This is probably the most important thing one can think about in this world – raising a child that will become an adult who is peaceful, who can be peaceful in the midst of whatever circumstances come their way, a child who can be a peacemaker with others.
To me, there are many ways to work toward this in parenting. For all ages, I believe the most important thing is to be calm oneself and to be able to model being calm. Children, especially children under the age of the 9-year change can be seen as having/being prone to “an excess of emotion”. Therefore, self-control is not the strongest point of a child under the age of 9…and logical reasoning begins around the age of 14….so, it is really up to you, the adult to model how to be calm and how to be a peacemaker while the child takes all these years to develop these skills.
Remember how big and huge and scary you can look to your child in your moments of highest anger. A giant, to be sure and an image that can be stuck in a child’s mind permanently. I am not suggesting that as parents we can be perfect and never get angry and always behave calmly. However, I am suggesting that we do as much as we need to do to keep ourselves as centered as possible.
For women, I truly think this means not wearing so many hats. Many women are not only working inside the home, but outside the home as well. They are running businesses, parenting, volunteering, trying to be perfect wives and mothers and neighbors – all whilst they have small children. Some women handle this beautifully, but many women find it to be a fast-moving train that is difficult to jump off. Priorities count: your children will only be little once and that is it. Wearing so many hats forces things to be hurried, stressed, anxious and can lead to less than calm moments. Is it worth it?
For women who work within the home, I find so many of them are trying to do everything perfectly. Keep in mind that people are more important than keeping things clean, than material things, than having the perfect home. Many of the mothers I speak with feel so isolated and despite so much information being available through books, radio, TV, the Internet, seem to have a limited grasp on developmental expectations, and positive tools for discipline. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and it is confusing!
I offer this as a way to discern this information: you cannot err on the side of being too gentle (unless you are equating gentle with no limit setting). You can set limits and still be very gentle indeed. To me, connection and gentleness are of utmost importance as I travel this path. Any method or thing that recommends otherwise is not what I hold to be true.
The truth is that the foundation for connection and closeness is laid in the Early Years. You know, the ones we have so backward in the United States. The years where people ask you how fast you are going to push your child away to “be independent”. When are they weaning, when are they sleeping by themselves, why do they cling, when are you leaving them to go on vacation for a week alone, when do you need a break from that baby? All these questions that have things so wrong. A baby, a toddler, a preschooler, a child in Early Elementary really needs these years for connection, for compassion and empathy and for intimacy within the family. This leads to a greater ability later on to be independent at the proper time.
Frustration can be a key cause of feeling and acting not peacefully! If you can do your best to revise, reframe how you are thinking about something, sometimes that can be the key to heading off frustration and anger before it starts. Set limits in a peaceful way, and stick to them calmly. Listen to your child, listen to their point of view, understand their developmental level.
Work on your own anger, your own hostility, your own sarcasm. Try to model being able to step away, to bite your own tongue, to use less words, to step out of the room and breathe and come back in. Model finding solutions to problems, framing things positively. As you model emotional health, so will your children be able to handle things peacefully.
Ugh! I had a moment this morning when I lost my temper regarding something one of my children did (and, in reality, the thing that set me off wasn’t “it,” but the mountain of little things leading up to that ugly moment). I was the one acting like a child, and for that I am so ashamed of myself. I really, really want to be a better model of peace for my family. But for some reason, I can’t seem to get a grasp of my emotions until after-the-fact. It’s certainly an area I need to work on. Thank you for a gentle (and timely, for me) reminder! I find your blog so very inspiring.
We have all been there, haven’t we? I think you are so right, it is often the frustration over other things building up to that moment where we explode…and learning to recognize and walk away before we do something we don’t like is a true “will exercise”. Be peaceful and easy with yourself, model that forgiveness for your children…You are a wonderful mother! We are all human and striving to be better and better.
Thanks for reminding us we’re not abnormal for making non-mainstream choices when it comes to, “When are they weaning, when are they sleeping by themselves, why do they cling, when are you leaving them to go on vacation for a week alone, when do you need a break from that baby?” I’ve always stood alone in my answers but held fast to them, pre-Waldorf-inspired and now. It is quietly reassuring to know you’re validated in other groups. One of the reasons why I love the Waldorf community so much!
