Three Steps in Dealing With Challenging Behavior

There probably have been complaints about children and teen’s behavior as far back in time as one can imagine!   In light of behavior that is less than desirable and is repeating, I think there are three main steps to take as a parent in dealing with this behavior head-on:

  1.  Ask yourself if this is normal behavior for this age?   Many parents have expectations that are far beyond their child’s age and need to be reassured this is part of childhood maturation.  We are losing perspective on this in American society rapidly.
  2. If it is normal behavior for the age, but it is still making the family full of tension, ask yourself how you will guide it with boundaries so your family can live in harmony? 

a.  For a young children under the age of 7, guide with the principles of rhythm carrying things (lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, etc doesn’t help any behavioral situation!), songs and pictorial speech to move things along, and the child making reasonable restitution for what isn’t going well.  If you determine things aren’t going well due to a lot of stress and hurriedness in the family, try to decrease the amount of stress. Look carefully and listen to what the child in front of you  is telling you, but do balance that with the needs of the family.

b.  For the child ages 9-13, guide with the ideas of rhythm and restitution in mind, and rules of your family and of life in general – how do we treat each other in kindness; how do we treat ourselves and others.  Listen carefully to what your child is saying, but also state the expectations and boundaries firmly and kindly.   Go in with the idea that these things will need to be worked on 500 times or more to stick.  If things in the family are super stressful for varying reasons, consider simplifying and also adding in techniques for dealing with stress for the whole family.

c.  If the child is 14-18, guide with the ideas of family rules in mind, and consequences and restitution.  A teen can vacillate widely from seeming very mature to seeming very young and immature, and it is important to remember that the teenaged brain is not yet fully developed.  You must still be there to guide, and you are not at the “friend” stage of parenting.   Teenagers still want boundaries, limits, and a guide.

3.  If the behavior is not normal for the age...

a.  Is it quirky  behavior and being exacerbated by stress and hurriedness? Simplify things and see if things improve.

b. Is it truly not appropriate behavior and not responding to anything you do?  Then you may need professional help  through family therapy or other behavioral intervention.

c. If you are a homeschooling family, do not assume that going to school will make things better.  I think kids who are having problems at home often will have problems at school unless the family is so chaotic they will function better in a more structured environment. But if the child themselves is really  having problems stemming from themselves, they will have problems across environments.

Just a few thoughts,
Carrie

 

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It’s Not Them, It’s You

Children are amazing and incredible and often teach us things that we didn’t even know that we needed to learn. Nearly every time when I have gone through a “rough patch” in my parenting when a child was in a tough developmental stage, I have realized every. single. time. that

It’s not them. It’s me.

If they are making me feel crazy, then I need to work harder.  Their “stuff” is not my “stuff”  and I need to work harder to separate myself from my feelings about it all.   I find if I am holding on to something my children are doing it is because I am approaching something from a place of fear, or a place of being overwhelmed myself in ways that  often have nothing to do with them, or a place of lack of self-care.  Sometimes there is no opportunity to really rectify the lack of self-care or the overwhelm from outside circumstances.

So then I have to hold on to my inner work.  And I have done that more successfully at some times than others, because I am only human.

I get mad. Or tired. Or worried.  That’s life.  But what matters most is what I do with it and how we come out of the valleys.

If you can use the lows to fuel your own self-care, your own growth in patience andin  biting your tongue,  in learning new gentle parenting techniques, in dealing with your own baggage, in improving your own intellectual approach to try to help guide things, then it becomes a positive experience.

Because it’s not about them, it’s about where you are and then how you use that to love and guide a child.

I often find the best way through the parenting patch of weeds or even simply having to watch your child go through a really hard time is up being outside, up being in nature, up using whatever spiritual tools you use, confide in a close friend,  and just love your child.  Connect with them in a one on one way.  Connect with your partner for support if you have that available.

Small phases are small phases, and younger children are not going to grow up and be who they are in these phases that are so  trying to parents. This is something that parents can recognize with more and more experience.  When your first child is six or seven or eight, every single thing they do seems worthy of examination and scrutiny.  Please know that for most circumstances it is all going to work out- for both your child and you!

