Three Reasons I Need Rhythm…

I find many of us are still trying to get our rhythm back at this time of year.  I know I am!  Actually, in my world of the Anglican Communion, we are still in the season of Epiphany and now coming up to Lent, so there is this sense of still being in the middle of things in a way….and many of us find our children grow and change over the holidays, so whilst the work of the day may remain, perhaps meal times or outside times or bedtimes needs to shift around.  Never be afraid to make a rhythm that works for you!  I always start by looking at what pattern we are in, and then seeing if it needs to change…or maybe it is a real pattern that remains..

Rhythm is this idea of a flow to the day; it is not a schedule because it is  flow -oriented and not as time-oriented perhaps as a schedule (although there may be times assigned to meals and bedtime).  It provides an order to the day and a sense of strength for the parent because it takes away some of the thinking involved with every single decision we have to make in a day.  If you know your errand day is on Friday, then you don’t need to go out on Tuesday, for example.  If you know you always put your boots after your walk in one spot as part of cleaning up from your nature walk each day, then you don’t have to round up boots that land in various places.  Rhythm just IS, like the tide coming in and going out or sun coming up and setting.

The three reasons I  particularly need rhythm are:

To continually remind me of the importance of the home. In a society that often does not seem to value being home except for short pit stops between activities (even for small children), rhythm in my home reminds me of the time and care it takes to create a nourishing environment and that there is value in that for the health of all of us in the family.  Ideally, in a home full of rhythm, a small child would be able to tell what day of the week it is by the meaningful work being done in the home on those days.  For example,  perhaps Tuesdays are always ironing days or Thursdays are always bread making days or Mondays are always the cleaning of the home from the weekend.  Traditionally, Waldorf Education has assigned different work to different days based upon more planetary influences (does that sound esoteric enough?!), so there are suggestions from Waldorf kindergartens for different activities for different days of the week.

It reminds me of the importance of what I call “soul hygiene” – that there should be a time and place in the day for inner work, for physical activity outside, for sleep and rest.  This helps remind me to pace myself and to honor these activities.  This helps me remember my main goal of parenting is to help my children be healthy adults – healthy physically, emotionally, in how they see light in others and how they communicate with others, spiritually.

We set up the environment with care, which teaches me attentiveness to activities and models this for my children.  We might have a song or verses to go with the activity.  We put things away  and clean up with care.  Again, it forces me to slow down and see the value of the activities we are doing for the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.

Lastly, (yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking in reason number four!) is that rhythm is your aid to discipline.  When we know when things will happen and how it will happen, it cuts down arguing.  This time of year, that can be valuable.  It is even valuable for teenagers and older children.

How is your rhythm valuable to you?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Stop. Yelling. Forever.

Kindness begins in our homes and in our own hearts.  Yelling sometimes happens, but yet there is nearly always another way to handle situations rather than yelling at our children.  Yelling often reflects our own inability to control our own frustration, or fears, or the helplessness and frustration we can feel if the child is repeating the same behaviors over and over despite every boundary.

This is the time of year when there are many “stop yelling” challenges or promises of so-many-days-to-stop-yelling.  I guess there can be merit in kick -starting something and bringing it to the forefront, but just like “diets” and “working out”, one has to choose to make this a lifestyle, a consistent habit, a way to approach things for all time, not just for a designated period.  This is because how we respond to our children matters. It really does.  We will not be perfect, but we can make not yelling the absolute standard we are trying for, and replace that with connection to our children.

To stop yelling, there has to be a commitment that yelling is  just NOT the way to handle things.  There typically is not much productive communication with yelling.  Usually that is just the end stage when everything has “gone beyond” where the parent wanted it to be.  It is the last resort, the last car of the train.    The other piece needed in this quest is the forgiveness of oneself and the grace to keep to that ideal when things don’t go as we want and we make a mistake.  Parenting involves grace.  And trying again.  And trying harder.

With small children ages 9 and under, you can replace yelling with these things:

Rhythm.  There are so many back posts on rhythm on this blog.  Rhythm is discipline. Rhythm helps you set boundaries, make decisions, lets children know what is to come so they can relax and be secure in that.  Rhythm is your friend, yet few parents in this day and age seem to view it that way.  I promise that rhythm will help you feel more relaxed and confident in your parenting.  It will help you not yell out of frustration or feeling overwhelmed!

