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.

Children, Birth and Sex Education

Pregnant, w toddler.jpgby Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Where do babies come from? What do children need to know in terms of “sex education,” and when? What about when a new baby is going to be born at home?

Young children today are usually quite aware that a baby is growing “inside mommy’s tummy,” and they will sometimes give kisses to the baby or tell you something about him or her during the months of pregnancy. But how did the baby get there, and what will help prepare them for the birth?

Regardless of the question, young children are not asking about the mechanics or even the physical realities–which is why they are usually satisfied with an answer that emphasizes the spiritual realities. If you are telling them the truth, it doesn’t have to be the whole truth and can be augmented as they grow and become “more earthly.” The very young child has just come from the spiritual world and still has one foot there, which is why talking about a little angel or Star Child coming to earth to be their brother or sister makes sense to them–they were recently in that state themselves and are still strongly in touch with their own spiritual reality.

So–if this applies to your family situation–you might say something like, “When you were a Star Child up in heaven, you saw how much your daddy and I loved each other and how much we would love you, too, and you decided to come down and be part of our family. And our new baby saw this, too, and also wanted to have you as big brother (or sister).” Some children’s books that reinforce this understanding include Little Angel’s Journey by Dzvinka Hayda (available on Amazon). This book retells the Waldorf birthday story of the child coming to birth over the rainbow bridge. Birthday by Heather Jarman tells the story of young children, on their birthday, waiting to travel with Father Time from heaven down to earth (from Steiner Books). And, if you don’t know On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, it’s a real delight (from Amazon).

Here are some other suggestions: “The baby is growing, getting bigger and bigger, and when the leaves are turning colors this fall, it will be time for her to come out and join our family.” “Mommy has a special place between her legs that opens up for the baby to come out and closes back up again. When the baby and mommy will be working together so he or she can come out, it’s called ‘labor,’ which means ‘hard work.’ So mommy might be making noises then, like moving a piano. That’s how hard she’ll be working” (then you could make grunting noises together).

Having been a midwife for many years, I’ve seen many children participate in birth to varying degrees, from going over to grandmas, to wanting to be present every moment, to just missing the birth by a few minutes. It’s important that the parents decide to what extent they want their young child or children to participate and, if so, that they have someone who can take his or her cues from the child, leaving both parents free to focus on this unique labor and birth. My own thoughts at this point are that birth is really intense and, just as a couple wouldn’t have intercourse in front of their child due to the intimate and intense nature of the energy, I would think twice before having a young child present for the actual birth. Having said that, however, I would add that I have never seen a child upset by birth–they tend to be self regulating if someone is sensitive to their needs. However, young children don’t need to be present for the actual “coming out” to take in the message that birth is a normal part of life and is happening with everyone’s love and blessing. Coming in shortly after the birth (or even in the morning), can be plenty soon enough to meet the new baby and participate in the loving atmosphere.

In thinking about having children at birth, the first consideration is that the mother feel comfortable and able to concentrate on the work at hand without having to divide her attention or be afraid of ignoring or frightening a young child. If she feels she can do this with children in the house, then the second most important thing is that there is someone to be with the other child or children who is there only for them and who is willing to miss the actual birth, because young children often arrange to be away at the park or asleep at night when the baby actually comes out.

When I took the Waldorf teacher training, the teachers (mostly from the UK, Germany and Austria), talked about the story/image of babies being brought by the stork and how this was an image of the spiritual, not the physical reality–nobody was trying to say it was “literal,” the more so because children in earlier times were probably even more familiar with birth and farm life. Neither was it a “cute story” or a con for the children; rather, it was a “true image” in describing the spirit of the child coming to earth, accompanied by a white bird like the dove representing the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

The spiritual realities about birth, combined with a few simple sentences about how the baby comes out are almost always enough for the young child. As the child matures, more information obviously needs to be given. Human Fertility, a guide for teachers (and parents) by Waldorf teacher Linda Knodle contains lesson plans to use in grades 4-7. Her sequel, Lessons for Middle School Issues, is for use with children in grades 8 and 9. She has also written a Rites of Passage Workbook, and all are available from her website, www.lindaknodle.com. We offer a CD or MP3 of Linda’s talk “Navigating the Terrain of Sexuality.”

