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

  • Back to Basics: Emotional and Physical Warmth

    Warmth is one of those areas parents in the United States  seem to rarely think about.  Everywhere I go I see hatless infants, infants and children who are under-dressed.

    It is getting to be the time of year to think about physical warmth.  There is a wonderful article here regarding this topic:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/06/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-mary-kelly-sutton/

    Here is part of that article for your careful thought and meditation:

    Cold is a stress for the body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.  (If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts: the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
    toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
    not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
    great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
    warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
    survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
    lungs, liver, kidneys).

    Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
    Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
    focus and learn.

    In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
    seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
    first week her mother put her in wool underwear.

    Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
    significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
    significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
    states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
    with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
    into the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
    organs.”

    I know it can be such a challenge to keep clothes on children!  Just keep reminding yourself that just whilst you wouldn’t drive around without a child in a car seat, you will not under-dress your child.  Be firm that when we put clothes on, we (get to go outside, go eat our snack, etc.).  Hold that intention in your heart that this really is important for their health and carry that through!

    My favorite place to order woolens and woolen/silk blends is through www.greenmountainorganics.com.  However, I am completely not above thrift store finds.  :)

    Emotional warmth is an essential part of parenting.  This was a three-day challenge I posted last October and think it would be an excellent time to renew this focus (the latter part of this focuses on spouses, so change the focus and  language as appropriate to your household!)

    But I think the other thing to think about sincerely is how to convey EMOTIONAL warmth to our children.  How many times a day do we laugh with our children?  Hug our children or have them sit on our lap?  Smile at our children?  Say positive and encouraging things to our children?

    So, my three-day challenge to you is this:

    Set a goal for how many times a day you are going to try to laugh, hug, hold, smile and say positive things to your child and act on it!   This may seem very stilted and forced, but sometimes we all need that structure in order to make a behavior more automatic.  See after three days if there is a difference in not only you and your children, but in the peacefulness of your household.  Can you also  do this with your spouse?  How many encouraging things do you say to him each day?  How many times do you walk by him and touch his hand or touch him on the back or give him a kiss? “

    After you hit three days of trying this, I would encourage you to mark forty days on your calendar and consciously try this for 40 days. I feel it takes 40 days to affect a true behavioral change!

    Many blessings,

    Carrie

    Back to Basics: Parenting With A Plan

    We are continuing with our back to basics series this month by remembering to look at our parenting as part of a bigger picture and an overall plan.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!

    Many families have told me that having a family mission statement is helpful to them.  Here is a bit of a post from May 2010 in which I addressed mission statements, and a little about life and homeschooling:

    You are the architect, you are the designer, you are the artist of your life and the lives of your children.  If things are overwhelming right now,it is okay to say no to things.  It is okay to set boundaries.  It is okay to be real and authentic and honest about what you can and cannot handle!

    One thing that always helps me is  to go back to our Family Mission Statement.  Here is a back post about writing a family mission statement, you can see that here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/08/creating-a-family-mission-statement/  Once you have this piece of paper, please do make sure to review it, use it, keep it in your mind as you make decisions.  It should be like a guiding compass for your family and the things you choose to do as a family.

    The other thing that can keep you centered is to have your own Personal Mission Statement or what some people call a Personal Vision Statement.  The more you can develop yourself, learn about yourself, and calm and center yourself (which means actually figuring out what makes you feel calm and centered to begin with :) ), your family will absolutely benefit.  Children want a mother that is calmly in control of things and can be a resource, a guide, a boundary, a wall to bounce off if need be – but a gentle, calm and nurturing presence.  What children don’t want is out- of- control, screaming and yelling parents where the whole atmosphere of the house feels stressed and falling apart.  You can get to the first thing, but you have to stop and think.

    • Think about what would make the biggest difference in your life to make yourself more calm.
    • Think about what your priorities really are, and how your life could reflect that. 
    • How could your marriage be a priority?  What would that look like?
    • If your children are small, they must be a priority.  They are depending upon you to guide them and to love them and to teach them.
    • What do you want your homeschooling adventure to look like?  Have you assessed your child and know what they need to work on – not just “skill-wise” but also emotionally, physically, spiritually?  What do they need to develop into “whole” human beings?  What would your homeschooling look like to reflect that? 

