Parenting From A Place Of Calm

Being calm and modeling that for our children will do more for them than any class at school or any extra-curricular activity.  Being calm shows children and teens a way to approach problems, a way to carry an inner confidence and the strength that we need to get through life. What a wonderful start to give children and teenagers!

Many parents ask me how can I parent from a place of calm?  And I ask them, what prevents you from doing that?  Sometimes the answer is MY CHILDREN! LOL. With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of the ways I help myself come from a calmer place.

  • Understand developmental stages – This might be the number one thing to help you realize that “this is a stage, this too shall pass” and “I can help guide, but it will most likely work out!”  Understanding developmental stages makes you feel less stressed, and more connected to your child.  It is much easier to connect and have empathy if you know this is a normal developmental stage.
  • Let logical consequences prevail.   I see too many parents bailing their children out of small things that really their older children need to fail and learn from that failure.  One prime example is homework and projects, where the child procrastinates and waits until the night before it is due and then is screaming for help to get it done.  Failure, and the ability to know that one can come back from failure and know one can triumph is a far bigger lesson than whatever the project was.  Let them fail!  Making restitution is an important part of logical consequences, no matter what the age of the child.
  • Get the energy out.  Many parents say their children prevent them from being calm and my guess is most of the time the children just have too much energy. Get the energy out!  Be active with them, and most of all, get rid of the screens.  The screens do nothing to get energy out and to help everyone be calm.  Which leads to…
  • Be outside. Most things are calmer outside.  Especially if you have children under the age of 14, you should be outside every afternoon in some form of unstructured play.    Teens need this too, but the reality is many teens do have commitments at that point and cannot be outside every afternoon like that.  However, do make it a priority for those under 14.  You will never, ever get those under 14 years back.
  • Limit activities outside the home and plan for rest and downtime. Do not go out every day, even if it is fun things!  Be home!  A child and teen needs to know that the home is more than a launching pad to get to a class or activity, and that being home can be fulfilling too.
  • Understand that energetic and calm are not contradictory.  You can have and be both.  This was important for me personally to understand when I looked at all those soft-spoken, quiet Waldorf teachers.  I am energetic and dynamic.  I like to work and play hard, and it was super important for me to understand being energetic wasn’t a minus and calm is carried in your heart.  Being a calm parent could mean you are quiet and soft-spoken but it could also mean you are energetic and fun.
  • Have a plan for inner growth and development.   This is another complete game-changer.  If you profess to follow a religious or spiritual path, and yet invest no time in that at all each day, then you aren’t growing toward compassion, calmness, and all the things you profess to be important.   The inner path sets the inner stage for calmness. It can take as little as ten minutes a day, but DO SOMETHING.
  • Have something outside of your children as they get older.  As children grow, you do hit a point where you have time for some of your own interests or pursuits or to have a date night out or whatever it is that it time without your children.  However, the caveat is that no matter how many children you have, they will fill your 100 percent UNLESS you really put the effort into saying, no, this is my time.  I find this is especially important to do this with the early teen group who want to be driven a lot of places.  I am here for more than just driving and sitting and waiting.  Please show your children there is more to the world than just them.  
  • Know your limits and what you need for self-care! This is the most important one. If you are absolutely empty, then you cannot fulfill being calm.  Self-care means different things to different people, so figure out what makes things nurturing for you.

How do you come from a place of calm?

Blessings,
Carrie

Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

I think rhythm with grades-aged children (which I consider children in grades 1-8, so ages seven to thirteen or fourteen) can become trickier.  As children grow, chances are that you are not only juggling one grades-aged child but perhaps children that are older (teenagers) or younger (the littles, as I affectionately call them) with children that are in these grades.  There can also be an increased pressure to sign up for activities or increased pressure at school  as a child advances toward high school.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 1-3:

  • Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!  I wrote a post about choosing time outside the home wisely in which I detail how many activities I really think a child in public or private school, versus homeschooling children need.   Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another.  Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages.  Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!
  •  Being outside in nature in an unstructured way is so very important, along with limiting media.  I suggest no media for these ages.  There are many other healthier ways for children to be spending their time that promote great physiological and psychological health rather than being a passive recipient. First through third graders need an inordinate amount of time to be outside, to swim and play in the woods or sand, to ride bikes, to climb trees, and just be in nature.
  • For those of you who want to homeschool through many grades, I do suggest getting involved in a homeschooling group or finding a group of homeschool friends for your child.  This usually becomes a much larger issue around the latter part of  age 10, post nine-year change for many children (especially melancholic children and typically girls over boys around the fifth grade year) and for those who are more extroverted.  However, one activity is plenty for third graders in anticipation of this “coming change” as a ten year old. 
  • Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five.  This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.
  • In short, I do not think the rhythm established in the Early Years should be changing too much in this time period.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 4 and 5:

  • Rhythm begins in the home.  What are you doing in the home? I find sometimes fourth and fifth graders are anxious to go, go, go because there is not much happening in the home.  No rhythm is being held, preparing for the festivals has fallen by the wayside, and they now see being involved in things such as preparing meals and such as work instead of just part of a rhythm of breathing in and out.  This takes time to develop again by being home. Be home!
  • All the things in the first through third grade section above applies. Rest is still very important and fourth and fifth graders may need help in this area – both in resting and in having a reasonable bedtime.  Children this age should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep a night, plus time to rest! Most children this age are still going to bed around 8 or 8:30.
  • I do not believe fourth and fifth graders really need structured outside the home activities, especially for children attending public or private school. I have seen some fifth graders who really relished one special activity.   Many homeschoolers will find their fifth graders really wanting a homeschool community and friends at this point, so I think that might need to be honored.
  • Media!  I have written many posts about media.  Fourth and fifth graders do not need media or their own phones or their own tablets.  Think carefully about this.  There are other ways they should be spending their time that are much more important to development.  The reason media is important in the context of rhythm is that it generally is used as a time-filler – so if the pull to media is strong, that typically means the rhythm is not strong or that the child needs help in finding something to do – handwork, woodworking, and other activities can help that need to create and do.
  • Being outside in nature and developing the physical  body is still of utmost importance. Setting up good habits for physical activity is important in this stage because most children feel very heavy and clumsy when they are in the sixth grade and changing around age twelve.  Having great habits in this period of grades four and five can really  help with that.  
  • This is a great age for games in the neighborhood – kickball, foursquare, etc. – and general physical activity of running, biking, swimming.  Free play is probably one of the most important things fourth and fifth graders can do!
  • Keep your yearly rhythms strong.  This may be easier with younger children in the household, but never lose sight of the fact that a fourth or fifth grader is in the heart of childhood themselves and therefore should certainly not be treated like a middle schooler.  This time is very short, and needs to be treated as the golden period that it truly is!  Keeping the festivals, the times of berry picking and apple picking and such, is the thing that children will remember when they are grown up.  If everything is just a blur of practices and lessons and structure, there is no space and time to make those kinds of family or community memories.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Rest!  Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm.  Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change.  This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade).  In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities.  Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.
  • This is a prime time to nurture life skills and responsibility around the home. If you are running everywhere, this time of learning, which is really the most important thing when children grow up and have to live on their own, cannot happen.   Life skills and home responsibility deserves a place in daily and weekly rhythm.
  • Media is harder to keep at bay for most families.  Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa.  It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!)  and tapping into their own creativity.  It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm.  Hold strong standards about media!  Some ideas:  use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ;  strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media.  We introduced the  computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age)  as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference.  If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are  ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move.  So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen?  Modeling still is important!   If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends!  With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement..
  • This is a great age to pick up sports if that hasn’t already happened, although many children will say they feel they should have started much earlier. Again, this is such a symptom of our times that everything earlier is better, which I often find is not actually the case.  There is a big discussion right now about sports burn-out for middle schoolers who have started in elementary school.    If you want to see more of my thoughts about sports, take a look at this post that details the last pediatric sports medicine conference I attended.
  • I find the artistic component often needs to be increased in these years to really counteract some of the headiness of school subjects and media exposure.  It is a healing balm for middle schoolers, even if they complain they are not good at drawing or painting or such.  Keep trying, and do it with them or as a family.  Keep art and woodworking activities out, provide craft ideas and help them harness some of that creative power!  That can be a part of the weekly rhythm for your middle schooler.
  • Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler.  There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.

