Back To Basics: Cultivating Gratitude In Children

One of the frequent complaints I hear from parents is that their children don’t seem to appreciate things and express gratitude readily.  Parents have told me stories about how their small children just want, want, want, want and how they feel angry, sad, wondering what they did wrong because their children are never satisfied.

That is hard, and the beginning of this is to look at how you feel about the negative emotions your child expresses in general.  Does it bring up your own “stuff”?  Usually when a child does something that really bothers us, there is a reason from our own past, our own baggage, that makes this issue a hot button for us. 

How are you yourself modeling gratitude in your family?  Is there a general attitude of contentment or are you always searching for more, for bigger, for better?  Are you a complainer yourself? 

What do you do each day ACTIVELY to model gratitude?  Do you say a blessing before meals?  Do you pray and say thank you for things? Do you recount good things that you are happy about before you go to sleep?

What is your environment like?  Is it simple, with everything having a toy, or is it towering and teeming with STUFF?  How many toys does your child have?  There can be too much even if it is “natural” toys.  Try this back post for suggestions of how many clothes and how many toys and what kinds of toys your child would like at each age:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/23/holiday-gifts-for-children-how-much-is-too-much/ 

What age is your child?  The three to six age range (if not before!) can be really, really difficult to take  to stores.  They really do not understand why you cannot afford to buy X,Y and Z and you cannot reason with them, so as much as possible I advise you to run errands alone.

Can you mirror back your child’s wishes?  “I wish that too”  “That would be fun” can be really simple small phrases to let your child know they have been heard.    Can you write down what they are asking for on a birthday or holiday list?

What stories could you tell to bring a healing element into all of this?  I love the Grimm Brother fairy tale “The Star Money”.  This is a lovely tale to tell around the holiday season.    Here is an on-line version:  http://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/the_star-money  This story would be appropriate for ages four to six (say most Waldorf resources, I would say ages five to six to really “get” it). 

Do you have a spiritual community that can carry doing anything charitable?  Even small children, within the context of a strong and nurturing community, can carry making shoe boxes for children who will not receive other holiday gifts, drives for the homeless and food pantry, etc.  Remember, it is not so much talking about all this, but the DOING.

What are you doing to physically wear your child out? What work does your child do?  How does your child contribute to the welfare of your home and family?  To me, children who have time to wish, wish, wish about things probably are not expending enough physical energy!  Also think in general about warmth, about the number of choices the child is being asked to make, and the rhythm of your home.

I would love to hear your suggestions below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back To Basics: Community!

In life there are always polarities and then A Middle Way. 

My dear long-time reader Elizabeth urged me to write a post to balance out and harmonize a post I wrote regarding staying at home (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/11/06/back-to-basics-staying-at-home-and-loving-it/).  Thank you, dear friend!  You see, she has been reading  my blog for a very long time and she knows a few things about me, and has probably read some of my past posts I have written about the importance of COMMUNITY.

She knows that whilst I was an only child, I lived with an extended family that worked together in a family business.  I had lots of cousins and aunts and uncles, many of whom came and stayed for extended periods of time. I had a group of maybe ten children in my neighborhood as well to play with.  Right now, as an adult,  I am very outgoing and have a very  large community of friends – through our homeschooling group, through church, through my neighborhood, through helping mothers with breastfeeding and homeschooling.  My children are involved in things at home and in our neighborhood and yes, also have a few activities.  

I love people, and I  certainly never mean to say we don’t ever go out!

However, you have to understand another perspective from which  I am writing from.  I  live in a very big, very bustling city where parents really do drag their children around way too much, the commute times to get to things are long, the needs of small children are generally not respected and very tiny children are enrolled in classes, lessons, mother’s morning outs, etc. etc, etc.  Separation and learning skills are pushed incessantly. I see mothers who are consistently stressed and harried and just generally not having any fun at all on their parenting journey.

I also see small children under the age of seven whose senses are being bombarded, children who are being treated as miniature adults and are the worse for it.  And many times the implications of this treatment during the Early Years doesn’t fully appear until the child is the age of the grades or even the teenaged years.

