From about five and a half onward, the six/seven year transformation is a time of change. It is can be an overwhelming but profound period for children. Children at this time are working out of not just imitation, but also with short, simple and clear phrases. They need to be supported by speaking in pictures to them, not intellectually, and by setting strong boundaries.
During this time, many children often experience the need to be the boss. A “bossy” six year old is pretty typical of this age. (Alhough I personally think if the child was spoken to as a little adult and given a myriad of choices from early on the bossiness in the six and eight year old years is probably worse than in children who were not parented that way).
My favorite book on this subject is “You’re Not The Boss of Me: Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” as edited by Ruth Ker and available through Waldorf booksellers.
Here are some ways to best support your child in this challenging phase:
- Do your own inner work and personal development. Your authority and your calm response to things, whether it is door slamming or saying “I hate you, Mommy!” is really, really important. They do not have equilibrium in this stage and you must have it for them.
- Matter of fact responses are best: “Teacher (Mommy) knows the lay of the land.” “This is my job to help you.” “You may do x”
- Don’t forget though, that movement and imagination and speaking in pictures still predominates – no lectures, no intellectual debates, no reasoning.
- Focus more on what you do want, rather than the behavior that is challenging you. Help guide the child and cue them to what you want.
- A strong rhythm is important, even if they are fighting against it. You do the things in your rhythm.
- Practical work is paramount at this time as the children are in a crisis in play. You may need to sit down and plan longer projects, and really figure out where they can help alongside of you. Here is a great article regarding work in the Waldorf Kindergarten written by an Atlanta colleague and friend, Karen Smith: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/purposefulwork%20doc.pdf
- Assisting younger children is also helpful
- Loving authority and boundaries—authority is demonstrated through knowing how to do something and through our calm and unruffled presence.
- Manners are another way to provide form and boundaries for children. Manners are very important to bring to the child gradually, through modeling, through treating the child respectfully. Here is a lovely blog post from over at Christopherus pertaining to small children and manners: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/03/helping-little.html
- Spending time in nature so the child can soak in quiet impressions is important.
- Sleep, rest, warming foods are anchors for the day.
- Love your child, be with your child, enjoy your child.