Regulation of Emotions In Children – Part Two

Back in the fall of 2015, I  went to a course for my physical therapy licensure renewal  that focused on the regulation of emotions in children who have anxiety, anger challenges, ADD/ADHD, or who are on the autism spectrum.  It was geared toward teachers, therapy providers, and principals in the school setting.  One thing that was emphasized over and over is that a calm child who is not feeling stressed by the environment can learn better than a child who is stressed. Part of education is to understand ourselves as teachers and therapists (why do we do what we do in the classroom or with the children we are with?), to empower children to understand who they are and why they do what they do,  and to help children develop emotional regulation.

I talked about the first part of this course in this  back post about the things some schools in the United States are doing to try to keep things calm for their students, including:

  • Understanding the brain
  • Ryhthm, including the use of photo books to show the child doing each daily activity and using accommodations to make certain children do not get over-stimulated
  • Using connection and love to calm the child
  • Use of movement, art, hydration, music, art, time in nature to all help increase learning and memory and keep children as even-keeled as possible.

The question I posed at the end of Part One of this post (linked above)  was what are the schools doing in the moment, when things are going really badly?  Children with these kinds of challenges can throw desks, they can really fall apart, and it can be difficult for not only the student, but the teacher and the other students in the class when all of this is happening.

The approach in some schools and as modeled in this course I attended is a three step process involving  to  take notice, to intervene, and to plan ahead.   I don’t know if this would appeal to parents in the home environment or not, but I place it here as food for thought and for you to decide how it fits into your philosophy of education and development.  This course was absolutely NOT geared toward Waldorf Schools, and again, I place it here for thought.

Notice – in this course, this meant to empower children to understand emotional states and triggers.  For small children under the age of  9  I am a fan of using stories, music, little circle time activities, modeling, sharing good things in circle time, etc.  I think this can be empowering in the feeling life for the purpose of “noticing”.    For older children, discussion as they need to start to learn to function in the real world may be necessary.  Children with challenges may need very well to start these “noticing” strategies before the nine year change in development, and I think what this entails  is really  up to the family and the health care/educational team.   Remember this course was geared toward those working with children who had challenges with anxiety and anger, which is different.  Some children especially  need real help in  noticing other people’s behaviors, body language, tone of voice, etc.  and again, I think we have to look at the child in front of us whilst keeping in mind development.

Intervention:  This may include  a proactive phase. For example,  what are the child’s triggers?  What is the environment doing (or not doing) for the child?  How do we prepare the child? For example, some children need serious help with groups. Some need serious help with transitions.  How do we anticipate the problems that might come up? In a school setting, this might require a team conference involving almost all staff present.

The early intervention phase might include redirection, and moving into proximity to the child to help, and to use calming strategies.  If a child is past early intevention and is melting down, then steps might include removing the child to a safe environment, not engaging in a power struggle, distracting, offering a safe activity, allowing time to calm down, and then addressing the situation but more in an informational gathering way, not in a way that immediately goes into the negative behavior of the child for that setting.

Note to families reading:   Remember, these are grades aged children. From a Waldorf persepctive for tiny children under the age of 7, I wrote a post about time in for tinies that might give you some ideas about how to create a “meltdown plan” for your littles.

Plan:  The plan part of this is to know that this behavior is cyclical (most likely).  Most likely it WILL happen again.   A plan is helping to empower the child (and I have to say I think this is much more appropriate for older children than younger from a Waldorf perspective) and using a classroom behavior plan.  Role-playing, drawing the scenario and how it would be a happier ending for all parties can sometimes help, and for older children, journaling can be helpful.

Practice: There are many other very cognitive-based approaches that were mentioned that I think could be useful for middle school and up for the normal course of health class or whatnot ( to me personally.  I am sure in some school settings these techniques are being used with much younger children and especially for those who desperately need these tools to try to self-regulate).  These include things such as introducing the parts of the brain and functionality (which in one sense I am for in that children should learn correct parts of their body just like other bodily names but this is applying the names and functionality in a pretty cognitive way that might be better for interested middle schoolers); introducing a “circle of control” (ie, what is in the child’s control and what is not in the child’s control), scales of emotional intensity, scales of importance of events and comparing to the emotional scales.  Other things mentioned were breathing techniques, (which could be used younger than middle school ages obviously )   and using post-incident interviewing techniques.

Here are some ideas for searching techniques that could be helpful for your child (I am not endorsing any of these per se except ones we have used personally); these are just repeatedly mentioned in courses I have taken:

  • Brain Gym (which we do use, I have taken a course in it, and I would endorse)
  • Heart Math
  • Ready Bodies, Learning Minds
  • Play Attention (this might be computer based, I am not sure?  Has anyone out there used it?).
  • Under the Thinking Cap, which is the company of the person who presented this course
  • MindUP Curriculum (has three levels – grades K-2; grades 3-5 and grades 6-8) (I am currently looking at the level for grades 6-8 and hope to have something to review about it soon!)