For older children and teens, sometimes what is going on is more than a phase or a part of the child’s character that needs to be guided. It can be more serious than that.    If it is indeed more serious problems that children and teens are dealing with – addiction, mental health episodes, being a danger to themselves or to others, dealing with dating abuse, abusive friendships – then these deserve a bigger response than just denial that it will all work out in the wash.  Instead, what these older children and teens deserve is  real  and professional help in a timely manner.  Know the resources in your community, and don’t be afraid to name what is going on and seek help.

There will be valleys in parenting, and there will be incredible moments.  There will be holding on and letting go.  The trick is to not lose yourself throughout this process, and to recognize the power of the individual journey.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Dynamic Development

Childhood development is never static and is ever unfolding. Sometimes the big joke in parenting is sort of, “Wow!  I just figured out this stage and now my child is on to something new!”

In my approach to development, I combine my ideas from when I worked as a pediatric physical therapist,  studies from The Gesell Institute, and Waldorf education’s view of the child.  Periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium routinely occur throughout development, typically with disquilibrium around the half-year marks, and pronounced differences  in development typically most dramatically noted around 3 – 3 1/2, 6/7, 9 (talked about an awful lot in Waldorf literature) ,  12 (although I don’t hear much about this one in parenting circles), and 15/16.  I think 15/16 is by far the most difficult transtition.

Parents often ask what they need to be successful throughout all these changes as their child unfolds.  In my personal opinion of working with families over the years, I  think there are four things, mainly, that help this process of helping a child grow:  having your own “stuff”  under control (ever tried living with an alcoholic parent, narcissitic parent, etc?    And not all of us have these things, but most all of us have wounds from living; just some of us own those wounds and try to make this woundedness better for ourselves and the people who love us); affectionate  love and connection to our children (and to your partner if you have one); loving boundaries;   rhythm (which is a defining hallmark of whatever your own family culture is!).  I don’t think it is is about perfection; I don’t think it is about doing everything just right.    A child growing up is also a family growing up and adults developing and changing too.

It is never too late to do these four  things.  All of us can become more self-aware and work on what our wounds and triggers are; nearly all of us can work to become more peaceful and compassionate.  It is never too late to  connect to and love your children.  Children have love languages just like adults do, but most children I know certainly perceive love in time and attention.  I read a few psychology sources that state even just 15-20 mintues of concentrated time a day is important; other sources like this Washington Post article from 2015 talk about how quality is more important than quantity, how family practices like dinners together do matter, and how teens need to spend time with their parents.   We can learn how to hold boundaries; I think I started seriously writing about boundaries back in 2008 and have written many posts on boundaries since then.  This one and  this big list of boundaries are among my favorites.   Finally, it is never too late to discover your  values as a family and prioritize those with your time (this is the beginnings of rhythm and habit!).

In this month often associated with love due to St. Valentine’s Day, let us love our children enough to help them grow in the healthiest ways possible!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Big List of Boundaries

One thing I  said  in a previous post is that some families I know have not hardly any boundaries that their child has to adhere to.  I actually am abig  believer in boundaries because I think that boundaries promote health.  This is how boundaries help a child become a functioning adult:

  1. Children need to learn to take responsibility (ownership) for things.  In my family, I have talked a lot about the principle of Ultimate Responsibility, which I think came from the military realm.  We have no reason to argue over fault, we just work together as a team to fix it.  We take responsibility to help even if we didn’t cause the problem.   Responsibility is ownership for oneself in addition to outside things.   Ownership leads to a sense of freedom, because we have choices to fix things, problem solve, work with others, or walk away.
  2. Boundaries free us from people who treat us poorly or who are toxic.  We know where we begin and end, and that these other people are separate and not our responsibility to carry.
  3. Life choices have consequences, and trying to meet a boundary that is in line with a family value requires choices.  I think this is important.  Life is full of things not so good, but also  can be full of many great things, which can make it hard to choose.
  4. Boundaries help people grow and meet opportunities instead of complaining about problems.  Positivity promotes health!

So, without further ado,  here are a few steps to boundaries.

