Creating A Peaceful Home Amidst Conflict

I get a lot of email about sibling fighting between siblings of all different age gaps (they are two years apart, they are six years apart – the age gap doesn’t seem to matter nor what gender the children are!), and also email concerning smaller children who are physically running at their parent, yelling at their parent, etc.  You might think, well, that’s not my children!  Well, great!  However, I find many children, and actually many times children, especially those who feel anxious or angry or generally passionate about things have a harder time handling their big emotions.  So, if your children are super calm and you never had to deal with any of this, it may be more of a temperament or personality thing on the part of your child, along with your parenting!

I think there are several step to helping gain peace amidst conflict in the home, whether the confict is child and parent or child to child.

  1. Figure out what your boundaries are. What will or will you not have in your home?  You cannot just let things go along and then snap because suddenly after the twentieth time your child or the children together do something, you feel upset about it.  If it is your boundary, you must have a plan to act on the behavior  that crosses this boundary every single time.  Decide what is big and what is small – it cannot ALL be big.  Let some of it go, but don’t let all of it go.  You are the parent and the guide to help your child.  Your child is going to try things on; help them figure out which garment should stick.
  2.  Do your best to set the right stage.  A steady rhythm, a life that is not rushing from one thing to the next, making sure the children and yes, even teens,  are rested and fed is really important and have had physical exercise.  Limit the screens if you don’t already. Too much screen time seems to make all people cranky!  Where is your self-care?  We cannot do this without self-care.  Exercise is usually the number one thing mothers tell me that helps them handle their children better.  It is a priority!
  3. IN THE MOMENT:  Calm yourself.  It is much easier when children are older to leave the room, step outside, etc.  and take a moment.  It is harder when children are younger because they may be screaming, hitting, kicking, trying to climb up you in their frustration.  Sometimes just sitting down and holding a child through that can help if you are comfortable with that.  Sometimes just scooping up a small child and being together on the grass outside helps.  Some families do look at helping their children sit down next to them in a cozy spot they have set up for just these occasions.  Tiny children will  need your physical presence to calm down; older children should be able to calm down without you physically holding them.  Time in together and calm down.  Do NOT attempt to talk about what just happened.  No one is ready.  Take this conflict and your reaction into your inner work that night. Why is this so hard for you to keep your cool when this happens? What is the fear undernearth your reaction if you are not calm?
  4.  When everyone is calm, connect.  Talk about what happened simply.  If your child is tiny, under the six/seven change, you may approach this more from a simple statement, a picture of what happened (“Your car (the child himself)  was going too fast and the lamp fell when you took that turn!).  Older children can talk about what happened and you can listen. However, discourage going over and over the same thing. Some older children will do this in an attempt to show you how right they were and how they were wronged and how none of what happened was their fault.  Once is enough.  With that, simple statements also work best.  “We are kind in this family” “We help in this family” when it is your turn to speak.  And yes, you should speak and make clear what happened.  And yes, everyone should learn to apologize and forgive each other as well.  Apologizing and forgiving is also connecting.  Apologizing is genuine; we never force a child to apologize but we model and as a child ages, this should come naturally.
  5. Consequences.  The best consequences include having the child make restitution for what happened – if something broke, they fix it; if they disrupted the entire family, they need to do a chore for the amount of time they disrupted the family; if they hurt a sibling, they need to do something nice for that sibling.   Sometimes teens have a harder time.  For example, sneaky behavior of sneaking out of the house, taking something that isn’t theirs (repeatedly), sneaking onto technology, etc.  This may require not just restitution , but also a natural consequence.  They may loose driving the car for a period of time, for example, if they took the car without asking or snuck out and drove the car.  Many times this step needs to come some time AFTER everything is calmed down and connection is made.  Consequences made in the moment often are just punishments with no direct connection to what happened.
  6. Prevention.  When children are under the six/seven change or even the nine year change, I think a lot of conflict resolution is literally training this order – calming, connecting, consequences and working on the right environment.  However, as children reach the nine year change, I think being able to talk about dealing with frustration and conflict is really important.  How do we handle big emotions? What is the model in our family?  How do we work as a team all together?  How do we love each other in times of conflict?  Many children also need to learn to love themselves. I find this often comes into play a lot in the 9-14 age range.

