Creating A Peaceful Home Amidst Conflict

I get a lot of email about sibling fighting between siblings of all different age gaps (they are two years apart, they are six years apart – the age gap doesn’t seem to matter nor what gender the children are!), and also email concerning smaller children who are physically running at their parent, yelling at their parent, etc.  You might think, well, that’s not my children!  Well, great!  However, I find many children, and actually many times children, especially those who feel anxious or angry or generally passionate about things have a harder time handling their big emotions.  So, if your children are super calm and you never had to deal with any of this, it may be more of a temperament or personality thing on the part of your child, along with your parenting!

I think there are several step to helping gain peace amidst conflict in the home, whether the confict is child and parent or child to child.

  1. Figure out what your boundaries are. What will or will you not have in your home?  You cannot just let things go along and then snap because suddenly after the twentieth time your child or the children together do something, you feel upset about it.  If it is your boundary, you must have a plan to act on the behavior  that crosses this boundary every single time.  Decide what is big and what is small – it cannot ALL be big.  Let some of it go, but don’t let all of it go.  You are the parent and the guide to help your child.  Your child is going to try things on; help them figure out which garment should stick.
  2.  Do your best to set the right stage.  A steady rhythm, a life that is not rushing from one thing to the next, making sure the children and yes, even teens,  are rested and fed is really important and have had physical exercise.  Limit the screens if you don’t already. Too much screen time seems to make all people cranky!  Where is your self-care?  We cannot do this without self-care.  Exercise is usually the number one thing mothers tell me that helps them handle their children better.  It is a priority!
  3. IN THE MOMENT:  Calm yourself.  It is much easier when children are older to leave the room, step outside, etc.  and take a moment.  It is harder when children are younger because they may be screaming, hitting, kicking, trying to climb up you in their frustration.  Sometimes just sitting down and holding a child through that can help if you are comfortable with that.  Sometimes just scooping up a small child and being together on the grass outside helps.  Some families do look at helping their children sit down next to them in a cozy spot they have set up for just these occasions.  Tiny children will  need your physical presence to calm down; older children should be able to calm down without you physically holding them.  Time in together and calm down.  Do NOT attempt to talk about what just happened.  No one is ready.  Take this conflict and your reaction into your inner work that night. Why is this so hard for you to keep your cool when this happens? What is the fear undernearth your reaction if you are not calm?
  4.  When everyone is calm, connect.  Talk about what happened simply.  If your child is tiny, under the six/seven change, you may approach this more from a simple statement, a picture of what happened (“Your car (the child himself)  was going too fast and the lamp fell when you took that turn!).  Older children can talk about what happened and you can listen. However, discourage going over and over the same thing. Some older children will do this in an attempt to show you how right they were and how they were wronged and how none of what happened was their fault.  Once is enough.  With that, simple statements also work best.  “We are kind in this family” “We help in this family” when it is your turn to speak.  And yes, you should speak and make clear what happened.  And yes, everyone should learn to apologize and forgive each other as well.  Apologizing and forgiving is also connecting.  Apologizing is genuine; we never force a child to apologize but we model and as a child ages, this should come naturally.
  5. Consequences.  The best consequences include having the child make restitution for what happened – if something broke, they fix it; if they disrupted the entire family, they need to do a chore for the amount of time they disrupted the family; if they hurt a sibling, they need to do something nice for that sibling.   Sometimes teens have a harder time.  For example, sneaky behavior of sneaking out of the house, taking something that isn’t theirs (repeatedly), sneaking onto technology, etc.  This may require not just restitution , but also a natural consequence.  They may loose driving the car for a period of time, for example, if they took the car without asking or snuck out and drove the car.  Many times this step needs to come some time AFTER everything is calmed down and connection is made.  Consequences made in the moment often are just punishments with no direct connection to what happened.
  6. Prevention.  When children are under the six/seven change or even the nine year change, I think a lot of conflict resolution is literally training this order – calming, connecting, consequences and working on the right environment.  However, as children reach the nine year change, I think being able to talk about dealing with frustration and conflict is really important.  How do we handle big emotions? What is the model in our family?  How do we work as a team all together?  How do we love each other in times of conflict?  Many children also need to learn to love themselves. I find this often comes into play a lot in the 9-14 age range.