    The process of writing mission statement, whether personal or family,  should help you start to figure out how to discern the core values in your family and then you can move on to HOW you show your core values.  These values should show in how you treat your spouse, how you treat your children, and how you interact with those outside of your family.  Just as an example, our Family Mission Statement involves Kindness, Integrity and Positive Attitudes.  The values are what we come back to time and time again.  Try this process for yourself and see what arises from it!

    Do you have a parenting notebook where you plan, write, dream, read?  Here is a back post about that:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/22/my-notebook/  I would love it if you have a parenting notebook and you would like to share about this, or the process of when you made one.  Please do leave a comment and a link in the comment boxes to help other families get started!

    What time do you take every week to learn more about parenting? To connect with parents who are parenting the way you wish to?  To talk with a parenting mentor?  To read something that will help you in your parenting?  You can see more about my personal parenting plan right here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/10/my-plan-for-personal-development-as-a-homemaker/

    Take the time this week to set up a notebook or binder for yourself and get to work!

    Many blessings,

    Carrie

    Back To Basics: How To Be Content

    The foundation of the peaceful family is YOU.  If you are unhappy and discontent, your family is going to reflect this back to you.  Your spouse or partner will be unhappy and your children’s challenging behavior will increase.  Being content in your homemaking, in your life, and in your parenting is the foundation of a healthy and peaceful family life.

    Here are my top ten ways to be content:

    1.  Take everything to prayer and meditation.  The more time I spend connecting with my  Beloved Creator, the more I realize that I am His Beloved, the more smoothly things  go.  The more I take my worries and anxieties and questions about life, about my children, about where I am going,  to prayer, the  more peaceful I can be.

    2.  Before you speak, before you act, think in LOVE first.  If you can think in love toward your partner, your children, your relatives, the better things will be.  And if you don’t act in love, love yourself and forgive yourself for BEING HUMAN.  It is okay to be human, and it is okay to not be perfect.  Sometimes perfection is in the striving.

    3.  Attribute positive intent.  If someone is doing something that is challenging you, can you see it from their viewpoint?  Can you see it differently?  And if not, can you set a boundary on it?

    4.  Discern the essential.  What is your family’s Mission Statement?  What kind of adults do you hope your children to be?  What would contribute to that?  If it is not contributing to that, can you set a boundary on it?

    5.  Can you pare down?  Can you pare down “stuff”?  All “stuff” has maintenance, all stuff needs to be taken care of.  Can you find the beauty in simplicity?  Can you pare down activities?  

    6.  Where is your warmth?  If you are thinking in love, you can show emotional warmth toward your family.  You can laugh, you can find joy, and you can be content with where you are.  It is good enough for right now.

    7.  Surround yourself with content and positive people.  This will really help lift your spirits and keep you on track.

    8.  Spend time in nature.  Nature has a way of making problems seem smaller.

    9.  Strengthen the ties you have with your partner/spouse.  If you can face things together, it is easier to be content with what you have, and easier to be content with what you have.

    10.  Take care of yourself….your body deserves your attention and time.  If you are suffering from poor health or things that will eventually lead to poor health, then you know how hard it is to be peaceful.  You have only one body, and there is only one you!  You are worthy of your own  time and energy!

    Many blessings,

    Carrie

    Back to Basics: How To “Do” Gentle Discipline

     

    Please excuse all the hiccups my computer is having…something is very wrong with my keyboard…..

    So, in our last “back to basics” post, we looked at how to develop a framework in order to look at guiding our children  in a loving way.  Another post that may help stimulate some thought on this topic is this back post regarding how parents view children as “defiant”.  You can find that post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

    When using gentle discipline, the question becomes what tools does one use to guide?  Here is a handy list of things to think about!

    1. Your Own Inner Work/Physical State.  If you are exhausted, running ragged, not going to bed, not eating well, not exercising, not dressing yourself and looking pretty, I can almost guarantee that things on the home front will not be going well.  Please, please, step back from everything outside your family and home for a week and get your house in order as much as you can, go to sleep when your babies go to sleep, arrange some help (yes, you must ask! I know how hard that is, but people love you and it gives people a chance to give to you!).  You must have something to give to your children, and that starts with you.  There are many, many posts on here regarding parenting exhaustion and parenting burn-out and what to do.  Please use the search engine on this blog with those terms and see what comes up that resonates with you.

    2.  Attachment and connection are key.  This is why I write so much about attachment on this blog.  We have recently been going chapter by chapter through the book “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate, and perhaps that will give you some background and inspiration.

