Have you all ever been in that sort of cycle with a child? Maybe the child gets really angry, you get angry and yell, the child yells, it all comes to a head, you both cry, but the cycle repeats. So many mothers I talk to feel sad, feel guilty, and can’t understand why things have to “come to that “ in order to really communicate with their child. Mothers also feel most guilty when they have things going on within their families, adult things, and the stress of what is going on comes out in the way they deal with their child’s behavior. Continue reading
Parenting calls on us to be patient even when we do not feel like it.
I have been thinking a lot about patience. I have written about patience before on this blog, but as I grow and change new thoughts come to me.
And what I really want to tell you today, my friends, is that the only way to increase your patience is to take your IMPATIENCE and replace it with LOVE.
Love for your children.
Love in knowing that maturity comes slowly.
Love in having a soft and gentle answer to what a child does that is immature.
Love in knowing when a child does need to be pushed a bit in order to move forward.
Love in being able to freeze time, in a sense, whilst the children are all screaming at once, and to still see the tenderness in that scene. To really see those needs that have to be met, but knowing there is time present to do that.
For one cannot be in a hurry in parenting. It solves nothing to jump to snap decisions, snap judgments, snap action. I have a dear friend who related to me one day that every time she was trying to get all her children out of the door, inevitably all of them would fall apart and all of them would all be talking, screaming or crying louder and louder to get her attention. Who should she listen to? Take turns, listen to “he said, she said”, pay attention to the youngest, the most urgent? I suppose any of the courses could be reasonable as we step in and try to fight and wade through all of this…but perhaps there is another way to look at it all.
And that is this: replace the frustration you are feeling with love; and keep your eye on the original intent. If it is time to go, then we get in the car and hash this out later. If it is time to eat, then we are eating and we can talk about all this in a bit. Guide your children toward the immediate need or goal, whether this is that it is time to go, time to eat, etc. Deal with the causes of falling apart as a separate issue once everyone calms down, and solve the problems. Maybe the cause of everyone falling apart was no one could find their shoes; therefore the shoes need to be in a central place so everyone can find them. Maybe there is a need for a bathroom break for everyone fifteen minutes before dinner. But these solutions will come after the immediate goal is met. Craft your life.
Slow, steady, warm and loving, These are the mantras of parenting. It can be hard to do this alone as we are just human; this is when your developed spiritual path will envelop your weaknesses, your frailness, your challenges and human-ness. Prayer avails much.
P is for Patience, but L is for Love.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is developing our own will to not waffle back and forth on “following through” in discipline. We really can learn to follow through calmly on what we said we would do when a child does something that is not part of the rules in our family.
To do this, I think one has to have in mind what the rules of the house or family actually are, and also the developmental expectations for that age. Think to yourself: can this child of this age meet the rules of the house or family, and in what way? What is my part in this as the parent, and what is my child’s part? The younger the child is, the more it is up to you to help the child.
You need to be at your best.
You need to set the tone. Quietly.
You need to calm down.
You need to use your hands gently to help.
You need to approach your child in a true manner that shows you actually want to help them.
You need to be able to pass this duty to someone else in your family if you cannot do it right this minute. This does not mean you have failed, it means you are human.
You need to still be able to love your child, even if you don’t like them this minute.
You need to know this too shall pass.
You need to know life is full of these moments.
You need to know there is no perfect peaceful house.
You need to know that your child is not doing this on purpose.
You need to know your child loves you and wants to connect with you more than anything.
You need to know you are doing your best.
Many blessings today and every day,
We have been talking quite a bit of late about power, authority and boundaries in parenting. Our book study of “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate spurred the discussion, but boundaries are something I have ALWAYS discussed on this blog. You can go through the archives or use “boundaries” in the search engine to pull up back posts.
If things are not going well in your home with discipline, here are a few quick tips:
1. Where are you emotionally and spiritually? It all begins with you. Children need to see you modeling how they should be behaving and what values you hold dear. What comes when as your children grow? When can they go to a friend’s house without you, when can they walk somewhere alone, when can they ride their bike to the corner store, when can they have their first sleepover? Befriend some mothers with older children and see what issues are coming up for older ages; this helps you plan because you will be there one day as well!
