When A Child Balks At Rhythm

Some mothers have asked me what to do when my child balks at our rhythm or a particular activity within our rhythm?  I have several thoughts about this subject,

First of all, in general, if rhythm is new to you, start small around mealtimes and sleeping times and build up from there.  It may be that your child is balking at the rhythm because there is just too much going on that is new and it is all taking place too fast.  It may take several months or longer to really get in a full rhythm of the day and the week.  Your seasonal rhythm may take even longer than that as you start small with festivals and then add things to each individual festival each year or even add festivals each year that you have never celebrated before.

As I mentioned above, some of this depends on age.  If your child is under the age of seven, I would respectfully ask that you look to yourself first.  Are you being rather ADHD about your rhythm and starting things and not finishing them before you are moving on to something else?  Is there one particular activity that is problematic and is this activity one you yourself enjoys or one that you secretly dread?  Your child can pick up on this feeling even if you do not verbalize it!  Is it the right season to be doing whatever activity you have planned – for example, many mothers have told me they do not like to knit in summer.  If this is you, it may be hard for you to teach knitting to your first grader in July!   Is the rhythm so complex that you can’t even carry it?   A rhythm is a gentle flow to the day of in-breath and out-breath activities.  This should include more of an order, blocks of time than a minute-by-minute, play-by-play kind of schedule.  So, the first place to start with a balking child is with yourself.

If your child is under the age of 7 and your child is balking about the rhythm, here are some ideas.  Parents have asked me, “ What do I do when it is gardening time, and my child just won’t get their shoes on to go outside?  They don’t want to garden then.” 

There are no blanket answers for this per say, but here are some ideas:

  • With a small child, the rhythm and the outcomes of things that happen within the rhythm are mainly carried by YOU.  So, if your child doesn’t want to garden, and he or she has gone to the bathroom and had a snack and is generally okay, perhaps YOU garden and they join in, or they just play while you garden.  You may only get a small amount of practical work in.  Rudolf Steiner said somewhere in his lectures that a child seeing even 15 minutes of quality work was worth this effort and time. 
  • The other question to this is:  have you built in time for preparing for the activity and cleaning up from the activity?  If we always put our gardening pants and shoes on while we sing a song about gardening, then it is habit to wear shoes.  Building up anticipation through preparation for a task, singing about the task, and  having an allotment of time to clean-up from a task  is just as important to the child as the task itself.
  • Also, try to look at your task from the child’s point of view.  Yes, the task is for you and being carried by you, but it should also include child-friendly elements.  For gardening, this might include watering, planting large seeds a child can handle, digging for worms.  There should be songs and stories!  The practical work of life should be fun!
  • A child under the age of 7 is at the height of imitation.  Imitate with happiness the task at hand, use songs and wonder, and the activity will be fun. If you start the activity by saying, “Now we will go garden,” and the child envisions hours of you pulling weeds, they may very well not want  to do it!
  • The other question that always begs to be asked is:  Does your rhythm need to be changed?  Maybe your child really wants a story before you go outside.  Can you make up a story about a worm, or a butterfly, or gnomes helping to put the seed babies to bed?  Maybe your child needs a game before they go outside or maybe a game once they are outside before they can settle down enough to do a small task at hand.  Go back again and think your in-breath and out-breath of activities.

For a child over the age of 7, I would think not only of these things, but also the worthiness of authority for this age group, as according to Steiner himself.  Your very gesture and mood permeate the task and the rhythm and sometimes the answer to this is just working with the child’s will to complete something.  This does not have to be as harsh as it sounds, but many seven and ten year olds will grumble at the prospect of doing work, but then are very proud of their accomplishments indeed if you can just help them persevere through it!

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.


2 thoughts on “When A Child Balks At Rhythm

  1. Carrie, this is such a great reminder, this especially talks to me :

    Have you built in time for preparing for the activity and cleaning up from the activity? If we always put our gardening pants and shoes on while we sing a song about gardening, then it is habit to wear shoes. Building up anticipation through preparation for a task, singing about the task, and having an allotment of time to clean-up from a task is just as important to the child as the task itself.

    As well as the need to reevaluate our rhythm…

    For the gardening example, if a child throws a fit and doesn’t want to get out, do you carry him outside, singing a little tune or telling a story?

  2. Catherine,
    Thanks for reading! In answer to your question, I would probably have a built-in story time for the young child in addition to a verse or song that would lead into the anticipation of hunting for something in the garden to calm any fears…Also the prospect of finding bugs, or things that are favorite activities come to mind. I often also bring toys out or our sensory table and give them some “warm-up” time while I gather up my gardening tools or seeds… I know what you are saying though, when the wee ones don’t want to go it is hard; but you do your best to carry it in a cheerful, peaceful, matter of fact way. It is often like the bathtub, LOL, no one wants to get in and when they do, no one wants to get out! Just like everything else, we work on these transition points.

    There are also many things one can gather for crafts outside while you are gardening…What little book talks about showing children how to make flower chains, to take a half-open pine cone and put little flowers and finds into the open spots to make little trees…THings that that can be a very satisfying way to starting a gardening session..

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