Talk in pictures to your child, and use physical movement with your pictures and rhymes embedded in your rhythm of the day.

Inner work for yourself.  Getting up before the others in your house, or catching quiet time after lunch, so you can recharge mentally and emotionally is really important.  Having small children can be a great time for hands-on growing in patience.

Commitment to your own health (and not perfection in outside things). I find many times mothers are yelling, because quite honestly, they are not getting any help from their spouse or partner.  They are not sleeping enough, they are trying to do way too much with tiny children about.  This is not a race, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In the world of Waldorf, there are jokes about how everything has to be organically grown and processed by hand and all this.  Yes, in a classroom, with a team, with beautiful things that have been made over a span of twenty years, this is possible.  It may not be possible at home with four tiny children under the age of six.  Be easy with yourself.   Listen to your own voice.  What is most important for you?  What is MOST important for your child?  You are not a bad mother!

Calm.  Can you keep things calm, especially for the 7-9 year old?  They don’t need a million classes or  a million places to be.  That is just stressful for everyone!  They need time in nature, time to freely and deeply play, and time to just be.  Can you give them that?

Have a plan for the bad moments.  When everyone is yelling and screaming, what is your plan?  When you are trying to get dinner on the table, what is your plan?  What triggers you the most and what can your response be instead of yelling?

If you cannot find a compassionate response to your child, what does it take for you to get to that compassionate response?  Can you delay talking about things?  A boundary can be the most compassionate thing that needs to happen, but can you be calm in setting the boundary?   That is the key.

For children ages 9 to teens:

Space.  Children this age can still be on top of  you and chattering.  Sometimes we just need space. A walk.  A bath alone.  Ask for help.  Ask for space.  Check your own health.  I still find many mothers with children of this age (who may also have little ones still) can be very  depleted  health-wise, which impacts how they feel toward chattering and mess and everything else!  What are your thyroid and hormone levels? Your Vitamin D levels? Are you sleeping?  What are doing for yourself?  It becomes vitally important to re-discover pieces of yourself if you lost this along the way with younger children.

A rhythm of how to do things, including cleaning up.  Yes, it  takes work to get to that point, but I find one reason mothers of children this age yell is that the children create a trail of mess from building forts or legos or skateboard ramps …and leave a trail of half finished projects every which way that somehow ends up the sole responsibility of the mother to clean up .  Everyone can clean up, everyone can pitch in, and  it is okay to set boundaries on where mess will take place.  In the family, we all work together.

Opening the outside world.  Some yelling for parents for this age group seems to happen in regards to pushing boundaries about the “outside world” over and over and over…especially for those ages ten to twelve (and I think girls more than boys? Boy moms, please comment!).  Decide ahead of time — Yes or no?  Decide how important it is for  you to keep things low-key in this  age -range, and why and how you will do that.  What are the boundaries? What is the balance between child activities and family activities or adult-alone activities?  If you open things more widely  now, what will the “openings” be in the teen years?  Decide things now.  Older children of 11-12 and through the teenaged years may not feel like they fit in anywhere, and it is your job to hold steady.

Inner work for you.  What are the values of your family?  What does your child really need at this age?  What is most essential?  How are you walking the walk for what you most want to see in your children?  Rhythm is an essential key to reflecting what is most important in your family – if it is important, but no time goes to it in the rhythm of the day or week, then it is a great sign for re-alignment.

Younger Teens (ages 13-15):

Communication in conflict. The number one reason parents write to me about yelling at their children in this age range is how teens immaturely try to communicate when they are in conflict (ie, talking back, trying to use “logic” but they don’t really have stellar logic yet, etc).  Teens need help knowing how to resolve conflict, how to apologize – the parts of an apology, how to be an effective communicator.  It takes time to develop these skills, and the neurobiology of the brain needs to catch up.

Anger.  Teens often get angry with their parents and feel misunderstood.  How will you handle the anger of your teen?  Does this call forth triggers for you that cause you to yell?   How can you turn anger  on both the sides of you and your child into communication?

Responsibility and Accountability.  Teen are often headed into a phase where things “count”.  Grades may count for college, projects count towards grades, etc.  Time management skills are still being learned, and parents often are yelling when everything is down to the wire for projects or things.  Pressure can make everyone feel snappy. How can you diffuse this?