Another internationally known writer and teacher, DeAnna L’am, is also a Waldorf parent and has written Becoming Peers for mothers and other women who care about girls’ coming of age. A lot of DeAnna’s work with women involves helping them release their own confusion and pain around menstruation and fertility so they can be clear guides for girls’ becoming women–so it’s never too early to start. We off her book and a CD/MP3 of hers, “Mentoring Youth into Adulthood“; or see her website at www.deannalam.com.

One remaining question is how and when to teach young children about boundaries and body integrity–please note that I use those words instead of “sex education” and “stranger danger”–since most cases of sexual abuse or even abduction involve people well known to the child. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any resources developed from a Waldorf understanding, and much of what is available is far too hysterical, burdening the child with unrealistic expectations. One of the guidelines I do like is from Blue Sky Bridge in Colorado, “Some Simple Tips to Help Keep Your Children Safe from Sexual Abuse.” Their sensible suggestions include listening to your child and maintaining a “secrets-free” home; and teaching your children that each person is in charge of their own body and no one is allowed to touch their body or make them touch another person’s body. Read the complete list here.

Communicating with Children and Supporting them in Difficult Times

By Hiromi
Niwa Doherty

Thumbnail image for angel statue.jpg[NOTE: In response to the recent tragic shootings in Connecticut, parents have been asking how to talk with their children. Hiromi’s article after the tsunami is so excellent that I’m reprinting it here.]

As
a native of Japan, and having family members and many friends in the midst of
the devastation, I continue to struggle to find strength to overcome my own
fear and sadness.

Yet,
a question came to me–how do I talk to my 4-year-old about this? This awoke me.
I felt called to stand up and do something, anything if I can, to protect my
own child and to help fellow parents as we work together to protect our
children from further harm. How can we support our children while we adults are
struggling?

Now
I have re-written my findings in English and would like to share them with you.
Although many of my points are for those directly affected, you may still find
them applicable. I thank Ms. Andrea Gambardella of Green Meadow Waldorf School
for giving me a jump start with her thoughtful input and support.

1. Turn off the TV

While
it is obvious to adults that the TV is replaying the same footage over and over
again, these repeated inflow of graphic images and shocking news make young
children think that these scary events are still ongoing. Additionally, they do
not have a sense of distance, so even reports from a far away country have a
strong impact. They may well think what they see on TV is happening right in
their own neighborhood.

2. Make them feel safe

Children
express their anxiety in various ways. They can become dependent and clingy, afraid
to go to bed or bathroom alone, or behave aggressively. Some children may experience
physical pains such as a headache and stomachache. Those who have long ago
graduated from diapers may have accidents. Give them hugs and physical
closeness.

Spend
time together reading or taking a walk.

Give
them assurance by telling them we love them and we will continue to take care
of them.

3. Be open and receptive to how
a child reacts/expresses himself

Let
them know that their feelings, thoughts, questions, reactions, however they may
communicate (or not communicate), are all valid and we accept them as they are.
Invite their expressions with open and receptive attitude, so they can speak to
you about anything, when they choose to. Some children prefer not to talk at
all–let them be silent. Young children live in the moment and have dream-like
minds, which means they may not accumulate or linger on specific emotions or
memories, as adults do. Children may find ways to express and soothe themselves
by drawing or playing out their experiences. I will come back to this point
later.

4. The best time to talk is
when a child asks questions

Many
of us remember the events of 9-11 clearly. I know I will not forget about the
3-11 earthquake. We will all have particular events in our lifetimes that will
have great significance. At such moments, we are given a possibility to
transcend our old selves. It will not be an easy talk. But you know your child
the best, her temperament, thoughts and possible reactions. With that deep
knowing, you can address her with sincerity and love.