So, maybe you are in the opposite situation that I am, living in this large urban area…Maybe you live somewhere rural, somewhere where you are unsupported.   Maybe you don’t have a car for any of the days of the week and you need one to get out in your community.  So you mainly stay home.

Part of that is necessity for where some mothers are…And I absolutely believe that the family is the unit of socialization for the small child.  But hopefully that consists of more people than just one mother.  If you do not have family near-by, have you discovered any friends who can become like family?  If you can only get out once a week, can part of that be to go and get involved in a place of worship and build a community through that?  Can your one errand day also involve a picnic with another family?  Can you let go enough of your grades age child to arrange for them to spend time with other people, other adults besides you,that would also nurture them and be positive for them?  I think this is an important question.

I also encourage mothers to form support networks for themselves, to rely on more than just themselves from sun-up to sun-down to take care of their children.  I have encouraged you all to have mothering mentors,and  to reach out to other mothers yourself.    Maybe you have some beautiful friends or neighbors who can be part of your family.  I know my own personal “family” extends way beyond just blood relatives!

I especially think this is IMPORTANT FOR THE GRADES CHILD.  The grades child really needs to be part of a community.  The six and  half year old or seven year old does need friends, the world does need to open up a bit.  When I hear about nine or ten year olds and up who have no friends, this makes me feel  sad.  They should, hopefully, have some friends by this age!  In nine years or so, they will be out on their own, no longer in your house, and they will need to be able to navigate the social world by themselves, without you.  Let them develop their skills in discerning good friends, deal with friends who don’t want to play what they want to, all of those childhood things we all go through.  This is their social work, and it is important.  I don’t believe that this has to happen at age three or four but it does become important as children mature and grow. 

It is always important to PARENT WITH A PLAN.  What does your child need right now?  What needs to be balanced and harmonized?  Does this need to happen now, can it wait, what is child doing developmentally and is this something that needs to be worked with deeply or something that needs to be guided but  will pass?  What does the family need as a whole?  Your needs as an adult count as well….

Here are some back posts on community, and I hope you find them helpful:

A few notes on the importance of a spiritual/religious community:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/07/a-summer-parenting-project-for-you/

9-12 year olds and community:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/06/the-foundation-years-of-ages-9-12-decreasing-high-risk-behavior-in-teens/

Another post about this debate of protection and community:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old/

Are we making this too hard?  Are these things mutually exclusive?  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/19/the-simplicity-of-parenting/

Protection of the twelve senses is so important (Waldorf readers will understand that which I am referring to!), but one of those twelve senses is the Sense of Balance.  Simplicity and rhythm are wonderful, but so is warmth and fellowship.  Fellowship can carry things that are so difficult to carry alone.  I do not want people to mistake simplicity for emotional distancing.  Life, and living with people, can be messy.  So be it!  The pros far outweigh living life isolated and alone, I think.

This is a hot topic and one that is so important to figure out where you and your family stand – be mindful and create what works for your family!  Let the comments begin, LOL.

Have fun creating a family culture that extends outside the walls of your home,

Carrie

Back to Basics: Work Hard On Your Marriage

(This is a note:  Feel free to change the language in this post to match what works for you – partner for spouse, partnership or relationship for marriage.   Onward and upwards now!)

We are still continuing on our “Back to Basics” posts.  I really wanted to include one on the challenge and importance of nurturing your marriage, because family stability is so important for children.

How do you hold onto your spouse and marriage in the midst of raising small children?  It can be really difficult, because as many of you know,  time is little, many times there can be small children waking at all various times and in your bed, and “going out” can be challenging as well.

I see many attachment-minded mothers (and fathers) who seem to replace the intimacy of their marriage with a relationship to their children.  Whilst I love the connection to children, a child is not your spouse. A child is not there to fulfill your adult needs.   A child will be grown up and gone, and you and your partner will be looking at each other across the kitchen table wondering what you all have in common with each other.  Many of you have read my back posts on marriage and know the wise saying of my own friend who talks about preparing for the day the children will be gone from the home starting today.

