Meaningful Work For Adults: A Discipline Challenge

I believe the key difficulty lies in that adults of this time and place try to relate to small children through words and through the perception that the small child should be treated the same as an adult- provide logical explanations, more explanation, more talking, more experiences – in order to make discipline go well.   The fact that the child then does something that was never done to them (“Why is my child hitting me and biting me?  We don’t do that to them!” or disappointment when “She could have cared less that she was being wild and disrupting the baby’s nap.  Why can’t she have consideration for the new baby?”)

Disappointing indeed, to discover all those parenting books were wrong, and to discover the completely different consciousness of the child.

The child of birth through seven should be living in their bodies, and we should be able to hold discipline through rhythm, through using song along with movement, through silence and loving authority as we  keep calm and carry on.  Less words, more warmth, more work on our parts.

In order to help our children, we have to become agents of doing.  This is what a small child relates to.  When we don’t show our children any meaningful work within a meaningful consistent rhythm, they are rightfully confused. Continue reading

The Angry, Aggressive Six Year Old

I have written before about the really active, can-be-aggressive small child in several back posts of varying nature, but I had a few thoughts I wanted to share today. ( Please be sure to note I am dealing here with fiery temperaments, not especially with children dealing with sensory or developmental issues affecting behavior).

If you are struggling with a six year old who still seems rather “stuck” in immature behavior that involves physicality, I want to encourage you tonight.  It doesn’t seem as if people really talk about this at all in parenting resources; it seems it is well- assumed that tantrums or any physical response to a limit is over by age three.

From what I have seen, six year olds can definitely still have a hard time controlling their hands, their emotions, their reactions, their physical responses and such.  To those of us involved in Waldorf Education, this seems like of course!  Has anyone ever read the book “Ramona The Brave” by Beverly Cleary?  Here is a passage about fiery Ramona, six years old and in first grade at school, when she becomes completely angry at a classmate (for those of you who have not read this book it is a paper owl and Susan had copied what Ramona had done to make hers, which is why Ramona is angry in this chapter): Continue reading

More About How To Create Meaningful Work For Toddlers

 

“We have to remember that there is nothing more “enriching” for a young child than exploring his own world of home, filled with natural playthings and the work of caring for a family – housework, laundry, cooking – and exploring his own backyard.” – From Sharifa Oppenheimer’s “Heaven On Earth:  A Handbook for Parents of Young Children, page 19

 Liza wrote such a beautiful post here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/28/guest-post-meaningful-work-for-toddlers/  and I hope it was inspiring to those of you who have toddlers as your oldest children and you are trying to create your family life “from scratch”.  I have a few things I would like to add as well to this meaningful post. 

 If you are wondering where to begin, Continue reading

Guest Post: Meaningful Work For Toddlers

(I asked my dear friend Liza to write this guest post because she has experience in weaving a life full of meaningful tasks that her twin toddlers do to help nurture their home.  What a wonderful experience they are having, and I thought her experience could help some of you out there who might be wondering about what kind of work toddlers could do!  Enjoy!)


Dear Friends,

I am a new mom, almost three years into parenting twins, and am humbled each day by what my children teach me.  How it is the simple things that bring them the most wonder:   the slow and steady journey of a snail’s trek across the patio, grandmother moon shining bright on a sunny day, how every flower on our morning walk is met with reverence and a deep inhale.  From them I am learning to slow down and settle into the sweetness of their early years.

I have also come to learn that time spent with my children at home is ultimately the most rewarding, for them and for me as well.  It is better than a visit to the playground, an organized class, or family adventure.   A bowl of sudsy water and a cup is like a trip to the ocean, dawdling around in our urban backyard feels like foraging through the forest and work- real work done with their hands (and mine) is deeply enriching. So we nest a lot, building and strengthening our home, caring for the objects and animals that surround us and attending to our rhythm.  Basically…doing lots of things with our hands.

When Hannah and Eli were born I joined the Christopherus Waldorf at Home Forum and there (enter angels singing and skies parting), was a group of mothers whose wisdom, humor and intelligence cradled my nascent mothering soul. Carrie was one of these inspired mothers/mentors.  I brought to this group my deepest anxieties, my ‘silliest’ questions, my fears and self doubts.  And trust me, there were a lot. But ultimately I brought to them my children to help me nurture, support and love more fully.

The sub-forum for those with children under seven was a particularly lively and active group.   We discussed everything about living with small children- from the practical aspects of coordinating nap-time, to building rhythm into our days, to finding love for your children when they do not seem so lovable. Overwhelm, burn out, and irritability came to the forum most days, right along side sibling conflict, strong emotions (formally known as tantrums), and whining.  From beneath the words of encouragement showered on each mama’s struggles you could almost hear the soothing siren song of this unspoken mantra:

slow down sweet mama,

take a deep breath,

you are doing a great job.

look gently within (take responsibility for what you might be contributing

and then forgive yourself),

connect back in with that little spirit who wants only to be loved.