It sounds simple when we lay it out, but it never is simple in the moment.  The tears, the yelling, or dealing with the same issue fifty times in one day can be trying.  Thinking everything is calmed down and then the yelling or crying starts again is also trying.  However, this is probably one of the most important roles in parenting and homeschooling.  It is character development and the thing many adults need to learn- conflict resolution in a non violent and direct (not passive aggressive) way.  I will be writing some posts by ago about handling emotions and emotional health soon. It is a very imporatnt topic in this day and age when many teens are having challenges mental and emotional health.  We need to be pro-active and work in developmentally appropriate ways to help our children.  The foundation is in the under nine years, but the real work is between the ages of 9-18.

More to come,

Carrie

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10 Ways to Reset This Summer

Who in the Northern Hemisphere is excited about summer?  I sure am!  We made it through a school year full of challenges that we had no control over, and I am so glad summer is here.  I can’t wait to reset, and here are my top ten ways for “Summer Reset”!

  1. Pledge to have a slow and simple summer.  Summer, to me, is a time of incredible physical growth for most children and even teens.  They are so busy growing and being in their bodies really helps provide balance for a school year!  Don’t worry about them “being bored”.  Did you know that psychologists say that it is healthy for children to have boring summers?  So don’t worry about scheduling things; feel free to say no!
  2. But do keep a skeleton rhythm going on – all the sun, at least in my area, without a lot of respite, can lead to this huge daily out-breath for children (and adults!).  So, having those meal times, rest times after lunch, and bedtimes are still important.
  3. Plan some meals so you don’t have to worry about cooking. I love simple salads, fish tacos, and crockpot meals during the summer!  So much fresh produce to love.  While you are at it, streamline your cleaning for summer.
  4. Keep lots of open time to sit and ponder and read and dream.  I think this is important for homeschooling mamas as a balance to a busy year of teaching!
  5. Find your time in nature.  Even if you did nothing all summer but get outside and threw a weekend or two of camping in, it would be an incredible summer for your kids.  If you want a little inspiration, try the 1000 hours outside Facebook page.  Here were a few ideas for a summer of nature for parents who are working all summer  in this back post from 2014.  Here are a few favorite pictures of my children when they were small, doing summer things.  I don’t post pictures often (maybe twice in ten years?), so enjoy!
  6. Have some things tucked away for the inevitable rainy day.  I love to have little craft kits, or for older children sometimes science kits or things I don’t normally buy  for just such days.  Mainstream homeschool supplier Rainbow Resource often has great deals on any sort of science kit, older child toy like K-Nex, even wooden toys, and lots of great deals on books.
  7. Make appointments for yourself- go to the dentist, doctor, GYN, alternative health care provider.  Most homeschooling mothers I know never have time to do these sorts of appointments during the school year, and it is hard to physically re-set if your hormones or thyroid levels are off or you are suffering from adrenal exhaustion.
  8.  Take time ALONE to rejunvenate. Some mothers actually take a few nights and homeschool plan somewhere alone.  If that isn’t possible, could you garner a few afternoons without your children in order to just think, plan, or do nothing?
  9. Read some classic children’s literature to your children.  There are some great suggestions here in Christine Natale’s gorgeous 2011 guest back post  about creating a magical summer.  Reading great literature is refreshing for everyone!
  10. Spend lots of time each day just relaxing in whatever form that means to you!