How do you show reverence, how do you show gratitude?
Where is the rhythm of your home? Where are your moments of laughter, joy, fun, wonder? What are you doing for demonstrating real work, what is your child doing for real work, what are you doing for sleep, rest, warming foods and nourishment for the soul through singing and verses and stories? What are you doing to get energy out/outside time? These things help children of all ages!
How do you speak kindly in your home? How do you use your words to help each other?
Are you communicating to your small children that the world is a good place? That people are helpful and kind? How are you showing your older grades-aged children beauty?
What is your physical health like? It can be hard to be emotionally and spiritually stable and growing if your physical body needs your attention. Sometimes illness, bed rest, an accident can all be a blessing and force us to grow in ways we otherwise would not have, but I am generally speaking here of mothers who run around in their day to day mothering without a thought of water, healthy food or exercise for their own bodies.
2. Are you trying to do this ALL ALONE? Many mothers are, for a variety of reasons. Some just will not let their husbands do anything; some are single mothers; some are alone in their marriages. I have written quite a lot about marriage and even some posts on being alone in marriage, you can refer to those for some encouragement.
You cannot do this all alone; it takes a community of loving family members and friends to help raise a child. By the time your child is five, this community is increasingly important and by the time your child enters the grades even more so.
Where do you fit into the equation of the family’s needs?
3. Are you connected to your child? Connection is the basis of discipline. You do not need words to connect with the small under 7 child, and even the child of 7-9 does not need so many words. A nine year old does not have logical thinking and less words are truly better! Connect through being warm and loving, through a steadiness in the home, through physical touch and through play. Connect with your child by being emotionally stable yourself!
Meditate and pray about your child, look into your heart and see where they are and what they need. What would uplift them THE MOST at this very moment?
Sometimes growth comes in spurts with regression, especially for a younger child, and we can tailor our rhythm to these demanding stages. However, very often what an older (six and a half year old and up) needs as they struggle with emotional growth in childhood is to not be rescued and have that feeling of being uncomfortable taken away and alleviated. Older children, as they grow, need to learn to deal with all of their feelings, positive and negative, with peers and with people who do things differently.
4. What are your boundaries and do you understand what tools are available for each age to help you stick to those boundaries?
What do you do when your child will not adhere to the boundary? Sometimes a time-in together or just a little bit of space together outside in the backyard can change the energy just enough – but you still have to go back to the boundary.
Is what you are asking REASONABLE for the age of the child? And remember, we don’t ASK small children to do things – we do it together. Exhausting, but alleviates so many problems.
Parent your child for the age that they are – do not treat your ten year old like a three year old and do not treat your three year old like a ten year old!
Look for the next few posts to be from our book study.
Please excuse all the hiccups my computer is having…something is very wrong with my keyboard…..
So, in our last “back to basics” post, we looked at how to develop a framework in order to look at guiding our children in a loving way. Another post that may help stimulate some thought on this topic is this back post regarding how parents view children as “defiant”. You can find that post here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/
When using gentle discipline, the question becomes what tools does one use to guide? Here is a handy list of things to think about!
1. Your Own Inner Work/Physical State. If you are exhausted, running ragged, not going to bed, not eating well, not exercising, not dressing yourself and looking pretty, I can almost guarantee that things on the home front will not be going well. Please, please, step back from everything outside your family and home for a week and get your house in order as much as you can, go to sleep when your babies go to sleep, arrange some help (yes, you must ask! I know how hard that is, but people love you and it gives people a chance to give to you!). You must have something to give to your children, and that starts with you. There are many, many posts on here regarding parenting exhaustion and parenting burn-out and what to do. Please use the search engine on this blog with those terms and see what comes up that resonates with you.
2. Attachment and connection are key. This is why I write so much about attachment on this blog. We have recently been going chapter by chapter through the book “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate, and perhaps that will give you some background and inspiration.
How do you connect with a young child? A young child is in their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart. Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable. I have written several posts on the “love languages” of children that you can go back to and look at. What is the love language of your child? Do you know? How do you use this EVERY DAY to help you?