And find some work to do with their hands

And so while the first four tasks are surely all parents’ karmic work (we have chosen the ultimate “path of service” it seems- the one that gives us access to expansive love…and a whole mess of other feelings), I leaned into the challenge of finding jobs for my children. And you know what?  It works.

At eighteen months we started small: stirring mama’s tea in the morning, grinding daddy’s coffee beans, making the morning eggs.  That bowl of sudsy ocean water soon had spoons and a sponge in it- a towel on the side to dry them with. The spray bottle entered our world and washing windows began- bliss was known.  Folding laundry became a game of discovery, an opportunity to run through the house delivering missing washcloths to the bathtub and napkins to the napkin drawer.

As time passed we found more work to do.  We stirred pancakes, made endless batches of muffins (and delivered them to the neighbors promptly lest they were all eaten by mama), made soup, pickles and bread.  The salad spinner is just as likely to be found on the countertop as it is the floor, the back deck…the living room.  Did you know you can spin almost anything?  We learned to pour with a pitcher, cut with a knife, peel with a peeler, use the cherry pitter, cheese grater and whisk.

We wash woolies in the bathtub, then wrap them in towels, stomp on them like grapes and hang them from a makeshift line under the kitchen island. That is a full morning’s work.  Bringing in the groceries one by one down our long apartment hallway to the kitchen still ranks high in the ‘fun things to do with daddy’ category- running fast like kitty cats with the apples, slow like turtles with the eggs.

There is a pride that emanates from a little one who has just accomplished a task they have watched you do over and over.  You can see it in their faces, their bodies and their spirit.  When they ask, “Mama, I do it!” I nudge you to let them try.  It is indeed messy, there is of course some risk, you may need to come back later and do it over.  But really, the rewards are huge.

I am still working to “de-mechanize” our day so that my daughter, whom I keep close to my side lest she finds her very capable hands pulling her brother’s hair or knocking over his carefully constructed ‘hayride’, is included in my housework.  Then my son who is only sometimes interested in working can play nearby and join in when he is inclined- apparently they have an agreement that he has claim over the salad spinner when the time comes to use it. And so it goes that sibling conflict is greatly reduced when we are busily working.  Self-esteem and positive exchange between all family members swells.

I recently bought some special wool felt to make a banner for the children’s play space- an attempt to add crafty to my day.  I put this little project in a basket in the living room so that I could attend to it when there was a free moment- idealistic I know.  When my daughter happened upon the basket of carefully folded rainbow felt she exclaimed, “my laundry!” as if it had been missing for years.

Yes, love, that is exactly what it is.

She has since added some kitchen towels, a couple of matchbox cars…a wooden chicken.  I often find her in the window folding her laundry and singing a little song. “Just a moment,” nodding over in my direction, “I am almost done folding the laundry”.

And so it is that imagination trips on the heels of imitation.

The forum ended a few months back and I missed the chance to heart-fully thank the women for all they had given me, to my children…to our family.  When Carrie asked me to write something up about work and toddlers I thought- what could I, fledgling mama, share with you?  And then I heard that siren song and I remembered the mantra, the trick that helps me shepherd two  often cranky toddlers through the day… and helps them back into their much more important work of play.  Thank you Carrie.  And thank you mamas.

Here are some ideas for including toddlers in your work…and play.  I would  sure love to hear what you are all up to!

  • Load/unload the dishwasher with supervision
  • Wash silverware ( in a little basin)
  • Learn to use a sharp knife; grating
  • Practice pouring into a glass
  • Stir, pour, play with flour/dough, etc.
  • Make coffee for daddy- press button on grinder
  • Spread butter on toast
  • Pick the leaves of kale, tear lettuce, spin in dryer
  • Shell peas
  • Scramble eggs
  • Unload groceries
  • Spray and wipe windows and bathroom walls
  • Wash tub with sponge and baking soda
  • Polish wooden toys/furniture
  • Hand me items from the laundry basket as I fold and then help carry to each room/drawer OR I have a basket ready in each room and I hand the kids an article each from the clean laundry and they deliver it to the appropriate room.
  • Sweep
  • Help take out garbage cans/bring back in
  • Get napkins and silverware for table
  • Water plants outside
  • Dig hole for new plants
  • Practice training dog with treats
  • Learning to iron
  • Polishing silver
  • Help make bed

Some additional resources have supported me:

Allison Carrol, Director

http://www.sfwaldorf.org/programs/earlychildhoodprogram.asp

And this verse by Steiner:

Into my will,

let there pour strength.

Into my feeling,

let there flow warmth.

Into my thinking,

Let there shine light.

That I might nurture this child

with enlightened purpose,

caring with heart’s love

and bringing wisdom

into all things.

With love,

Liza, mama to Hannah Simone and Elijah Moon

Thank you Liza, for sharing your experience…

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

This Week In Discipline–MAPIT

M-  Movement.  Approach your under the age of 7 child with an idea about movement.  Use movement with your words to get done what needs to be done.

A- Attachment.  You can be home all day with your child, yet never really connect.  Connect with your child.

P- Positive Attitude and Patience.  Children are little, you are going to have to go over and over and over this.

