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

Back To Basics: The Parenting Challenge Of The Week

I ran this parenting challenge last November and it deserves to be worked with and focused on again by parents!  So here it is, the famous “Stop Talking” challenge that was so popular and resonated with so many parents last year!

For those of you with children under the age of 7, have you ever thought how many times a day you are giving a directive to your child?  Even if it is a positively phrased directive, it is still a directive that causes a child to go up into his head and awakens the child into self-awareness. 

To put this boldly, if you are providing lots of verbal directives to your small child, you are putting the cart before the horse by using a tool that is not really needed until later developmental stages. 

“But what do I use then?”  you cry. “Children need direct instruction!”

(You can read the full back post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/01/take-my-three-day-challenge/)

Yes, but children do not live in their heads with their words.  They live in their bodies and with their impulses.  You cannot parent from the sofa or from another room with a small under-7 child.

I postulate that many of the challenges we are seeing with children in the early years are due to parents involving children in too many decisions, using too many words, explaining too much.  This is leading to a very strong emphasis on the child being an individual before they are really ready.  You can see this article regarding ADHD and too many choices here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/24/waldorf-education-adhd-and-what-the-parent-of-the-normal-child-can-learn/

So, if any of the above resonates with you, come along with me and take my three day challenge.  For three days, try to bring a consciousness to the words you choose with your children.  How much chit chat do you do all day with your children?  Can you replace that with peaceful  humming or singing? Here is a back post about this issue:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

How many directives do you give that could be either carried by your rhythm, done with no words at all (for example, instead of saying, “Now let’s brush our teeth!” could you just hand Little Johnny his toothbrush?) or could your words be phrased in a way that involves fantasy or movement?  For example, if you need your child to sit down at the table to eat, you could ask your baby bird to fly over to the table and sit in its nest.  “Mama Bird has food for you!”  Could you redirect your child into some sort of movement that involves their imagination that would satisfy the need for peace in your home?

Music through singing and the poetry of verses are wonderful ways to provide transitions throughout the day along with the strength of your rhythm.  Many of the old Mother Goose rhymes are fabulous for all parts of the daily routine.  Songs provide a peaceful energy and a needed source of warmth for the young child’s soul.

A mother asked, “What do I do if my child is doing something harmful to me or to another child? Don’t I need to use direct words then?”

I believe this depends on the age and temperament of the child.  As mentioned in other posts, many times the most effective method is to be able to physically move the child away from the situation or to physically follow through in a calm way.  You would never expect your words to be enough in a highly charged emotional situation for a child under 7.  A Complete and Unabridged Lecture on the Harms of Hurting Others is often not what is needed in the moment.

Perhaps in this case, helping the child to make amends after the emotions of the situation have decreased would be a most powerful means to redemption.  When we make a mistake, even an accidental mistake, we strive to make it right.  An excellent lesson for us all, no matter what our age.  We do not let this behavior slide, but we do work toward setting it all right again.

“What about giving my child a warning that an activity will change?  Don’t I need words then?”

If you are at home, your rhythm should carry many of the words you would otherwise use.  There may be older children of five or six that appreciate a warning, again dependent upon their temperament, and there may be some children that think they need to know everything that happens in advance but in reality it only makes them anxious and they talk of nothing else.

These are all important questions, and perhaps this three day challenge will assist you in sorting out the answers for you and your family as you strive toward a more peaceful home.

Many blessings for a peaceful family life,

Carrie

Back to Basics: Developmentally Appropriate

I recently was grocery shopping and watched a exhausted mother put her approximately 18-month old in time-out whilst they were in the check-out line.  I felt so badly for the mother, who clearly had had a hard shopping trip, and I also felt badly for the crying  little child sitting with his back against the wall across from the check-out line who could get up once he was quiet.

Sometimes it is so hard to pull out the right tool at the right time, isn’t it?

Part of what can really help you in your parenting is:

1.  To get very clear with yourself and your partner how you view the small child.  This provides a framework for everything from guiding a child’s behavior to education.

I have written about this time and time again.  The consciousness of the small child is completely different than an adult consciousness.  In our society we tend to think of small children as miniature adults with less experience and then are disappointed when talking and reasoning and offering a million choices doesn’t seem to make things go smoothly.

