How The Shy/Fearful Child Learns To Expand Their World

So, I have no  research studies on this at all…this is from my own experience and observations in working with families who have had extremely shy and almost fearful children.   I am not really talking about children who are more inward; all of us are on the continuum of extrovert to introvert if we look at personality.  I am thinking hear of children who are rather socially anxious, fearful a bit… Many of these children whom I have observed were only truly comfortable with their mothers and no one else.   Many of these children were first-born children, but not all of them, and many of them were girls, but again, not all of them.  This is my special small population sample.

This is how I have personally observed this type of child’s progress into the world outside of his or her mother: Continue reading


The Melancholic Child–Ages 7 and Up



(This post is not meant to address children who are clinically depressed.  Please speak to a health care professional if you feel your child is depressed). 


Then you should know exactly which children lean toward

inner reflection and are inclined to brood over things; these are

the melancholic children. It is not easy to give them impressions

of the outer world. They brood quietly within themselves,

but this does not mean that they are unoccupied in their

inner being. On the contrary, we have the impression that they

are active inwardly.  – “Discussions With Teachers” Lecture One, Rudolf Steiner


Rudolf Steiner was not the first person to work with the ideas of the human temperaments;   the Greek physician Hippocrates incorporated the four temperaments into his medical work and the temperaments have made their way into medicine and psychology since then.  Rudolf Steiner linked the four temperaments to not only his ideas regarding the four fold human being, but also to the different developmental cycles of the human being.  For example, he felt the early childhood years of birth through seven were a predominantly sanguine time.


When we look at children, I have spoken to many mothers who feel the predominant temperament of their child is melancholic.  Many melancholic children have a particular physical body type – tall, slender, mournful eyes, a slow gait.  They tend to think a lot about the past, themselves, and they have a good memory concerning things that happen to themselves.   They tend to analyze, brood and have a strong attention to detail.  Many times they are bothered by the idea of imperfection.  I find many melancholic children in my own life can be rather inflexible, and when things do not happen according to the pictures or thoughts they have laid out, they can become extremely upset or angry.


Many times melancholic children seem to have a poor quality of relationships with others.  These may be the children who have only a few good friends.  They can be drawn into relationships if something strikes them as unjust or unfair; sticking up for the underdog is often part of a melancholic child’s connection and sympathy to another person’s pain and suffering.


Here is my area of caution after working with many families over the years:  Please do not confuse the melancholic child with something else.  I have talked to many mothers who felt their child was melancholic, but when I looked at the child in person and observed them and the family, it seemed to me that the whole family may have been in  a stressful, rough patch that was feeding the child’s feelings that the world was not a good place and that the child was working with this sad, unjust feeling as projected from the mother or other attachment figure in the family.  Once the family became stabilized, the child also stabilized.  This is not true melancholia as a temperamental trait. 


I have also seen videos of children with sensory issues whose parents were clearly worn out by a child’s behavior and sometimes the child would respond with complaining and  brooding to try to arouse the parent’s attention and sympathy.  This is a scenario too long and complicated to get into via electronic medium, but again, I don’t think that is a true melancholic child.  That is a child trying to elicit attention and increased energy from a parent.  The take away  message is that if your own energy is really low, your child may be acting melancholic to try to arouse something out of you!   We must always look to ourselves first. 


And complaining does not always equal a melancholic child either.  I think we have to look at the whole picture of the whole child.  A child may complain and feel lonely through the nine year change, for example, but that is a developmental stage, but not true melancholia as a tempermental trait.


The way to work with a melancholic, as advised by many resources, is to listen carefully to the melancholic child’s deep and brooding thoughts and to tell them stories about others who have suffered or times of your own suffering in order to connect.


I think this works well in a classroom,  and we can also use it in the home environment.  However, I think there is something more that should predominate with a melancholic child in the home environment:  we have to be careful to listen, but not be a captive stage for hours on end by long tales of the woe of the melancholic child.  This can be a tricky balance!  The melancholic child should not set the tone for the home; we should as parents set the tone for our house.   In the home environment where we are with our children 24/7, it is important to demonstrate to the melancholic child how we protect our own emotional boundaries because this is an important aspect of modeling emotional health for this temperament type.  We can carefully listen to our child and then say  that we have certainly heard them, and that we will carry their thoughts with us whilst we go do the dishes or brush the dog.  We can help engage these children in real work, and get them physically moving instead of wallowing in their own negativity.   I find melancholic children often need more exercise and sometimes even more opportunities to be socially drawn out  than they may be prone to want themselves.  Melancholic children are often happiest being creative and reading, which is wonderful, but physical movement and community is very important for these children. 


