play games that teach positive ways for child and pup to interact, have a rhythm to your day that includes both active times and quiet times for the puppy.

Samantha Fogg

work+play positive dog training

Atlanta, GA (The next Babies+Dogs class will start in October!)

http://workplaydogs.com

Thank you again, Samantha!

Carrie

Using Our Words Like Pearls

Marsha Johnson has a document within her FILES section of her Yahoo!Group (Waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com to join) entitled something along the lines of “Use Your Words Like Pearls”.  In it she addresses using vocabulary, transitions in the home, many different aspects of the wonderful language we live in and speak every day.

This phrase took on new meaning for me today though.  A thread started over at Melisa Nielsen’s A Little Garden Flower Yahoo!Group (homeschoolingwaldorf@yahoogroups.com) in response to my post from yesterday entitled, “Raising Peaceful Children.”  One thing that was mentioned is how adults frequently relate to children these days is through sarcasm.

I have said this in other blog posts, and I will say it again:  Children do not need sarcasm at ANY age.  Small children do not understand sarcasm (but they will imitate it, and then parents wonder why their children are speaking to them so disrespectfully!)  Teenagers have enough of it on their own without you adding to it!  Children and adults of all ages truly need you to use your words as the pearls they are!

Many adults joke about the amount of sarcasm they use (“Hey, I had to have my soul removed to make room for all this sarcasm!”) and it also appears to be more prevalent in some parts of the United States than others.  Sorry Northeasterners, I am from the Northeast and I find that up there people are sarcastic without even thinking about it.  It just seems to be how everyone speaks.  It can be challenging to change this engrained and entrenched communication patterns.  However, let’s try!

I have a challenge for you today:

Just for today, let’s think about communicating in real ways with our children, our spouses, our family members and our friends.  Let’s eliminate sarcasm and speak to one another they way we should.  Let’s tell each other directly what we need.  We are all unique individuals and  no matter how well we know one another, we cannot expect others to fully understand our own individuality and read our minds!  Ask for what you need from others!  Make a request!  All that can happen is that person may say no!

Just for today, let’s try to listen more than we speak.  Let’s try to let people come to their own conclusions and ideas rather than force-feeding a solution.  Let’s help children who under the age of 9 come up with solutions to problems with other children through modeling, through example and through help rather than just telling them to “work it out”.

Just for today, let’s try to be compassionate and open to the world and not so jaded.  The world is still a beautiful place, even if you have forgotten that it is so.

Just for today, let’s slow down enough so we have time with our children.  Let’s ask for help so we don’t have to take our children to 4 different stores to run errands.  Schedule time to just be present.  Play a game with your children, and enjoy them!

Just for today, let’s evaluate whether or not the amount of things we are doing inside and outside the home is truly feasible for any one human being and let’s brainstorm ways to stop.

Just for today, let’s limit our time with the screens and go be with our family members. 

Just for today, let’s use our words with each other like pearls and remember that we are all tender and precious human beings.

Love to you all,

Carrie

Common Toddler Challenges and How to Solve Them

Common Toddler Challenges:

“Into Everything”:

Options:

  • Child-proof, child-proof
  • Model how to explore fragile things with your help and put away
  • Keep less things out, access to art supplies, toys, etc should truly be limited

Your Ideas:

Picky Eating:

Options:

  • Rule out a physical cause; check food allergies and sensitivities
  • Limit high-fat and high-sugar choices, have many healthy choices
  • Look at your child’s food intake over a week, not just one day
  • Have a schedule/rhythm for mealtime and snack time  and sit down with your child to eat in an unhurried manner
  • Serve smaller portions – your child’s stomach is the size of their fist
  • Serve your child’s favorite foods as a side dish to a main meal
  • Do not feel ambivalent about your child’s ability to eat what you serve
  • Allow an option to have toast or cereal for one night a week
  • Try frozen vegetables, such as peas and corn right from the bag or raw veggies with dip if your child is old enough and this is not a choking hazzard
  • Let the kids have a vegetable garden – children often will eat what they have grown
  • Start calling green veggies “brain food”
  • Sneak veggies and fruits into smoothies, or finely grate or chop and mix into foods the child likes
  • Fill a muffin tray or ice cube tray with different healthy kinds of snackable foods that the child can pick from
  • Model good eating yourself – eat a wide variety of foods!