5. Avoid scientific explanation
or frightening graphic images, give simple narrative

Children
know intuitively when we are not truthful. Ignoring and understating the fact, or
telling a lie (however well meaning it is) will make them more fearful. Give
them simple explanations in words they can understand. Children are born
resilient, adaptable and cheerful. Trust their strength, and with your striving
to do your best, your child will be able to get the message. Do not leave this
task to the TV or anyone else, for if we do this, the parent-child relationship
will not be the same. This will be one of the very important moments for you
and your child.

6. End with hopeful,
encouraging facts and words

I
quote from Mr. Rogers,

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,
my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find
people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I
remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are
still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
1

We
may not always give them a happy ending, but we can end our story with focus on
hope and recovery rather than fear and sadness.

1 http://www.fci.org/new-site/par-tragic-events.html

7. If asked, repeat the same
story as many times as necessary

Children
like repetition. When it is difficult to understand or believe what has been
told, they may ask you the same question over and over again. Repeat the same
story as many times as they ask you. They feel secure by your consistency and
can then process the information at their own pace.

8. Regain rhythm and routines
of everyday life

Not
just do children like to feel the comfort of the repetition of stories, but
children like repetition, and in fact, they thrive on it. Even as adults we
will feel anxious when we are out of our routines and we may have physical
ailments as a result. As early and as much as possible, bring back the rhythm
and routine as before.

If
nothing else, we can at least say “good morning” or say grace before and after
meals.

If
your life has been changed drastically and it is difficult to bring back the
familiar, start a new tradition, something that is small and easy to do. Exercise
with children in the morning, say a blessing before meals, or simply pray. If
you repeat it every day in the same manner, it will increase the sense of
rhythm which will become a security blanket for children. It will be our
guiding light, as we sail in the sea of uncertainty.

9. Give children time and space
to play

Children’s
work is play. Under extremely difficult situations, it may be difficult to even
think of the cheer and fun of play. As described before, children may process
and digest their experiences and emotions through drawing or playing out in
“let’s pretend” scenarios.

Even
temporarily, if children can be immersed in play–by moving their bodies and letting
their inner feelings out, it will greatly help them in their healing processes.
Let them be children, as much as you can. Give them time and space. Show them
the games you used to play with only a stone. Give them pencil and paper that
they may use as they wish.

10. Children imitate adults. Be
a role model

Children
imitate adults. They are keen observers and do exactly the same. They take in not
only our actions, but our conversations with other adults, and our innermost
state of being — how we feel and what we believe–everything! I am not
suggesting that we become someone else. We cannot make ourselves up or stand
taller than we actually are.

Children
see us struggle and stand up again, while keeping our spirits high and fighting
our fear and hardships. We do make mistakes and fall back sometimes, but it is
our striving, despite it all, that children find strength and courage to
imitate.

Please
refer to the inspiring article at the link below, written by Susan Weber,
Director of Sophia’s Hearth Family Center, Keene, NH, a master teacher and my
mentor, with whom I am fortunate to have studied:
http://noharajp.net/openforum/article/32

11. Be active and do something
meaningful (pray, donate, help with chores)

If
ready and willing, involve children in meaningful activities, they like to help
and be part of the bigger world.

12. Give them stories that talk
about courage and overcoming sadness and hardship

I
started looking for such stories and would like to create a list and/or
compilation. Meantime, I was also advised that while the content of a story
remains important, it is how we tell them the story, which is more significant.
Create a peaceful environment, take a deep breath, so that you can calmly
connect with the spirit of the story. Then both you and the children may
receive wisdom, comfort and healing from the story. May we trust our instinct
as parents and act courageously. May children smile and laugh again very soon.

Hiromi Niwa Doherty

Bibliography

American
Psychiatric Association Website,
http://www.healthyminds.org/More-Info-For/Children/Talking-to-Children-about-Natural-Disasters.asp

NYU
Child Study Center Website,
http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/talking_kids_about_world_natural_disasters

Mr.
Rogers’ Website,
http://www.fci.org/new-site/par-tragic-events.html

Private
conversations with Ms. Andrea Gambardella, kindergarten teacher, Green Meadow
Waldorf School,
NY, USA

Balancing Family and Work

Having it all article.jpgAnne-Marie Slaughter resigned from the third highest position in the State Department in order to be home with her teenage sons. This thought provoking article she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” should be read by both men and women alike!  She’s also followed it up with, “Work-Life Balance as a Men’s Issue, Too.” I’d love to discuss them with you over tea!