Here are some of my ideas for building up a marriage during this season of raising children:

I am waiting to hear your ideas in the comment box below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back To Basics: Staying At Home and Loving It!

Many mothers struggle with certain areas of cultivating a peaceful family life.  Typically these areas are housecleaning and home maintenance, gentle discipline, and creating a rhythm for their family.  Many mothers tell me that they start off well, and then they stop, and then they start and then they stop.

I have a solution for you in these areas, although it is not a very popular one these days:  stay home!  You need an unhurried pace in which to parent small children, and you also need time to work on yourself and your own development as a part.

Staying at home gives you the time to focus on the things that matter:  connecting with your spouse and children without rushing around stressed; giving your children the healthy foundation of rhythm; and providing you enough time to be home to actually cook nourishing meals and clean your home and take care of your garden.

I wrote a post in May of 2010 that in part read:

I invite you to breathe and ask yourself this question:  How often am I going out of my home?

  • Is it every day and you have children under the age of seven?
  • Is your home and your homeschooling and your parenting where you would like it to be?
  • Could your time of lessons or classes or activities for your small  children be better spent elsewhere at this point?

I understand if you are suffering from depression and really need that social connection and support of other mothers.  I really do understand if you are extremely outgoing like me and just get filled up by being with other mothers and other people…I really do understand!    I wrote a post about Social Isolation for Stay-At-Home mothers here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/24/social-isolation-for-stay-at-home-mothers/

But there has to be a balance, and if you are going out every day and if your under-seven child is involved in a plethora of activities, I just gently am nudging you to explore this.  Boundaries are important, and showing and modeling for your child how to set boundaries and maintain them is REALLY important as they grow up into a world that will most likely have even more blurred lines between personal and professional lives due to increased technology.

I invite you to try to discern what really are  the most essential things in your life, and how the time you spend reflects what is most meaningful to you.  I am working on this right now, and it really is challenging me!

Particularly for the parents of very small under-aged five children, it is easy to get caught up in lessons, classes, and other things.  The ages under five (and under seven and yes, even under age nine!), to me, is an excellent place to experience an  unhurried concept of  time.   They will never have these days again!   There will be so many other years for classes, for lessons and for other activities and for rushing about on a schedule (which is different than the flowing rhythm of being at home).”

Some mothers tell me it is so difficult to stay at home for them.  One post I wrote on this subject that was insanely popular was this one, take a look and refresh your memory:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/09/how-can-i-love-staying-at-home-with-my-children/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/but-when-i-stay-homeeverything-falls-apart/

Are you worried about your child and their level of socialization?  In general, for children under the age of 7, I feel less is more.  I wrote about that here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/07/social-experiences-for-a-four-year-old/

Look into your heart and see what is right for your family at this time, in this day.  Your rhythm will change as your children grow, but being home is so important.  You can develop your own will to do this (see here for help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/the-adult-will-and-how-to-develop-it/)

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back to Basics: Rhythm

And you thought we were done with “Back to Basics”!  No, I still have a few more musings on this subject. Today I am thinking about rhythm and about how to develop rhythms that work for the whole family.

Crafting your day, your week and your year has distinct advantages for your family life:

· Gives children a sense of security

· Rhythm can calm a high-needs, anxious, nervous or difficult child

· Children can see the tasks of daily life as process from beginning to end

· Once children have external rhythms, they then develop internal rhythms for eating, sleeping

· Helps the child focus their energy on play and growth and balance as opposed to wondering when the next snack time will be or when bedtime is

· Rhythm helps maintain a person or child’s strength for daily tasks

· Connects a child to nature

· Provides a structure for a child that is neither boring nor over-stimulating; provides a balance

· A True Help in Loving Guidance – because children are so centered in their physical bodies and in imitation, rhythm becomes a real help in avoiding arguments

· Helps children become helpers in the home and in life by building in times for setting up and cleaning up activities within the rhythm; this helps calm nervous and difficult children

· Rhythm helps the adults of the family build up their own self-discipline so we can model this to our children

· A rhythm helps a child feel certain that their needs will be met

· A rhythm is a vital piece in establishing for young children that there is a time for all things

· Rhythm helps parents not only with self-discipline but with enabling the energy of the house to flow smoothly and to support the needs of everyone in the entire family, not just one child or the children

· A disorganized life is not truly free!