Your Own Ideas:

Poor Sleeper:

  • Rule out physical problems  – many children had reflux when they were younger and are off of medications by the time they are a year or so, do make sure reflux has not reared its head again.  Check www.pager.org for more details regarding gastro-esophageal disease.
  • Educate yourself regarding normal sleep behavior – segmented sleep throughout the night was the norm until the Industrial Revolution
  • Expect disruptions in sleep around change, stresses, developmental milestones
  • Try a more consistent routine during the day calming and soothing techniques for naptime and bedtime
  • Try lots of daytime sunlight and dim the lights after sundown; put your house to sleep after dinner
  • Limit afternoon over-stimulation, be home and have a consistent routine where things are structured around getting ready toward sleep
  • Look at the foods your child eats
  • Hug, sleep, hold your child – parent them to sleep
  • Co-sleep
  • Remember that many toddlers and preschoolers are poised for an early nap and an early (6:30 to 7:30 PM) bedtime – sometimes we just miss the window!
  • Watch out for TV and other media exposure
  • Many normal, health co-sleeping children do not sleep a 7 to 9 hour stretch until they are 3 or 4 years old.

Nurses all the time:

Options:

  • Review normal nursing developmental milestones – 1 and 2 year olds do nurse frequently!
  • Check to see if there are stressors, changes, developmental milestones coming into play
  • Evaluate at what other times your child gets your complete attention
  • Perhaps your child is ready for a more consistent routine, more and varied things to do, more physical activity outside
  • Keep a consistent rhythm to the day and night but varied playthings available
  • Limit your own phone and computer time as this is when many children want to nurse!  LOL!

Your Own Ideas:

Refuses bath:

Options:

  • Use bubble bath, toys
  • If she fears soap in her eyes, use swimming goggles or sun visor
  • Try bath in the morning instead of at night
  • Try a shower
  • Get in tub with child
  • If child fearful of drain, can drain tub after child out of tub or after child  leaves room

Bites adult:

Options:

  • Do not take it personally, do not over-react
  • Most common between 18 months and 2 and a half years
  • Re-direct behavior
  • It is not okay for your child to hurt you!
  • Do not bite for biting!

Your Own Ideas:

Bites other child:

Options:

  • Watch child closely during playtime but realize children of this age do not need many playdates if any at all – limit the exposure and situations you are putting your child in!
  • Give attention to the victim
  • Usually biting stops by age 4

Your Own Ideas:

Slaps faces:

Options:

  • Re-direct behavior
  • Do not hit for hitting
  • Model non-aggression

Your Own Ideas:

Demanding, exacting, easily frustrated

Options:

  • Review normal developmental milestones and behavior
  • Check how many choices you are giving and how many words you are using and use LESS
  • Try to get in a lot of outside time
  • Go back to the basics of rhythm, sleep, warm foods, nourishing simple stories and singing

Your Own Ideas:

Will not get dressed or put on shoes:

Options:

  • Plan ahead and use easy to put on clothing, check for tags, seams
  • Sing a song, look for body parts, dress by a window
  • Dress together
  • Put clothes on when you arrive at destination

Your Own Ideas:

Running Away in Public Places :

Options:

  • Limit the number of public places you take child
  • Bring along a second adult to help if possible

Your Own Ideas:

Temper Tantrums:

  • It is OK to feel angry or frustrated; accept the feeling
  • Look for the triggers – hungry, tired, thirsty, hot/cold, over-stimulated
  • Try to avoid situations that set your child up to fail
  • Give YOURSELF a moment to get centered and calm
  • Remove yourself and child from scene if possible (if a public place)
  • Can get down with child and rub back or head if child will allow,  can just be there
  • Once child has calmed down, can nurse, give him a hug, get a snack or drink
  • If child is mainly upset and gets wants you near but you cannot touch child, consider doing something with your hands to keep that peaceful, centered energy in the room!  Hold the space for your child!
  • Do NOT talk – for most children this just escalates things!
  • If child is okay with being picked up, can go outside for a distraction

