“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

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Balance

We work with the idea of polarities in Waldorf Education – things of attraction, and things of repulsion.  We see this in the universe and  in the human body at work, and we see it in homeschooling and parenting.

In general we have an idea of –

Balance of inside and outside the home – too much outside of the home and we feel stretched and thin and weary.  Too much inside the home and we may feel isolated and alone.

Balance of structure and unstructured – too much structure and we lose the cozy, relaxing feeling of home.  Too much unstructured time and we lose forward momentum toward progress or goals or even toward balance. Sometimes it takes structure both as a homemaker, student, and teacher to tackle something we don’t like or we don’t want to do.

Balance of being part of the whole family and being an individual person – the older I get the more important it is to me to have a little individuality, a little bit apart that is me.  I am part of the family and enjoy that, but that is not my only thing to enjoy anymore. I think this may be part of the seven year cycles of adult development and may change as one ages.

Balance of  adult-led teaching and child-led teaching. As a Waldorf homeschooler, I look to the time and place in which we live, the child in front of me and his or her interests and the ideas that come from a place of developmental health.

Balance of rest and activity.  So many mothers feel as if they are running on all cylinders, running crazy all the time but is that true activity towards health?  What is the balance of the spiritual, physical, and emotional?

Please share with me your ideas about balance.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

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

Four Things To Do In The Year of Crazy

This year, as many of you know, has been a super tough year on my family.  We began homeschooling for the simple reason of wanting our children to have health in all its forms, and to choose a developmental educational method.  This year, health hit us all in the face over and over as one thing after another happened that involved a sick horse, sick extended family members, and accidents that required lots of follow-up appointments.  I gained a completely newfound  and amplified respect for mothers who homeschool through chronic illness of themselves or their children. The lack of rhythmicy was okay for a few months but honestly drove me (and my children) insane after the first few months.

I think if you homeschool long enough (my oldest at this writing is 16 and a half), at some point you may just hit a year like what we had.  Maybe it is illness or divorce or death or just one thing after another where the hits just keep coming.   In the midst of a year like that, what do you do?

Let Go.  I think the biggest thing I learned this year is to let go.  I thought I was letting go since my some of the children are older, but what I learned is that just by being physically here there is a lot I normally do and don’t think about it.  When I physically wasn’t present due to having to be in hospitals or meeting health care team members, they really had to step up. I always thought they were fairly independent and good at taking charge of household things, but I learned that they could pull it out without any supervision when they needed to. I also learned that I am still doing an awful lot that I probably need to just let go even when things are calmer.

I let go of things that normally  would bother me or seem like a big deal, extending down to end of year activities at this moment that in the past would seem stressful. I simply haven’t even been physically at home sometimes when my kids were.  I was out of state or out of town dealing with medical emergencies.  This year,  things such as end of year things that would normally be a bigger deal to get everything right and ready  are really no big deal  in the scheme of things.  To the things that normally would bother me in the scheme of dealing with teenagers, I asked myself, is it fatal?  Is it so unhealthful that I can’t stand it or is it something we will survive?  Can it be there with limits?  Let it go. Inner work is perhaps the biggest help here.  Pause and listen.

Find rhythm where you can.  In the beginning of some of these things, there was no rhythm.  We were needed  or I was needed at places daily in the middle of the day or the morning.  It didn’t feel like  much was happening as far as the academic end of school unless my students could do it on their own.  I set very small goals for schooling, and just felt that any little step was a step forward in our original plans.  It also helped that in general I plan less weeks and less days because I know life happens and I otherwise am too ambitious in what we should be covering.

What was comforting to me came from our unschooling friends.  I got remeinded that there is a lot to be learned in life in general and unschoolers go on to college or whatever their life plans are as well! I also took a very long-term view that everything we wanted to do, or at least most of it, would be covered by high school graduation!  As things would calm down, some rhythm would emerge.  Maybe it wasn’t a normal rhythm, but a rhythm nontheless.  Let go, and grab onto what you can regarding rhythm.  Listen when everyone is tired and says they cannot do one more appointment.  Find the spots of rest.  Don’t push through.