It sounds simple when we lay it out, but it never is simple in the moment.  The tears, the yelling, or dealing with the same issue fifty times in one day can be trying.  Thinking everything is calmed down and then the yelling or crying starts again is also trying.  However, this is probably one of the most important roles in parenting and homeschooling.  It is character development and the thing many adults need to learn- conflict resolution in a non violent and direct (not passive aggressive) way.  I will be writing some posts by ago about handling emotions and emotional health soon. It is a very imporatnt topic in this day and age when many teens are having challenges mental and emotional health.  We need to be pro-active and work in developmentally appropriate ways to help our children.  The foundation is in the under nine years, but the real work is between the ages of 9-18.

More to come,

Carrie

“Getting Children To Do What We Want”

I field questions all the time that basically boil down to, “How do I get my child to do what I want?”  Well, welcome to dealing with another human being who isn’t you! It is a precious dance between two often very different people with different activity levels and temperaments.  I always joke and tell people if you expect obedience, well, that is more like a dog than a human! Haha.

But seriously, first of all, if you can, please stop thinking of it as a war where the child is thwarting what you want or need to happen. If you come in with the attitude that your child or teen has to do only what you want in the way you want it, then it becomes a mindset of a battlefield.   Put out into your family space that you are team and that you can work together with you, the parent or parents, leading.  Take the time to SHOW your younger children how, when, and where you want things done and also accept that there can be, especially for older children and teens,  more than one way to accomplish the same task.  This is an important attitude to carry!  If you need help with this and see most of the main things your children do as “defiant” then I recommend you take a moment to go through this back post:  Defiance

If you are looking to help children and make a peaceful homelife, then here are some suggestions by age since this is what developmental parenting is all about:

If you are talking about a tiny toddler to second grade  the best way to help guide children along amounts to using connection,  rhythm, pictures in your speech, distraction, and stop talking so much!   If you need help, try these back posts:

Using Our Words Like Pearls

Talking in Pictures To Young Children

Stop Talking

What Kind of Family Are You?

From third grade to sixth grade, I think the best way to help guide these children is through the idea of  connection and loving authority.  Yes, in the Waldorf Schools this is seen as very important in the grades, beginning in first grade and coming into full force with the students in the nine-year change. You simply must rise up and be the kind authority in your home.  This means having actual boundaries and actual consequences. Rhythm is still really important as well as NOT overscheduling this age group.  There should be plenty of time for movement out in nature and child-led play (not games led by adults).

Back post to help:  Authority: The Challenge of Our Times

Freedom Versus Form

Boundaries for Gentle Discipline: Why? How?

Helping A Child Learn To Rule Over Himself

In speaking with twelve to fifteen year olds, I think the main piece of advice i have is to Let. it.go within reason.  You cannot micromanage everything, and everything simply cannot be a battle.  You can use rhythm, connection, simple guiding and conversation about why something should be.   Bite your tongue more.  Many of the awkward or angry or tearful stages these teens go through will be done with the fifteen/sixteen change, whenever that happens for that individual child, and whatever they are doing will change as well unless they are facing serious challenges that need professional help.  Increased responsibiity and freedom in the right amounts is important.

Blog Posts to help:  Playing for the Same Team

Finding Center

Changing Our Parenting Language

The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

This idea of responsbility and freedom always carries over into the time when young adults are forging out into the world after the fifteen/sixteen change.  This is the stage of mentoring and helping along.  Some parents are better at this than others – it can be a fine line between being overbearing and doing everything for a young person or stepping back and not really helping at all.  It is the stage of reminding young adults that whilst there is fun and freedom, there is also responsibility and consequences of their actions.  The seventeen year olds transitioning to this may need some extra help sorting through some of this, and since we know the brain is not fully developed for executive functioning and decision-making until age 28, we know we may need to be around to help, but this is definitely more of a mentoring relationship and model.

Blog Post to help:  After the Fifteen/Sixteen Change

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave Parenting

The time to be courageous in your parenting is now.  Brave parenting requires a sense of values and what to be willing to confront and endure in order to have those values live within our children.

If you know your values, then you can ask yourself, “Is what is going on with this child serving those values?  Will this child grow up to be an adult that embodies these values?  What can I do to faciliate these boundaries so these values have a better chance of being a dynamic principle in our lives?”

Sometimes brave parenting requires making hard decisions that are not popular with our children and teenagers, and in this day and age of parents wanting to be friends with their children, this seems more difficult than ever.