Are there any products, programs, or techniques you have found for emotional regulation that you have loved?  Have you found a better age to introduce some of these things than other ages?  What did you find worked best for your child?  What about those of you with children who do struggle with anger, anxiety, or other challenges?  Did starting earlier help?

I would love to hear from you.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Make Gentle Discipline Work For Your Family

Gentle discipline is not just a toolbox of tricks; instead I like to view it as the art of connecting and loving as we resolve a conflict together.  It is about hearing the other person, yes, even if that person is a toddler or someone who is small; it is about not reacting in a defensive and emotional way; and it is about forging a path as a family together where the family agenda is the priority and all needs can be met (but perhaps not all at the same time!)

There are five ways I have found to really help families as they work through problems and conflicts together:

Commit to gentle discipline.  If you have a partner in the home, commit to it as a team and agree to back each other up.  The commitment is important.  It may not always be perfect; gentle discipline is a process.  For some families, gentle discipline comes easier than other families.  Some of us have more baggage from our own childhoods to overcome.  It may feel unnatural to try to connect to a child who is being difficult in our eyes.  We may all have different things that our children do that may really bother us.  We need to be able to step in for one another when things are flaring,  and to back each other up as loving guides for our children.  We must commit to the process of connecting during conflict every day.

Know yourself and your partner and how to nourish each other.  What really upsets you and sets you off?  Does knowing what is normal for each developmental stage of childhood help you?  I find this can often help parents feel calmer, to just know what is normal for the developmental stages.      Where is your self-care?  If you are empty, it is so much harder to respond in a connected and loving way to your child.   How do you love one another so you can respond to your children lovingly and patiently so you can guide them when they are having big feelings or big things happening?  This is so important for all stages of development, but I think especially with teenagers.

What is the family agenda?  It is  incredibly hard for a child to know what is expected and how to live with the other family members in the household if no boundaries are set.  The earliest harbinger of boundaries can be found in rhythm, and this happens when children are very small.   As children grow, they can understand the boundaries (rules)  of the family reflect values of the family.  However, in order to have that, the adults of the family must get together and talk about the values you are creating together. Values are something that teenagers can respond to and discuss with you – are your teenagers’ values the same as your family values?  Why or why not? What conflict does this create and how do you navigate this?

Recognize the patterns. Most families have recognizable patterns – this is what happens, this upsets this person, this is how this person reacts.  It is hard to change conflicts within the family if you don’t ever see the patterns or if people are not willing to try something to change the patterns, especially the adults in how they react to what children do.  Who is the calm one in conflict? Who shuts down?  Who walks away? Who gets angry?

How do you resolve conflict?  Because children are not miniature adults, they are not going to reason like adults in times of conflict (and even adults often do not do well in that!)  Small children  do not need intellectualized verbal sparring in order to resolve conflict; what they often need is distraction, rhythm, a boundary that is held lovingly without many words at all, the action of restitution.   I find children ages 9-12 often function not much above these tools.  What helps to limit conflicts in these ages is boundaries that are set up ahead of time and are known.

For teenagers , decide on how you will approach conflicts.  The steps in our family, which we just wrote down recently so everyone was on the same page  include:  taking the time to calm down, making sure the problem is really and actually a problem ( some of the more verbal family members really need to write it down so the problem can be defined and not just a whole slew of emotions with nothing definable other than feelings), meet together in order to discuss  without blaming others and  in order to take responsibility for their own part in things, to really listen and paraphrase what the other person has said and then brainstorm solutions that work for the whole family.  Lastly, we forgive, affirm, or thank the other person and make restitution.  So that is a longer process appropriate for a teen who can really do these steps.

I would love to hear what you steps you think make the difference in making your family a home of gentle discipline and problem solving.    I also have many, many back posts on this blog dealing with gentle discipline if you just search.

Many blessings,

Carrie

5 Ways To Have A Calm Family Life

I hear about harried  families almost every day – those who are completely overscheduled due to running children everywhere, those who have to “car school” because they are on the road running children everywhere, those you are searching high and low for the “simple” life promised in magazines and books….and wondering if such a thing really exists!

I think a calm family life can exist, but you do have to create it.  Here are the top five ways I feel you can have a calm family life:

1.  Take charge of your family’s schedule.  In the United States, it seems that children’s activities are often “driving the boat” of family life.  Is it more important that your children be a part of every activity known to man or is it more important that you enjoy the years you have with your children in an unhurried manner?  Sometimes we can answer what our activities and priorities should be by creating or looking back at our Family Mission Statement.