Do what you can.  We did get through blocks this year and math practice and reading practice for our little student and more.  We didn’t take field trips really, but things happened – just at a slower pace.  Waldorf homeschooling doesn’t mean covering 9 blocks a year.  It means sinkly deeply into what you are doing; that less is more; and that skills are being supported and emerging.  It also means total overall health.  All you can do is what you can do!

When it is all over, take time to rebuild.  We are looking forward to a summer of rejuvenation and a new year in the fall.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Managing Smartphones for Teens- Part Two

This is the second part in this series about how to manage a smartphone for teens.  The first part of this series talked about the most recent statistics of smartphone ownership for teens, and how teens with phones are still teens and they need your help in managing a tool that can and will impact them the rest of their lives.  Your teen’s  digital footprint is permanent, so that includes selfies, what they have posted on line or commented on, and more!  What teens post will be there permanently and can affect employment decisions by companies and college admissions.  Parents need to have boundaries around this device just like the boundaries in any other part of parenting.

The first part of this series also talked about delaying smartphone introduction, and some tools to look at utilization rates across devices and to set limits through things such as using your router to set Wi-Fi times, using a device like Circle, and having set hours for a cell phone to be in use. If you haven’t read this post, go read it now and come back to read this part!

Other considerations for parents:

This big question parents ask is:  HOW MUCH TIME ON A SMARTPHONE?  I find this is what parents really want to know, but yet there are very few guidelines out there that seem realistic for teenagers, especially older teenagers.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 HOURS across devices in a day for all teenagers. This post is about smartphone use, and I agree we must look at smartphone use against the usage of all devices in a day.  However,  I feel in an age where teens especially are having to access homework from a portal and use technology during class and for school assignments, this may not be a realistic estimate for many teens, at least in the  American school system.  For homeschooling families, this may be an easier goal for younger teens, but for high school many homeschooling families are  also utilizing classes on line and certainly older teens involved in dual enrollment are most likely using technology.

There is another  brief article about number of hours acceptable per day here on Common Sense Media but there is a large difference between 5 year olds and 16 year olds!  An article here from the UK  looked at 120,000 15 year olds and somehow came up with the numbers that two hours a day on smartphone was “just right” for benefits versus health; about an hour and forty minutes for video game playing; and 4 hours and 17 minutes for computer usage.  If you add all that up, that’s almost 8 hours a day on a device (!!) , so I personally think that still sounds more like an adult working an office job and not what a teenager, even an older teenager should have!

So, the bottom line is that you are going to have to come up with the guidelines that fit your family and what is going on with your children, and check yourself. Are you using tech to check out of your family?  Are your teens using tech to avoid you?  Do they have device use for school?  How does that tally into the number of hours they are allowed on screens in total?  Are they involved in other things other than devices?  Are they younger teenagers or older teenagers?  Where is their balance in life?

Personally, I think wait as long as you can  to have a cell phone or require computer work (so if you are Waldorf homeschooling, this would probably be in high school just like Waldorf schools, so age 14-15); strive for 1-2  hours a day across devices for up to age 14, 2-3 hours a day for ages 15 to 16 and then lessen the controls across all devices for those  16 and a half or so and up in preparation for being out on their own.   You cannot hold it for them forever; at some point they have to become their own authority and manage their own usage.  

Here are few other ideas and tips:

Have a plan: Cell phone contracts can be helpful in the beginning, especially with teens under 16.  Here is an example.   Here is another example.  Again, I  think these are great in the beginning, and for younger teens, but to me once a teen is past the 16 year developmental change, I think the controls should start dwindling.  They are going to be off and on their own and need to learn how to handle technology on their own.

Have “no cell phone zones”  in the house (and this means adults too!) Many families choose the bathrooms and dinner table to be off-limits to phones, and to have all phones docked in a central place at night.  Less temptations.