In my mind, this temperament also needs a strong religious and spiritual life as they grow into adolescence and adulthood in order to have something to hold onto. We want to balance these children and all four of the temperaments that are within them and within us all.



Restlessness And Forgetfulness In The Eight To Ten Year Old

It is rather odd to me that so many mainstream parenting resources focus solely on the developmental stages and phases of the toddler and preschooler, and once a child becomes the age of children in the grades, no one seems to think these children are growing or changing in significant ways anymore!  Yet, parents of children between the ages of  7  to 14 will tell you this is a time of  incredibly rapid change.

To me, two of the hallmarks of development in the time between ages 8 to 10 involves restlessness and forgetfulness. 

It is literally so difficult for the 8 to 10 year old to settle down, to sit down, to focus at times.  It is unreasonable to think that a child in this age range will be able to sit and write and read all day long like an adult.   They are not adults, and they need a lot of movement and time to release energy.  Ways to do this include spending time in nature; neighborhood games; probably less organized sports than one thinks but more  family fun such as hiking, roller blading, roller skating, skiing, swimming, climbing; lots of breaks for movement during school; many chances for movement and DOING to permeate the subjects we are teaching in drawing, modeling, map making, painting, making models.

This is completely unpopular, but I believe strongly that media and screens for this age should be limited.  There are too many other things in life they need to experience with their hands and their restlessness is a sign of this need.

Another place this can be in conflict for homeschoolers is that  it can be very easy to want to really ramp up academics in this age range because the child seems so much more mature than earlier.  If one is not careful it is easy to lose sight that children of these ages are really in the heart of childhood and that rational thinking is not yet quite there.  Hang on, and keep including many concrete and doing ways of addressing your academic subjects.

Forgetfulness is something that very much annoys parents of children this age.  You can ask a child of this age to do something and they will forget within a moment or two. 

One of the ways we can work with this is through RHYTHM.  If the order of every morning is that we get up, we have breakfast, we get dressed and brush our hair and teeth and make our beds, then the child can follow that.  Do try to pick an order to things that works for your children.  For example, you may wish that everyone would get dressed and make their beds before breakfast but everyone wakes up starving, so craft a rhythm that takes that into account.

Chores are important, but you simply must figure out what you will do regarding the forgetfulness and dawdling around chores and what the consequences of this will be.   I have seen very individual approaches from family to family.

I think the last area surrounding forgetfulness that can be helpful is to think about bringing in habits – habits that will build character through practical life.  This takes time, and it is easy to want to work on everything at once.  Pick one area and really focus on that for forty days and see how it becomes ingrained in the child.  Sometimes for the child in this age range it can be something quite small, such as going back to making sure hands are washed before dinner, since acts of hygiene often slip around this age.  Maybe it is speaking politely; these are ages where many parents complain about the tone in which children speak.

To me, sometimes this age needs a bit of a carrot. Not a bribe at all, but more a bit of incentive.  Haven’t you ever had a really long and rough day and thought how you would try to persevere through it because you were getting to go out that night to something special, or you were going to eat something special for dinner, or you were going to call a special friend on the phone, and it made the day just a bit more bearable? To me, that is different than a bribe that is announced and “you must do this to earn this”.  It is just an incentive of something lovely that helps all days go just a little bit better and helps us keep on track.

I cannot tell you how often to try an incentive, or what that incentive even should be per say as I think that is so individual to each family and each situation, but it is just something to think about.

Just a few thoughts to ponder today!

Many blessings,

My Advice For The Nine Year Change

I think nine years of age, in many ways, is a rather fragile time.  This sense of “I” ness and separation is coming out and beginning, but it is still rudimentary.  Criticism still cannot be separated from the overall sense of self.  It is an age to be handled with care.