Children and Choices

girlwapples.jpgA mother wrote:
I am just starting to learn more about Waldorf teaching philosophies. I always want to do all in the best interest of the children. Is it wise to let children select the “one they wish” or for me to decide for them. I am confused with this as I have heard different things from various teachers I have talked to around the country (non Waldorf teachers).
Many thanks for your help!

Rahima responds:
While the photo above exaggerates the point, not giving young children so many choices is not only counter-intuitive in our culture (“Poor children! At least there’s some area where they can have control!”), but perhaps even somewhat un-American (“What about liberty and freedom?! I don’t want to be authoritarian!”), not to mention at odds with some popular parenting approaches today, which want children to choose and then experience the consequences of their choices.

What might we do instead of giving children so many choices, and why? The “ideal” would be to have home life flow so rhythmically and smoothly that your child would know what was happening and what was expected without having to make it conscious, as bringing things to the young child’s attention by asking them what they want to do or which they want replaces their dreamy, free-flowing consciousness with the level of awakeness of an older child. It also calls into play the emotions–asking for his or her likes and dislikes rather than letting the child float along in the ambience of “this is how things are; I don’t have to worry about them.”

If you think about it, choices can be overwhelming instead of empowering. In fact, recent studies with adults have shown that having so many choices takes energy from us each time we have to decide something. This is even more true for a young child, especially if we bring choices first thing in the morning or when they’re tired: “Do you want cereal or eggs for breakfast?” “Wah!….I want pancakes!!…..” and a meltdown follows.

Pointing out a more esoteric connection, Steiner relates that appealing to children’s likes and dislikes all the time through choices not only strengthens that character trait, but also can later result in unclear thinking (ie thinking that arises from likes and dislikes, which can be narrow minded or bigoted).

Here’s another angle: It’s snowing and your child declares, “No! I’m not going to wear my coat today!” A Waldorf-oriented approach would also pass on the “logical consequences” involved in your saying, “You can either wear your coat today or catch cold.” Rather, this is a nonissue because you’re the adult and are responsible for your child’s health (or nutrition, or being careful with something, or whatever the issue might be). You know that, “We don’t go out without our coats on.” and, hopefully, that certainty will prevent this discussion in the first place. Besides, young children don’t really know when they’re cold because they don’t penetrate their limbs enough to give an accurate report (this is why feeling a child’s hands can give you a good indication whether they’re warm enough).

Where it can be helpful to give choices is to say two things that both result in what you want to have happen. It’s time to go and your child is resisting, so you say, “Do you want to hop to the car like a bunny, or do you want to fly like an airplane?” Either way, you’re on your way. Or you can let a child choose (appropriate) clothing–but try putting it out the night before, not asking her when she’s barely awake and things are rushed in the morning.

Food for thought–I hope some of the above illustrations have been helpful!

Parenting the Nine Year Old

Recorder 2 Boys.jpgI wrote this article to describes the developmental changes of the nine-year-old child and how parents and Waldorf education meet this psychological stage. It first appeared in Motheringmagazine.
For further information we also offer a CD of a workshop by Daena Ross on “The Nine-Year Change: Leaving the Garden.” Click here to see more information.

Parenting the Nine Year Old
by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

Parents of nine year olds often wonder, “What is happening to my child?” Children at this age can become very critical and argumentative, or very moody and withdrawn. Nightmares, irrational fears, headaches and stomachaches often arise. Some children feel as if no one at school likes them, or others become suddenly self-conscious about being rich, poor, or otherwise “different.” Parents may be accused of being unfair or of not understanding, as the child rushes off and slams his or her door.

