Often in the world of gentle discipline we are implored to look at our child’s needs and wants when they are acting in a way that we don’t understand or want. However, I often think that just attributing a reason “why” a child does something is really not enough or honestly, even always necessary. I have known and worked with a lot of children and their families, and I just don’t know as every childhood action that is trying or challenging to adults is the result of an unmet need that the parent needs to decipher. Yes, sometimes there are things going on that the child is feeling stressed about and cannot articulate well. Yes, we live in a fast-paced world and many children have an awful lot to deal with. Connection and attributing positive intent to a child’s often immature but developmentally appropriate actions are so important. But some actions are just things that children do for whatever reason, many times without really thinking at all. Continue reading
I think whenever there is a lot of yelling going on in a household, it signifies the possibility of several things:
1. The household, or you, are under complete stress. What can you do to simplify your schedule, your rhythm, your life?
2. Lack of nourishment for you at a physical level, an emotional level, or a soul level. What can you do to fill your own bucket so you can be steady? Do you need a break? If you are feeling stressed, how can you change the mood? Being in nature is a huge help.
3. I find sometimes the most gentle people are gentle up to a point, and then they explode. I think this goes back to boundaries. Sometimes gentle people can be too lax in boundaries, and all the small irritations build up until it all explodes. I think what one finds with folks who have older children, who have multiple children, is that they are much quicker to set a boundary in a kind but firm way before it all escalates. Always think about boundaries. Continue reading
I was recently looking through Michele Borba’s book, “Parents Do Make A Difference: How To Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts,” and this sentence jumped out at me:
“The kind of messages we send our children is critical. Expecting little from our kids limits their success, because they lose the incentive to try new possibilities. Unrealistic expectations can also damage our kids: “Why didn’t you get all A’s?” “How did you not make the team?” “You got a 98 percent – which two did you miss?” Pushing our kids because we want the best for them may be misinterpreted by them as “You’re not good enough.” Successful expectations gently stretch our children’s potential to become their best without pushing them to be more than they can be. And these expectations never destroy children’s feelings of adequacy.”
The author goes on to discuss using the parameters of “developmentally appropriate, realistic, child-oriented, and success-oriented” as barometers for whether an expectation is healthy or not.
I talk a lot about development on this blog, and have included realistic expectations as part of the developmental posts for each age. You can access many back posts to look at that. However, here is a quick rule of thumb: Continue reading
Look for the positive things in your child, and love and encourage your child. There is a saying of something to the effect that we do not teach a toddler to walk by berating them every time they fall, but we encourage them when they make it onto their feet and stagger a few steps. This is the same for older children; the things they are trying out and doing are different than learning to walk, but they are still learning to be a part of humanity!
Here are some encouraging words:
I knew you could do it! Continue reading
The first part of this series can be found here, including some really interesting comments regarding attachment parenting and enmeshment, attachment parenting and children learning to have self-reliance: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/01/23/attachment-parenting-whats-going-on/
So, on with my list of the ways I feel attachment parenting as sometimes been misconstrued and misunderstood, coming from my experience of being in the attachment community for the last 11 years:
Number Two: The only way to guide a child is to talk to them, and talk some more, no matter what the child’s age. I think if we look at the child as moving through the stages of imitation, short explanations, needing a loving authority figure, going into cause and effect reasoning around the age of twelve and then moving into mentorship, apprenticeship, and such during the teenaged years, a completely verbal approach cannot and should not be the answer for children of all ages. I have written about the idea of combining thinking, feeling and willing for the guiding of a child many times and in many ways on this blog.
Sometimes I think attached parents use excessive talking to a child to not only communicate and explain, but, (in all honesty!) in hopes that the child will agree with them. This way we can still all be friends! This can be a very passive way to set a boundary.
Just because you are attached and connected to your children doesn’t mean they are always going to agree with you!
So, I wish the attachment parenting community would Continue reading
I wrote about the intersection of attachment parenting and Waldorf education some years ago in a back post, but it has been on my mind again lately…And then, just this week, there was a wonderful thread regarding this topic on Marsha Johnson’s email@example.com list. Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie of Wonder Of Childhood (http://thewonderofchildhood.com/) had some particularly wise and insightful things to say about the journey of the parent as a part of Waldorf parenting (which we often see in the work of biography in Waldorf Education, as we, the teacher and the parent, strive to heal and understand ourselves because we are not just teaching academic subjects but teaching how we view the world and who we are!) and how this intersects with attachment parenting.
