Renewal: Rhythm

So, we will be taking these forty days between Easter and Ascension as our time to discuss all things related to the renewal of your life and your family culture.  For today, I want to circle back around to rhythm.

I think many Waldorf homeschoolers are feeling this sense of renewal regarding rhythm!    Melisa Nielsen had a lovely post here about “Rhythm Or Routine”: http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2010/04/rhythm-or-routine.html .   Everything she says is right on!  I especially liked the part where Melisa talks about developing our own will enough to STAY HOME.  When you have children under the age of eight, it is important that you firmly entrench children in the home.  It is important that they learn how to create their own play and fun at home instead of relying on going, going, going, to stimulate themselves and to change their emotions.

In a family, there is a daily rhythm, a weekly rhythm, and a yearly rhythm.  This is there whether you create it or not, so I feel it is worth it to take an intentional look at these areas along with parenting.

The yearly rhythm is celebrated through the festivals of the year and is seen as a yearly process of in-breath and out-breath. How you implement this is up to you, I find it lovely to celebrate with the liturgical year of our church.

For a weekly rhythm, one must decide how many days a week one is going to go outside of your home/yard/neighborhood (because even if we stay home we still go outside for many hours a day!).  This is important for small children, to be home,  and it is also important in homeschooling once you reach the grades..  If you are interested in homeschooling, I would say it is very difficult, if not impossible,  to throw homeschooling on top of a completely chaotic flow of events to the day, and also on top of a chaotic house that is cluttered and dirty.  No, your home does not have to be perfect, we actually live in our houses because we are home!  However, keeping the house up and running is part of the rhythm to it all, and in order to do that, we have to be home.  We need to plan when to get groceries, what to cook,  when to do laundry, when to run errands,  so that not everything is completely last minute.  Therefore, it is never too early, nor too late,  to create a bit of an order or flow that suits your family life.

For a small child, the weekly rhythm includes what PRACTICAL work takes place when and planning on your part regarding HOW they may be included.  In cleaning, can they scrub the bathtub whilst taking a bath?  Can they manually grind a cup of flour to add to more flour to bake bread?  Can they use water to clean the sidewalk whilst you plant flowers? 

For a daily rhythm, this is where one needs to think about the flow of the day for times of in-breath and times of out-breath.  For example, when will rest and meal times will be, and when bedtimes and awake times will be?  If the baby needs a nap, will they sleep in a sling?  If you put them to sleep in a room, where will your older children be and what will they be doing?  When are the outside times and when is it time to tell a story?

But most importantly, how will you show reverence and the sacred parts of life throughout these rhythms of life?  When will there be singing and joy, when will there be silence, when will there be time to go outside and look at one small bug or bird and listen and feel the wind?  Reverence and gratitude is the thread that winds itself through all of these yearly, weekly, and daily rhythms. 

Many blessings during these forty days of renewal,

Carrie

Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. :)

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Discipline For Preschoolers 3-5 Years”: “Discipline Without Distress”

We have followed the anthroposophical book “Tapestries” on this blog, which is a look at the seven-year cycles through the adult life span, and we are slowly making our way through this book.  I want to finish this book up as I would like to move forward to our new book soon!  Stay tuned for a surprise announcement as to what that next book will be!

Judy Arnall kicks off this chapter by reminding us of the world of the preschooler.  Children this age: are  learning about reality versus fantasy (although I would argue that elements of that fantasy world hang on strongly until the nine-year change; how many six and seven year olds still believe in Santa; how many still have that innate ability to feel one with nature?  But I digress..);   are having experiences with the natural consequences of their behavior:are  becoming aware of power and are  learning about that by engaging in power struggles (please do NOT confuse this with willful manipulation or defiance!  If you need a primer on “defiance” in the under seven crowd please see this post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/ ); beginning to learn about socially acceptable behavior; beginning to learn about rules (Carrie’s note: the knowledge of right and wrong really begins at about age five and it is just beginning; your three and four year olds  still don’t have a great grasp on it all!); are engaging in fantasy play and may have imaginary friends and such; may lie as a result of wishful thinking and fantasy but NOT MALICE (remember, four year olds are Master Boasters and Exaggerators, not liars! :))