Searching for an explanation for the changes in behavior, parents sometimes blame a new teacher, a recent move, changes in the family such as separation or the birth of a sibling, or simply “growing pains”. An understanding of what is actually taking place can help us avoid needless worry and provide the support and guidance that children need during this time.

What is Happening?
The special needs of the nine year old are the result of an important change in consciousness that marks the end of early childhood and the transition to a new developmental phase. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, states, “In the ninth year the child really experiences a complete transformation of its being, which indicates an important transformation of its soul-life and its bodily-physical experiences.”

Earlier, before the age of five or so, the child has a dreamlike state of consciousness in which the outer world and inner experience end to flow together. Outer events are not “observed,” but are deeply taken in through unconscious imitation. Whereas babies learn nearly everything through imitation, kindergarten-age children continue to imitate many aspects of their world, such as the movements of the teacher or parent.

While the power of imitation is so strong, the child feels united with the world and experiences no sense of aloneness. But with the loss of this power around the age of nine, the child feels separated from the world. Something that was hidden and slumbering begins to awaken. Nine year olds suddenly have a strong experience of themselves as separate beings, with a new feeling of distance from the world and other people. This sense of self, first experienced around age two-and-a-half, recurs now in a much deeper way, as the inner emotional life of the child begins to develop.

Although children react differently to leaving the sweet, dreamlike world of early childhood, one response is nearly universal: children become more conscious of their surroundings. You will probably find that what was once passed by unnoticed is suddenly focused on and questioned. This awakening to the world may be met with quiet astonishment or sharp criticism, depending on the child’s temperament.

A critical child may notice whether the statements people make are grounded in the real world or are a veneer. He or she may begin to question parents and teachers, wondering, “How do they know everything?” and, indeed, “Do they really know everything?” Something in the child is seeking reassurance that the authority of the adult will stand the test of quality, and that it carries an inner certainty.

In contrast, another child may become more withdrawn and start to look under the bed at night, or may have frequent stomachaches in response to this new sense of being alone. Parents whose children suddenly want to be alone often feel as if they are “losing” their children, as if the children no longer want to share their developing inner worlds. This is a time when intimations of mortality and death can enter a child’s consciousness. Religious questions and concerns about good and evil may also emerge with the child’s increased self-awareness and sense of choice and responsibility.

Usually, within six months after the ninth birthday (and sometimes earlier), the children are profoundly aware of this new sense of separateness between the self and the outer world. As the “I” penetrates into awareness, children begin to experience themselves as self-contained beings. The often feel as though they are in a threshold situation, poised, as it were, on the cusp of their own destiny. A 70-year-old woman wrote of this time in her life: “In this year I had a significant I-experience. I had just come from school in the city and had to change trams. In this moment of waiting, the complete certainty came to me that now all of life lay before me and that I was the one that must travel it.

Essentially, the nine year old is experiencing his or her own identity-to become a separate individuality, able to confront the outer world. Ideally, the child comes through this difficult time with a sense of connection with his or her higher self, a kind of “knowing” that will remain even after the heightened awareness is integrated.

My son spent many difficult months in the throes of “the nine-year change.” One night, as he popped out of bed for the third time, I had to muster great self-control to say, “What now?” “I’m glad I’m me!” he announced, radiating like the sun. He went on to explain, “It’s just like the song “The Age of Not Believing.” The words of the Disney song ran through my mind: “You must face the age of not believing, doubting everything you ever knew. Until at last you start believing, there’s something wonderful in you.” We all shared in his joy and thanked God that family life could once again return to normal.

