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

Out Of The Frying Pan

….and into the fire I leap.  You can see my controversial opinion of the RIE movement that is making inroads into Waldorf Early Care here :  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2010/03/review-a-warm-and-gentle-welcome-a-wecan-publication.html

For those of you who have not heard of this movement, here is the beginning part of the review I wrote that explains what is happening:

A Review: “A Warm and Gentle Welcome: Nurturing Children from Birth to Age Three”

“This is the Gateways Series Five book which consists of a series of articles compiled from the work of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America RIE/Pikler Working Group. I bought this book because I am a Waldorf homeschooling mother with an extreme interest in the Early Years. Also, as a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist, I really wanted to understand more about the RIE/Pikler approach that is seems to be becoming part of the world of Waldorf for children from birth to age three.

Unfortunately, I found I had more questions than answers after reading this book than when I started.

The underlying assumption of this book is laid out in an article of Introduction by Trice Atchinson and Margaret Ris: that there is a growing conviction within the Waldorf movement to “respond to the needs of the times” (ie, child care for younger and younger children) and because Rudolf Steiner’s indications for working with children and adolescents in Waldorf schools had been put to practical use for many decades, little existed on how best to meet the needs of children at the very beginning of life – particularly in light of societal trends such as daycare, single parenting, dual working families and the isolation of at-home mothers.” Therefore, a working group associated with WECAN began to investigate Resources for Infant Educarers, or RIE, founded by Magda Gerber, as a resource for the child at the beginning of life.”

To read the whole review I wrote, please see the link above.  I have grave and serious concerns about this approach, which my review details.

For those of you looking at Waldorf early, early care (for birth to age three), please do a bit of research regarding this issue and see how you feel about it; really talk to the provider and see what approach they use within their care.  This way you can make the best decision for your family.

Blessings,

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

When Both Parents Need A Break

I hear the following scenario(s) a lot:  Mom and Dad have a preschooler; Mom is at home: Dad has a lot of commitments: Dad would like to have some time to himself; Mom would like some time to herself and therefore would like Dad to spend some time with preschool-aged child OR Dad would like to spend some time ALONE with Mom but Mom is very attached to their child and finds it difficult to leave.(And I know some mothers who feel Dad cannot handle their child and won’t leave child with Dad or child doesn’t seem to want to stay with Dad).  Whew!  Lots of different things going on here!

I have many thoughts on these scenarios; let’s see if I can sort them out bit by bit.

Scenario #1Dad has many commitments. Mom would like a break when Dad gets home but Dad is rather tapped out.

Here are some thoughts:

The first thing my husband said when I said, “Quick!  What comes into your head with this scenario?” was this:   “Life before children is not the same as life after children.  Can Dad back off on some of these commitments for these Early Years?”

Yup, he said that.  No prompting, just honesty!  I love that man!

So, Number One:  BOTH of you look honestly at your commitments  outside the home and ask is it essential or not?  What is essential right now is  raising your child.  That has an expiration date and the time to this child-raising is now.

Also, these times may call for tough choices if all these commitments are economically necessary.  Could you move to something smaller to live in?  Could you go to one car?  Could you cut back anywhere?

Okay, moms, before you get all happy over that (“See honey, I told you so!  You need to be home!”) please consider this:  Dad may need some time to switch gears prior to walking in the door and being handed a child. There may be several ways to handle this:   Dads, can you stop on the way home and work out?  Listen to something that settles you down on the commute home? Or Moms, can Dad have some time when he walks in the door to switch gears – sometimes feeding the children a snack or having a craft at the ready keeps the children from attacking Dad the minute he walks in the door.

And Moms, make home a place Dad wants to come home to.  If all you do is nag and complain, why would he want to be there?  Think about this, meditate on it, pray on it.

The other facets of this scenario to consider include these three things:

1. Many small children really only want their mothers at bedtime unless you have worked to make Dad the main bedtime person.  Bedtime may not be the best time for daddy-child relationship success and yet it is the time of the day when mothers are completely tapped out.

2. So, if the end of the day is everyone (including the adults)  falling apart, it may be your child is completely overtired.  If you have a three or four year old who is not napping, they most likely will be ready for sleep at 6:30 or 7. Stop trying to keep them up to see Dad get home from work at 8 PM unless your child gets up late in the morning.

3.  Moms, if you are that worn out at the end of the day, look back to your rhythm.  Does it have a balance of out-breath and in-breath?  Can you gear your whole afternoon toward bedtime?  Dinner in the crock pot so  you can spend a good amount of time outside in the afternoon?  Switch up the routine so your child has a nice warming bath with a lavender foot massage, warm food, warm bed?  Snore.

Scenario #2Dad would like some ALONE time with Mom, Mom is reluctant to be away from child.