Your Own Ideas:

Refuses Car Seat

Options:

  • Let child have a bag of “car toys” that can be played with as soon as seat belt is buckled
  • Have a contest who can get in the fastest
  • Be a policman, fireman, truck driver

Your Own Ideas:

Roughness with Pets:

  • Model gentle behavior for child with pet
  • Child can help do things for pet (but remember, a child younger than 12 does not have the physical and mental capabilities to fully take care of an animal!)
  • Separate pet and child

Your Own Ideas:

Aggressive Behavior:

  • Try to understand need or trigger beneath the behavior
  • Have a rule such as we hit, we sit – Child must sit by you
  • Help the children involved get  their needs met  by structuring turns, etc.
  • If fighting happens with one friend, you may have to have them stop playing
  • together for a time.
  • If the hitting involves a new baby or young sibling, your first goal is to protect the baby
  • Have a “calm chair” or “calm place” with books, drawing materials where everyone can go together until they are calmed down.
  • Your child may need way less playdates, time outside of the home than you think – be very careful and clear that the places you are bringing your child are truly for them and not for you!  If you need times with other mothers, focus on getting bedtime down so you may be able to go out after your child is asleep and have some adult time!

Your Own Ideas:

Separation Anxiety:

  • Do not force your child to jump into situations he is nervous about – allow him to watch from the sidelines for awhile, and respect his choices.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to take small steps toward independence
  • Do not overprotect your child – do not be the hovercraft
  • Acknowledge and respect your child’s feelings
  • Give your child permission to stay with you – “You can stay here as long as you want to, or you can play and come back for a big hug.”
  • Allow the clingyness to run its course – it may be developmentally normal, or it may come out in a time of stress or change
  • Give your child something of yours to hold on to and keep close
  • Reassure your child by being confident you can walk 10 feet from her and it really is OK – If you say, “Don’t worry, I will be right here if you need me” implies there is something to worry about! Try positive, quiet phrases.
  • Again, I truly feel children in the toddler years are NOT meant to be away from their families and that we as a society really push the classes, lessons, independence of this age – Please do be careful the things you are doing are really for your child and not for you and not because “other people are doing it”!

Your Own Ideas:

Tooth Brushing:

Options:

  • Start early
  • Model good dental habits yourself
  • Make it fun – try electric toothbrushes, an egg timer, different kinds of toothpaste
  • Use the dentist as the authority on how many times a day to brush the teeth
  • Talk to the dentist regarding frequency of cleaning, putting sealants on the teeth
  • “Look” for sugar bugs or parts of food from dinner in a playful way, count teeth while brushing

Your Own Ideas:

Resources:

  • Ames, Louise Bates. Your One-Year-Old.
  • Ames. Louise Bates. Your Two-Year-Old.
  • Budd, Linda. Living With the Active Alert Child.
  • Bumgarner, Norma Jane. Mothering Your Nursing Toddler.
  • Cohen, Lawrence. Playful Parenting.
  • Coloroso, Barbara. Kids are Worth It!
  • Dettwyler, Katherine. “Sleeping Through the Night.” http://www.kathydettwyler.org
  • Flower, Hilary. Adventures in Gentle Discipline.
  • Kohn, Alfie. Unconditional Parenting.

As always, take what works for you and your family. Thanks for reading,

Carrie

Help! My Child Doesn’t Seem to Know Right From Wrong!

I have gotten several questions from local mothers lately regarding their (usually four year old) lying or stealing…..And the mothers are rather frantic about this, and are convinced their children are going to grow up to be juvenile delinquents.

First of all, let’s take a brief peek back at the four-year-old, (because it usually is a four-year old):  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/04/fantastic-four-year-old/

Secondly, let’s veer to what Steiner says for a moment.  In his lectures in the book, “Soul Economy”, he is very specific and clear that the child can only start to distinguish between right and wrong starting somewhere around five years of age.  Traditional childhood development resources such as The Gesell Institute states that a child will “blame” every one else for what happens when they do something “wrong” – ie, “You made me do that!”  In the Gesell Institute book “Your Seven-Year-Old” remarks, “Seven is definitely concerned about the wrongness of lying and cheating, especially in others.  He is somewhat less likely to blame others for his misdeeds than earlier, but is quick to tatttle about any breach of the ethical code on the part of his parents and friends.  If he himself missteps, he is very ready with an alibi:  “I didn’t mean to,”  “I forgot,”  “I was just going to do it,”  “That’s what I meant.”  So what are you asking of your four-year-old?