Looking forward to a sunshine summer,

Carrie

Upper Grades: Getting To The Essence of A Waldorf Block

The concept of “soul economy,” teaching in such as way as to succinctly represent themes and polarities in the world and then letting that knowledge sink down into the subconscious through sleep as an educational aid, is a concept in Waldorf homeschooling that sounds wonderful but  often feels like a mystery to attain without a lot of experience or teacher training!  For example, when I first started homeschooling the upper grades, about fifth grade and up, I realized I was trying to cram a lot of information into the blocks.  It was a feeling, perhaps from my own public school education, that I needed to pick out the most important things to represent the essence of a time period but also I *needed* to get through most of the book of Greek myths or most of the biographies of famous people in Rome or most of the timeline of American History or most of the experiments for different concepts in physics or whatever it was.  Yes, I tried to pick the most pertinent tales or biographies for the child in front of me, so in that sense it was personalized, but it was still that feeling in my head that we had to get through *all the things*.

Something shifted for me going through the fifth grade and up material a second time, and I think also combined with going through now the first two grades of homeschooling high school, which gives you a much better perspective on these upper grades.  I got much better about really narrowing down the pertinent points and choosing for my child what they needed to hear.  We really have this as such a luxury in the home environment!

I think in order to get at an essence of a block though, you have to know the material.  This actually can be problematic for us as homeschooling mothers when we approach new material because we may be looking at new material across several grades.  For example from my own time through sixth grade – there I was,  two college degrees, and I knew very little about the Roman History covered in sixth grade!  Not really enough to pick what were the watershed moments of this time period and also to choose what really my daughter and her temperament and development needed to hear.  Again, I did much better with this the second time around as I was familiar with the material!

So, what can you do if it is your first time through a block of material? How do you find the essence?

Honestly, I think pick 4-6 “things” out of that block that you really want to bring to life for that time period, block of physics or chemistry, concepts of grammar or  tales of mythology.  I wouldn’t pick more than that.   You really can’t do it justice. Find the broad arc and themes, or the broad polarities in science, and pick things that illustrate that. Arcs, themes, polarities, should be your mantra. Then you can pick what really speaks and stands out to you for your child.

Check out the suggestions in the book “Towards Creative Teaching: Notes to an Evolving Curriculum for Steiner Waldorf Class Teachers” edited by Rawson and Avison.  I think their suggestions at least helped me think about what I really wanted to economically bring.  This book says things such as, “One of the three great discoverers – Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus – might be taken to represent the time of the great discoveries.” (Page 153).  That is just one example of many suggestions as to how to pair things down and gather the essence of a particular block.

Think what and how concepts can be integrated across blocks. By that I mean, can the themes and polarities of one block be reinforced in another block?  For example, history, math, science, world religions, and handwork can all overlap.  Botany and mineralogy often overlap into geography and how people lived, and vice versa.  Many of the  concepts of sciences overlap. What overlaps personally to your child because of where you live in the world? What is reinforced by living where you live and how you live or the people in the child’s environment?  That is another part of homeschooling.

Use art with drawing, painting, modeling, poems, songs,  drama, and recitation of poetry in order to tie it all together.  These arts are so wonderful and what makes a Waldorf Education different from anything else.

Just a few musings.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Mothering Love

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States.  I find it interesting to reflect that as parents, we all come with our own stories of how we were mothered and by whom.

We also have our own journeys into parenting, the births of our children, the developing and deepening of the parenting arts.

We have our own ideas about what it means to be an incredible parent, and how we make our choices to support that.

We have our own strengths and weaknesses, our own failings and foibles.

However, whatever all this might mean,  at the end of the day, parenting is all about relationships and guiding.  It is also about the relationship with ourselves that we develop through our experiences of mothering, and how we so hope and work toward having strong family bonds to carry us through the ups and downs and storms of life.

Today, I honor all my readers in their parenting journey.  You are amazing in the trenches of parenting, and I see you.