Parenting Tips
What can parents do to help their child through this important turning point at age nine?
– Understanding what is happening will help both your child and yourself as a parent. When both parents, or parents together with the teacher, consider a child and his real needs, it can help give the child balance. Be patient– this, too, shall pass. Ten is a wonderfully harmonious time between the crisis at age nine and adolescence, when the next intensifying of self-consciousness occurs.
– Be willing to let your child have her own inner emotional life. You can’t “fix it.” Honor her need for privacy or her sudden impatience with a younger sister. Be willing to let go and tolerate distance. Your relationship is changing and will improve again once alterations have been completed. Be nearby with understanding and reassurance that she is still loved.
– Share your thoughts with your child about things that go beyond the every-day affairs of life. But don’t limit your child by providing “answers” or definitions that can’t grow within the child when asked about things like God or death.
– Have faith in self-healing, in your child’s ability to come through this phase. Support individual artistic activity that attracts your child (writing poetry, keeping a diary, drawing or painting, music).
– Support your child’s interest in the world by providing opportunities to build things, visit a farm, plant a garden, do work in the real world. Encourage a connection with the plant and animal kingdoms and with simple human creative activities now before the child explores the world of technology, which is more appropriate for adolescence.
– Nourish your child with stories that illustrate the interconnectedness of life and the powers of fate and destiny. The story of Joseph and his coat of many colors has this element of the dream heralding his destiny and the patience he needed to see it manifest. In the curriculum of the Waldorf schools, the Old Testament stories are .told in third grade because they mirror 2- the inner state of the nine-year-old child. The creation story, for example, describes the child’s own experience of leaving the paradisiacal realm of early childhood, acquiring new self-awareness, and with it the added dimensions of choice and increasing responsibility for one’s actions. In fourth grade the heroic tales of the Norse myths represent the exploits of the new ego in larger- than-life fashion. The Waldorf curriculum also introduces the child to the world through projects in house-building, farming, and the study of the plant and animal kingdoms, not as abstract sciences, but in relation to the human being.
– Recognize that the child needs to establish a new respect for adult authority that goes beyond the blind acceptance of the younger child. Parents can encourage this by honoring a child’s new relationship with a teacher or other adults in his life. Steiner states, “What matters is that at this moment in life, the child can find someone–whether this be one person or possibly several persons is of less importance–whose picture it can carry through life.”(3) Parents can also help themselves be this kind of authority by presenting a united front to the child and by both sitting down with the child when questions of discipline arise (single parents may want to bring in a teacher or other adult during this time).

The magnitude of the changes that a child of this age is going through can be better understood if you contemplate the differences between the child of seven and the child of twelve. The seven year old is light-hearted and always in movement. The limbs are active for learning (through touching, doing, walking the times tables, and so forth). In contrast, the head is relatively large and still dreamy. The seven year old is just beginning to get adult teeth. His or her emotions are easily influenced by impressions from the world, with tears changing to smiles relatively easily.

The twelve year old, on the other hand, has a head that is very awake for thinking and longer limbs which seem heavy, tired, and often awkward to control. There is a rich and sometimes over-powering inner emotional life; the older child brings a great deal more to each experience. Physically, the sexual organs are beginning to mature as the child enters puberty.

The nine-year-old is in the middle between the world of early childhood and the world of adolescence. The physical and emotional changes which you may observe in your nine-year-old child are the outer manifestations of the tremendous change in consciousness which is going on within the child’s expanding inner world. By understanding the nature of these changes, we can better provide support in parenting the nine year old.

Awakening to the world and a new sense of self brings with it a new need: to understand the real world of everyday life, while at the same time long for intimations of something beyond ordinary life. As parents and teachers, our task is to become loving authorities for the growing child, sharing both a true picture of the world and a sense of our own inner striving.

Notes
1. Quoted in Hermann Koepke, Das neunte Lebensjahr (Dornach, Switzerland: Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1983), p. 41.
2. Ibid., pp. 32-33.
3. Rudolf Steiner, Soul Economy and Waldorf Education (Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1986), p. 167.

For More Information
Branston, Brian. Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology. New York: Schocken,1982.
Colum, Padraic. The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths. New York: Macmillan, 1984.
Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Pantheon, 1981.
de Paola, Tomie. Parables of Jesus. New York: Holiday House, 1987.
Horn, Geoffrey, and Arthur Cavanaugh. Bible Stories for Children. New York: Macmillan, 1980.
Stoddard, Sandol. The Doubleday Illustrated Children’s Bible. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1983.
Wilkinson, Roy. Old Testament Stories and Commentary on the Old Testament Stories. Available from Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore.