I- Imitation.  Children imitate your every gesture, and what you do in your work in nurturing your family.

T- Take your time.  Calm down, breathe, give a minute to answer.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Benign Neglect

Lately I have been receiving emails from mothers who are frustrated with their children’s behaviors and can recount every small thing their child does (or does not do!)  The cycle seems to be a difficult one to break as mother and child get locked into battle positions.

May I suggest something to try? 

Benign neglect.  A tad of benign neglect.  Benign neglect is that art of discernment in parenting; in knowing what really needs your full attention and truly needs to be addressed, but in also knowing what needs to not be seen and what should  have a blind eye on the part of the parent!   It is being fully present yet knowing that the best way to respond at times is not to respond.  For example, the discernment of knowing that your child can come up with a cure for their own boredom, for example,  when you stop drawing such consciousness to it and keep on with your own work whilst being fully present.

Therefore, based upon that, I think one of the best ways to work with benign neglect is rhythm and real work.  Everything does not fall apart when one child falls apart.  That child is loved, but dinner is still served, joy is still there and life is happening, come back and join us, small child.

The other place where benign neglect starts is through your own inner work.   You must carry your own confidence and know that putting every behavior to psychoanalysis is not only unnecessary, but also harmful.   I see so many mothers today putting out fear and anxiety in their parenting.   Sideways parenting through just planting the small seeds of things is ever so much more effective in the long run of parenting.  Think stories, think your own work and space and time.

Give your child space to breathe.  Give them room to make mistakes and to fix those mistakes.  Laugh and find the joy and humor.

Live your life and enjoy it.   Here is a rather old post on the topic of letting go, but I think it still stands:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/28/letting-go/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Collecting And Connecting To A Challenging Child

In our last post, we looked at the four things the authors of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” outlined in regards to “collecting” our children after separation.  You can see that post here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/02/01/hold-on-to-your-kidscollecting-our-children/

I got a wonderful comment on this post that basically stated it didn’t seem as if the steps outlined in this chapter would really work for a child that was either in a truly difficult developmental stage and where parent and child were feeling disconnected or perhaps in a situation where a lot of separation was going on due to life circumstances.

I have a few thoughts about this and I hope if you are in this sort of  situation you will go through these suggestions and take what resonates with you and your family.

  • If you are in the situation where separation is occurring frequently, is there a way to pare things down?  Sometimes families cannot pare it down due to work obligations or school, but if the separation is due to things outside of school and such, perhaps it is worth investigating cutting activities outside the home down.  Can you pare down how many hours you are working outside the home?  Could you possibly homeschool this child to give them extra time at home?  What can you do with extracurricular activities?    Many families will put a stop on sports for part of the year and just enjoy family activities.  Some families will say no activities at the dinner hour.  Perhaps if separation is occurring due to these extra activities, these need to be looked at within the context of the needs of the whole family.  Sometimes we have to give things up in order to gain things.  Simplify.
  • Get out a piece of paper and write down what separation is occurring each day and what happens before the separation and what happens after you and your child are reunited.  What rituals are there around going out the door, or reconnecting after school or work?
  • Do you cook and eat dinner together most nights?  This is really important and well worth the effort.
  • Do you parent your child to sleep?  This is important for all children, but for children nine and older, this may be the ONLY time they open up about their day. It is important to be able to give your child this time.
  • What do you do on weekends?  Is there a family activity one afternoon a week?  Even if children protest, this is an important ritual to establish. It does not have to be expensive, and can involve something as simple as hiking, taking a walk, bathing the dog, having tea.
  • Are you speaking this child’s love language?  Here are the back posts on that: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/16/how-to-work-with-the-love-languages-of-children/   and this one:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/13/loving-children-in-their-love-language/
  • What kind of language do you use daily with this child?  (https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/)   Do you connect with this child through your warmth and love throughout the day?  Do you consider yourselves on the same side and maintain your calmness whilst you help your child meet the rules and boundaries of your family?  
  • Boundaries foster security.  If you are being a jellyfish in your family,  (see this back post for an explanation of what a jellyfish is:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/what-kind-of-family-are-you/) now is your time to stop.  It is not punitive to consider logical consequences for behavior that you would not want your child to do to any relative or friend!
  • If your child is very enmeshed with peers, is there a way to change the scenery?  Is there a way to limit time with peers?
  • If you are going through a rough patch with a child, actually spending more time together and not less is often a key to drawing closer and communicating.  Some mothers I know have even brought their most difficult child home to homeschool with excellent results.
  • Meditate and pray about this child and carry this into your sleep and see what new insights come to you in the morning.  You have the keys to help this child within yourself. You really do!
  • Go slow.  Things are not going to change overnight.  I suggest you look at this as taking at least a six month period.  Write things out on a piece of paper, your plan, and put it into action.  Tweak as you need to, but start small with something tomorrow. 

I would love to hear the experiences of mothers who have survived a difficult period of connection with their child and came out even stronger in the end.  Do you have a story like that to share with us?

Many blessings,

Carrie