My grandmother wrote this toast for a mother-daughter luncheon long before I was born, but its words still ring true today:

Here’s to mothers who waken and watch while others sleep, who toil while others rest, who remember when others forget, who are always close at hand when we rise with the pride that comes before a fall and who are ever making our tumbles easier and our bumps less painful.. Our mothers, whom we shall always follow with blind confidence in their wisdom and strength to guide us in the right direction.
Here’s to our mothers, in memory of our cradle days, in memory of our after years of success, in memory of laughter, of labor and love. The bigger we get, the better we love them. The higher we go, the farther we venture from security and contentment, the surer and more close will be our hold upon our mothers.
If I could mark it on the sands of time, or write it on the sky of every clime, this would I write and write in boldest hand that all the world might see and understand, that far and wide, there could not be another,so fine, so sweet, so wonderful as Mother. 

May you all have a wonderful day!

Blessings,

Carrie

“Getting Children To Do What We Want”

I field questions all the time that basically boil down to, “How do I get my child to do what I want?”  Well, welcome to dealing with another human being who isn’t you! It is a precious dance between two often very different people with different activity levels and temperaments.  I always joke and tell people if you expect obedience, well, that is more like a dog than a human! Haha.

But seriously, first of all, if you can, please stop thinking of it as a war where the child is thwarting what you want or need to happen. If you come in with the attitude that your child or teen has to do only what you want in the way you want it, then it becomes a mindset of a battlefield.   Put out into your family space that you are team and that you can work together with you, the parent or parents, leading.  Take the time to SHOW your younger children how, when, and where you want things done and also accept that there can be, especially for older children and teens,  more than one way to accomplish the same task.  This is an important attitude to carry!  If you need help with this and see most of the main things your children do as “defiant” then I recommend you take a moment to go through this back post:  Defiance

If you are looking to help children and make a peaceful homelife, then here are some suggestions by age since this is what developmental parenting is all about:

If you are talking about a tiny toddler to second grade  the best way to help guide children along amounts to using connection,  rhythm, pictures in your speech, distraction, and stop talking so much!   If you need help, try these back posts:

Using Our Words Like Pearls

Talking in Pictures To Young Children

Stop Talking

What Kind of Family Are You?

From third grade to sixth grade, I think the best way to help guide these children is through the idea of  connection and loving authority.  Yes, in the Waldorf Schools this is seen as very important in the grades, beginning in first grade and coming into full force with the students in the nine-year change. You simply must rise up and be the kind authority in your home.  This means having actual boundaries and actual consequences. Rhythm is still really important as well as NOT overscheduling this age group.  There should be plenty of time for movement out in nature and child-led play (not games led by adults).

Back post to help:  Authority: The Challenge of Our Times

Freedom Versus Form

Boundaries for Gentle Discipline: Why? How?

Helping A Child Learn To Rule Over Himself

In speaking with twelve to fifteen year olds, I think the main piece of advice i have is to Let. it.go within reason.  You cannot micromanage everything, and everything simply cannot be a battle.  You can use rhythm, connection, simple guiding and conversation about why something should be.   Bite your tongue more.  Many of the awkward or angry or tearful stages these teens go through will be done with the fifteen/sixteen change, whenever that happens for that individual child, and whatever they are doing will change as well unless they are facing serious challenges that need professional help.  Increased responsibiity and freedom in the right amounts is important.

Blog Posts to help:  Playing for the Same Team

Finding Center

Changing Our Parenting Language

The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

This idea of responsbility and freedom always carries over into the time when young adults are forging out into the world after the fifteen/sixteen change.  This is the stage of mentoring and helping along.  Some parents are better at this than others – it can be a fine line between being overbearing and doing everything for a young person or stepping back and not really helping at all.  It is the stage of reminding young adults that whilst there is fun and freedom, there is also responsibility and consequences of their actions.  The seventeen year olds transitioning to this may need some extra help sorting through some of this, and since we know the brain is not fully developed for executive functioning and decision-making until age 28, we know we may need to be around to help, but this is definitely more of a mentoring relationship and model.