Choose data plans wisely.  Here is an article about the best cell phone plans for kids and it points out that many times adding a child to your plan will enable you to have control over blocking calls or texts on behalf of that child; that you can cap the number of texts a child can send; you can have a  GPS or a location-tracker on that phone;  control access to mature content and more.  Decide what controls you want, and know that determined teens can get around many of the controls better than you might know, so there must be an element of trust.  This goes back to the age you start to allow these devices access to your teens!

No driving with smartphone in hand.  Not only is this illegal in many states in the United States, distracted driving is a major source of car accidents in the United States, and teens may already be distracted when they are new drivers.  This is a link discussing apps for safe driving with a smartphone that lets you mute incoming texts, etc during driving.  Many new smartphones have these sorts of features right on the phone itself.

Consider social media. The upside of social media is this is where kids are hanging out, whether you like it or not, especially for many girls.  If you think back to when you were on the kitchen phone for hours with your friends or walking the mall (very American in the 1980s and 1990s), this is what social media is today.  Things are so structured for kids, that this is a “unstructured” place to be. As much as many of us as parents don’t like this idea, it is what is going on.

The downside and horrible part of social media includes depression, rejection and exclusion (here is a great article on how to help girls dealing with social exclusion and social media), cyberbullying,  child predators, and more.2011 California study found that teens who were the heaviest users of social media where also the least content, the most depressed, and perhaps generally bored.

Talk to your teens about on-line safety with this article geared just to teens.  This includes not accepting friend requests from people teens don’t know, using privacy settings, not meeting people you meet on-line off-line, not posting things you will regret- remember, the digital image of your teen online is permanent.  For parents, if your child is on social media, you should be on social media and be friends with them. However, most teens are using far more than Facebook or Twitter. Here is a list of more to check out.   And another list, from Common Sense Media, one of my favorite resources. Also be aware that many teens have multiple accounts to keep track of under one platform.  You need to have all passwords and all accounts, and know what your consequences will be if this is broken by your teen.

Talk about the negatives:  Cyberbullying (girls are cyberbullied at higher rates than boys; this article also ties in what happens in real-life in a school setting); cyberaddiction; sexting, (know the sexting laws in your state if you are in the United States!  And make sure your teen understands sexting could be illegal in your state!), teens and Internet pornography (here’s a report on a Canadian study that 40 percent of boys grades 4-11 search out Internet porn).

If your teen is at risk for depression, obesity or addiction disorder, you may need stronger controls. Remember, it is the responsibility of ALL parents of ALL teenagers to  not only set limits, but to engage the child in family activities, activities outside the home, meaninful experiences and to provide that balance that there is real-life out there to be lived and relationships to be had in real life!  Having a smartphone means you have to be MORE involved in parenting, not less involved.  

If you are looking for more information regarding smartphones and teens, here is another link:  Microsoft’s Digital Skills page has great points – like pointing out that  all those selfies that teens post can also end up impacting job interviews and everything else.  The Internet is permanent!  Teach teens to protect their reputation on-line.

I would love to hear how this resonates with you, and what you do in your own family with children ages 12-14 and up regarding smartphones and device usage. How do you stay involved and provide balance?

Blessings,
Carrie

Managing Smartphones for Teens – Part One

According to 2015 statistics, tweens are spending about six hours a day on “entertainment media”, and teens are spending nine hours a day.  Much of this is probably on a smartphone, (according to this page,  88 percent of children ages 12-17 have mobile phones and 84 percent of that is smartphone usage ). Children with cell phones are still children, and for teens since the dopamine reward system of the brain is far outpacing the part of the brain that controls impulses, it is no surprise that a 2016 CNN report from a Common Sense Media poll found 50 percent of tweens and teens feel addicted to their cell phones.