Our own personal Family Mission Statement at this time is KIPPA: kindness, integrity, positive attitude, patience and adventure.  Something short and sweet that everyone can say and begin to model works well. We haven’t updated ours in awhile, so that is on the list to do this summer to think about.   I would love to hear about your Family Mission Statement if you have one!

2. Let things go.  You can say no!    Make sure you are not keeping yourself so busy so that you don’t have to look too deeply at yourself, your family life, or other areas in life that really need your attention.

Letting go can also include the physical – like the physical clutter of the home, or as FlyLady says, the “body clutter”.  It can also include relationships or communities that are no longer nourishing you.  It is okay that things change over time!  Life is a series of changes –  big and small.

3. Build in time and space around activities.  If you are out one day, be home for two days around that out day.  This can especially work well for younger children.    Take time and space for yourself.  Where is your rest time, your down time, your vacation time?  Can you teach your children to be comfortable with space and time and not “busy going” all the time?  What a wonderful gift you will be giving them to teach them that through your modeling!

4.  Devote time to yourself.  I see so many mothers who are spending all of their time at their children’s activities, and fail to put a priority on their own eating, sleeping and exercise.  Your physical health is really, really important.  Why not make this summer the summer of your  health?   Put in the time it takes to make healthy and from -scratch meals; to daily exercise (yes, I said daily!),  to sleep and rest and for your inner work in whatever capacity this means to you.    I would love to hear your success stories!

5. Positivity.  Being a positive mother, partner and friend can reverberate throughout all the communities and relationships of your life.  Surround yourself with positivity, think positive, be generous with your encouraging words and watch the calmness come into your family!

Many blessings and love,
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

Why Do I Yell At My Children So Much?

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

What Is In Your Way Of Being A Light?: Anger and Fear

(So, this is the kick in the fanny post that is a continuation of the post I just did about showing warmth and being a light for others this season, but from the polar opposite side of the issue.  If you are not in the mood for this, feel free to return for the next post, which will be lighter!  Smile)

Part of parenting, and a huge part of Waldorf homeschooling, is the spiritual journey we should all be on to develop our spiritual lives.  What we are is what we teach our children and what we show the world and how we interact with the world.

Fear and anger cannot drive a family life or a community without ripping it apart, even if you try to cover it up with other happier things. Continue reading

Finding Center

I am busy reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing The Universe:  The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, And Science” by Michael S. Schneider.  This is a fabulous read, especially for those of you homeschooling fifth graders and up in the Waldorf tradition, where the child moves from movement and form drawing to freehand geometry into geometry with tools.

I was re-reading the first section of the book, on the circle and the number one, and came across this passage:

“Nothing exists without a center around which it revolves, whether the nucleus of an atom, the heart of our body, hearth of the home, capital of a nation, sun in the solar system, or black hole at the core of a galaxy.  When the center does not hold, the entire affair collapses.  An idea or conversation is considered “pointless” not because it leads nowhere but because it has no center holding it together.”

I think parenting is learning how to revolve around our center, and how to find our center again if we loose it.  If our center is kindness, gentleness and self-control, then we have a center to return to in the moment (https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/01/23/a-guest-post-take-pause-with-the-10-x-7-rule/).  We also then have a center to set our long-term vision around in terms of what drives the decisions in our family.

However, there is another very real and important reason to find our center:   If what we do and say becomes the inner voice of our children as adults, why not practice now?

Say these critical things to your child:

You are so strong.

You are so helpful.

I love you.

Thank you.

I know you can do this.

I am proud of you.

More importantly, show your child that they belong in your family.  That they make you laugh.  That they make you happy and make you  feel joyous.  Give them a smile, a hug, a kiss.  Tell them they are a precious treasure.  Because they are.

And you are too. If you are feeling dragged down, and lower than low about your parenting, your mothering, your life, please fight against those thoughts.  Some of the Early Church fathers had an idea about thoughts such as these; they called them logismi in Greek.  Thoughts that are not beautiful or joyous , helpful or kind are not from the Divine Source.  Don’t let them take you over.  Don’t wallow in them.

Find your center, find your joy again.  Work is a huge help in this.  Meaningful work for ourselves, our children.   A huge part of the Waldorf curriculum, outside of the art and the movement, is work.  Within Waldorf homeschooling, we learn practical skills,  we learn how to do things with our hands to help our family and to help our neighbor.

Find your center of kindness.  Your children can help you work and nurture your home, they can work and help make something for a member of your community who needs it.

You are so strong.

You are so kind.

You are such a good mother.

You make great decisions for your family.

You bring joy to those around you.

Peace,

Carrie