Tools for Gentle Discipline: Day Number 19 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

This series is almost done!  I can’t believe it, can you all? Hopefully you gained a few insights, a little inspiration, to carry you forward in your parenting. 

Today we are going to talk about a difficult topic for many of us:  the use of gentle discipline.  Children need to function in this world, with other people.  The question becomes how we gently bring them into ways that will assist them in connecting with other people, how to teach them compassion and how to be kind, and what behaviors are accepted in our society.

One of the main things that seems difficult for many parents these days is setting boundaries in a gentle manner.  It seems difficult for many parents to see their child as separate from themselves.  Your child is not you!  They have different feelings about things than you, different ways of looking at things…and it is up to you, the parent, to help guide your child.

Do you have boundaries for yourself?  If you personally do not have any boundaries, it is going to be difficult for you to teach your children to have boundaries in a gentle way.  The culmination of all of the twelve senses in Waldorf parenting and education is the Sense of Individuality, of I and Thou.  This does not fully develop until the later teen and early twenties, but the foundation of this sense is being laid with your children right now.  And this is a sense that many children need assistance with; some children are crawling on top of their parents’ heads (I have literally seen this), some children are so far away and distant.  This is an area with the explosion of sensory processing disorders in children that we are seeing more and  more difficulties with.

If we set boundaries, how do we do it gently?  Children under the age of 7 do not need direct consciousness brought to the occasion, (although six-year-olds can do with more direct statements), but here are some other tools:

  1. Humor
  2. Rhythm
  3. Finding the need beneath the behavior (without asking your three or four year old – you really can probably figure out if they are hungry or tired)!
  4. Structuring your environment
  5. Modeling what you want your child to imitate
  6. Movement of the body
  7. Fantasy and imagination and pictorial imagery when you speak to your child
  8. “Time- in”   – see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/why-should-i-consider-time-in-instead/
  9. Singing and verses
  10. Doing things together
  11. Being right near your child and assisting what needs to be done
  12. Having a space to draw, throw a ball, etc. to diffuse emotion
  13. Plenty of outside time (yes, this is a disciplinary tool!)
  14. Distraction!
  15. Looking for the positive intent behind your child’s behavior
  16. Finding the good to praise
  17. Holding your child and loving them
  18. Filling up the child’s “love language” or emotional bank account before things go crazy!

I am sure many of you can think of so many things to add to this list!

Use your quiet confidence as to what is right in gentle strength,

Carrie

The Power of Patience: Day Number 18 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Parent

Some days patience is hard to come by.  It is not always easy to remember that we most likely have to do things with our children 500 times calmly to “make them stick”.  It is easy to get frustrated, and in our worst moments to imagine and envision that our children would be better off in school, better off with the neighbor down the street, better off with anyone but us as their parent!

Take a deep breath. I firmly believe that your children have picked you to be their parent.  Your children are right where they are supposed to be.  You are working hard on becoming more mindful, on understanding normal developmental stages, on having realistic expectations, on setting the tone in your home.

Baby steps.  Be content with the baby steps.  Becoming a peaceful, mindful parent does not happen overnight.  It does not mean that you will never get angry again.  It does not mean you will never parent in a moment in a way you may regret later on.  We are human, we are not robots!

What it does mean though is that you have an ideal, you have a framework, you have a goal in mind and when you or your family are off-track, you look to that framework to get back on-track.

Patience is important in this process of raising children. Patience with them as they develop.  Patience with them as they go through challenging developmental stages or as you work with your child to help shape and guide some of his or her  more challenging character qualities.  Patience as you work with yourself and your own shortcomings.

My personal suggestions for developing patience include the following:

Realizing that the behavior of a child under the age of 7 does not have to change your behavior toward the negative.  That is an awful lot of power to give to a small child!   Be patient enough to be the one able to hold the course, set the tone, be the wall and hold the space.  They are three, four, five, six and you have many more years of living than they do!

But by the same token, be patient enough to have flexibility and not rigidity.  Steiner felt children were here as our teachers.  Be patient enough to take a deep breath in the moment and ask what is yours to learn here.

Be patient enough for silence, for waiting, for your child to create an idea.  Give less words and movement a moment to work!

Be patient with your spouse. You are modeling this for your children to see.  Love one another and show your child this wonderful relationship.

Be patient for allowing time for things to take effect.  If you are working on new things with your children in your home, it may take time to get it flowing smoothly.