From  a Waldorf perspective we believe that the child under the age of 7 doesn’t have that individual consciousness yet, that a young child is in an imitative phase and that a young child is also in a phase of being physically in their bodies.  In an example to illustrate this, Steiner spoke in one of his lectures about distraught parents who came to him because their under seven child was “stealing” money from a place where they normally stored it in the house.  Steiner pointed out that the child had seen the mother take money from this place to pay for things, and that the child was simply imitating the mother.  The Gesell Institute points out that even a seven-year-old is likely to pick up and play with whatever catches their eye – yes, a seven-year-old!

So here we go back to the question I pose nearly every post:  Are you expecting your four-year-old to act like a ten-year-old?  You cannot parent an under 7 child with verbal directives from a chair.  Do not “ask” your four-year-old to do something, leave the room, come back and ask”, “Why didn’t you do why I asked?”  They are going to say, “I did!”  This is NORMAL from a developmental perspective.

The other issue is to know and understand when to make a BIG deal over things and when not to – yes, we need to guide behavior.  But, we probably need to guide less of this then you think, at least in words.   We tend as parents to be oh-so-serious about these issues in the three, four year –old.  If you “Head Talk” to your under six child about lying, stealing, etc it will not make much of an impact at all because of the above things we mentioned developmentally – if you are physically there to help your child follow through with what you ask, if you do not draw so much individual consciousness to them at such an early age, if you remember normal childhood development, then your physical presence will hold the space and decrease these behaviors.

Your child is learning how to be a moral person in their early childhood and needs your strong, and warm physical presence in the Early Years.  In Waldorf, we would work with this through less words, and more doing.   More physical presence, more being there with the child, more being present.  And knowing what to make a big deal of and knowing when to clean up the mess with the child and  not talk it to death!  

Please re-think your overly verbal and head-oriented approach to the child in the younger years as they develop their ethics and sense of morality.  Reassure your child they are loved no matter what behavior that they try on, but SHOW them that you are the adult in this situation, you have the control, and you can help them by being there.

In Peace,

Carrie

Boys Under Age 7 and Hitting

(I wrote this about boys, because a lot of mothers have been coming to me with their “boy challenges” lately, but of course ALL small children live in their bodies and can be physical when frustrated and angry.  This is not so much about hitting as part of a temper tantrum though, for that post please refer to “Smearing Peas” found at this link: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/13/smearing-peas/ 

On to the post:

Is hitting acceptable?  Absolutely not.

Is it fun to be the referee of hitting in your family?  No, but it is necessary!

Is hitting a phase that may just go away in boys under 7?  Perhaps, but from what I personally  have seen with the more immature, physical kinds of boys is that hitting starts with frustration and lack of words around 2 or 2 and a half, and just continues through the ages with special exacerbations at age 4 and later at age 6.  The increased physical aggression at age 6 is often difficult for parents to handle calmly, so I urge you to go back in this blog and read the four posts I wrote about the six-year old.  This is an important time!

So, the question becomes, what to do with hitting?

1.  The first place, as always, is to start with yourself. How is the tone in your home?  What is going on with all members of the home?  Who is in a stage of developmental disequilibrium right now?  Are you and your partner happy or upset with each other?  Are you getting any time for you to re-build your own energy reserves for happy parenting?

2.  How much outside time is your little one getting?  Are there other issues going on – food or environmental allergens, lack of sleep, giving up naps, how is the rhythm in your house? Have you been going too many places?  Have you rotated toys within your home lately, spruced up the playroom, changed the sensory table out with something new?

This, of course, does not immediately solves the hitting problem, but it does give one a few things to think about and possibly try to change to see an effect.