She runs through the developmental milestones for age three (here are posts on this blog about that: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/peaceful-life-with-a-three-year-old/   and this one: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/18/three-year-old-behavior-challenges/   and realistic expectations for a three year old here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/28/realistic-expectations-day-number-ten-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/).  She mentions improved appetite, using a fork (although I know many a four year old who would rather eat with their hands :)), very, very active; may drop afternoon nap, can take off all clothes and put on simple clothes; imitates speech of others, can peddle a tricycle.  Judy mentions a three year old can play cooperatively with children. I disagree, unless there are other adults to model off of and hold that space  or older children about to help carry it all. There is a reason school used to start around age five!   She mentions children this age  are beginning to express feelings with words, that three year olds are egocentric in thought and action with some empathy beginning to develop, anxious to please, accepts self as an individual.  The author also writes that no logical reasoning is present, a child this age believes inanimate objects are real, and  that “mythical and magical explanations are readily accepted for natural phenomena”, attention span is about fifteen minutes. 

For the four and five year old milestones, she notes such things as proficient with fork, spoon and cup (and again, I know many four and five year olds who would be  very content to eat with their fingers :)); no naps but sleeps 12 hours at night; very active with skipping and hopping on one foot; can throw overhand, can ride a scooter or two wheeled bike with training wheels (and some can ride a bike without training wheels as well is my note); hates to lose games, beginning of sex identification; has beginning emotions tied to social interaction with others such as guilt, insecurity, envy, confidence, humility; begins to respect simple rules (Carrie’s note is that four is the height of many out of bounds behavior, see the defiance post!); tensional outlets can be high, very honest and blunt; don’t really understand cause and effect at all; asks many questions about everything; beginning to distinguish between edible and non-edible substances; sentences are three and four words long; memory is rote and must start from the beginning to remember items in their order such as numbers or song verses; often confuses sequences of events; attention span is about 20 minutes.  Judy Arnall writes, “Does not recognize limits.  Just beginning to learn them.”  “Learning self-control but takes much practice.”  For further information about the four year old, see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/08/discipline-for-the-four-year-old/  and for the five-year-old see here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/    

She writes an UNHELPFUL parenting behavior is “Expecting more reason, understanding, and logic at this stage.  Not within the child’s capacity yet.”  Ways to parent helpfully for a child of this age include responding to questions simply, teaching and modeling appropriate behavior, talking about a limit (and I would add along with physical re-direction; words alone are not going to do it!); having predictable routines and rituals; nurturing child through touch, words, actions, feelings; parental self-care and all the helpful behaviors she listed in the babies and toddlers chapters.

THE MOST IMPORTANT DISCIPLINE TOOL FOR THIS AGE ( I would say outside of CONNECTION) is the ability to set a boundary and stay with that boundary.  You must honor your words, you must have thought things through ahead of time, and if you agree to do something, you must do it.  Judy does mention, “Again, at this age, use as few words as possible.”  (page 248). This backs up my view that we work with the BODIES of small children.    The author advocates choices; I would say many children do not do well with choices at this age and become frustrated as they pick something and then want the other thing, etc.  Please do think about what works for your child.  “Tell your children exactly what specific descriptive behavior you expect.”  I would add, SHOW THEM, do it WITH them.  This is important.  Judy Arnall advocates asking reflective questions; I think less questions for this age group actually.  The author talks about how changing the environment, so effective for younger ages, still works wonders for this age group.  Other helpful tools mentioned include parental time-outs, being polite and firm and kind, picking your battles and giving positive feedback.  There are other tools the author mentions, but I picked those out to highlight. 

Modeling is very important!  Judy Arnall writes, “Watch especially how you treat other people, from your partner all the way to the grocery clerk who gave you the wrong change.  Your children are picking up tone of voice, words, actions, and reactions, and they will copy them.”  “Modeling is such a powerful force, that it’s included as a tool in all age categories.  In fact, if all parents did was model correct behavior and didn’t correct their child on any negative behavior, children would be keen to learn how to behave properly in society, based on how the adults act.” Love this!

There is so much more in this chapter, including a checklist of natural consequences, a discussion regarding preschoolers and self-control, power struggles, how to nurture your child’s creativity, stages of play and how friendship evolves, timeless toys for all age groups, strategies to prepare your child for the arrival of a new baby, remedies for sibling rivalry, how to resolve issues without resentment, manners, chores or allowances or both?,  building a healthy self-esteem.