Last tips for rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Where is the family fun?  You should be having tremendous family fun together.  Family is where it is at!  Family is more important than peers – you can look back to the book, “Hold On To Your Kids” by Neufeld and Mate if you need further confirmation.  Family fun can be part of all levels of rhythm – daily, weekly, and yearly! It is an attitude and an action!
  • Where is your rest, and your inner spiritual work?  I think you need this, especially as you enter the middle school years. Children can have a lot of emotion during this time period, and you have to be the steady rock.  If you need a reminder about boundaries and parenting, try this back post.
  • How is your home coming along?  By now, with children in these upper grades, there should be pretty steady rhythms and routines regarding the home and the work that it takes to maintain a home.
  • How is your relationship with your partner or spouse?  This is the time to really start thinking about date nights if your relationship thrives and deepens on that.

Blessings,
Carrie

What Are We Modeling?

I watched a little girl yesterday at the pool.  She was about four years old, and ran around the pool in hot pursuit of her older brother and his friends.  When he jumped in the pool, she jumped in the pool.  When he ran to the other side of the pool, she ran to the other side of the pool.  A mom sitting near me remarked, “Isn’t that cute?  She has to do everything he does.”

Yes, indeed, my friends.  This is the power of imitation for small children, and that is a foundational hallmark for young children in Waldorf Education in the early years.  I find though, that imitation extends far beyond the early years.

Children not only imitate what they see, what they hear.  They  also absorb our energy, our attitudes, our  ways of dealing with things right down into their soul. This is all the more reason to work on “our stuff” – whatever that spiritual stuff may be.  All the more reason to deal with our trauma – our own the trauma carried by how our past generations suffered.  Have you all ever read this article about how how trauma is carried through generations ?

There was an article about the ten habits of chronically unhappy people.  It was very interesting, and pointed once again to the fact that as parents and as homeschooling families, we have to be very on top of our own attitudes, views, and what we are modeling.

Every day we can get up and begin with a spiritual practice.  Many like to do this in the morning before their children awake.  I understand this with very tiny children.  However, do make sure you are modeling something of your spiritual practice when your children are awake!  Otherwise, they never see you doing anything.  This could be reading from sacred texts, meditating or praying, saying outloud positive things in response to  a situation.

Every day, I ask myself how can I model:

Gratitude for this present moment.  Accepting and finding pleasure with where things are in this moment.

Connection to others in community.  The biggest place of connection is within our homes and with our own family members living in our homes, and our extended families.  However, this can also happen in places outside the home and family.  It may happen for you through your neighborhood, through your friends, through a place of worship, through a group to which you belong.  Connecting and serving is so powerful.

Optimism

Accountability and responsibility for my own actions.  Where was I wrong? I am wrong a lot; mistakes are okay. A mistake is just moving forward with more experience.

Perspective.

What we are being called to is so much more important than what curriculum we pick, what activities our children do.  What we are doing is literally being called to stop generations of trauma, pessimism, and fear.  What we are being called to do is to help our children learn how to cope with the world.  It is not going to be perfect.  Life is messy, but let’s show them how it is done.

Blessings,
Carrie

5 Ways To Make Gentle Discipline Work For Your Family

Gentle discipline is not just a toolbox of tricks; instead I like to view it as the art of connecting and loving as we resolve a conflict together.  It is about hearing the other person, yes, even if that person is a toddler or someone who is small; it is about not reacting in a defensive and emotional way; and it is about forging a path as a family together where the family agenda is the priority and all needs can be met (but perhaps not all at the same time!)