When hitting happens:

I have seen families try all kinds of approaches from reasoning, saying “We don’t hit in our family,” time-outs, ignoring some of it……Which of course begs the question, What to do?

Every family is different of course,and every child is different as well, but here are a few thoughts.  See what resonates with you!

First of all, Steiner said it is possible to awaken a child’s sense of what is right or wrong only towards the fifth year. 

Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley write on page 118 of “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children from Birth to Seven,”If we try to explain too much to children, to reason with them about what we want them to do or not do, we prematurely awaken their capacities of reason and intellect and pull them o too early  out of the dreamier world of childhood. Through imitation, they start trying to out-reason us and become extremely good at it.”

This may not mean much when they are 4, but it will mean much more to you once your child is 6! 

My first thought is with a child under the age of 6, is to immediately turn it into a hit, you must be by me kind of rule. A time-in.

My second thought with the child under the age of 5 is to attempt to turn it into a more acceptable physical activity, and perhaps to approach it with pure distraction.  When a small child hears, “We don’t hit in this family,”  over and over it seems to become less and less effective.  (You can agree or disagree here, LOL).  With a very small 2 or 3 year old, I like the idea of giving them something they can hit or a physical activity.  If they hit, you immediately pick them up and bring them to a spot where they can throw bean bags at a line on the floor.  Not a guilt trip, not a bunch of words going to their heads that they really don’t get and doesn’t help them control their arms anyway, but physical motion.

Dads are also great at sometimes defusing this into not only physical activity, but humor as well.  Sometimes we are so convinced that if we do not seriously  pound  into our little 2 and 3 year olds the “wrongness” of this behavior, then it will just snowball into something bigger and bigger as they grow.  I think this is the wrong attitude to take in many ways.  Again, hitting is not acceptable,  but it takes time until children can express their emotions in acceptable ways.  It is a process, and not something you can also quickly fix.  That being said, I do not believe the right thing to do is to ignore the behavior, because it is not a behavior you want to see your child using in a social setting.

Some Waldorf teachers take the child’s hands and bathe them in  a special healing water, dry the hands gently and paint suns or something like that on the back of the hands to remind the child of their gentle hands.  Some Waldorf teachers will wrap the child’s hands in a silk and tell them that hands that are warm and strong will not hit. 

Most of all, it is important to listen to the child and hear the child’s frustrations.  You don’t need to reason, just listen.  Give your child your attention if you think this will help your child. (See below for another mother’s different perspective).

If the child is four or five, I think gently just saying, “We can use our hands to (peel these carrots for dinner, grate potatoes, knead bread, whatever)”   can be effective.  Exhausting for the parent?  Absolutely, sometimes!  But, real work is the cure for violence in small children under the age of 7. 

For children age 6 and over, I think you can be a bit more direct.  This is the time for the  notion, “We are gentle in this family.”  It is also the time for you to be the authority.

As far as hitting between siblings, I think many times, way too often, we leave our children alone in the guise of benign neglect and letting them “work it out” when they truly do not have the skills to work it out.  I actually am all for benign neglect, but a child under the age of 7 does not have the skills to work it out with someone much bigger or much smaller than they are.  They need your help.  You can help them use their words. (But again, I feel this is for a child older than the ages of the children where many parents are using these techniques!  Remember, do not put the cart before the horse with your little 2, 3 and 4 year old!)

Some other suggestions I have heard other mothers use:

  • Make sure the “victim” who was hit receives more attention than the negative attention the hitter is getting.  Hitting can be a way to get attention!
  • Make sure you are not hitting when you play with your child, or your children are not play hitting one another.  It then becomes confusing for the child when hitting is okay, and when  it is not okay.
  • Give your child tasks that involve being gentle physically with someone else – giving foot rubs, back rubs, those kinds of tasks.  Give them a chance to have gentle hands!
  • Some sources I have read advises parents to walk away from a child who is hitting you; I would love to hear parents’ experiences with this.  In my family, this would not have worked for us and would have led to more hitting, but I am sure there are families where this worked.  Please do share if this worked for you.
  • Nancy Samalin writes in her book “Loving Each One Best: A Caring and Practical Approach to Raising Siblings” to not intervene unless the fighting is physically or emotionally hurtful.  She writes that many children fight because they are bored, because they want you in the middle.  I am not sure I agree with this for children under the age of 7 who are fighting.  I do not think children under the age of 7 often have the skills to deal with this.  If you look back on the four and six year old posts, you will see that most developmental experts on childhood agree that the social skills of four and six year olds are poor; aggressive even.  Not a time to let them “work it out”, in my opinion.
  • With fighting siblings, never ask “Who started it?”