Lots of love,

Carrie

Working Through The Body: Day Number 17 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

So, we have discussed over and over how important it is to approach a child through his or her BODY.  This is vitally important as we deal with children who are pushing against the forms of the day – the “I won’t”s, “I can’t”s, “No”’s and “Make me”s (and yes, I have a child that typically falls into the last category, the “Yes, make me!”).  We can approach it like a sledgehammer trying to blast through a piece of concrete or we can take our twenty, thirty or forty years of living and try a more imaginative, sideways approach!

If you would like some background regarding an anthroposophic approach to the first two and a half years of working with the body, please see this post:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/10/getting-children-into-their-bodies-part-one-birth-to-age-2-and-a-half/

If you need some guidelines regarding when children traditionally can do what from a gross motor perspective, please go back a few days in this series and look for the day on “Realistic Expectations”.

Working through the body most effectively combines gross motor movement with fantasy or imaginative elements.  Moms ask how to do this all the time and all I can tell you is that is takes practice and experience.  Set yourself a goal to try to address your child this way twice a day if you are new to this.

Here are a few examples to whet your appetite and stimulate your own thoughts of how to approach things:

Running in the house:  “Excuse me, Mr. Race Car Driver, this is only the warm-up lane, not the racetrack!  We go slow in this lane!” (and the corollary is the racetrack is outside, :))

Not wanting to brush teeth:  “But Ms. Crocodile, you must open your mouth so I can count all your beautiful teeth!  Have you been eating bananas again?!  Let me see!”  (and you open your mouth so they can imitate you!)

Children with extreme cases of “the wiggles”:  Turn it into a game where they are flamingos standing on one foot, humped camels, mice with tiny footsteps, wiggling worms on the floor.

Trying to get calm for bed:  Be a  caterpillar wrapped up in a cocoon of silk that must be rocked before it can come out as a butterfly.

Those are just a few ideas to get you going, submit your situation in the comment box and maybe all the wise mothers out there can also provide some ideas for you!

I think the other “arm” of this being in the body goes back to the twelve senses and what we are working on developing in the Early Years – those Lower Foundational Senses.  Remember those?  Here they are again in case you forgot (and remember those Middle Senses we are still trying to protect!)

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross.

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues,  or their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting and stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

So ask yourself if the activities you are coming up with involve these senses in an appropriate way.  One resource that may assist with this is Donna Simmons’ “Joyful Movement” book.  It really is a good resource for common activities, verses, songs and movement to help you put all of this together.  Here is the link: 

So, for small children the Sense of Touch would include textures and natural fibers in the home and on the child, working with soil, sand, mud, sticks, and other sensory experiences for touch.  The Sense of Life is really YOUR job for the child – get a rhythm going!  It is important!  The Sense of Self-Movement would include all those singing rhymes and games,  gentle bouncing games, and experiences with practical life activities such as stirring, kneading, movement games, fine motor skills.  The Sense of Balance is not only working toward more complex practical projects for the six-year-old, both gross and fine motor wise, but also working with the notion of BALANCE in your child.  It is YOUR job to help your child balance.  If your child wants to sit around and read all day and page through books, it is your job to structure the rhythm so this is not possible and that your child has increased opportunities for fun movement, being outside, learning to ride a bike, etc.  If your child is active, active, go, go, go, it is YOUR job to set the rhythm so there are times for a candle lighting and a soft puppet show, times to sit and snuggle and hear a wonderful fairy tale, times to be calm and centered.  This is what parenting is all about.

Love to all,

Carrie

Guiding A Child: Day Number 16 Of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Parent

My cute little one is sound asleep, so I have a few minutes to meditate with you all on the focus of the day today:  how to guide a child.

In Waldorf parenting and education, we see a small child under the age of 7 as being in their BODIES.  We do not “ask” them to do tasks and expect them to follow through.  We enter daily work through rhythm, through music and verses and singing, through doing things together and through fantasy and the imagination.  If we have to use words, we may use “You may’ as a stock phrase along with physically helping the child at the same time.  There is ALWAYS an active component; for those of you planning to go on and homeschool in the grades with Waldorf education  there is also always an active part of a main lesson.  As homeschool teachers, we are always asking ourselves, “Where is the active part of this lesson?”  You are laying the foundation for this time in these Early Years.

So, you have an assignment for tomorrow. Grab a small notebook and pen and WRITE DOWN, without judging yourself!, what you ask your small child to do.  Commands, requests….And how many times do you ask your child the same thing before it happens? How many times a day are you requesting things verbally?