There are five ways I have found to really help families as they work through problems and conflicts together:

Commit to gentle discipline.  If you have a partner in the home, commit to it as a team and agree to back each other up.  The commitment is important.  It may not always be perfect; gentle discipline is a process.  For some families, gentle discipline comes easier than other families.  Some of us have more baggage from our own childhoods to overcome.  It may feel unnatural to try to connect to a child who is being difficult in our eyes.  We may all have different things that our children do that may really bother us.  We need to be able to step in for one another when things are flaring,  and to back each other up as loving guides for our children.  We must commit to the process of connecting during conflict every day.

Know yourself and your partner and how to nourish each other.  What really upsets you and sets you off?  Does knowing what is normal for each developmental stage of childhood help you?  I find this can often help parents feel calmer, to just know what is normal for the developmental stages.      Where is your self-care?  If you are empty, it is so much harder to respond in a connected and loving way to your child.   How do you love one another so you can respond to your children lovingly and patiently so you can guide them when they are having big feelings or big things happening?  This is so important for all stages of development, but I think especially with teenagers.

What is the family agenda?  It is  incredibly hard for a child to know what is expected and how to live with the other family members in the household if no boundaries are set.  The earliest harbinger of boundaries can be found in rhythm, and this happens when children are very small.   As children grow, they can understand the boundaries (rules)  of the family reflect values of the family.  However, in order to have that, the adults of the family must get together and talk about the values you are creating together. Values are something that teenagers can respond to and discuss with you – are your teenagers’ values the same as your family values?  Why or why not? What conflict does this create and how do you navigate this?

Recognize the patterns. Most families have recognizable patterns – this is what happens, this upsets this person, this is how this person reacts.  It is hard to change conflicts within the family if you don’t ever see the patterns or if people are not willing to try something to change the patterns, especially the adults in how they react to what children do.  Who is the calm one in conflict? Who shuts down?  Who walks away? Who gets angry?

How do you resolve conflict?  Because children are not miniature adults, they are not going to reason like adults in times of conflict (and even adults often do not do well in that!)  Small children  do not need intellectualized verbal sparring in order to resolve conflict; what they often need is distraction, rhythm, a boundary that is held lovingly without many words at all, the action of restitution.   I find children ages 9-12 often function not much above these tools.  What helps to limit conflicts in these ages is boundaries that are set up ahead of time and are known.

For teenagers , decide on how you will approach conflicts.  The steps in our family, which we just wrote down recently so everyone was on the same page  include:  taking the time to calm down, making sure the problem is really and actually a problem ( some of the more verbal family members really need to write it down so the problem can be defined and not just a whole slew of emotions with nothing definable other than feelings), meet together in order to discuss  without blaming others and  in order to take responsibility for their own part in things, to really listen and paraphrase what the other person has said and then brainstorm solutions that work for the whole family.  Lastly, we forgive, affirm, or thank the other person and make restitution.  So that is a longer process appropriate for a teen who can really do these steps.

I would love to hear what you steps you think make the difference in making your family a home of gentle discipline and problem solving.    I also have many, many back posts on this blog dealing with gentle discipline if you just search.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Do You Over-React to Your Preschooler?

The ages of three to five can be such a hard time for many parents.  These ages see a change in behavior from when children were two, especially for first children who previously were interested in being at their mother’s side.  I have had many parents of three and four and a half year olds write me and ask me what is going on with their child that they have changed SO MUCH.  “They were sweet, and now they are not” is a common refrain I hear.

Your child IS still sweet, but now they are realizing they can use their bodies and will forces in all sorts of ways.  Much of it is simply to see what happens without an preconceived ideas of what will result; much of it is repeated since the capacity for memory typically is not well-developed until age six or seven.  Words often are of little help until about four and a half.  For example, a two and half or three year old can often repeat something such as “we don’t hit”, but then will turn around and hit a playmate.

In many developmental phases, it is important to remember that when parents describe children as “bossy, tense, rigid, demanding, explosive” this really covers up the fact that the child may actually be experiencing a sense of insecurity or uncertainty as development shifts.