    How do you connect with a young child?  A young child is in  their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart.  Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable.  I have written several posts on the “love languages” of children that you can go back to and look at.  What is the love language of your child?  Do you know?  How do you use this EVERY DAY to help you?

    Your relationship with this child is what carries the discipline. Please do not use “discipline” as an excuse to squash your child’s will and personality.  Understand your child’s temperament and use that to help and guide you.

    Use your words like the pearls that they are!

    3.  Imitation Rahima Baldwin Dancy says this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “If you want to teach a certain behavior to your child, one of the best ways is to actually do it in front of (or with) him.  This demands that we as adults get up and actually do something, rather than giving the child orders or directions.”

    4.  Humor – Lots of parents take parenting very seriously.  But please don’t take every word that comes out of your small child ‘s mouth so seriously and feel whatever they say is in deep need of serious explanation and weight. 

    5. 

    Distraction – this is a viable tool for all children under 7, and even children that are 7 or 8  can still be fairly distractible.  However, this takes creativity in the heat of the moment to think of an appropriate distraction.  Distraction is not a bribe; it is a way to change to scene to your advantage.

    Distraction can also show itself by changing the environment.  Some children just need to be outside when they are upset!

    6.  Using your words to paint a picture in the consciousness of your small child under the age of 7.   This is a Waldorf tool that is very useful with small children.  Instead of pulling children into their heads and into a thought-decision kind of process, try using phrases that paint a picture instead.  This can be anything from “Turn that siren down!” for a noisy little one or “Hop like a bunny over here for some food.”  You are re-directing behavior into something more positive through the images that arise from these types of phrases.  For those interested in more about pictorial imagery, please do see Donna Simmons’ bookstore and look under her audio downloads for her CD entitled, “Talking Pictorially” at www.christopherushomeschool.org.    There is also mention of this with examples on the free Christopherus Audio Download about Waldorf Education as a therapeutic education.

    I have written an entire post on this subject here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/ 

    And here is a post regarding talking to the seven and eight-year-old: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/26/how-to-talk-to-your-seven-and-eight-year-old/  

    7.  On the subject of words, try limited choices, less words or no words at all – Sometimes just a look suffices more than a hundred words.  Try just helping your child get into their coat while you sing a song that you usually sing when you go outside.  Try just handing your child their toothbrush after their bath instead of a whole book about the necessity of dental hygiene. 

    8.  Time-in.  According to Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting,

    “Sometimes parents are advised to use a time-out instead of spanking their kids – as though these were the only two options available. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means. If we were forced to choose one over the other, then, sure time-outs are preferable to spankings. For that matter, spanking kids is preferable to shooting them, but that’s not much of an argument for spanking.”  -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 65-66.

    “Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 26-27.

    So, consider the value of time-in instead.  Some families have a place where adults and children can sit together until they all calm down, some mothers just have their child sit near them while they do some sort of rhythmical work.

    9.  Ignoring –yup, you heard me right.  The Gesell Institute books routinely recommend turning a blind eye to some of your child’s behaviors if it is not hurting others or themselves (or just driving you plain crazy!).  There are times to draw a line in the sand, but if you nit-pick every behavior, you are on the verge of demanding, and not commanding as an Authentic Leader.

    10.  Physical follow-through – If you say something to a small child, you should expect to have to physically  help them follow through.  You should expect to have to physically hold an upset child if they need it.  The physicality of life with a small child is always there – hugs, kisses, a lap to sit on and help to do things as needed.  The child’s respect and dignity always needs to be respected, so you need to be calm when you are following through, but please remember a young child under 7 is probably not going to function well on verbal directives alone.

    Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to authority that is expressed only through the spoken word without being accompanied by actions. With the preschool age child, you need to correct and demonstrate again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it.  Their memories simply aren’t that mature yet.”

    11. RESTITUTION – How does the child make this right?  No moralizing, no lecture, just what ACTION can they take to make it right?  Do this AFTER a time-in, after everyone has calmed down!

    11.  FREEZE!  One of the best tools in parenting is learning to take that quick pause in your mind’s eye and ask yourself if what you are about to do is going to help your child be the adult they were meant to be; is it going to escalate or de-escalate the situation, is it going to teach your child something or is it just a moment of anger for you that will pass?

    Many blessings,

    Carrie