My husband and I have attachment parented three children ages 11 to 3 as of this writing. I have been involved and am still involved in attachment parenting at my local community level, and I receive a lot of mail and questions from attached parents all over the world, so I think I am in a unique situation to know what’s going on in the world of attached parents.
So, today I want to write about some of the ways I personally think attachment parenting has been misunderstood and misconstrued. Again, this is my opinion, so please take what resonates for you, and leave the rest behind. There really are no road maps for the attachment parenting of the older child; I believe there is a book out by Isabelle Fox on this subject and I think I read it a long time ago but yet I have little impression of it at this point Therefore, these are just some of my observations from seeing attached children that are now over the age of seven, up through the teenaged years.
The attached mothers I have spoken to who have children over the age of 7 or 8 wouldn’t change the fact that they are attachment parenting but many of them would change HOW they did it. Most of the things they would change has to do with rhythm, how they communicated with the young child, and boundaries for the entire family.
So, without a road map for the older child, here is my perspective after being in the attachment community for eleven years now:
Number One: Some feel that in order to be an attached parent, the approach must be completely child-centered – ie, the child sets the rhythm, whatever the child wants to do the parent does their best to make it happen, anything the child says and does requires the attention of the parent. Yet, Jean Liedloff herself wrote about the unhappy consequences of being completely child-centered here: http://www.continuum-concept.org/reading/whosInControl.html
Actually, I think the attachment literature that has sprung up has done Continue reading
Much of the popular bookstore literature regarding discipline of the small child to the pre-teenaged years are sorely lacking, in my opinion.
These resources typically demonstrate one of two approaches. The first approach is to focus solely on cause and effect (ie, carrot-stick, bribe or punishment), which does not take into account that children do not really even begin to develop the ability to use cause and effect reasoning until the age of twelve. A kinder and gentler way of this approach is to talk the child to death in hopes that all your explanations will lead to the child agreeing with you. These are really two facets of this same approach, and neither one is developmentally appropriate.
The second approach is one that focuses on empathizing with the child. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, to connect with the child when there is a challenge, but only using empathy can lead both child and parent bogged down in how each one feels and why without much resolution, or just lead to endless talking (circling back to approach number one as described above). Kim John Payne, in his book “Simplicity Parenting”, talks about how children under the age of nine developmentally display a more diffuse manner of feeling “good” or “bad”, unless they have really been coached in labeling feelings.
I propose a more balanced approach to discipline. After all, the first approach is focused on thinking: cause and effect. Yet this is such a fallacy. Children developmentally don’t think the same way adults do. The second approach is focused on feeling. Whilst connecting to a child through the feeling life is important, there are other ways we can do that besides words, which frequently seem to get ignored: the warm smile, the holding of a steady rhythm in the midst of anxiety and stress, the hug. These cues often seem to get ignored and lost in the literature that focuses on a feeling approach to discipline.
A balanced approach involves not just thinking (mainly on the part of the adult!) Were is the child’s consciousness in this situation? That is for you, the thinking adult, to realize, and to bring your patience and persistence to this), feeling (are you feeling compassionate and loving toward your child? But loving does not mean the child has to be responded to right away or that the child gets what they want! Wants and needs are two different things in children above the age of 2!) but also involves willing. What can the child DO in action, to help the situation.
How are you moving, in movement, in your body, to help the child?
Give your children phrases to use that they can imitate, short phrases that involve not so much thinking but willing – what can they do? What are your words helping them to do , how are your words entering into the child and helping them create their own will?
Other things that help a balanced approach to discipline include boundaries, the word no, positive words to imitate, real work, and a strong rhythm.
Firm boundaries are important, and especially so for small children who live in their bodies. Hitting, spitting, kicking, throwing are all common behaviors of the small child. The word no is an important word. Not everything can be phrased completely positively, especially when it comes to the safety of the child or other children. We can give a child a positive or accepted action, but sometimes it is really important for the child to hear no and live with that boundary before even hearing the positive thing they can do.
Some Waldorf kindergarten teachers use the phrase, “You may…” Some teachers do not like this approach, and for situations where there really is no choice will use the phrase, “You will.”
Real work is something that turns difficult situations about. In the home environment, going back to the basics of food, and sleep are also important. Sometimes as children become tired they get more and more wound-up, and throw and hit and kick and spit more. Keeping a solid rhythm of warming foods and sleep and rest is a vital component of discipline. With small children you must plan ahead and keep things on track.
You can do this! Envision how you want your family to be, and use your patience and persistence to make it happen!