Ho-hum, ho-hum is your friend! Find your ho-hum and turn it on. 

Consistency and rhythm is so important and the number one thing I see parents struggle to attain.  Much of this stems from the fact that there is societal pressure to exposure small children to many different things – exposure is seen as good for tiny children. Also,  things seem to need to be “bigger, better and more stimulating” because it is exhausting to “entertain” a three to five year old all day long.  But remember…

You shouldn’t have to entertain your child all day long and you shouldn’t have to leave your house in order for your children to be happy.  Meaningful work is the key to this, along with being outside.  I have many back posts on these topics!

Distraction with verses and singing is still your very good friend when you have three to five year olds.  Going outside can also help.

Keep activities outside the home limited.  I know it is the “norm” to have children in preschool and classes  at age three, and I will continue to rally against this.  Even two or three hours out of the home is a lot for a three year old.  They do not need lessons, classes, or structured activities for their own development at this age.  “Play is where it is at!”  Studies have shown that children in play-based settings (again, though, we don’t need a program to play!) have greater academic gains in fourth grade than students who were in academic learning programs from an early age.  Earlier is NOT better.  We CANNOT rush development.  Development of the child has not changed.  If your child has to be in a program because you work, look for a play-based program that involves lots of time outside in all kinds of weather.

Tantrum tally for you!  It often is not about what our child is doing, but how we react because we are exhausted, tired, trying to do too much, alone with a small child many hours of the day.  Dealing with anger is a real part of parenting!Try this back post about regarding dealing with anger and also this one about anger and forgiveness.  .  Also, if you look under “Book Reviews” in the header we went chapter by chapter through the wonderful book, “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma”.

No screens.  Screen do absolutely nothing for the development of a child these ages.  Movement, movement, movement – not sitting still and focusing on a screen.

Lots of love to all my parents of small children today.  You may not hear it enough, but you are doing a wonderful job!

Blessings,
Carrie

Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Six

 

Today we are up to common discipline challenges and responses for our terrific ten year olds!  Our last post about the nine-year-old and the nine year change, can be found here.

 

Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.   In Part Two of this series,  we focused on birth through age 4.  In Part Three we looked at ages five and six and in Part Four at the ages of six and seven.  The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.

As a quick recap of development up until this point, birth through age  four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world.  The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” NOT as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality.  Ages five and six also sees the same  importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue but play and social experiences now expands during these years.   Ages seven and eight see a dichotomy in developmental outlook, with seven often being more insecure, wailing, gloomy;  a time of feeling the world is unfair and eight taking the bull by the horns with brash boasting and exaggerated tall tales. The nine year old is in a time of great change in the inner life of the child, typically with a more insecure and inward gesture.  The ten year old typically is in a smoother stage of childhood development with a niceness, goodness and friendliness about him or her.  Usually ten year olds love their family very much, love activities and outings,  and they typically don’t resist too much what you ask them to do; a fairly happy age.  The challenges parents write to me about  their ten year olds are as follows: Continue reading

Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Five

 

Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.   I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning.  I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.

In Part Two,  we focused on birth through age 4.  In Part Three we looked at ages five and six and in Part Four at the ages of six and seven.  The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.

Birth through age  four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world.  The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” not as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality.  Ages five and six also sees the same  importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue.  However, play and social experiences now expands during these years, (although some children will not blossom into truly enjoying other children until the six/seven year transformation).  Play is the main theme for these years, and also a  look at the willing gesture involved in roles, power, and control.  Ages seven and eight see a dichotomy, with seven often being more insecure, wailing, gloomy;  a time of feeling the world is unfair and eight taking the bull by the horns with brash boasting and exaggerated tall tales.

Now we head into the world of nine.  The nine year change is one that gets a lot of press in Waldorf Education as a time of great change within the inner life of the child.  It can also be a time of increased maturity, with a child looking for more responsibility and a time of reaching out into the world for greater independence.

The best practices for discipline with a nine year old includes: Continue reading