Blog Post to help:  After the Fifteen/Sixteen Change

Balance

We work with the idea of polarities in Waldorf Education – things of attraction, and things of repulsion.  We see this in the universe and  in the human body at work, and we see it in homeschooling and parenting.

In general we have an idea of –

Balance of inside and outside the home – too much outside of the home and we feel stretched and thin and weary.  Too much inside the home and we may feel isolated and alone.

Balance of structure and unstructured – too much structure and we lose the cozy, relaxing feeling of home.  Too much unstructured time and we lose forward momentum toward progress or goals or even toward balance. Sometimes it takes structure both as a homemaker, student, and teacher to tackle something we don’t like or we don’t want to do.

Balance of being part of the whole family and being an individual person – the older I get the more important it is to me to have a little individuality, a little bit apart that is me.  I am part of the family and enjoy that, but that is not my only thing to enjoy anymore. I think this may be part of the seven year cycles of adult development and may change as one ages.

Balance of  adult-led teaching and child-led teaching. As a Waldorf homeschooler, I look to the time and place in which we live, the child in front of me and his or her interests and the ideas that come from a place of developmental health.

Balance of rest and activity.  So many mothers feel as if they are running on all cylinders, running crazy all the time but is that true activity towards health?  What is the balance of the spiritual, physical, and emotional?

Please share with me your ideas about balance.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

It’s Not Them, It’s You

Children are amazing and incredible and often teach us things that we didn’t even know that we needed to learn. Nearly every time when I have gone through a “rough patch” in my parenting when a child was in a tough developmental stage, I have realized every. single. time. that

It’s not them. It’s me.

If they are making me feel crazy, then I need to work harder.  Their “stuff” is not my “stuff”  and I need to work harder to separate myself from my feelings about it all.   I find if I am holding on to something my children are doing it is because I am approaching something from a place of fear, or a place of being overwhelmed myself in ways that  often have nothing to do with them, or a place of lack of self-care.  Sometimes there is no opportunity to really rectify the lack of self-care or the overwhelm from outside circumstances.

So then I have to hold on to my inner work.  And I have done that more successfully at some times than others, because I am only human.

I get mad. Or tired. Or worried.  That’s life.  But what matters most is what I do with it and how we come out of the valleys.

If you can use the lows to fuel your own self-care, your own growth in patience andin  biting your tongue,  in learning new gentle parenting techniques, in dealing with your own baggage, in improving your own intellectual approach to try to help guide things, then it becomes a positive experience.

Because it’s not about them, it’s about where you are and then how you use that to love and guide a child.

I often find the best way through the parenting patch of weeds or even simply having to watch your child go through a really hard time is up being outside, up being in nature, up using whatever spiritual tools you use, confide in a close friend,  and just love your child.  Connect with them in a one on one way.  Connect with your partner for support if you have that available.

Small phases are small phases, and younger children are not going to grow up and be who they are in these phases that are so  trying to parents. This is something that parents can recognize with more and more experience.  When your first child is six or seven or eight, every single thing they do seems worthy of examination and scrutiny.  Please know that for most circumstances it is all going to work out- for both your child and you!

For older children and teens, sometimes what is going on is more than a phase or a part of the child’s character that needs to be guided. It can be more serious than that.    If it is indeed more serious problems that children and teens are dealing with – addiction, mental health episodes, being a danger to themselves or to others, dealing with dating abuse, abusive friendships – then these deserve a bigger response than just denial that it will all work out in the wash.  Instead, what these older children and teens deserve is  real  and professional help in a timely manner.  Know the resources in your community, and don’t be afraid to name what is going on and seek help.

There will be valleys in parenting, and there will be incredible moments.  There will be holding on and letting go.  The trick is to not lose yourself throughout this process, and to recognize the power of the individual journey.

Blessings and love,

Carrie