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts!

Carrie

When A Child Balks At Rhythm

Some mothers have asked me what to do when my child balks at our rhythm or a particular activity within our rhythm?  I have several thoughts about this subject,

First of all, in general, if rhythm is new to you, start small around mealtimes and sleeping times and build up from there.  It may be that your child is balking at the rhythm because there is just too much going on that is new and it is all taking place too fast.  It may take several months or longer to really get in a full rhythm of the day and the week.  Your seasonal rhythm may take even longer than that as you start small with festivals and then add things to each individual festival each year or even add festivals each year that you have never celebrated before.

As I mentioned above, some of this depends on age.  If your child is under the age of seven, I would respectfully ask that you look to yourself first.  Are you being rather ADHD about your rhythm and starting things and not finishing them before you are moving on to something else?  Is there one particular activity that is problematic and is this activity one you yourself enjoys or one that you secretly dread?  Your child can pick up on this feeling even if you do not verbalize it!  Is it the right season to be doing whatever activity you have planned – for example, many mothers have told me they do not like to knit in summer.  If this is you, it may be hard for you to teach knitting to your first grader in July!   Is the rhythm so complex that you can’t even carry it?   A rhythm is a gentle flow to the day of in-breath and out-breath activities.  This should include more of an order, blocks of time than a minute-by-minute, play-by-play kind of schedule.  So, the first place to start with a balking child is with yourself.

If your child is under the age of 7 and your child is balking about the rhythm, here are some ideas.  Parents have asked me, “ What do I do when it is gardening time, and my child just won’t get their shoes on to go outside?  They don’t want to garden then.” 

There are no blanket answers for this per say, but here are some ideas:

  • With a small child, the rhythm and the outcomes of things that happen within the rhythm are mainly carried by YOU.  So, if your child doesn’t want to garden, and he or she has gone to the bathroom and had a snack and is generally okay, perhaps YOU garden and they join in, or they just play while you garden.  You may only get a small amount of practical work in.  Rudolf Steiner said somewhere in his lectures that a child seeing even 15 minutes of quality work was worth this effort and time. 
  • The other question to this is:  have you built in time for preparing for the activity and cleaning up from the activity?  If we always put our gardening pants and shoes on while we sing a song about gardening, then it is habit to wear shoes.  Building up anticipation through preparation for a task, singing about the task, and  having an allotment of time to clean-up from a task  is just as important to the child as the task itself.
  • Also, try to look at your task from the child’s point of view.  Yes, the task is for you and being carried by you, but it should also include child-friendly elements.  For gardening, this might include watering, planting large seeds a child can handle, digging for worms.  There should be songs and stories!  The practical work of life should be fun!
  • A child under the age of 7 is at the height of imitation.  Imitate with happiness the task at hand, use songs and wonder, and the activity will be fun. If you start the activity by saying, “Now we will go garden,” and the child envisions hours of you pulling weeds, they may very well not want  to do it!
  • The other question that always begs to be asked is:  Does your rhythm need to be changed?  Maybe your child really wants a story before you go outside.  Can you make up a story about a worm, or a butterfly, or gnomes helping to put the seed babies to bed?  Maybe your child needs a game before they go outside or maybe a game once they are outside before they can settle down enough to do a small task at hand.  Go back again and think your in-breath and out-breath of activities.

For a child over the age of 7, I would think not only of these things, but also the worthiness of authority for this age group, as according to Steiner himself.  Your very gesture and mood permeate the task and the rhythm and sometimes the answer to this is just working with the child’s will to complete something.  This does not have to be as harsh as it sounds, but many seven and ten year olds will grumble at the prospect of doing work, but then are very proud of their accomplishments indeed if you can just help them persevere through it!

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.