Children Who Dislike Everything

I was going through some papers this weekend and came across an article by Michael Howard that I had printed out called, “Educating the Feeling-will in the Kindergarten” and this quote just popped out at me:

“The defining characteristic of feeling will is the capacity to live deeply into the inner quality of something outside us, knowing and feeling it as if we are within it or it is within us. In the early childhood years a healthy child is naturally inclined to drink in the inner mood and qualities of places and persons.  It is one of the tragedies of our times that the ways of the world, including the life of the family and school, can dull rather than foster this natural soul attachment.  Tragically, many young children come to kindergarten with a sense-nerve disposition already strongly developed.  Their thinking has become prematurely intellectual and abstract, and their feeling life inclines toward strong personal like or dislike.”

I have been seeing so many tiny children yet with so many big opinions.  Have you been seeing this as well?  This, is, of course, not directed toward children struggling with “opinion” due to sensory challenges, autistic spectrum challenges, etc. but more tiny children who just are so in themselves at an early age.

Within the grades, ages six and a half and up, we do work with feelings of sympathy toward something or antipathy toward something.  That is an appropriate vehicle for teaching in the grades, and we elicit these feelings through stories, biography, history in story form, art, color in art, drama, poetry and recitation, singing and playing musical instruments,  modeling and painting, movement, folk dancing and other activities.  The curriculum in the grades  is one of doing in order to learn. It is not one of “after I do my main lesson I will fit those art things in”.  Art is the curriculum.

However, I think in the Early Years of birth through six and  a half/seven,  these strong feelings are stemming from

1.  The cultivation of mood in the home.  Can we surround this small child with what I call “A Christmas Mood” all year long?  You can see this back post about that here:

2.  Too many choices.

3.  Not enough BOUNDARIES.  You can see a back post on that here:

The fine art of parenting is to know when to respect what they child is saying, when to know to respect the child and their developmental stage by setting a boundary and essentially knowing you cannot listen to what they are saying (for example, a small child cannot predict the amount of cavities they will get because they have a strong opinion that they never want to brush their teeth), or when to know this is something whimsical the child is saying and it will flip just a few minutes later.  Anyone who has dealt with a two year old knows what I am talking about!  Even a five or six year old will say many different things, many of them contradictory and if you put so much WEIGHT on their words and trying to meet everything they are SAYING but not telling you through their whole attitude, body, demeanor, etc. you are missing the big picture by focusing only on the words.  Look at and observe the WHOLE child.    In American society at least, we put far too much stock on the individuality of the child and that child’s words.

4.  Too much information at an early age.  Stop talking!  Even seven and eight year olds need simple explanation, not a book.

5.    Not enough time in nature to just “be”, undirected.  The “will” in Waldorf Education is often spoken of in conjunction with the arts, using that artistic side of the brain, but we do not “teach” children art in the early grades – we expose them to “artistic” activities that are part of the rhythm of the week and the day.  Baking and digging in the dirt and such is the “handwork” of the Early Years child!  So many mothers ask about handwork for the small child – yes, as they get bigger, finger knitting and such, but truly the first experiences for handwork are those whole-body experiences!  The article I quoted above mentions specifically  sand play, digging in clay (which has a cold quality and I know many Waldorf Kindergarten teachers who would not consider this activity due to that quality for small children, so that was interesting to me),  using beeswax modeling material in a earth toned color (which I would say salt dough in place of beeswax modeling).

The article talks about how something as small as vibrant and bright color affects the children and diverts them from looking and living closely into doing and making form.  The author also talks about creating things in a process without making anything specific – I think we see this best in wet on wet painting for small children, but I think in many other areas, we often fail because as adults we turn it all into more of a  “project driven” thing rather than experience- driven thing.   Just food for thought.

5.  Movement, movement, movement – being outside and going across logs, up and down grades of land, riding trikes and bikes, swimming, imitating animal movement, gestures in song and verses.

6.  RHYTHM and SAMENESS.  These are also not popular things to say in American culture, where children are prized for their ability for being able to be dragged to all kinds of situations and places and caregivers at any early age.  Yes, there should be a tight knit community for the child to grow in – a neighborhood, family, close friends. I am not saying that the small child should only be with its mother.  Fathers, grandparents, friends, even the school if you choose to send your child to school at age four as many in the US do – school then is part of your community for that child. Treat it as such.

But Americans in general completely undervalue the need to protect a small child and to know that the small child will be the most healthy adult with a solid foundation of rhythm, good rest and sleep and sameness.   There is far too much emphasis on giving children new experiences and novelty – only to discover these children in the high school years are “bored by life” and feel as if they have seen it all.

I know this sounds like I am feeling in a sour mood today, and I really am not.  I love parents and families and their children.  What I want is for us, as parents, to have a greater awareness that the Early Years are not a miniaturization of the adult years, that there are differences in children of these ages, and that we should have  a healthy respect for that.