Rhythm and physical movement are still really important for the teenaged years.  This can really decrease stress, decrease anger on all sides, and lead to reduced frustration.

I would love to hear your best tips for not yelling.   Please share and help all the other mothers out there.

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

5 Ways to Have A Peaceful Family Life in 2015

The idea to use one word to embody the direction, vision and scope of a year has been in use for some time now.  This year, I chose a word for my personal use but also a word for The Parenting Passageway. Our word for the year is “peace”, so you will be seeing quite a bit of that this year on this space – how to really craft peace into your family life.  To move us forward, I was thinking today of five ways to have a peaceful family life.

Know who you are and make apologies for it as you live your life and be the parent you want to be.  When you know yourself and really know your strengths and your weaknesses and work with that for the benefit of your family, it becomes an unshakable foundation.  Love who you are and  what you bring to the table. This confidence and quiet strength allows the family to shine!

Go for balance.  Look for balance throughout the cycle of the entire year.  For example, I am feeling a real need to keep January simple with time to be outside in the morning every day.  So I am working with that pull.  It may change in Spring and I will put together something different.  Look for  the balance with activities outside the home – are they all for one person, one child?  Are there too many?  We need balance to be both parent and person – is that there or is that always on a backburner?  Make this the year for balance for all members of the family!

Boundaries.  Part of having a happy family life is boundaries. Continue reading

Talking Back and What to Do About It

 

“Talking back” seems to be something I see getting press in more and more mainstream American parenting articles, with comments something along the lines of, “We expect teenagers to talk back, but we don’t expect six-year-olds to talk back and this is really infiltrating down and down into younger and younger ages.”

I think this is an accurate depiction of what is going on in American society at least.  I am hearing from parents about talking back and what to do about it from about age five or six on up.

So, How Did We Get Here?

In general, I think part of what has gotten us to this point is that authority in general in society has changed, especially since the 1960s.  No longer are there figures of complete authority to obey without question and children see this in society.  I am not saying these changes are bad!  However, they do lead children to “question” authority more than before, and to also lead parents to be fearful of being an authority, because in our generation’s history this has often been linked with abuse of power and unfairness. Parents seem to walk a difficult line these days in regard to their views of authority and what that means in leading their own family.

The other large change has been the seeping of adulthood down into childhood, including the sheer number of choices a child has, the sheer power of decision-making a child has within the family structure and an awareness of the stress and pressures of the adults in the family.  Related to this has been the seeping of the adult world of information down to the child’s level.

Many American families I speak with feel that part of their children’s talking back is related to that child feeling entitled to experiences or things.  If you feel there is a correlation there, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

For What Ages Is Talking Back the Biggest Problem?

From my mail, I am judging most parents are having difficulty with talking back during the six/seven year change, age eight (the age of boasting and bragging and exaggeration), and the years marketed as the “preteen years” – ages 10-12.  Surprisingly, I don’t get a lot of mail from parents being frustrated with their teenager’s talk.  I am not sure if that is because the talking back has actually died down at that age, or if parents are just used to it or something else.  Again, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

What Can I Do To Figure Out Where We Are Right Now?

  • Always go back to the basics, especially for those under the age of 12.  Are they overbooked and overscheduled?  Too many choices and just generally holding too many opinions/ too much power?  Are they getting enough sleep, rest, time for unstructured play, eating whole and healthy foods?
  • What are your rules?  What exactly constitutes talking back by your child to you?  Does your child know what talking back really is and when they are doing it?
  • How are you treating them?  What kind of a model are you with them?  If you are constantly sarcastic and snippy with them, then that is their model.  That is exactly what they will parrot back to you.  Are you respectful and polite as well?
  • Are they more connected to their peers than to the family unit?  The privileges of a sixteen or seventeen year old  and the schedule of a sixteen or seventeen year old are not the privileges or schedule a ten year old should be having.  If you need help knowing what is appropriate for a ten year old versus an older child, please leave me a comment and I will be happy to dialogue with you.
  • What is their media intake?  Unfortunately, many of the nicer “family” shows that used to be on television or in the movies are long gone.  Today’s media often portrays a family where the children are snippy to their parents and seem to know much more than their hapless, bumbling parents.  The fathers are typically portrayed as extra bumbling.  Portrayals such as these really have not helped our society as a whole.

So What Can I Do? Continue reading

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