Sometimes mothers will tell me that rhythm in the home is near-impossible for them to develop because they lack rhythm, they did not have a rhythmical home life growing up,their children are very irregular and arrhythmical….I say these are the sorts of adults and children who NEED rhythm the most.  However, it is a place that requires development of our own will-forces to execute, to get back on that band-wagon when we fall off.  I wrote a post about developing the adult will here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/the-adult-will-and-how-to-develop-it/  We can only give our children the gift of inner discipline when we ourselves can model inner discipline in some area!  I have a post about instilling inner discipline in children here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/20/how-do-i-instill-inner-discipline-in-my-child/

Here are some open-ended questions regarding rhythm:

  • Do you have rhythms set around mealtimes and rest and bed times?
  • What is your rhythm for  your own inner work, your own work you may do for pay, and other roles you may play besides Wife and Mother?
  • What kind of rhythm do you have for spending time with your partner? 
  • Do you have a general rhythm for taking care of your own health?
  • What is your rhythm for homeschooling?
  • What is the rhythm for balancing being home and being outside of your home?  Are you always going, going, going?  Do you find it difficult to say no to outside things?
  • Do you have seasonal rhythms?  What festivals speak to you –why and why not?

Hope that helps you meditate on this important subject,

Carrie

Back To Basics: Bringing Out The Beauty In Your Home

I wanted to write a post about rhythm tonight, but felt I needed to write about the physical environment of the home first.  After all, it can be hard to attain a peaceful rhythm if laundry is piled everywhere, the sink is full of dishes and every surface is dirty.

Mothers ask all the time about establishing a rhythm for their families and I always recommend starting with bedtimes/consistent awake times, and then look at meal times.  However, what many mothers do not realize is that “clean-up” time is built into these bursts of activity.  Whilst your children are in the bathtub, have the children scrub it whilst you tackle the floor and sing!  After a meal time, everyone brings their plates up and washes and dries the dishes.  Together.  This is the beginning of the children using their will forces, their hands, their bodies and developing habits.  The things that you teach them to do with their hands will be the things they can do once they leave your house to live on their own!

So, the first place to start is with in regards to your home is, of course, yourself.   You set the tone for how things are done in your home, and you are worthy of having an nice home!  A home is really about the intangible feelings you get when you walk in the door.  Is it comfortable, is it warm, is it a place of love?  I wrote about that some here:  http://dendtler.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=881&action=edit&message=1

In this post entitled, “Is Your Home A Sanctuary?”  (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/12/is-your-home-a-sanctuary/)  I wrote a few things down about starting from the bare bones of envisioning a home and building outward:

One of the first things one can do to improve the physical beauty of the home is to seriously look at the amount of stuff and clutter in the home and pare it all down.  Pare down your toys, the amount of clothes your kids have and how many things you have.  Your small home will seem spacious!

The second thing may be to consider unusual uses of space.  I currently have a lovely school room in my dining room area and my dining room in a sunroom area.  The dining room is more contained for homeschooling (ie, can’t see it from the front door when you walk in) and the sunroom area is larger and visible directly from the front door.  Our breakfast nook area off the kitchen is a also now a playroom to keep the children close whilst I cook or clean.

Paint is something to consider as well.  The right shade of paint can really warm a room and make it inviting.  Evaluate your furniture as well – if you painted this piece of furniture or changed the drawer pulls, would it look totally different?  Many times this is just as good as getting new furniture!  Can you reupholster anything?

Rugs, curtains and pillows are last.  If you can sew, that is so helpful but even if you cannot, perhaps you can find wonderful thrift store bargains.  Can you take down the blinds and clean them all before you put up new curtains?

Then look at the outside of your house.  Does it need painting?  Pressure washing? Mulch?  Is the front entry inviting? If you enter through the garage can you walk through the garage?  Does the garage need painting?