Your relationship with this child is what carries the discipline. Please do not use “discipline” as an excuse to squash your child’s will and personality. Understand your child’s temperament and use that to help and guide you.
Use your words like the pearls that they are!
3. Imitation – Rahima Baldwin Dancy says this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”: “If you want to teach a certain behavior to your child, one of the best ways is to actually do it in front of (or with) him. This demands that we as adults get up and actually do something, rather than giving the child orders or directions.”
4. Humor – Lots of parents take parenting very seriously. But please don’t take every word that comes out of your small child ‘s mouth so seriously and feel whatever they say is in deep need of serious explanation and weight.
Distraction – this is a viable tool for all children under 7, and even children that are 7 or 8 can still be fairly distractible. However, this takes creativity in the heat of the moment to think of an appropriate distraction. Distraction is not a bribe; it is a way to change to scene to your advantage.
Distraction can also show itself by changing the environment. Some children just need to be outside when they are upset!
6. Using your words to paint a picture in the consciousness of your small child under the age of 7. This is a Waldorf tool that is very useful with small children. Instead of pulling children into their heads and into a thought-decision kind of process, try using phrases that paint a picture instead. This can be anything from “Turn that siren down!” for a noisy little one or “Hop like a bunny over here for some food.” You are re-directing behavior into something more positive through the images that arise from these types of phrases. For those interested in more about pictorial imagery, please do see Donna Simmons’ bookstore and look under her audio downloads for her CD entitled, “Talking Pictorially” at www.christopherushomeschool.org. There is also mention of this with examples on the free Christopherus Audio Download about Waldorf Education as a therapeutic education.
I have written an entire post on this subject here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/
And here is a post regarding talking to the seven and eight-year-old: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/26/how-to-talk-to-your-seven-and-eight-year-old/
7. On the subject of words, try limited choices, less words or no words at all – Sometimes just a look suffices more than a hundred words. Try just helping your child get into their coat while you sing a song that you usually sing when you go outside. Try just handing your child their toothbrush after their bath instead of a whole book about the necessity of dental hygiene.
8. Time-in. According to Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting,
“Sometimes parents are advised to use a time-out instead of spanking their kids – as though these were the only two options available. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means. If we were forced to choose one over the other, then, sure time-outs are preferable to spankings. For that matter, spanking kids is preferable to shooting them, but that’s not much of an argument for spanking.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 65-66.
“Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 26-27.
So, consider the value of time-in instead. Some families have a place where adults and children can sit together until they all calm down, some mothers just have their child sit near them while they do some sort of rhythmical work.
9. Ignoring –yup, you heard me right. The Gesell Institute books routinely recommend turning a blind eye to some of your child’s behaviors if it is not hurting others or themselves (or just driving you plain crazy!). There are times to draw a line in the sand, but if you nit-pick every behavior, you are on the verge of demanding, and not commanding as an Authentic Leader.
10. Physical follow-through – If you say something to a small child, you should expect to have to physically help them follow through. You should expect to have to physically hold an upset child if they need it. The physicality of life with a small child is always there – hugs, kisses, a lap to sit on and help to do things as needed. The child’s respect and dignity always needs to be respected, so you need to be calm when you are following through, but please remember a young child under 7 is probably not going to function well on verbal directives alone.
Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”: “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to authority that is expressed only through the spoken word without being accompanied by actions. With the preschool age child, you need to correct and demonstrate again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it. Their memories simply aren’t that mature yet.”
11. RESTITUTION – How does the child make this right? No moralizing, no lecture, just what ACTION can they take to make it right? Do this AFTER a time-in, after everyone has calmed down!
11. FREEZE! One of the best tools in parenting is learning to take that quick pause in your mind’s eye and ask yourself if what you are about to do is going to help your child be the adult they were meant to be; is it going to escalate or de-escalate the situation, is it going to teach your child something or is it just a moment of anger for you that will pass?
This month we are headed “Back to Basics” in honor of The Parenting Passageway’s birthday. We will be taking a look at the hallmarks of peaceful family life: ourselves and our framework toward the family, children and gentle discipline, the environment in which we live, rhythm and moving into looking at the holistic child and education. This promises to be a renewing month!