Many blessings,


17 thoughts on “Children Who Dislike Everything

  1. Hello Dear Carrie,
    Some days I get so excited about your posts that I want to Blog~Along with you. This is one of them. (though a very full day) Thank you for stating it, it is so apt and important! XO Lisa

  2. Your blog is a constant inspiration to me! I have gained much confidence in letting my children play outside, I have them involved in zero activities and even keep our play dates minimal, and I’d like to incorporate more of them as time goes by! This doesn’t sound sour, it sounds wise. 🙂

  3. Yes! To everything! And, I really love the point about teenagers feeling like they’ve already seen it all. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way, but it’s so true. These older kids must feel like no special experiences have been saved for them to enjoy or delayed until they are really ready. So, what’s left? If you haven’t learned delayed gratification, if you have been fed a diet of too much, too soon, everything I want when I want it, I for one am afraid of what’s left. This is a good enough reason for us parents to remember to respect where our children really are and be patient with all the things we want to share with them. It will surely pay off in their not chasing the next “experience” or adrenaline rush when they are teenagers and young adults! Thanks for making this point Carrie!

  4. A good high-level summary. This is the kind of list I wish I had had and paid attention to when mine were little. We have been steering the ship back around a bit, course correction starting when I began to grasp “boundaries” when my son was around 5+. Too many choices, too much talking and negotiation, too much information and not enough rhythm. Fortunately, we had lots of nature and gross-motor and sensory activities, time outside, movement, lack of scheduling and his ability to imagine and self-direct his own play (and very low media, which we have now cut down to rarity). I could sense then that we were catching this just in time. My younger daughter is a great example of a 5 year old who is able to drink in whatever is happening at the moment, and she is so happy and sunny. She bring Christmas to us every day–Lately, every day she comes into the kitchen as I make breakfast and gives herself as a present (one example: a kitten or puppy wrapped in her favorite flannel sheet). I am so glad we are in a Waldorf school now to help us preserve whatever we can of their childhood. Thank you for blogging. You keep it concise and clear.

  5. Great blog.
    As a teacher (not yet a parent) I feel it is so important to keep to this, and share it with parents.
    It really is all about the process. The children don’t need much, because they have their imagination. We are merely guiding them to open it up and we have special tools to do this. Too much, too soon is a great fear of mine for the young child. In an age where there is so much hurriedness, so much going on, so much technology, so many options, extras, sounds, lights, zooming, buzzing….we need to make it stop (and ourselves stop) and keep these young children clear of all of this to be able to grow and open up into a healthy adolescence and adulthood. Consistency, rhythm, predictability (“sameness” -i like that term), and boundaries WILL give the child the sureness they need to mature at their own rate.
    Thank you for this important topic!

  6. I have tears in my eyes for this you site is such a blessing to me at this point of our journey with our Sunshine. I feel like I am failing most of the time with our daughter, who is 5 years old. She is an only child and I don’t know if that is the reason she acts and wants to always be older. I try my best in providing a home that is appropriate for her age. She is still sassy, “wants” to be a teen, talks back big time, and just seems dissatisfied with life. Simple things, on most days, do not bring her joy. She “says” she doesn’t like to play. And there have been days were I look back and see that yes, she did not play at all today. Either she drags along while I tried to finish my chores, might look at a book, asked many, many times to watch tv, and might do a craft. Do I give into the tv? Sometimes I do, but most of the times I do not. My fear is yes, by the time she in her teen years, she will not have the desire and joy to take on this world head on. Are my friends and family concern. . .not really, they think it is “cute” for her to act so growny. Sometimes I try to bring out her silliness by acting like a child myself. Sometimes that seems to work, but most of the time she just looks at me. *sigh*

    Here is adding factor to the problem. . .we have older kid neighors (11 girl, 14 boy) cannot for the life of my figure out WHY such older kids want to play with a 5 year old girl. My only guess, is their mother is VERY strict and I am more easy going when it comes to play. We have a craft room, snacks, outdoor play, etc. My sunshine is just in awe of them and I do realize this is a huge problem in her wanting to act older. However, these are the only kids in the neighborhood. Even in our local homeschool group we are the only ones who are doing Waldorf-inspired homeschool. And we have not found any one to play with. . .all boys with rough play which she does not like. What do I do?

    She has lost many friends going to school this year and it is hard to make new friends especially since the people I am finding are complete opposite of how we are trying to raise our Sunshine. I know that these are 2 questions. . .different, but the same in some ways. I guess, I am just lost. Praying for a family I will meet soon that will understand and has the same views in raising children and have a little girl who is 4 or 5 to play with my daughter. That is not too much to ask is it? 😉 Thank you for your site. . . I am learning so much and will start applying what I have learn today, right now. 🙂 Thank you. Blessings to you and yours.