Small children, to me, are beautiful spiritual beings who are here learning.  They don’t do things to make you angry on purpose!  They are trying things out, they are complete sense organs who are taking everything in, they imitate everything they see, and yes, they pull out their own things as well!  I have had so many mothers lament to me, “Wow, I cannot believe little Billy just (fill-in-the-blank:  kicked me, spit at me, hit me, yelled at me).  We don’t do that to him, I can’t believe it!”

In discipline, small children need you to re-direct them into PHYSICAL activity with a pictorial way of speaking.  They need you to not crumple into a ball over their behavior, but to help them make it right through restitution.  And they really need you to stop talking so much!  Hum, sing, move them, work.  Stop talking so much and pulling them so much into their heads!

Protect their senses by being home and having a rhythmic, non-hurried household, and you will see your children shine!

If you need  further realistic expectations for each age, here they are:

For the three and four-year-old:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/28/realistic-expectations-day-number-ten-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

For the four-year-old:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/05/realistic-expectations-for-the-four-year-old/

For the five and six-year-old:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/29/more-realistic-expectations-day-number-ten-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

For the seven and eight-year-old:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/02/the-seven-and-eight-year-old-realistic-expectations-last-installment-of-day-number-10-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

For the nine-year-old:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/03/discipline-support-and-guidance-of-the-nine-year-old/

The second step to help you in your parenting is this:

2.  To understand that whatever your child’s more challenging behaviors are being caused by, the behavior is still there and you still need to meet it.  I recommend you get very familiar with the options that are in your tool box for parenting.  This includes gentle discipline techniques but also includes such things as knowing what you will allow at what age, and what your boundaries truly are. 

Some parents really don’t seem to have many boundaries at all.  If you need help in this area, try this back post:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/23/gentle-parenting-and-boundaries/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back To Basics: Realistic Expectations For Mealtimes

Parents get very vexed about why their small three or four-year old cannot sit still through a meal….but if you know about normal development, you will see this is difficult for a six-year-old! 

Here is normal developmental behavior for mealtimes in regard to each age from 12 months through eight years of age:

  • At 12 to 15 months, the gross motor drive is strong – may be difficult to sit and eat a meal, may want to stand in highchair if family using one
  • After 12 months, toddler may go through phase of not being interested in cup
  • 15 to 18 months toddler very interested in self-feeding; may throw food
  • 21 month old may have definite preferences, such as a certain bib, a certain spoon, a certain dish – but may not have the words to express it and therefore becomes frustrated!
  • 24 months – preferences are high as related to taste, form, consistency, color – Think small helpings, teaspoon sized! Ritual demand of eating the same things reaches its height at 2 ½.
  • 3 years old – Eating better, appetite fluctuates less, the child has become a good chewer . On the downside, may dawdle if eats with whole family.
  • 4 years old – Typically talks  a lot, usually has to interrupt meal to go to bathroom, has much trouble sitting still
  • 4 ½ to 5 – A distinct rise in appetite, can listen as well as talk at the dinner table, may use a knife for spreading but not for cutting
  • 6 years – Perpetual activity! Cannot sit still, wiggles in chair, eats with finger, talks with mouth full, cannot finish meal. Preferences and refusals very strong.
  • 7 years –  Handles knives, forks, spoons better than they did at age six although may still use fingers to push food onto fork; liable to pop up from table to see something outside but much more able to sit still than at age six; may participate a bit in conversation at the table or may be silent; may bring the toys he or she was just playing with to the table.
  • 8 years old – can typically use a knife to cut meat; apt to play with silverware or reach across table for food; they talk and argue a lot and tend to interrupt adult conversation so they need your guidance regarding this; tend to eat fast and be done eating before the other members of the family  

    So what can you do to ensure a peaceful mealtime?

    I think one thing is to PLAN what you want your mealtimes to look like.  Here are some questions to stimulate your thoughts:

  • Is everyone just getting food and then scattering or do you actually sit down together? 
  • Do you have everyone set the table and help bring food out? 
  • Does your meal start with a candle lighting or a blessing? 
  • When a small child is done eating before everyone else, what is the rule in your home?  Do they have to stay there until you are done or can they play with something quiet nearby?
  • Does everyone help clean up?  Even toddlers can have a job – if this is your first toddler, you will have to do the job with them, but with subsequent children perhaps a big brother or sister can help the toddler do his or her job.

    These are important questions to consider!  If you know how you want things to be, AND you have realistic expectations for your child’s age AND you keep things short, then you have a much greater chance of meal times being peaceful!Think about this subject, meditate on it and design the family meal time that fits your family culture best!

    Many blessings,

    Carrie