[This article is copyright 2012 by Rahima Baldwin Dancy and may be reproduced in full as a handout if reference is given to www.waldorfinthehome.org]

Mom’s Love Affects Brain Development

mother w daughter.jpgWhen Rudolf Steiner described something in 1909, it can sound as if it’s coming from left field: for example, that for the young child, love, “pleasure and delight are the forces which most rightly quicken and call forth the physical forms of the organs.”

What does that mean? And then, as with so much leading edge brain imaging today, we hear something that sounds remarkably similar: that the young child’s brain is actually measurably different depending upon how much loving nurturing he or she receives.

In this latest research, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that when young children get plenty of nurturing from their mothers, they end up with a bigger hippocampus in the brain by the time they reach school age. The hippocampus is an importnat structure related to learning, memory and stress response.

It’s an interesting study, whick you can read more about at medicalxpress.com; the research was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.
Here’s more from Steiner:
“The joy of the child in and with his environment must be reckoned among the forces that build and mould the physical organs. He needs people around him with happy looks and manners and, above all, with an honest unaffected love. A love which fills the physical environment of the child with warmth may literally be said to “hatch out” the forms of the physical organs. The child who lives in such an atmosphere of love and warmth and who has around him really good examples for his imitation is living in his right element. One should therefore strictly guard against anything being done in the child’s presence that he must not imitate.”

Toddlers Need Naps, Study Shows!

sleep napping.jpg[Note: LifeWays offers a video of putting children down for nap in a childcare setting.]

It’s always nice when science and academia support what we already know: toddlers need naps! A recent study at the University of Colorado showed that missing just one nap can cause toddlers to be more anxious and frustrated when faced with a challenge. Children in the study were 2-1/2 to 3 years old, and missing just 90 minutes of sleep brought similar results to what adults experience when they pull an all-nighter.

The researchers videotaped the expressions of toddlers given two different kinds of simple puzzles–one had all the correct pieces, but the other was insolvable, with a piece that wouldn’t fit. They found that sleep-deprived toddlers were less likely to act confused–an adaptive emotion that signals an understanding that something is not right–and more likely to show no emotion or to become frustrated.

“If you have a problem, let’s say you can’t find your way and you’re lost, the response is confusion, and that’s a good thing,” Monique LeBourgeois, leader of the study said in the article. “When (toddlers) don’t get enough sleep — in this case from a nap–they don’t show that response. What they show instead is a flat response or a neutral response–they’re just blank–or they show more anxiety.”

This study is being published in the Journal of Sleep Research; to read the full article, see the Boulder Daily Camera from Jan. 4 2012. LeBourgeois is now recruiting 40 toddlers born between March 2009 and October 2011 to study how sleep restriction may affect emotions and cognitive abilities; the study will take place over four years.

New Edition of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher

First-Teacher-NewCover.jpgWe are pleased to announce that a revised and updated edition of You are Your Child’s First Teacher is now available!

In the third edition I’ve updated all the references (including web addresses) and added two chapters that have grown out of my work with parents and with LifeWays over the past five years.  The new chapters are on “Home Life as the Basis for All Learning” and “Rhythm in Home Life.”

I’m excited that the editors at Celestial Arts contacted me to do a new edition at a time when I had been working with 1-5 year olds and their families through Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program in Boulder. I’m excited about reaching an expanded audience with this new version!

Check out the new table of contents:

CHAPTER 1

You Are Your Child’s First
Teacher

~ A Unique Opportunity ~ Parents’ Dilemma Today ~ Cultural Dilemmas ~ Lack
of Support for Mothering ~     A Way of
Seeing Children’s Development: Children Are Not Tiny Adults! ~ The Child’s
Changing Consciousness ~ Whose Consciousness Is Changing? ~ Our Task as First
Teachers ~ Trusting Ourselves ~ Recommended Resources ~

CHAPTER 2

Home Life as the Basis for All
Learning

~ Having an Adult Life to Imitate ~ “Homemaking 101 for Busy Parents” ~
Life as the Curriculum for the Young Child ~ Four Levels of Home Life ~
Resources on Conscious Home Making ~               

