I heard somewhere in the Waldorf world that teaching children compliance is important.
It makes me wonder because there are so many stories among friends of children who are unable to stay in classrooms and sometimes even in a school because they don’t listen to the teacher and won’t do what is asked of them.
Is that what we need to focus on in the early years? I try to make my son behave, he is 3 years old, but he is so strong willed and has such a mind of his own that it is impossible most of the time, he just won’t listen to me. What am I missing?
Dear Muddled Mama,
Thank you for bringing forth this very important question.
Your question helps us to reflect and shine light on a very important aspect of parenting, our expectations of the child and what those expectations are based on.
We all want to get along and have the "harmony rainbow” experience of childhood: beautiful toys, time outdoors, lovely songs and time together.
Yet if we are honest with ourselves, this is not always the case. We may have our moments of bliss or even days of bliss and then it happens, whammo! the behavior that takes us by surprise and leaves us speechless.
Young children give us the opportunity to grow and learn more about ourselves and the world if we can just take a deep breath, that deep breath of parenting, all the way to our toes and re-focus. (it’s like free psychotherapy, always available to every parent throughout childhood)
Is this particular behavior, in this particular moment, the issue? Is that where we need to go, where we need to focus, to help our child grow into a healthy human being? Or might it be a signal to look at the big picture?
I’m going to take what may be the less popular stance and say, it’s not about fixing the behavior in the now, but about gaining a deeper understanding of the behavior, about what is beneath the behavior. It is likely that what is being called for through the behavior may need regular attention over time.
(the feeling it triggers in us in the moment, that is a real feeling and alive in the now, yet often triggered by something in our own past, a good topic for another day)
A child’s behavior, and our response or reaction to it, offers us a clue to something more, something else going on within the child, within us or within the child’s environment. When a child exhibits behavior that concerns us it is an invitation to:
Look look a little deeper
What about compliance? I always think of it as a sort of forced behavior, being made to comply. With echoes of the “Do as I say, not as I do,” approach.
Let’s look at the word compliance.
Compliance is defined by the Oxford English dictionary a:
"The state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards"
Compliance defined as being in a state of according with, meaning being in agreement with rules and standards.
Hmmnnn… rules and standards are ways of being that are imposed from the outside in. Sometimes rules and standards are very abstract. The child’s relationship to rules and standards is that they are imposed from without.
So where do we go from here?
Let’s look at the unfolding child, the developmental picture of the child...
The first seven years of life are a time of creating an environment and a relationship with the child that supports actions on the child’s part from the inside out. We work on rhythms to make life feel secure and predictable, from the inside out.
We work on the environment and of creating a feeling that the world is good by doing something for the child that the child cannot yet do for him or herself, we filter out the concerns of the adult world, the media and stress that constantly bombards us.
We work on the relationship with our child, to be in the position of parent, of authority based on a hierarchy of parent knows best.
Out of this relationship, we have the ability to parent our children.
How do we help a child act from the inside out?
Begin by trusting yourself and going back to your relationship with your child.
The most important factor is our relationship with the child, that it is an hierarchical relationship. When we are as Gordon Neufeld describes in “right relationship” with the child, a relationship of being your child’s "best bet" that occurs when we step into our big shoes as the parent, children want to come along, to be good, out of an inner drive of belonging, out of relationship, out of “we” do this now.
When the child’s behavior is out of sorts, the first step is to look at our relationship with our child rather than at the behavior, what is going on with our child, is our child in right relationship with us? For this relationship, this natural attachment of child to parent, this relationship provides the context for parenting. Without it, there is constant struggle.
What supports this relationship, these natural attachment instincts?
What do children need to fall into attachment with their parents?
Time to develop at a child’s pace.
A ritual of coming together to share food each day as a family, as a group of people who belong together.
Slow and simple daily life that allows for the healthy, traditional unfolding of children.
Plenty of time to initiate free play, indoors and out.
Rituals and routines of home life, daily shared meals, special shared activities like big breakfast on the weekends, shared stories, cooking together, playing games together, singing, prayers, blessings.
You are not missing anything at all dear mama.
Celebrate the Rhythm of Life
Harmonious Rhythms :: Soulful Parenting with the 3C's :: Waldorf Homeschooling
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