At the end of the day, sit down with your list and see if you can brainstorm ways to approach these situations through the body, the fantasy, the physical.  See if you can promote change within yourself.

Day Number 17 will focus on ways to work with getting a child within their body, so look forward to that as a follow-up to this assignment!

Off to nurse now,  peacefully yours,

Carrie

Protection of the Senses: Day Number 15 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

According to Waldorf Education and parenting, the twelve senses are what unites the inner and outer world of the individual and what allows us healthy interaction with other people at the highest developed levels.  It takes a long time for these senses to be developed, but the foundational senses needed to develop some of the upper senses are most enveloped within the first seven years. 

For those of you who are new to this blog, here is a brief recap of the twelve senses: (and for those of you wondering the Daena Ross presentation I am referring to can be found here at this link: http://www.waldorfinthehome.org/2005/04/the_twelve_senses.html#more).

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross.

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues,  or their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting and stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

I wrote an article about these lower senses for the Waldorf Baby that may be interesting reading for some of you here:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby/not-too-hot-not-too-cold.html

The Middle Senses are seen in our feeling lives, involve us reaching out into the world a bit, they are seen as “dreamy” senses and manifesting in the rhythmic system.  THE CHILD HAS NO FILTER TO FILTER THESE SENSORY EXPERIENCES OUT IN THE EARLY YEARS.   In the later years, the arts build these senses, which is why the Waldorf curriculum includes teaching through art in the grades.   These senses  include:

The Sense of Smell -  strongly correlated with memory.  This can be an ally in education of the grades age child, but beware of scented everything when your children are in the foundational first seven years.

The Sense of Taste – Not only on a physical plane, but an emotional plane in naming experiences (a “putrid” experience, a “sweet” experience)

The Sense of Sight  – with two different ways to visualize something:  one is the ability to distinguish color, and the other is the ability to distinguish form (which Daena Ross says is more related to The Sense of Self-Movement).  The best way to help this sense is to protect the eye from media while developing.  A way to bolster this sense in the grades, but not the Early under 7 Years, is through form drawing.

The Sense of Warmth -   Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Higher Senses.  This sense does not fully develop until age 9 and can literally cause a hardening of creativity and new thought as the child matures, but also can refer to a literal inability of the child to be able to tell if they are hot or cold.  Warmth implies not only physical warmth, but warmth on a soul level.  Joy, humor, love, connection are all important developers of this sense along with PROTECTION from extreme and garish sensory experiences that would cause hardening.  This is a very important sense, and children need help with protecting this sense until the age of 9 or 10, so much longer than many parents think!

The Upper or Higher Senses develop during adolescence and require a strong foundation of The Lower Senses and The Middle Senses to come to maturity.  These senses are associated with awakening of the individual, with being concerned with other people and are seen as being centered in The Head.  These senses include:

The Sense of Hearing (which Daena Ross calls “a bridge between The Middle and Higher Senses” in her presentation)  This requires completion of The Sense of Balance – both of these senses involve the organ of the ear.

The Sense of Speech or The Sense of the Word (this is the speech of another person, not yourself) – Requires completion of The Sense of Self-Movement as you must be able to quiet your own speech in order to really hear another person.

The Sense of Thought or The Sense of Concept (again, of the other person, not your own thoughts!) - Requires completion of  The Sense of Well-Being.  Rhythm builds this ability to quiet oneself in order to hear someone else’s thoughts.

The Sense of  the Individuality of the Other (Donna Simmons also calls this the “I-Thou” relationship of boundaries) – This requires integration and completion of all senses, but particularly involves The Sense of Touch according to Daena Ross.

In our work as parents of small children, we should be seeking to protect the lower senses and enhance them.  The way we do this through the Early Years is through PROTECTION, through repetition, warmth, rhythm, less stimulation and talking, keeping children in their bodies.  Unfortunately, anthroposophists and Waldorf educators seem to be the only group right now who really understand this importance.   Here is an interesting video clip regarding how a trip to the grocery store can be over-stimulating to the senses for an infant, and some interesting physiological facts about an infant’s senses:  http://www.hulu.com/watch/6093/wild-baby-senses#x-4,vclip,1

In the meantime, society keeps pushing adult schedules and stimulation on small children and  the rates of sensory disorders and autism spectrum are skyrocketing.  