This is a great chapter, pick what resonates with you.  Parent with COURAGE!  You can do this!  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/05/parenting-with-courage/

Moving along to the six to twelve year old!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Number Two Way To Discipline A Child

The number two way to discipline a child under the age of 7 (and older!)  is by having the child make restitution.  Not when everyone is upset, not when everyone is crying, not when everyone is angry.  That is when you need CONNECTION first (see this post regarding connection: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/22/the-number-one-way-to-discipline-a-child/ )  But, after, everyone has calmed down, then you sit down and take up a paper and crayons and draw.  And when the child comes to see what you are doing you can quietly say (but NO GUILT! NO LECTURES! NO BOOK ABOUT THE INCIDENT!)  “I am drawing a picture for your sister because she was very sad earlier.”    Or quietly start to fix that toy and when the child comes you say, “Could you help me glue this part?  I am fixing this for your brother.”

I think this technique would work well for children that are about four or four and a half up.  For children younger than that, really they need the connection part most and as they grow older they will learn about restitution.  Of course, they can help hold an ice pack or watch you fix something though.

The point is, though, first SPACE….everyone needs to calm down.  I am against time-out for children, unless you want to take a time-out for yourself.  Nothing can be accomplished when everyone is yelling and screaming and you must be calm in  order to guide and to teach.  Then, connection.  Take that sobbing child on your lap, hold that child.  The boundary is NOT changing, the boundary is still there, but the connection is there.  The child is adapting to the boundary. (If the boundary keeps adapting to them, they are learning nothing).  Then later, when things are better, make the restitution.

Those are the keys you need for success and for guiding.  Our goal is to raise wonderful adults, not to punish a small child over an incident they will not remember years from now.  But over time, it will become engrained in them to approach conflict with a means to  provide space, to connect and to problem-solve.

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Number One Way to Discipline A Child

….is through connection and attachment, not through separation.  This is why threats, time-outs, and other traditional discipline methods fail.

Attachment and connection with your child is the number one way to guide a child.  You can sure  hold them when they cry because Grandma can’t come to dinner.  You can sure hold them as they learn it is hard sometimes to share.  You can help them adapt, but you cannot help them if you send them into a time-out.  You are not changing the realities of life, you are not  changing the boundary, but you are recognizing the very human struggle that goes into learning something.  You are  recognizing  the strong bond between the child and the parent. 

How do you connect?  A young child is in  their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart.  Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable.

The relationship with this child is what carries the discipline.  Help your child to learn and to grow; you are raising a child to become an adult of brilliance.

Peaceful guiding,

Carrie

HELP! My Children Don’t Listen!

This is such a common complaint that I hear from parents.  Of course, what parents mean when they say, “My child doesn’t listen” is really “My child is not obeying me or doing what I asked.”

Some mothers will say, “Well, Carrie, I asked Jimmy to put his coat on four times and he just runs away”  or “Samson won’t let me brush his teeth.”  Some small children can tell you exactly WHY they shouldn’t do something, like hitting or biting someone, but then they turn right around and do it anyway!

WHEW!

Let’s return back to some basics with small children:

1.  Return yourself to a peaceful state of mind, and realize that this issue is going to have to be dealt with in a repetitive manner in about the same tone you would use to say, “Could you please pass me the pepper?”  Try to erase the notion that you and your child are on opposite sides here, and foster the notion that this is a situation that you are going to help and guide and support and love your child through.  Try this back post on anger:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

Try and connect with your child and cultivate that warmth, that love, that joy and that delight in that child during times when things like this are not happening.  Try to go in at night and see your child for as small and innocent as they really are, and meditate or pray over them.  It really does help!  Connection is THE most important and primary ingredient of guiding a child – connection in the moment BEFORE you ask the child something, connection in HOW you ask it, connection at other times throughout the day.  CONNECTION is the key.  Try “Connection Parenting” by Pam Leo for help and also Gordon Neufeld’s “Hold On To Your Kids!” for further information.

2.  Think through the situation and what is underneath it.  Don’t ask them, but just think!  For example,  for not wanting to put a coat on, is it not wanting to leave, is it that there is no rhythm built in to when we leave the house and the child is in the middle of playing, is it that the child is being silly and needs  to get some energy out?  Mind you, none of these are excuses for behavior.  It is just sort of probing the waters and seeing what other things are going on. It may help you adjust some things so things flow more smoothly.

3.  Can you use less commands?  Can you start the activity? For example, if you just go to the bathroom and start brushing your teeth and when your child follows you into the bathroom can you just hand them a toothbrush?  Hum a song.  If they run away, can you just wait a moment and then calmly try again?  Not by calling them, but maybe by  finding them under the bed and  calmly and gently  pulling them out, carrying them to the bathroom with a funny accented voice that The Tooth Investigator must check your teeth,etc.  Can you put on your coat and then help your child into theirs with a song?  Not by screaming out, time to get your coat on Jimmy! from the bottom of the stairs.  Go up and get Jimmy!  And be flexible – can Jimmy put his coat on in the car?  When you get there?