Definitely. I think the key is, like you said, not trying to do so much and wear so many different hats. When we do that, our minds are in a million different places, never in the present moment, and anger and frustration quickly come. When we can slow down and strive to be mindful moment by moment, I think the “will exercise” you mentioned above becomes easier.
Lovely words as reminders, thank you 🙂 It seems all of this would be so much easier if our culture simply honored and truly validated the role of mother (as opposed to just lip service to such). Perhaps that is where our “work” can be done (if we feel the need to do such)…building communities of women who are supported as doing one of the most monumental jobs…mothering. Thanks again ~
I really enjoyed your writing here. I have always been considered a very grounded person. Calm. I honestly feel that in the first years with my oldest daughter, when she was essentially an only child, I never once even felt irritable. (I do not mean that in a bragging kind of way.) That is not always the case anymore! I work from home. It is hard, it is not a choice, I really do have to. Sometimes I feel so much guilt (very bad I know!) for ever feeling impatience. I can see the effect it has had on my youngest one. But I try, and I will keep trying. A saying I use a lot in our home is “gentle voices please”. I tell this to myself too!
Yes, yes! Being able to hold things together when it is not as we wished is a true exercise of will….That is the crux of it all. It is “easy” to be a good mother when there is enough money, enough food on the table, enough of everything and everything is going our way…much more challenging to be graceful when things are not going our way!
how does one take off some of those hats? i wear TOO many hats, but have to right now. i have to be a mother, a worker outside the home, a worker inside the hom (watching another’s child), just so that i can stay home and homeschool my kiddos. i juggle these things because i so strongly believe in homeschooling my children. i have a somewhat supportive partner, but he won’t financially support me really. it is challenging.
Sometimes I think sitting down with a piece of paper and REALLY thinking outside the box now. Difficult to sell a home in these economic times, or change where we live to a place with a lower cost of living, or to change a partner (!!!) (Have you read any of my posts on challenges in marriage?) but sometimes just laying out all the possibiliites, no matter how ridiculous sparks an idea…
Delegating and support are essential, and that is so hard without family being on board.
I feel a blog post coming on…:)
I had a blow-up moment yesterday. I find that I can sometimes make it until dinner time… but once dinnertime comes, I AM DONE. DONE. My husband works from home, but doesn’t understand that the volcano is boiling, and that I need HELP… or at least a break. Having two children has been quite a challenge for me… I am an introvert who needs my space, and I don’t get much of it these days. I am trying my best to implement the Waldorf rhythm, but with a 3 1/2 year old and a 7-month old, it feels like everything is changing constantly (naptimes, where everyone is sleeping in order to facilitate good sleep)… what’s realistic for a mom of two young kids to expect? For example, I try to light a candle and set the table for meals, but we can barely get everyone to sit down together… sometimes the baby needs to be put to sleep just as we’re sitting down. Sleeptimes are sporadic, too, as my son gives up his nap, has moved into our room at night so our babe can sleep alone. What should my expectations be? I’ve given up my business to be at home, but I feel smothered by little creatures at times!
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What a great reminder. I find that in our society it is socially acceptable to blow off steam at other people, especially if they happen to be our children annoying us. It’s just wrong, and I try not to let myself cop out with excuses for why I’m impatient and sarcastic. It all comes back to me. Circumstances will be good or bad, but I can decide on my attitude.
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I just found your blog this evening after a very long week with both of my children bickering. We are all sick, have been home from school and cooped up. Never a good combination with a 2.5 and 6.5 year old… I have read and printed out so many of your posts tonight. Thank you so much, I think you will change me as a mother. I will be a better mother for reading this. Thank you.
MaryLea (pink and green mama)
Glad you found me! Welcome!
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Thank you for all of your wisdom. I wish to be as grounded as you. Thank you for providing a space for all the the mothers out there who feel like we are going up stream alone. It is nice to look around and notice other fish swimming around in these waters too.
I am new to the Waldorf way. It makes so much sense. It is funny that I read your gentle discipline. I always thought it was just an odd coincidence that the best days with my 3 1/2yr. and my 1yr. old were when I was most present with them. Like the rest of the moms out there I am more than a little sleep deprived and it takes longer to catch on. Now I will remove hats, slow down and become present.
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