The opportunity to protect our children’s senses in the phase where the child is noted as one giant sensory organ taking in all sensory experiences really doesn’t last too long.  Take advantage of this special time!

Much love,

Carrie

Humor: Day Number 14 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

Humor is such an important tool in mothering and in generating positive outcomes in behavior that it had to have its own separate day!  I think this is one place where many mothers, including myself, can fall short if we are not truly careful in cultivating this.

Is everything in parenting really that serious?  So many times I think we see a behavior in a small child and feel we must somehow change it because otherwise our teenager will have this behavior.  So many times I think the expectations we have for our children are so high for their age that it leads to joyless and humorless interaction with our children.

Using humor does not mean we never set clear boundaries.  However, it does mean that we use warmth and love to set boundaries.  We can say no gently, and stick to our “no” even through the persistence of a child.  Boundaries are okay. Humor and playfulness does mean that we can step back and laugh at our own mistakes, the mistakes our children make, to see the humor and joy in  a situation and have some fun!  This is NEVER done in a teasing or hurtful manner, but in a way where everyone can join in on the fun!

How often do you laugh?  Sometimes my husband rents me funny things to watch from NetFlix at night after the kids go to sleep just so I can laugh!  I have one friend with whom when we get together we laugh a lot and she uses humor so well with her children.  It always inspires me to cultivate more humor and playfulness into my parenting.  Parenting can be VERY funny, and if we can look at it this way it can make many burdens light!

I am sure many of you have heard of the book “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen.  It is not a Waldorf book by any means, but reading it may open your eyes to the connection that humor, joy and playfulness can have in your parenting adventure.

Much of Waldorf parenting centers around the mother doing work with her hands, and the child weaving in and out of the work of the day. However, there is nothing wrong with setting up play scenarios, with helping a child “stuck” with his play (Waldorf Kindergarten teachers do this all the time!) and there is certainly nothing wrong with the use of humor and playfulness to engage the cooperation and fantasy of a small child in your daily rhythm.

Enjoy your lightening up!

Carrie

Day Number 13 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

One thing that many Waldorf teachers do at night  is to meditate on the children in  their class.  I think this practice is absolutely vital as a Waldorf  homeschooling parent. 

In the discussion write-up following Dr. Helmut von Kugelgen’s article “How Can We Find A Connection to The World of the Angels?” in the blue paperback book, “A Deeper Understanding of the Waldorf Kindergarten,” the question arises:

Q:  What about thinking about children before we go to sleep?

A:  “Freya Jaffke spoke to this question and said each person must find their own way with this.  The picturing of children should not take too long, though one can then spend more time on a difficult child.  For example, one can review a problematic moment with the child, make it “present” within one, picturing the “gesture” of the moment.  How did the moment arise?  What led up to it?  What happened during the moment and what came afterwards?  Also find a good moment that happened with the child.  Make this picture “big” before your mind’s eye.  Thus two objective pictures stand before you without any wishes.  Then you can feel a real connection to the child.  You may do this picturing several nights in a row.  Maybe one picture will increase or decrease; or both may merge into equal strength.  Then daily work will grow easier, for you are not fighting the  one aspect.  But be careful not to neglect the “good” children. Look at all of the children, and occasionally dwell on one or two who do not have difficulties.”  (page 59-60).

How much easier this is for us as homeschooling parents – we have less numbers to meditate on!  And in some ways, how much more difficult this is, as we are more emotionally involved and connected and attached and feel more deeply about our children’s behavior of the day than a teacher most likely would.

I personally have a practice of praying for my children every night before bed; I also meditate on them and see what I receive – those flashes of pictures as it forms.  I also think about those more difficult situations that occurred during the day, and think about what I need to work on, and also what my children need to practice for living.  I frame this in positive terms.  For example, if my child is having a difficult time, I might think about what needs to INCREASE in my child in order for the situation to be better.  Sometimes I look for virtues off this list:  http://www.virtuesproject.com/virtues.html  and think how I can bring a particular virtue to my child in a sideways manner.  Is there a pedagogical story I can tell?  Can I work through rhythm, through other experiences?

I also use other things; I am a big fan of flower essences and homeopathic remedies to help balance things out.  I look at warmth and how I am transmitting emotional warmth to my children. I look at what I am modeling myself.

These meditative techniques are a wonderful and necessary addition for peaceful homeschooling and peaceful parenting in general.  Give them a try, and I don’t think you will be disappointed!

Peace,

Carrie