Welcome back to my Parenting Inspirations Series! In this series, I am sharing the people, philosophies, approaches, books, and go-to guides that have influenced and inspired my mothering.
In my first post I looked at how the philosophies of Rudolph Steiner, as they relate to childhood development, have influenced my parenting style. Today, I would like to highlight a wonderful book that reinvigorates my mothering each time I read it.
Beyond The Rainbow Bridge, Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Age Seven is a beautiful book by Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley. First, it is a very concise book compared to a lot of parenting books. The authors cut right to the chase and get to what really matters without a lot of fluff and fancy philosophical BS. Although their approach to parenting is heavily influenced by the work of Rudolph Steiner, the way that they share information on development, discipline, play, and health is palatable for any parent whether interested in Waldorf or not. (Sheesh, I am sound like I am doing a book review over here. Not my intention).
Ok – on with why this book is such inspiring to me and how it has influenced my mothering!
The authors have a 13 page section on play and honestly, it is some of the best information I have ever read on the topic. In a few short paragraphs, I clearly understood why a doll is so vital to the development of both boys and girls and how “doll play” evolves as the child grows older. I also learned what a poor choice toy boxes and contained types of toy storage systems are. It is important that children learn the value of caring for their toys and play things. A toy box encourages fast, careless clean up whereas a shelf or cube with small baskets or nothing at all encourages children to place individual items in their place with more care. Although children under two and a half are too young to express it, the majority of children enjoy knowing that their personal items are in the same location each day. It is soothing to their mind to understand that their doll is in the cradle and their blocks are on the shelf. A toy box is confusing for them as they do not know where in the box a certain play item may be.
The authors' section on creative discipline is so thought provoking. They do not come at you with a hard and firm “this is what you must do or your child will be a delinquent” approach. In fact, Barbara Patterson states that “what may seem normal or acceptable in society today is not necessarily what is healthy for families and children.” I absolutely love that idea because it seems like most books on discipline are geared towards such unhealthy approaches.
The two aspects of creative discipline that stuck with me from this book were “reforming the space” and the use of the word “may.” Let's look at the idea of reforming the space first.
This was certainly not something I had really ever heard of or thought about before reading this book. (And I even worked in a Waldorf preschool). The idea behind reforming the space is that children will often “act up” or act inappropriately if the area around them is disheveled or not in its normal state. Here is an example from my observations of Tiny. After about an hour of indoor play, Tiny has her play things strewn everywhere. Once a certain number of items begin to clutter the living room, I notice that she begins to get a little squirrely. Now, this does not happen like clockwork every time. However, the chaotic look to the room does have an effect on her behavior. Tiny will just start acting out of character and usually not in a positive way. So, I “reform the space.” This does not mean I clean everything up and get it all back to its normal place. I simply put some key items back where they belong, maybe straighten out Tiny's pants that have become crooked, push the chairs in, and then see if that has a calming influence. Usually it does. I created some calm around her which in turn helped to settle her down.
I will use a similar tactic if Tiny is playing with toys inappropriately or dangerously. She has an obsession with balls. Seriously. Addicted. If she starts throwing a golf ball indoors, I will hand her a softer ball to throw to me and then place the golf ball in her “balls to go back outside box.” She knows what the collection box is for and after I put the golf ball in there she leaves it be and plays with the other ball. There is no need for me to say “no” or “golf balls are for outdoor play.” Through repetition and consistency, she understands what it means when a certain item goes in that particular box. This didn't happen overnight but honestly, it only took about a week for her to catch on. Based on my experience with other children, a week is about what you need to accomplish something like this. Another example is when she starts throwing her wooden farm animals. I will hand her one of her small wool balls and then go about putting the farm animals in their “pasture” or “barn” so that they can have an afternoon snack. I then fix Tiny a snack. I nonchalantly mention how hungry the animals are and how wonderful it is that the grass is so tasty! Tiny will either move onto something else, help me with whatever I might be doing, or go eat her snack. She NEVER picks up another farm animal to throw it. By “reforming the space” without a lot of chatter and commentary, you are allowing your child to be a child and have moments of misbehavior while offering them a way to correct their own behavior without the typical adult interference and negativity. Did that all make sense? It is such a foreign idea to try to explain.
The other creative discipline technique that I absolutely adore, is the use of the word “may.” I briefly touched on this in one of my earlier blog posts but let me delve into this a bit further.
The word “may” is neither authoritarian or permissive and according to the authors this is the best way to communicate with a child. By expressing what your child may or may not do, there is no question to answer or ignore. The word “may” insinuates that you are almost giving them the privilege of doing something. Compare how these three sentences sound:
· Would you please put the towel away?
· Go put that towel away!
· You may put the towel away in the bathroom.
If someone were to direct one of the above at you, which would most likely result in your doing the requested action? For me, as an adult, either the first or third would prompt me to action. As a child, the third would immediately prompt me to action. The first possibly would prompt me to action but depending on my developmental stage, I would more than likely answer with a yes or no and then take more time getting it done. But that is just me.
The other piece to the “may” technique is to make sure that you end the sentence with certainty. I wrote an entire post about this and you can find it here. In short, so many parents end statements and directives with “ok” which turns it into an option for the child. You may put on your pants, ok? Is it an option? Is it ok if they choose not to put on their pants? If you offer up an “ok” and the child selects to do the opposite of what you wanted, your inclination may be to discipline them. This is not fair. You turned a directive into a choice simply by tacking on “ok.” But enough about that here. You can go enjoy my post about it now. J
There is so much more that I adore about this book and it really has inspired me to retool my mothering ever so slightly. I think that it is a worthwhile read for any mama who wants to create a more harmonious and gentle environment for her child(ren). By implementing many of the techniques offered by the author as well as gaining a better understanding of development and play, an opportunity to better connect with and mindfully engage your child opens up.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series. I think you will really enjoy my next “inspiration.”