Chapter One opens with a story about a sweet little eight year old who was entering third grade. His parents were both professionals in education and government, and they lived in the city. The little boy was a picky eater, an intelligent speaker with adults but had trouble connecting to his peers, avoided any risk taking, and was a bit anxious. James was often in the midst of a stream of adult information about political and adult intellectual topics. The parents decided the best way to help James was to work on rhythm, and decrease the amount he overheard regarding world news, politics and topics like global warming. When this was done, the sleep of the little boy improved and his outdoor play expanded. His anxiety decreased.
The authors ask, “Was all of this directly attributable to the changes James’s family made? Was it lack of TV? Less talk of global warming? Can we point to any one thing that made the real difference? My answer to that would be no, and yes. I don’t think there was any one thing, any magic bullet that obliterated James’s nervousness and controlling behaviors. But the steps taken to protect James’s childhood definitely had an effect.”
Simplifying the world of a child often leads to growth and positive change. This can often be so difficult in societies and cultures that pride themselves on fast solutions to everything from parenting to business. It can also be difficult in societies that do not view the protection of children as something that should happen, but rather a “how fast can we move them along” mentality. Kim John Payne points out that many of the children he saw attempted to exert some control through picky eating, sleep, the way they behaved toward their parents, their ordering of their environment, their play toward other children, aggressive behavior toward their parents, nervous behavior.
I agree with this in a sense. I have seen this quite a bit in consulting with homeschooling families, the children I taught at Sunday School, and children I have observed in my hospital work. However, sometimes a picky eater is a child who has sensory challenges or the picky eating is related to physiologic issues of prematurity and has nothing to do the amount of information the child is exposed to or the pace of life. (But this is not to excuse over-scheduling of children of course!). So I do think a list of all possible causes and etiologies has to be discerned before moving forward with any kind of a plan.
Kim John Payne likens the cumulative stress our children are often under to the children he worked with in refugee camps that had PTSD. His point, though, is not that everyday, normal stress should be eliminated. Children need the chance to experience “frustrated desires, illnesses, sorrows and losses. Their lives are not stress free, and childhood is not a series of “rainbow moments”, each lovelier than the next.”
I think we often work far too hard to give our children a day full of “rainbow moments’’, with each day trying to top the previous day. Rhythm, repetition and being home can be an antidote for this problem. When we teach our children from an early age that the best things happen away from home, when we spend money or some variation in order to have those “rainbow moments”, when we show our children that life should be nothing but fun and happiness and new experiences, I think we are setting up a platform that will be hard for the child to sustain themselves once they become a teenager and young adult.
We up to page 10 in Chapter One; I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. What did you gleam from the first part of this chapter?
I agree with you, Carrie and KJP, that it is not helpful to children to give them a never-ending flow of rainbow moments. It is such a gift to see rainbow moments in the ordinary, daily moments – to be content in a basket of ironing completed, the smell of home-baked biscuits, a picture finished and admired, a gardening afternoon. I want my children to be unsophisticated, to appreciate and show gratitude towards the small details of life for ‘God is in the details.’
I am reawakening to how i want our family life to be by reading just the first 20 pages of this book! i had been so afraid of disappointing my son that I attempted rainbow moments every day. Having mostly stopped that, i see how much happier he seems to be hanging out at home and playing outside. Now to work on the dinner table conversation. This is a tough one because it typically is the longest time my husband and i have to talk during the week….hmmm.
Dear Carrie, Thank you for doing this! This is super helpful as a busy mom of 4 under 6. I felt like I once read parenting books all the time, but have done less, so thank you so much for synthesizing this information! Alexis Sutter
I just wanted to share our experience b/c it relates to this topic so much. Our family has been working very hard over the last year to cut back, simplify, reduce over exposure, play but my oldest (a nearly six year old) has had a harder time worth it. She thinks we’re boring. While most days she’s prefectly content to make soup outside as soon as someone comes to visit or we go home and she gets an inkling of how others eat, what they get to watch or do, what they wear, etc. she is affected for so long. She clings to them, their lifestyle. I am non existent.she wants, wants, wants & everything is so dramatic & def not enough. I don’t understand how to manage this up & down. what can i do tohelp her see what we have is the good life. My other children are younger & not as affected… Yet. I want to add as a side note that we decided to unenroll her from kindergarten last fall after a few months of being prefect in school but then coming home & not eating, sleeping, crying for hours, etc. it made huge improvements to which led me to decide to homeschool het this fall. My extended family is unavoidable as is the very occasional trip to target where she gets new ideas… I can’t keep her in a bubble but how to make her see through all the fake time sucking, glitz & junk to appreciate what we have? As always thank you for your posts!
Hi CHelsea, Congratulations, congratulations on all the positive changes you have made ! That is big and exciting! As far as the “bored” or more general malaise..
I have seen this be a general developmental phase of age six. There are some back posts about gratitude that some mothers were commenting on the same behavior in there little ones. No, there is no bubble, not even in a Waldorf life. One thing she may need though, is a lot of time in nature or in a garden to connect. How much physical movement is she getting a day? How much work in the home does she get to do? I find movement is often the great medicine for this attitude, even though it seems unrelated. Children under the age of nine have a real excess of emotion and she really is too young to manage it herself well, so you have to manage it for her. I would try really, really hard to run Target trips without her, after she is asleep. That is one thing you can control. I would tell her little stories about animal friends who have just enough, don’t need more, and share with those who don’t have anything. “Healing Challenging Behavior” by Susan Perrow has some good stories for this. And, I would keep an eye on it and think about once she is past the nine year change what help she may need in handling these types of emotions herself.
And remember, in most homes boring equals work. In my book, boring equals work or the need for movement. 🙂
Hang in there – back posts on the six year old might also be useful to you! See those under the development header bar.
Thank you for the ideas! I’m def going to read about the six year old. Thankfully the summer around here brings lots of movement but I’m liking the idea of home “work”. I need to find some age appropriate chores for her to grow into. Thanks again, Carrie!
I’m reading this book for a second time now, and these first few pages are reminding me that the need to slow down and simplify is a adult need as well as a childhood need. I’ve found myself spending a lot of thought on reducing toys, cutting down media for the children, cutting back children’s activities, etc. I’ve been thinking this through for years. My oldest child is 10 now. But it is only recently that I’ve actually been taking to heart the need to address these concerns in my own adult life. Its easy to pay lip service to ‘living simply’ as an adult, and before you know it, life has got all cluttered again. When things get insane my first thoughts are “Get rid of the Lego”. But I’m trying to refocus and think “Tidy up that pile of mail”, “Take back all those (adult) library books I’m not really going to read”, “Stop planning outings that take me out in the week nights”. Its a challenge.
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