This is a lot about the physical environment because I think when we are home all day the physical clutter, cleanliness and appearance of our homes can really affect how we feel!

Here are some cleaning lists for what chores to do when:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/11/housecleaning-and-homeschooling/  If you can tailor this to your own needs and work it into your daily and weekly rhythm, then you will have a foundation of a home that is generally well-put together. 

One website that has helped me in the past has been Flylady:  www.flylady.net.  Baby steps really assisted me when I did not have routines for homemaking in place.  Perhaps this will be a place to help you.

There are many blogs with beautiful pictures of gorgeous handmade homey spaces with clean, smiling children.  Do not let these photographs stress you out!  Use them and look at them only if they inspire you!  You are worthy of having your own tranquil physical space and you can get there!

Remember, people before things, baby steps toward routines!

Many blessings in homemaking,

Carrie

Back to Basics: Dealing With Anger

Anger is a very real emotion in parenting, and I think so many times people are afraid to talk about it.  Acknowledging that anger can exist in ourselves towards our children not only makes us feel sad and guilty, it forces us to face our own imperfections.

I wrote this in May of last year:

“If we create a battlefield in our mind against our children, then all is lost.  By battlefield, I mean the minute we begin thinking, “My child is doing this on purpose!”  “My child is out to get me and make me miserable!”  “My child knew what they were doing and planned this!”  “My child is just wanting to push each and every one of the buttons I have!”   Keep reading to find out the implications of what I mean by that!

Mamas, I have been there and done that and I would like to share something with you that I have learned:  If we create a us versus them mentality in our mind and in our attitude before we even open our mouths, then we have lost.

We have lost the opportunity to warmly hold the space for our children, we have lost the moment to guide in peaceful energy the behavior we would like our child to show, we have lost the connection between us and our child.”

The whole post the above came from is here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

I wrote some more regarding anger in parenting last November (modified text for this post today):

Conflict is a part of life, and anger is not a BAD emotion – it is just a feeling like other feelings.  However, many parents choose to discipline their children when they are angry or hurt.  Some parents choose to hit their children when they are angry.  Hitting a child is wrong, (if you need an argument for this please see this post:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/20/getting-past-fear/ )  and when we lose control and responsibility for our actions when we are angry we lose that teachable moment.  A  split-second action in anger can also cause a parent to have remorse and guilt.  It can necessitate an apology!

Instead of losing control, I would like to talk to you today about how not to be the angry parent……I believe anger issues actually are OUR problem, the parent’s problem.  Usually we are trying to do something in a tight time frame, we are carrying in baggage from our own childhood (“I NEVER would have talked to MY parents that way!), we are tired and stressed out over things that may or may not even have to do with that child, we are carrying unrealistic expectations of that child’s behavior, or just in general our needs are not being met.

The questions becomes:  what do we want our CHILDREN to do when they are angry and how can we model that for them?  If we walk around yelling and slamming doors, how can we be surprised when our six-year old does that?

After you are calm, hopefully you can return to the situation and work to solve the problem. Help the child, guide the child.  Breathe in and breathe out.

Patience is developed over time.  I am certain I am more patient with this third child than I was with my first child.  Learning to relax into parenting and how to let go of the mentality that every single thing must be addressed so the child will not become a Detriment To Society is also learned.  Set a timer and see if you can keep your patience for half an hour if that is where you are, and work up from there. You can do this!  Fill your own tank so you have something to give.  Get your children into a rhythm with an early bedtime so you have time for you and time for you and your spouse.

Most of all, be thankful.  Go look at your children while they are sleeping, those small faces, realize how very little ages three, four and five really are.  And in this time of dwindling light and moving into darkness, work to cultivate yourself as a light for your family.

Need more help?

Here is the popular back post on “defiance”:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

Here is a post for when you are feeling chronically angry toward your family:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/05/an-emergency-how-to-how-to-parent-peacefully-with-children-under-age-9/  This is probably my personal favorite post I have ever written on anger.

Many blessings to you all tonight,

Carrie