I say this a lot  on this blog:  It is Attachment PARENTING, not just Attachment Mothering.  A relationship with your child is not a substitute for the intimate relationship with your spouse.  Check out the back posts on marriage here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/

and http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/08/parenting-as-partners/

and http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

However, I think there are many ways one can accomplish this without leaving your child with a babysitter.  Much of this hinges on an early bedtime though.

Intimacy needs to happen sooner rather than attempting two hours after a small child falls asleep and is likely to wake up.  This time needs to be a priority for both of you.  The crafting, the computer, the TV, the reading can wait – let those things be the things that are interrupted, not the special time that holds couples together!

Scenario #3 – Dad is ready for a outings with child; Mom and/or child not sure about child having an outing with just Dad.

Mothers, you have to feel secure.  If you loved this man enough to marry him and have children with him, (and assuming things have not changed and you still love and trust this man), please give Dad a chance to do things his way with his child.  You may not choose to take your child to Chik- fil- A for lunch, but if Dad does, let that be Their Thing.  Please do not micromanage their relationship.

Experiment.  Is it better if you leave the house and have Dad and child do something at home or is it better to have Dad and child go out of the house while you stay home?  Can Dad take child for a walk regularly to build up confidence on both sides of the coin before a big date out? 

The other question is how involved is Dad in regular day-to-day care in general – it is parenting by both Mom and Dad that count. 

Dads, be patient. Sometimes you have to get through “mommy-only” phases of development.  As our older two grew, my husband and I had a phrase called “PPW” (Preferred Parent of the Week).  Sometimes the PPW was him, sometimes it was me.  Sometimes it is hard not to take it all personally, but don’t, because it just is.  These phases come and go and pass.

And please, Dad pick things that are not too over–stimulating or crazy for the under-7 crowd.  An under-7 child would be just as happy going to see a construction site for free rather than a huge tour of the museum or a carnival.  Remember that under-7 children, while they love “new” and “special” don’t need to do everything under the sun whilst they are little.  New can be a walk where they see something new, a trip to a construction site, shooting hoops in the park…it does not have to be “big and better and best” to get a child’s attention. 

Just a few thoughts in this subject,

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

A Mouthodometer

(Many thanks to my dear friend Melissa for thinking up the concept of a mouthodometer!  Love to you!)

Okay, a mouthodemeter does not really exist, but wouldn’t it be great to have a little pedometer-type gadget that (instead of the number of steps one takes in a day) tracks  the number of words one uses?  Maybe it could have a shrill alarm when we exceed the word limit per day!    Beyond that, have you ever noticed that many us just open the floodgates of words when we are upset?  Verbosity at the highest level!

Those of you new to this blog are probably wondering what I am talking about, and what  this has to do with mindful parenting.   Perhaps these back posts will help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/

and http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/31/the-need-to-know/

and this one:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

What our children need are LESS words.  Logical thought starts to come in around age 14, so why do we waste so many words trying to reason with our children?  Why do we  talk to your three and four year old as if they have the same adult consciousness as we do?  Why are we talking to our children as if they are another adult friend?

I guess this is where I differ from what I perceive to be the foundation of gentle discipline in the AP movement.  If you perceive your child to be “good”, just less experienced, it makes sense to treat your child almost as an equal with an almost  equal say in things and being able to “talk” your child into good decision-making.  They are learning, but we can converse with them at perhaps a simpler level than a teenager- but we can still converse, right?

I don’t fully buy into this assumption, and one thing that bothered me after I read all the AP gentle discipline books was that almost the same techniques were used for a five-year-old versus a sixteen-year-old.

I have more of an affinity for the anthroposophic view of the under-7 child.  This views the child as a neutral party; a spiritual being on a spiritual path who is learning about right and wrong.  The child is seen as having an entirely different consciousness than an adult.  The small child lives in their will, in their impulses, and therefore they need guidance through movement and imagination.  Because I see the child as learning, I don’t especially expect a child to choose a behavior and develop self-control based upon “good or bad.”   That comes in later!   I recognize that most small children just do things on impulse without thinking. I do have expectations of a child’s behavior, but I try to have realistic expectations.

Most of all, I try to think things out ahead of time, control the parts of the equation that are in my hands, and then be ready to PHYSICALLY help my child.  Less words, more action.  Less talking, more doing.  Following through 500 times until it sticks.

It would be much easier to parent from the couch and to yell at everyone, right?  I have moments where I too, grow weary.    That is when I garner support from my spouse, my family, my closest and dearest friends.  That is when I change the scenery and we all head outside. That is when I stop to breathe.  And I am getting better at asking for help as I get older. 

Stop talking.  Your children don’t need an adult lecture or sarcasm.  They need humor, follow-through, consistency and the chance to make it right.

Try it today,

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