I say this from experience.  Nine (Third Grade in Waldorf land) has been a rather odd year here for us.  It was a year where the academics seemed to jump up a notch, and also a year where the outside activities my daughter was involved in also seemed to jump up a bit.  (Some of it just coincidentally happened this year, but still it all seemed to converge this year for whatever reason).  I have also heard this from mothers whose children are nine and attending private and public schools as well, so I don’t think it is a complete anomaly to our family. 

My advice to mothers planning for fall for  their nine year old’s year is to keep it very simple.  Realize that some nine year olds really regress in writing skills, so perhaps plan not to require so much in Main Lesson books and such, but rather look to practical work and projects.  Many nine year olds needs a lot of movement, so build in extra breaks throughout the day to jump rope, jump on a trampoline and play games.

Keep the extra activities to one extra thing, maybe two, but please make sure those things are not jumping into competition (ie, therefore requiring much more tiring practice than previously) or into other lands of testing and winning and losing.

Nine needs lots of space to just be and dream.  Simple answers are fine, but complete wordiness and heady explanations are not.  It truly, in my opinion, is not the time for world politics and world events, beyond very simple explanations for things that come up. 

As mentioned, activities are fine, but within a balance and weighted more towards open and free time.  For this reason, I would advise letting a sport you think will turn competitive to wait until fourth or fifth grade if you can.  I recognize there are some children who are just wired to do whatever it is that they do, but I think that is further and farther in between than society thinks. 

Let Nine just be.  It can be a year that hits hard or a year that is okay, but I think much of it depends on how much “extra” is going on.  Coming out of the other side of the nine-year-change provides a much more stable base for the child to use as a foundation to expand academic, social and practical skills.

Many blessings,


The Nine-Year Old Girl

I have had the great privilege and honor of being able to observe a group of nine-year old girls this year.  It has been very interesting to watch their transformation and challenges.  Here are some of the things I have observed regarding the nine=year-old girl and what is going on developmentally:

  • This whole notion that they are separate from their families, mothers.  Not completely separate, but the inkling is there.  You hear phrases from them about “perhaps” they were really left in a basket on a doorstep, or a basket floating in a river, or “wouldn’t it be neat” if really they were a princess and one day they were taken back to their real family’s castle.  My daughter wondered perhaps  if I was an alien in disguise one day! 
  • Peer relationships become more important than before.  There are sleep-overs going on in my neighborhood amongst the nine-year-olds.   Some mothers have told me there is even the emergence of “cliques” at their place of worship or in other activities.   I have observed there can be  a little bit of cattiness sometimes when a “new girl” enters an activity, something the adults have been really careful to step in and guide appropriately with simple rules and being present.
  • Nine –year-olds have a strong sense of fairness, and of what is “good” and what is “bad”.  They want to do the right thing.
  • Some nine and  a half year old girls really seem to be going through bodily changes that take some adjusting to on both a physical and emotional level.  They may be gaining weight, or getting taller, or, if they became heavier at age eight, may actually be slimming down.
  • Nine-year-olds have questions about God, death,  birth, life and everything in between!
  • Nine-year-olds many times do want some separation from younger siblings.  Not all the time, but at least to have a few times here and there with just children of their own age.  I have seen this in families whether the children are homeschooled or go to public or private school.
  • Some nine-year-olds like something competitive, but nine-year-olds are also pretty hard on themselves when they cannot do something well.  They are beginning to notice what friends is good at what.
  • There is some borderline (or more) talking back to parents that does seem to occur around this age.  They know what the rules of the house are, but they don’t mind letting you know they don’t like that rule. 
  • Nine-year-olds may be interested in small businesses, making money.