Check what tools for gentle discipline you have in your tool belt:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/29/top-10-must-have-tools-for-gentle-discipline/

Can you shift them into fantasy or creative movement?

And you might be thinking,  that’s great Carrie for situations where I can be flexible, but my little one hitting or biting is not a flexible situation!  You are right!  Which leads us to…..

4.  Understanding that even if a child understands why not to do something, they don’t have the impulse control of an adult.  Restitution is most important in  the cases of biting, hitting, breaking a sibling’s toy.  “Janie was sad when you bit her.” (to a three year old and up aged child).  “Let’s draw her a beautiful picture together.”

Also, divorce the offending body part from the child –divorcing  the mouth, the hands, the feet –  from the child who will take the “You bad child, you hurt your sister!” into incredible self-awareness and shame because they are still small themselves.  Try, “Uh-oh, your hands forgot what they were doing!  Come and use those hands for peeling these potatoes for dinner!”  “Your feet forgot what they were doing!  Come and kick this ball!”  But never leave the restitution part out, the fact you are moving the energy of the mouth, the hands, the feet into practical work in no way makes up for the harm they caused by biting or hitting someone else.  Restitution is key.

Also, I do think in cases of siblings hitting or biting siblings, the child needs your connection and your love outside of the times of hitting or biting or whatnot.  Do they get time alone with you?  This is important as children grow.  Are all your children melding into one family unit of “The Children” or are there times alone with each of them, and times for each of them to be alone with Daddy as well?

Just a few thoughts today on these challenging discipline situations.

Love,

Carrie

More About Holding The Space

We have been having a conversation about this over at Donna Simmons’ forum, and it has raised many important questions about this concept.  Several great threads have popped up about holding the space, please do come join us!

One of the most interesting concerns to me, though, was a question that came up regarding if holding the space was somehow not authentic, and how do children learn about emotion and managing emotion if not from us? I started thinking that the corollary to this is sort of:   If we do all this inner work, then we will be calm all the time, right?

I love this!  To me, “holding the space”  does not mean we have The Valium House and we are deadened to the world.  You are holding the space for your child, the most intimate thing in your life outside of your partner, because you are the adult and you want to help your child. You may very well be angry, but you are stopping to try to hold your reactions in check so you don’t do something you will regret.  You are also doing this so you don’t pass on your baggage and check it into your child’s luggage! So maybe you go outside for a moment and come back if that is safe. Maybe you breathe. Essentially you are trying to take that moment to try not to be sucked into laying down on the floor and having a temper tantrum  yourself next to your two year old.  It is not at all about being a Valium Parent,  it is about being authentic and genuine but also dependable. The child will learn they can push for a boundary against you and you will not crumple to the floor and then the child develops themselves even further.

Holding the space also means you can rise above your own feelings in a way to be constructive. You can show the child how to fix it, how to make things better. You can show your child what to DO with those angry feelings. That is the important thing. When an emotion threatens to topple you into the abyss, how do you regain yourself and how do you make it better? That is the part the child needs to see, and because they live in their bodies, they need to know through movement and action, the doing, not in this reasoning talk that many parenting  books want to use. That comes at later ages!

Children under 7 DO have emotions! Of course!   I like how Kim John Payne describes it in his book “Simplicity Parenting“, how small children have just this pool of undifferentiated emotion and if you do venture to ask them how they feel they generally will say “bad”. They really don’t have that same consciousness to it that we do, but it is okay to describe what you see in the moment.  Sometimes when a child is upset or angry, we want so badly to fix it and sometimes the child just needs to feel it.  A touch, a look, can all be supportive.  Words cannot dam the flood!  Warmth on the level of the soul!  That is healing!

 
Again though, showing what one can do with these strong emotions  to transform it, to make things better is important.   We often want this sense of utopia for our children – peaceful, no conflict.  I think the best thing though is to show how to transform conflict  into something constructive, without a big speech about it.  Or even just seeing how we cry and move on.  How do you let go of things?  Can you show that?

Life with little ones is in the doing, and with the doing comes the power of transformation and potential for healing.

(Part of this post I originally wrote for a thread on the Waldorf At Home Forum, but it has been somewhat transformed like strong authentic emotions  :))

Love,

Carrie