  1.  Figure out your family’s VALUES.  Which values do you want your children to internalize in order to be a “successful” (in whatever way that means to your family) adult?  
  2. What your values are will influence some of the areas you could place boundaries, such as:

Connection – with family members, extended family members, friends, peers?  How important are sibling relationships over peers?  Nuclear family over extended family?  How do you show respect in your family to each other?  What do the adults feel is respectful?

Sleep/Rest – Will there be bedtimes? Rest times?  Quiet times?  Is sleeping in okay?  On what days?  If you safely co-sleep with your littles, when does that stop?  What happens at night when children are older and awake and staying up late – are you all together, do you need to be with your teens at night, is it adult time?

Health Food/Eating – snacks allowed or not?  Can you eat in the living room?  What happens if a child doesn’t eat all of his or her food?  Sweets allowed or not?   Special diets and why?  Along this line, are physical activities important or not?

Chores – does everyone have to help with the nurturing of the home?  Is this only mom’s job?  What is the role of the other adults in the house? What are the children’s responsibilities and at what ages?

Outside Activities – whose activities count? Only the adults?  Only the children?  Both?  How?  How many? Are there days you must be home?  Are there limits on activities?  Some families seem to have a hard time staying home even one day, and some families seem to have a hard time leaving their home.  What is the balance?

Spiritual Practice/ Attendance at a place of worship – Important? Not important? What if it is important to the adults but not teenagers, etc.

Sibling Relationships – Important to spend time together or not?  Siblings before peers?  Lots of time away from home with peers or not?  At what age?

Intimate relationships -Starting with peers – how do we treat our friends?  How do we expect our friends to treat us?  What constitutes bullying?  Sleepovers or no sleepovers?  How many days a week with peers versus just with the family?  When children move into the teenaged years – dating?   Not dating?  What constitutes a healthy and respectful dating relationship?  (Did you know that ten percent of high school teens are reporting physical violence in their dating relationships in the United States?)  How to handle the physical side of intimate relationships?  At what age is dating allowed?  The use of technology in communicating in an intimate relationship and respect around this – what does that look like?

Technology – Allowed, not allowed, what age, what platforms?  Does the phone or computer have restrictions or rest times for devices or both? How old does a child have to be to receive the responsibility of a phone or computer?  How will they show that responsibility? Gaming or no gaming?

Holidays/Gift-giving:  How many gifts?  Extended family? What is the role of children with  extended family during get-togethers?  Included? The children weave and out?  The children go off together?

Homework/Homeschool – What are the boundaries around doing homework or schoolwork?

Those are just some areas I thought of; I am sure there are many more.  I would love to hear boundaries that you think of!

3.  When the boundary is met or unmet, what happens?  This is usually the part that parents equate with “discipline” (ie, punishment).  But is there more to it than that? I think there is because really discipline is authentic leadership and guiding your children and knowing how the boundaries you set are not arbitrary but  fit into your value system.  

Just food for thought on a Monday morning.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Discipline Toolbox

The major discipline tools for all ages are

  • Empathy/Compassion
  • Correction (The Boundary)
  • Consequences and Restitution

If you have only empathy/compassion without the correction, then you have an empty discipline toolbox indeed.  All three parts are needed to have a functioning toolbox to help guide children into becoming healthy adults who can have functioning relationships, families, and jobs of their own.

Children may protest boundaries, but yet it is ours to lovingly hold boundaries until are children can internalize the boundaries and hold them for themselves.  Only providing a child with compassion or empathy, and no boundary and no consequence, will not help a child internalize that.   Many parents I work with will protest this and wonder why we need boundaries at all, but boundaries are where I end and you begin.  Boundaries are what enable healthy relationships;  they enable us to be able to take our responsibility for things in life but also to not hold things that are not ours to carry.  We can help our children attain this, using all three of these pieces.