    • Ashley,
      You are bringing tears to my eyes! It is not too late! I have some ideas and I will email you later tonight!


  7. Hello Carrie,

    As I mentioned before I have only recently been introduced to Waldorf but it really resonates with me, to say the least. The books and websites I have devoured and continue to devour have really changed me as a person and parent (I have a 14 month old). I was feeling quite blue the day you posted this because in learning what to do or, better yet, what not to do with our daughter, I was suffering in seeing how my husband and mother in law interacted with Sofi: asking lots of questions, “teaching” her things, controlling her play, etc. I wanted to share some of what I have learned with my husband but I was afraid of his reaction since he isn’t as convinced about Waldorf as me and hasn’t shown much interest in reading any of the books I have read. Then I read your post. It was a sign. Today was the day. The conversation went really well actually. I was completely overjoyed that this burden had been lifted. The question is, what do I do about my mother in law? She spends about 5-10 hours per week with Sofi. Do you think it’s necessary to talk to her as well? I really don’t want to. I am hoping I don’t have to since she is only with her a few hours a week. I would like to hear what you have to say about this delicate situation. Thank you for this blog.

    • Hi Nicole,
      How wonderful that you felt comfortable enough to speak with your husband and talk with him and with him begin to create your own family culture. Your little one is so tiny, and it takes time to really create how you want to do things. I suggest to many families to sit down and write a family mission statement; just the process alone can really get everyone on the same page! You can throw family mission statement into the search engine box on this blog and those posts should come up.
      You asked for my opinion about your mother in law, and here it is: I think it is wonderful to have a grandmother around period, let alone one who wants to spend time with your small daughter – what a blessing! I am so opposed when I read on some of the big Waldorf lists that if grandma watches TV then contact should be broken with grandma. That is horrible and terrible in my eyes. Grandparents are precious. I think all you can say is , “Sofi really loves to (bake cookies, clean things etc) and try to put the idea of experiences out there. “Her favorite nursery rhyme right now is” and sort of plant the seeds of the things you would like the two of them to do together. SHe is really small, and of course you have more say now, but as she grows, her relationship with her grandmother will be her relationship.

      Just my opinion, I know many would disagree with my take. Ultimately, all you can do is pray about it and see what comes into your heart and soul on this matter.

      You are the expert on your child.

      Thank you for reading my blog, and many blessings to you and your family,

    • I saw this in my e mail box and have to comment that I have never in my nearly twenty years of Waldorf education heard it recommended that a child’s relationship with a grandparent be cut off because of television viewing. The human relationships are very important. In fact they are so important that Waldorf educators do not use technology or tv because of the importance of learning from other human beings. If grandma is subverting the parents authority, blatantly, then one might consider the dynamic of the relationship but no where have I heard any Waldorf spokesperson recommend the severing of a relationship because the tv is on. This sort of rigidity is a big tunr off and not what Waldorf values espouse. It is truthful to share your concerns if you have them about your child’s exposure to television. It can be done in a kind and loving and honest way or even in a way to encourage other kinds of interaction ~ elements of grandmother’s life that she might share, stories of her childhood, walks, tea party, baking, whatever grandma loves to do, from that place.

    • Lisa,
      YES! And sorry to not have been more clear, I meant this has come up on list serve or yahoo groups or email groups or forums, and you are correct, it is not trained Waldorf Educators saying this but sometimes (maybe overzealous?) Waldorf parents (PARENTS not WALDORF TEACHERS) on that list…That is what I was getting at too, by planting the seeds of what the child enjoys, what would be lovely for the child of that age .. Just what you said Lisa.

      Sorry for any confusion, and thank you for bringing it to my attention to clarify it as I certainly didn’t mean that as a position educators hold at all! But I have read this “advice” in response to similar questions on Waldorf related lists, and it always upset me.

      Thanks Lisa!!

  8. Also, have you read The Magical Child? I was surprised to read that he believes in talking to the baby/young child continually as well as hurrying the baby’s development as the Ugandan mothers do. Are you familiar with this book? What is your take?

    • Nicole: I read Magical Parent, Magical Child which is by the same author, but also co-authored with Michael Mendizza. I would say that this book is one of the reasons why I seriously considered having my children Waldorf schooled (and now they are; we chose school instead of homeschooling for our family.) MPMC is more recent and Joseph C. Pearce has continued to write and develop also, and is now advanced in years after many years of contributing extremely valuable information which the Waldorf community, I think, uses extensively as the evidence backing the principles Waldorf has espoused all along. I would be surprised if you could extrapolate any advice to hurry the child along in his development out of Pearce’s body of work. I encourage you to read MPMC.

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