Here are some suggestions for the age 9 for girls:

  • Spend time with your girl where you can focus on her and listen to her.  It may be hard for her to open up to you with smaller siblings running around and listening, and she may need time with you just the way a smaller child does.
  • Build up a supportive community for your nine-year-old that includes other adult women who are good role models for your daughter.
  • Keep reinforcing the positive things about what your daughter can do with her mind and her body.
  • Nine-year-olds really benefit from having involvement in a religious or spiritual community.  Investigate your own beliefs and work to make this happen for them.  Festivals and holidays can be carried to new heights when a nine-year old has responsibilities different than the smaller children.  They are ready!
  • Talk to your nine-year-old about money and earning money and saving money.  One resource our family has used and likes is this one from Doorposts:
  • Talk to her about popularity and exclusion and what your values are as a family in how you treat others, how to stand your group in a group that is doing something different – and be around to supervise!
  • Daughters need their fathers.  Fathers can also talk about these issues and sometimes it carries much more weight than coming from mothers.
  • Recognize your daughter’s need for some separation as normal.  Family time is so very important, but having a time to play with children their own age here and there is also valuable.
  • Keep limiting the media.  Nine-year-olds still take things pretty concretely, the messages they see regarding body image still really affect them, and no nine-year-old needs to be propelled into teenager land.  Choose media wisely if you do it at all. 
  • Get a foundation of physical activity going.  This is important to deal with bodily changes, as well as laying a good foundation for movement prior to the heaviness and density that the age of 12 brings.

What have you noticed about your nine-year-old recently?

Many blessings,


The Foundation Years of Ages 9-12: Decreasing High-Risk Behavior in Teens

Many of you have been following along chapter by chapter the wonderful book,  “Discipline Without Distress:  135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children WITHOUT time-out, spanking, punishment, or bribery” by Judy Arnall.

The last chapter we reviewed was the chapter regarding the teenaged years.  There were some very sobering facts in there, such as suicide is one of the top three causes of death in teens, that the average marijuana use in the US is age 14, that many children have tried alcohol by age 12.  This really has hit home  for me personally as I know three mothers  who have really struggled with their teens in the areas of addiction issues and sexual promiscuity.  One of the teens recently overdosed, was the victim of a crime,  and lost his life.  This is a heart-breaking tragedy and I have felt so sad about this.  As parents we always wonder what we could have done differently in a situation like this, and my heart hurts for this family.

Judy Arnall, in this chapter about teens, goes through some of the things parents of teenagers need (for our teenagers to respect themselves and others, to have their teenagers feel successful in their relationships, school, work and community).  She lists some of the reasons that teenagers try high-risk behaviors such as curiosity, unhealthy self-esteem and want to feel good about themselves, lack of coping skills to deal with their problems and needing to escape, not understanding that they can say “no” to a sense of obligation or pressure from peers or  partners, needing to feel grown-up, needing to rebel, needing to fit in and win approval of peers, needing to escape uncomfortable feelings, feeling invincible and not understanding the risks/benefits/ consequences, not being able to communicate their needs to their family.

I would add a few things to this list:  besides curiosity,I think  boredom coupled with  a lack of guidance by caring adults to channel this boredom or curiosity into healthy things, and also I think there is a   lack of something bigger than themselves to worry about.  I think this is extremely important.

I was talking to a dear friend about this chapter and she was saying one thing that really helped her in her teenaged years was that she was very into horses and horseback riding and that she had a horse who depended upon her every day to take of it.   That is something bigger than yourself.

I talked  about this book regarding  rites of passage  (, and part of the book asks essentially “what does your child do around the house that you could not be without if they were not there?”  There it is again:  what is your child involved in that is bigger than himself or herself?  How is your child tied to you, your family, your community?

If the average age of marijuana use is 14, and the average child has tried drinking before age 12, I believe the foundation for decreasing high-risk teenage behaviors HAS to start around that nine-year change (and before, of course.  Attachment and security and so many things are laid during that first seven year cycle)  But in many ways, I think because that nine-year change is a watershed where your child starts to feel separate from others, separate from you and the family, different, is noticing things about how different families and people do different things,  now is the time to start.

I have an almost nine-year old, and I am trying to formulate some thoughts in my head as to how to create responsibility for my child that is bigger than her, how to keep time together,how to keep  communication open, and how to best answer her questions about life.    I am thinking hard.  I have four years until the teenaged years, and this time is precious to me.  Is it to you?

It is NOT enough to just talk about drugs and alcohol and sex.  Yes, those conversations have to be there and they have to keep going throughout these years.  But, there has to be ACTION.   How will you help your child/teen structure their time, their environment, so these behaviors are less likely to occur?  What are the top three things in your house that your child KNOWS is not negotiable?  What freedoms can you give, but also what RESPONSBILITIES go with these freedoms?  WHAT does your child have to look up to , to participate in, to take care of, that is bigger than himself or herself? 

