If you hang around at all in the world of Waldorf parenting and homeschooling, I think you quickly discover rhythm is frequently discussed and seen as the answer to many of the challenges that parents of tiny children face.
It is also something that can lead to a feeling of guilt for many parents – I was nursing on demand, and now I have to transition to having more set times on things? I was following my baby’s lead, and now I have to lead, and how do I do that and still respect my child? What do I do when my (older) child doesn’t “follow” what I thought/had planned?
Nursing is a separate topic from this – nursing is always on an infant and toddler’s lead. If you need more ideas in this area and how to craft a rhythm around this, please do look up the terms breastfeeding, toddler eating, etc in the search engine box on this blog. There are many ways to hold rhythm for a nursing infant and toddler and yet hold the whole family in a rhythm as well.
Rhythm can be your lifesaver. Not only does it solve so many behavioral and discipline challenges just by having a rhythm of what normally happens when, it also can free you up to be helpful to not just your own family members, but to neighbors and community outside of your immediate family. If you feel like you are drowning in your own home under meals, diapering and potty training and sleep times, rhythm is your friend and ally to help build this ability to help yourself and others. If you are convinced of this, it takes away much of the guilt that you are doing something that is not respectful “to” your child. To the contrary, rhythm is the most respectful teacher of your child and in integrating the family as a whole. Rhythm is also a way mothers can learn to be content and happy AT home, rather than having to go out every minute.
Rhythm is about helping your child meet their capacities in a developmentally appropriate way. Rhythm is about getting the needs of the whole family met; which is very important as children mature and grow. Rhythm is about the child being part of the family, and the family in unity.
Rhythm helps foster boundaries, for a child who sees that parents have work within the home that nourishes the entire family and also has the time and space for patience with small children.
Rhythm helps you to learn to say “no” to fast tracking childhood through too many outside activities. Rhythm helps you realize the limitation of one parent, multiple children, and length of time things take with small children. Rhythm gives one a sense of time and space.
Rhythm isn’t set times – it can be a general flow with plenty of time and space around the margins. However, it can also provide a needed push toward regular meal, bathroom and rest/sleep times. This can be such a wonderful thing for families where this does not come naturally.
Rhythm can be built from where you are. If the only thing you have that is rhythmical in your family is a waking up time, you can build from there. If the only thing you have going is that you tend to eat dinner with the other adults in your family at a certain time, then you can build from there.
Rhythm can take into account your goals. Perhaps your goal is to get your toddler to go to sleep earlier – rhythm can help you work towards that. Rhythm can help you with potty training and also with meal times.
Rhythm can be flexible depending upon the seasons, the day of the week and account for differences in the weekdays and weekends.
There are many, many back posts on this blog regarding rhythm, but one you might enjoy is the five secrets to setting a rhythm for your home and this seven part series regarding rhythm that begins with this post.