Fostering Imagination and Balance

Music triangle boy and girl.jpgA mother wrote to Rahima: I have read books (You are Your Child’s First Teacher, and lots of Steiner) and listened to two audiotapes from this site on parenting the young child in the first 7 years of life. I became more conscious of changing the way I parented my son when he was about 3.5 years old. He is now 6.5. In general, I take a loving authoritative approach, I don’t offer a lot of choices, and feel confident steering the boat.
My problem is engaging him in discussions. Despite knowing what I ought to do when we come into conflict, I cannot seem to STOP speaking to him with concepts and engaging him in discussions, explaining, talking it out, etc. (It was how I was raised and so much a part of me, and I was precocious, “such a mature young girl”).

It seems like half the time I do address him appropriately and half the time I react through the intellect. Lately, I can see how much he is like me and getting the comments from others like, “He is so verbal. So smart. So mature.” While some might think this is desirable, I know what I am depriving him of by having instilled this in him through all the conversations we have.
I really need help in learning ways to re-program my impulses to hold discussions (not just about talking about feelings, but talking about everything!). And more importantly I am interested in knowing what I can do from this point out as he is entering the second phase of childhood. Is it too late? Your help is greatly appreciated. –H.C.

Rahima writes: Old habits die hard, and since you have success about half the time, I’m not sure there is anything else you can do–besides not be so hard on yourself. Your son probably has good genes and is naturally bright and awake. You both can’t cause that and can’t avoid it. So pat yourself on the back for not taking that up and running with it, as many parents with bright/gifted children do.

What else can you do as he comes out of the first phase of childhood? Continue to value balance, and give him as large a dose of the arts as you can. This is one of the things the Waldorf approach is very good at, teaching everything artistically between 7 and 14. If you aren’t near a Waldorf school, then this would involve bringing as many of the arts to him as you can through after-school enrichment and/or home schooling using a Waldorf approach. Our DVD on Creating a Waldorf Enrichment Program might give you some good ideas. You can start now, letting him do the wet-on-wet watercolor painting and Coloring with Block Crayons.

Be sure to keep providing many opportunities for creative play–both inside and outdoors–rather than filling up his life with lessons as he gets older. Read Simplicity Parenting–it’s the book that takes up where mine leaves off.

At six-and-a-half you can also bring your son a rich serving of fairy tales. Buy a copy of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (not the “as told by,” watered down versions) and read through one of the more complex ones to make sure that it resonates with you–if you react against that one, choose another. You don’t have to memorize it– it’s okay to read it to him–but I would read him the same story every night for a week so it really has a chance to go into his sleep and dream life. Maybe make Sundays the night you change stories so there will be a rhythm and he’ll know what to expect.

There are also two books about children’s stories and books that supplement Steiner’s understanding of child development, Make Way for Reading and Books for the Journey, both available from Michaelmas Press.

Those suggestions should give you enough to start with and will not only enrich your child’s life, but yours as well.

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