If boundaries are difficult for you, then it  may be hard to teach it to your children and hard for you to hold boundaries. It may be that nothing short of hurting someone else deserves a boundary.  However, there are many tools children need to function in the world that involve more than just not being able to hurt someone, and boundaries are there to help develop these qualities.  We want children to know who they are, what they are responsible for, how to intiate and maintain loving relationships.  Because in the end, you are not raising this child for yourself.  You are raising this child for all of humanity, and for this child’s future family.  Sometimes, this means uncomfortable growth for both us and for the child.  And that is okay.

Always and ever growing,

Carrie

 

 

 

The January Rhythm Round-Up

 

Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchhill

 

Some families get really upset when talking about rhythm or trying to make a rhythm for their family.  It is okay to start and tweak and start, and most families experiences successes and failures!   Rhythm can be a beautiful tool to use to obtain a harmonious and peaceful family.  Having all family members home does not have to be complete chaos, and life doesn’t need to feel so hurried and harried.  With rhythm, you can tame your household care, the nourishment of your family through warming meals, help gently guide your children, establish security and stability for all family members, and have enough time for sleep, rest, play, alone time, family time, and time outside the home.

Everyone’s rhythm will look a little bit different, but the main shared feature is that rhythm is just that – a rhythm where things flow and balance and not a tight schedule that is a noose around one’s neck where one always feels behind!

For those of you needing help to get started, try the back post Rhythm for the Irregular and the tips in this post!

Here are  just a few suggestions by area/age:

Taking care of the household:

For a rhythm with household chores, begin with the immediate.  Do the emergency clean up, and then find a system that works for you to systematically go through your rooms and de-clutter.  It is hard to clean when there is clutter everywhere!  Some people swear by FlyLady, some use Konmari.  Finding the system that works for you can really help!

Tackle daily tasks household tasks daily – sorting through junk mail and throwing it out; the daily toy pick up before lunch and dinner or before bedtime; the wiping down of counters – for every house it may look different dependent upon your tolerance, but figure out your daily tasks and do them.  I have found FLYLADY to be helpful with this over the years because it involves a short amount of time.

Involve your children.  Even toddlers can do meaningful work.

Don’t let your older children off the hook- if they want to go and do things, the house needs to be taken care of first.  We are training adults who will go off and have a house and perhaps a family of their own.  What habits do we want them to have in terms of household care? Here is an interesting article from NPR on how habits form and how to break bad habits.

For a rhythm with meals:

Try to focus on the fact that it isn’t just food you are serving.  I love this quote from Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting”:  “The family dinner is more than a meal.  Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies.  The nourishment is exponential.  Family stories, cultural markers, and information about how we live are passed around with the peas.  The process is more than the meal:  It is what comes before and after.  It is the reverence paid.  The process is also more important than the particulars.  Not only is it more forgiving, but also, like any rhythm, it gets better with practice.”

That being said, for the physical act of meals, try weekly menu planning and shopping.

Look for recipes for the crock pot or Insta Pot for busy days.

Let your older children cook dinner one night a week.

Rhythm with Little Ones, Under Age 9:

Rhythm begins in the home. In this day and age of so many structured classes for little people, be aware of who the outside the home activity is really for!  Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!     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!

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.

Here is a back post about garnering rhythm with littles

If you are searching for examples, here is one for children under the age of 7 over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life from 2012.

Remember, though, I don’t think a rhythm is about throwing out who you are, who your family is,  what your family culture is in order to replace it with something that someone else does. Rather, rhythm with little people should build upon the successes in your own home.  Every family does something really well, so what is your thing that you do really well that you could build upon?

Rhythm with Ages 10-14: 

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.

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.

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.

Rhythm for Ages 14 and Up:

I still believe the more natural point of separation for teens is around age 16.  So to those of you with fourteen year olds and early fifteen year olds, please hold steady in rhythm, in holding family fun, in holding your yearly holidays, and in mealtimes.  These are really important to young teens, even if they don’t act like it!

For those of you with older teens, 16 and up, ( which I don’t have yet but have many friends who do) : honor this time.  Most teens this age are spreading their wings with activities, driving, jobs, relationships, getting ready for life past high school. Don’t rush it, but allow space and time.  Just like walking, they will be ready for things when they are ready.