CHAPTER 3

Growing Down and Waking Up

~ Growing into the Body ~ What Is Your Baby Like Between Six Weeks and
Eight Months of Age? ~ Learning to Walk ~ The Second Year: Mastering Language ~
The Emergence of Thinking ~ Stimulating and Protecting the Young Child’s Senses
~ The Emerging Sense of Self ~ Recommended Reading

CHAPTER 4

Helping Your Baby’s Development
in the First Year

~ Who Is This “Intimate
Stranger?” ~ The Sensitivity of the Newborn ~ What Is It Like Being with a
Newborn? ~ What Is It Like from Months 2-12? ~ Physical Development ~ The
Development of Intelligence ~ The Development of Intelligence ~ Toys for the
First Year ~ Recommended  Resources ~

CHAPTER    5

Helping Your Toddler’s
Development

~ Encouraging Balanced Development ~ De ing with Negative Behavior ~ Encouraging
the Development of Language and Understanding ~ The Beginnings of Imaginative
Play ~ Providing a Rich Environment for Your Toddler ~
Toys and Equipment ~ Recommended Resources

CHAPTER 6

Rhythm in Home Life          

~ Creating Rhythm in Daily Life ~ The Rhythm of the Week ~ The Rhythm
of the Year ~ Celebrating Festivals and the Course of the Year ~ Celebrating
Birthdays ~ Recommended Resources ~

CHAPTER 7

Discipline and Other Parenting
Issues

~ The Question of Discipline ~ Why Does Parenting Take So Much Energy?
~ Can You Work toward Rhythm with an Infant? ~ What About Weaning? ~ Crying
Babies ~ What About Going Back to Work? ~ What About Immunizations? ~ Do the
Toddler’s Senses Still Need Protecting? ~ What Makes Children So Different from
One Another? ~ Toilet Training ~ Separation Anxiety and “Helicopter Parenting”
~ Cabin Fever ~ Recommended Resources ~

CHAPTER 8

Nourishing Your Child’s
Imagination and Creative Play

~ Three Stages of Play ~ Experiencing the World Through Play ~ The
Importance of Play ~ Ways to Encourage Your Child’s Creative Play ~
Nourishing Your Child’s Imagination through
Stories ~ Recommended Resources ~

CHAPTER 9

Developing Your Child’s
Artistic Ability: Coloring, Painting and Beeswax Modeling

~ Understanding Children’s Drawings and Development ~ The Experience of
Color ~ Watercolor Painting with Young Children ~ Metamorphosis in Later Stages
of Life ~
Modeling with Beeswax
~  Making Things with Your Children ~ Freeing
Your Own Inner Artist ~ Recommended Resources ~

CHAPTER 10

Your Child’s Musical Ability:
Songs, Nursery Rhymes and         Circle
Games

~ Make a Joyful Noise ~ Music and Cognitive Development ~ Singing with
Your Child ~ Movement Games and Fingerplays ~ Pentatonic Music and the “Mood of
the Fifth” ~ What About Music and Dance Lessons? ~

CHAPTER 11

Cognitive Development and Early
Childhood Education

~ Academic vs. Play-Based Approaches ~ Why Not Introduce Academics
Early? ~ The Value of Preschool ~ Evaluating Early Childhood Programs ~ LifeWays
and Waldorf Early Childhood Programs ~
LifeWays and Waldorf in the Home ~ 
The Value of Mixed-Age Programs ~
When Is Your Child Ready for First Grade? ~ What Happens Around Age
Seven? ~ Beginning Academic Work: The Waldorf Approach ~ What About the
Advanced or Gifted Child? ~ Recommended Resources ~

CHAPTER 12

More Parenting Issues

~ Preparation for Life ~ Computers ~ Balanced Development ~ Television
~ Toys ~ Video Games ~ Immunizations and Childhood Illnesses ~ The Sick Child ~
Religion and Young Children ~ Conscious Parenting ~ Recommended Resources ~