So, to kick us off, here is one of the first posts I ever wrote on gentle discipline (October 2008), updated for today!
GENTLE DISCIPLINE AS AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP
From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.” THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, published by La Leche League International.
“In practice, gentle discipline means making mistakes, working with your own anger, and growing as a person.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, pageXXii).
“We would like to think that children learn the civilizing virtues- caring, compassion, consideration- simply by our good example, but most children need a little more than that. A clear definition of acceptable behavior, our expectation that they can meet the standard, and periodic guidance when they stray- all of these are necessary…..Guiding our children-lovingly-is an important part of caring for them and helping them to be loving and lovable to people within our families and beyond.” (THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 256-7, Seventh Revised Edition).
“Gentle discipline means, quite simply, placing empathy and respect at the very center of your parenting.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 3).
Okay, quick! When I say the phrase, “Gentle Discipline” what comes into your mind – the first thing? No censoring! For many of us, gentle discipline equates with permissiveness and the thought of a Kids Gone Wild Video! For others of us, gentle discipline equates with being the parent, who, for lack of better phrasing, is the “valium parent” –you know, the parent who never raises their voice, the parent who is always calm and composed. “Okay, you just pierced your little brother’s nose with a screwdriver in the garage? Okaaaay, maybe next time you should ask before you do that!”
Maybe some of us are sad when we hear this phrase, because we would like to not be yelling at our children, or hitting our children, but we are not sure what other tools we have in our toolbox to use.
What if I told you I see gentle discipline in a completely different light?
Many parents equate discipline to punishment. My Webster’s Dictionary defines discipline some other ways, including as “instruction”; “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”. I love the idea of discipline being a way to guide or lead a child. There are consequences to the behaviors we choose as individuals, but many times we punish children for being in a developmentally normal state.
Eda LeShan, in her wonderful article, “Please Don’t Hit Your Kids”, published in Mothering Magazine in Spring of 1996, writes: “We actually tend to hit children who are behaving normally. A two year old bites because he doesn’t yet know better ways to deal with problems. A five year old steals crayons at school because five is too young to control the impulse to take what she wants when she wants it. A 10 year old lies about having joined some friends in teasing a newcomer at school, since at this age it’s normal to want social approval more than fairness. It takes many years to learn self-restraint. This is not a crime. And making children feel guilty and bad doesn’t solve the problem. What is called for is help in making retribution, having adults explain why such behavior must be overcome.”
Guiding with loving firmness. THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 257 states: “Discipline is a much maligned word, often associated with punishment and deprivation. Yet discipline actually refers to the guidance which we as parents lovingly give our children to help them do the right things for the right reasons- to help them grow into secure, happy, and loving persons able to step out in to the world with confidence in their own ability to succeed in whatever they set out to do.”
“Bear in mind that to say children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from, and these are assets you bring to the child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 11).
So, there is another oft-maligned word that I believe needs to be attached to the idea of discipline as a way to guide a child – and that word is AUTHORITY. Authority is a word that leaves a bad taste in many parents’ mouths. “Authority? We don’t need any of that here! Our home is not a police state!”
Well, when I looked up authority in my Webster’s Dictionary, it said that authority is “a citation from a book or file used in defense or support”, “a decision taken as a precedent”, or finally, “power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.” Influencing my child’s behavior is part of my job as a parent, but I felt it did not get across everything I wanted to say in this situation. Then I noticed that authority and the word a few entries above, authentic, share the same root. The dictionary says that authentic is “authoritative” and “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to fact of reality:TRUSTWORTHY.”
So, perhaps you could view your path in gentle discipline as a way to authentically guide your child. You, as a trustworthy, authoritative guide. You, providing loving boundaries that will guide your child toward being a healthy adult.
Truly AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP.
How can you be an authentic parent today, building connection and warmth with your child to guide them effectively into the adult you would like them to be? What kind of adult do you want them to be? What values does your family hold most dear and how do you SHOW that in action to your children?