Bedtimes is controversial topic for older teens on many high school homeschooling boards.  Only you can decide what is right for your family.  If you have younger children in the house, your teen just may never get to sleep super late.

Media is another topic of controversy that, as mentioned above, can really impact rhythm, and for the homeschooling family, how schoolwork gets done (or not). Some teens handle media really well, some need super strong limits.  There is no one way families handle media for their teens, even in Waldorf families.

Do make family dates, family nights, family vacations, and so forth.  The family still trumps whatever friends are about.

Consider the impact of outside activities upon a teen’s stress levels.  Choose wisely and carefully.  We can’t do it all, and neither can a teen.

Rhythm For Spread- Out Ages:

Some parents who have large families make the centerpiece of their rhythm the home,  and then  for an outside activity choose one activity the entire family can participate in at different levels, such as 4H or a scouting organization that is co-ed. Some choose one activity for boys and one for girls.

Parts of the rhythm can and should  be carried by older children and teens for the littles.

Lastly, I did a 7 part series on rhythm in  2012, so perhaps these back posts will be helpful:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Martinmas Warmth: Rhythm

Did you ever think of rhythm as a carrier of warmth for children (and adults)?  I consider holding rhythm one of most important ways of conveying warmth to my children.   Rhythm assures us that we are making time and space for the things that are most important.  This could be warming meals, it could be just time together; it could be the stability and repetition that children and teens thrive upon. Rhythm frees up the child to have energy for growth, for emotional evenness, for play, for boredom and dreaming, for doing what we love.  With this scaffolding, children don’t have to spend time wondering the order of things, or when lunch is, or what happens on Mondays.  They can live in greater freedom.

A school setting naturally helps provide some of this structure for some families.  However, in homeschooling, we have to create and hold this scaffolding and patterning of rhythm ourselves.  Some parents feel as if they are hopeless with rhythm and can never stick to anything consistent.  However, I often tell parents they most likely DO have a rhythm as to how they do things in their household, even if it is only the meals or sleep times. Even if we start with just meals and rest/sleep, we can start from a place of strength to create the other pieces of our life.  It also gives a great backbone to gentle discipline as rhythm cuts down on chaos.  For those of you with mainly tiny children under the age of 9, this is very important!

Rhythm does have occasion to change with development, season, and homeschooling as one moves up in the grades.  For example, as children grow into the teenaged years,  things change,  but perhaps surprisingly, much of the basic structure remains intact.  Meals probably stay about the same so long as you are not out every night at activities and miss family meals together.  Bedtimes may expand a bit, but I notice the patterns set as children still are extending into our older children.  None of our children sleep particularly late, and we have always had such an emphasis on sleep and earlier bedtimes that they are not ones to usually stay up super late either.  Just my experience; yours may be different!  Our priority on being in nature and outside also has remained unchanged.  We may have more to do in school than in when my oldest was only in first grade, but we still go outside, and we still have a no to low media home.  Sunday is still church day, Mondays is still horseback riding day.  These things have not changed for years.

Rhythms can also change with the seasons. Right now, we are in this beautiful season of Martinmas warmth, light, and protection.  These themes also carry into Advent, which begins one week from today.  This time of year leads me to more cleaning up, changing seasonal focus in our home, creating, cooking and baking , and crafting.  I am so happy to be home and cozy this time of year!  Spring feels much more exuberant and we just want to be outside and enjoying greenery bursting into fruition.

And lastly, the piece of rhythm that is how to get multiple children and their schooling accomplished does change as all the children grow simply because the children’s school takes longer and they have more subjects. My high schooler has much more work to do than my first grader, but it is still my job to use rhythm to provide balance.  Rhythm in this case is an aid, even if it needs frequent tweaking.  I just wrote a little watercolor paper schedule solely for our homeschooling hours and hung it up in our schoolroom.  It might change next month, but each time I do it, it reflects our priorities for that period of time.

Rhythm is warmth and love, and something special unique to each family.  Please, look at it that way and not as something to be endured.  Rhythm is an extension of love and nourishment.

Wishing you all a few more happy Martinmas days before Advent, with Martinmas protection and Advent posts to come this week!

Love and blessings,

Carrie