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,