What community OUTSIDE the family is your child involved in and accepted in – is it one that you have helped create or one that just happened along the way?  I am sure both can be okay, but it is important to know what is going on in that community.  For example, how well do you know your child’s friends?  Judy Arnall brings up the point of creating a “secondary community” away from the school environment if your child is in school – through church or other religious outlets, through Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, through volunteering .   There HAS to be something bigger than themselves for these children.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Many blessings,


Discipline, Support and Guidance of the Nine-Year-Old

We have peeked at both the traditional and anthroposophic views of the nine-year-old in two previous posts.    Nine is definitely a time of change, a time of feeling separate from parents and family, a time when peers become extremely important, a time of developmental “rebellion” in some ways (I don’t really like that term, but there it is).  A time to question what is real, what is not real, do adults know what they are doing, why are rules the way they are, and are things fair?

I think nine doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult if you have a generally happy and calm household and if you yourself feel balanced and calm.  I think this is why in general parenting and in Waldorf, we look to the family life and ourselves  first and  if a child seems consistently way out of sorts.  Even traditional parenting resources suggest this.  “Your Nine-Year-Old” by the Gesell Institute quoted pediatrician Sanford Matthews as saying, “ [he suggests] when mothers come to [him] distraught because their disciplining of their children is going badly, that these mothers concentrate on making their own lives more rewarding, rather than emphasizing merely their relationship with their child or children.”

Having realistic expectations for each age is highly important.  I talk about that time and time again on this blog.  Nine-year-olds in general may withdraw from the family and from you.  They may complain a lot, and gradually all this anxiety and complaining diminishes as ten approaches.

Nine- year -olds need detailed instructions and need reminders.  If you ask them to do something, they may want to do it later and then they forget.  If your child is sulky or cross when you ask them politely do to something, chances are if you ignore that and don’t make a big deal about their attitude, they will do what you are asking (although it may not be with a smile!).  Most nine-year-olds think in terms of right and wrong, and do want to do what is “right”.  Fairness is a big deal, and so is what peers think.  Most nine-year-olds are very honest, and will tell you things that they did and not really hide things they did that they thought were “wrong”.

Facing the natural or logical consequences of behavior is by far the best means of guidance.  Now is also the time you can really start to put family values into words, if that hasn’t come up in some many words before.  And although your child is past the age of imitation, what you model is more important than your words.  Being positive and loving your child is really the most important thing.

You have to maintain your cool and calm self to really be that wall they can bounce off of, that boundary they can push against and realize that the boundary doesn’t crumple.  Solutions and solving problems and fixing mistakes is much more important than blaming and dwelling on what happened over and over.

The other thing to consider is now that your child is feeling a bit more separate from you and  is concerned about peers  and what peers think, now is a great time to practice either “no comment” or being able to just say supportive things.  If a child says, “My friends don’t like me” it is not an opening to ask what they did to cause that, to go into the fact you didn’t like those friends anyway,  that they need to be at home more anyway, that they will make better friends in the future, etc.  First of all, emotions still can turn on a dime.  I think we all remember from our childhood days being really angry with a friend and then an hour later we are best friends again. Secondly, you do not need to own your child’s stuff.  This is their stuff, not yours.  It is theirs to start to work through, and you are the gentle guidance and support, but not The Great and Ultimate Fixer.

Some parents begin to worry – they see their child doing something they themselves did at that age, or think their child’s personality is similar to theirs and feel badly about this.  “I don’t want my child to do what I did!”  “I don’t want my child to be like me!”  I suggest to you to keep an attitude that this is a phase, your child is headed toward ten, be positive, model what you do want to see and choose your battles and your words carefully!

The other key piece of being nine, I think, is that the child needs another adult besides you to look up to and to trust.  Steiner talks about the importance of a trusted community and role models during this time.  If you have a limited circle outside of your family, perhaps consider expanding that a bit with some trusted friends to help you.

Just a few thoughts on the nine-year-old tonight!

Many blessings,