Many parents have shared with me that one of the harder parts of parenting teens is managing smartphone usage.  This is important to talk about because all the selfies or commenting on controversial posts or even posting a lot about religious or political views on social media will follow your teen forever; it is a responsibility to have a smartphone as opposed to a simple phone that calls/texts.  Employers and colleges look for on-line footprints of individuals they are interested in, and yet many parents feel clueless as to what their child is doing online.   So parents have asked me about managing smartphones.   What should common parameters be?  Here are some ideas; take what works for your family. This post is geared toward those of you with children ages 12 and up.   Continue reading

Raising Siblings As Friends

In many sitcoms and movies, it is almost taken for granted that the siblings of any family hate each and throw snide words at each other. Like this is normal, and good. Like it is better to like friends more than your own flesh and blood.  Like it is better to not want your brother or sister around.

My children have gone through definite phases of needing more space from one another, partly due to age differences (16 down to age 8), and partly due to personality differences.  To me, those phases are kind of like a little dust storm or a big rainstorm.  I may not be able to see my destination clearly, through the sand or rain, but I know it is there.  And the big destination for me is to make sure my children adore each other and take care of each other.  I want to make sure they know that when my husband and I are gone, they will be there for each other. There will be things between them that my husband and I will never know, because siblings are the best bond ever.

As an only child, I often wondered if it was a big fabrication in my head that I built up that having siblings is truly wonderful (especially when they were fighting!). However, I  can say without hesitation in watching our own children, even through the phases of more distance, that yes, yes it is truly that wonderful.  Every time I see them all playing together, helping each other, doing fun things together, I feel that flush of happiness for them.

How do you get help them get that close bond?  Here are some of my top ways, in no particular order:

Don’t ever let them treat their friends better than they treat their siblings.  Call them out on that.  Every. Single. Time.  Part of being with friends includes being nice to a brother or sister if friends are at our house, and part of being with friends includes being nice to a brother or sister when you are home.  If you cannot do that and handle your relationships at home with kindness and love, then you are not ready for much in the way of friendships outside the home.

Make interdependence happen.  Help the children learn to work as a team in whatever way that happens in your home – cleaning up, having fun, taking a trip together, making food. Part of this is also making sure that activities outside the home don’t trump spending time with siblings and family.  It is all part of being a family, and part of learning what makes relationships tick is learning these first relationships at home.  All relationships, if you want them to last, require time well-spent, and kindness.

At the same time, allow for space.  Some developmental phases just simply require more space than others.  And like other relationships in life, sometimes one sibling feels rejected, the other just needs space, some siblings are closer at one point or another, etc. Space and individuality are important, and it makes interdependence work. I find when an older child is 10 or so and has younger siblings that sometimes they just simply need space away from the siblings.  Teenagers who are 14-17 sometimes have a hard time relating to younger siblings as well, especially those aged 8-12, and may need help to remember what it was like to be younger.

Encourage that equal doesn’t equate to fair.  I find this idea of things having to be “fair”  usually peaks for children between 7-10 years of age.  Usually the best thing you can do is empathize with whomever is upset, and have solid reasoning behind what boundaries you are setting and why. Sometimes having “this is just the age you can do X thing in our family” is helpful because it is a more generalized rule.  For younger children where things like taking turns or who gets to hold the special toy are problematic, I find using a timer or counting aloud for “fair turns”  is usually helpful.

In sibling fighting and drama, for younger children,  I usually start with helping the victim of the situation without much attention to the aggressor.  Sometimes just not giving attention for negative behavior helps.  Usually the aggressor has to help the victim by doing something nice for the victim :).  Kindness wins.

In sibling fighting and drama for older children, I try to listen to both sides with active listening techniques and empathy but then help guide them toward problem-solving the challenge themselves.  Stock phrases usually include, “What would you like to see happen?”  “How would that work out for your brother or sister?”  “How could we have an agreement that both of you would like?”

Take the hard knocks in stride.  Just because they don’t like each other at this moment, doesn’t mean they never will!  Keep working toward fun and positivity and help them see each other’s needs are valid.

I would love to hear your best suggestions for helping siblings get along!

Blessings and love,

carrie