When I lose the forest for the trees in parenting, the big things I look at are

  1. Perspective. Would a mom of a now grown-up child think this is a make or break situation?
  2. Boundaries.  Have I been consistent, what are the boundaries? I have friends who cannot name ONE boundary their child has. This, folks, to me, doesn’t bode well for the teenage years.  There are boundaries in life.  They don’t have to be arbitrary or mean, but should organically grow out of your family’s values and love for your child.
  3. Strengths and weaknesses.  Many of you have smaller children, but I have a 16 year old.  So I constantly look at my older children and try to think ahead a bit.  What skills does this child with their personality and temperament really need in  order to succeed in their adult life?
  4. Will our relationship be overall preserved?  Nothing should be so big a deal that it should shatter our love, but I am okay with my children not liking me for short periods. I want to be their friend when they are all grown up, and I want to have fun together, but my job as a parent is bigger than just that.  I need to help guide them towards their own unfolding and their own discovering and yes, eventually their own life.
  5. Self-care.  This is usually the one I totally lose, and this month has been a super stressful and exhausting month.  Aggressive cancer in family member necessitating emergency travel, and emergency surgery for our horse who had colic.  We aren’t out of the woods yet, so I hope I can look at self-care again.  To me, one of the major components of self-care for homeschooling mothers might actually be just letting things go.  We can always find more school days at some point during the year!

How are you brave parenting this week?

Love,
Carrie

 

Boundaries, Empathy, Consequences

So in order to understand how to use a three-fold model of discipline ,one must have a little background about the three terms involved:

Empathy –   Empathy can  be offered non-verbally, by holding a hand, rubbing a shoulder, hugging a child or even a smile.    It can be offered verbally by acknowledging feelings with a word or sound. All feeling are acceptable, but all behavior is not.   Empathy can be offered before or after a boundary is set, or both.   Modeling empathy is an important tool for today’s children.

There is a large push to help tiny  children “name their feelings” these days.  Helping children to name feelings, to me, is not the same as empathy.  To me, this is a separate step. Yes, it is important for older children to be able to express their feelings and know what their feelings are and how to deal with negative emotions in a self-compassionate way.   It is important to understand nuances of emotion as this is a tool for the real world and real relationships.

A back post that may help you: Changing Our Parenting Language

Boundaries – boundaries are particular to a situation/place (the rule when we are at the museum or place of worship or wherever) in society, or particular to your family’s values.   Boundaries are the rules of the house that everyone tries to abide by because we all live together and work as a team.  Boundaries should be stated calmly, and firmly, and described. (For example, “Books belong on the bookshelf, not on the floor” is a simple example of this, when a parent sees a book on the floor).   The child should never be attacked or blamed.  Sometimes  one word will suffice, especially with teenagers.  If your child always sets their smelly sneakers on your kitchen counter and you don’t want them there, you can just point and say, “Shoes!” Sometimes boundaries can be put in writing as well, and this can work well for teenagers.  If the boundary is broken, we state what the expectation (the boundary) actually is again, and decide how to proceed with consequences and restitution.  We need to proceed to this step when we are calm.

A few back posts that may help:

Boundaries for Gentle Parenting

Re-claiming Authority Part One

Consequences – The best consequences are immediate and relatable to what happened.   For small children, this is often easier than with older children.  For example, our little guy tried to hot glue gun his sister’s door shut this week.  She was unhappy with that and felt it was just an extension of him hanging outside her closed door.   So, as a consequence and restitution, the hot glue gun ended up with me, he had to write an apology note to this sister (and I had to sit with him to write it since he doesn’t write very well yet), and he had to clean the door.  Consequences often take our time, our energy, our physical help.  Yelling at a child isn’t a consquence; it shows our frustration, but the child doesn’t get much from that in terms of correcting the original problem.  And what we really are teaching through natural or logical, immediate and relatable consequences is problem- solving for when children are older and we are modeling conflict resolution skills for life.

Parenting can become much more grey the older children become, and the consequences aren’t as immediate or relatable. It is okay to take time with teenagers and think about what would be most helpful in any situation.  Consequences are not there for punishment at all, but as a logical and natural outcome of what has happened.

Restitution – While a  consequence is often external or even natural (I forgot a coat after my mom reminded me ten times, and now I am cold),  I like to think of restitution as a more internal part of the child trying to get this boundary down.  Restitution could be writing a letter of apology, fixing something that was physically broken, doing a kind deed for someone that the child has hurt.  Part of restitution with older children is also working out what will work for the future for both of you, the parent, the family, and the child.   Because when we live in a family, it isn’t just about you.   This is part of the child learn how to rule over himself.

A few back posts that may help:

How To Instill Inner Discipline In A Child

I hope that helps.

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