*Greek version, in progress: Οδηγός επιβίωσης για δουλειά που σπίτι με κοπελλούθκια: Άσε τη ρουτίνα, πιάσε Ρυθμό
It’s OK that we’re stressed, it’s OK that our stress is rubbing off on them and they’re being impossible. The way to reset (yes, this is entirely possible) is by finding Rhythm, an intuitive kind of flow that is wonderfully communicated by what Waldorf educators call “breathing in and breathing out”. This means alternating between brief sessions of “breathing in” which means focused activities where we remain completely present and connected with our child(ren), and “breathing out” which means longer periods of expansive play, where they go off to do their own thing.
While “breathing in” we absolutely prioritise our connection with the children (ideally everyone in the room participates), we give in to no distractions, and we avoid adult conversations. The way for this to be meaningful isn’t with games or targeted activities, but by creating openings for the kids to contribute in necessary activities for the home: help chop vegetables with a blunt knife relative to their skill level, they can shape bread or pasta or patties with us, stir things, hang or fold things, sweep with a second broom, add herbs, be responsible for pouring water, and they can help wash things. For some of these we must be prepared to make changes to our set-up. It’s absolutely worth it. “Breathing in”, can always include singing or dancing or playing music, drawing together, sharing a meal or a snack, and doesn’t usually take longer than 15 minutes at a time. They usually drift off by themselves at which point we really just let them go their own way and observe how they naturally start “breathing out”.
“Breathing out’ is their time for expansive play where they just pick up where they left off in their own play-learning: their own mysterious developmental projects and tasks. We must watch out not to inhibit or interrupt them in this. We must set up an area where it’s OK for them to make a mess, avoid interfering and go about our own business for the next 45mins to an hour+ depending on their (st)age.
“They are children, not Buddhist monks”
(Erika Weiser commenting on the question of how many emotional emergencies we are likely to encounter during a normal day. The answer is ‘many’.)
There are times, not always, when they’re crying about something and we mustn’t try to fix it. Where we need to do the incredibly hard thing of committing to just stay with them patiently and sweetly, in peaceful understanding for as long as it takes for their complaint to fade away and for them to emotionally move on. To just stay without having an opinion about whatever seems to be upsetting them. There’s nothing that will make a child more cooperative than have a major upset fully listened to, and have an adult positively present for the entire length of time it takes for them to receive the message that whatever it is, it’s all fine because their feelings are important enough for us to respectfully put everything on hold in order to listen to them, until they’ve poured out all those difficult emotions and are able to return to their very important work.
Other notes from the Eimaste Parents Handbook:
*Crying Policy: Avoid distracting the children from what they’re crying about
(although it’s OK to do so occasionally, sometimes we just have to, the rule is that we give the good example of flexibility, that we aren’t afraid to make exceptions, and that we ourselves know when to take a deep breath and give in in good humour). When a conflict involving aggression arises we stay calm and move in gently with words like “I can’t let you do that”, “I don’t want either of you to get hurt”. No blame or shame. No lectures.
*Sharing policy: “Whoever has it, has it until they’re done, but I’ll stay with you while you wait (and it’s OK, I understand if you need to cry for a while, I don’t mind, I still think you’re wonderful).” Patty Wipfler https://youtu.be/SSAUpMG1pDM
– Daily Rhythm at Home and its Lifelong Relevance by Helle Heckmann
– Allsup, K. (2017). What if you didn’t always answer your child’s questions https://www.michaelmount.co.za/what-if-you-didnt-always-answer-your-childs-questions/
– Cole, A (201?) No More Hitting: Help with a Child’s Aggressive Behavior https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/help-childs-aggressive-behaviours/
– Parent Participation in the Life of a Waldorf School Retrieved from https://www.waldorflibrary.org/articles/1222-parent-participation-in-the-life-of-a-waldorf-school-article-in-ebook-format
– Da Ros, D. A., & Kovach, B. A. (1998). Assisting Toddlers & Caregivers during Conflict Resolutions: Interactions that Promote Socialisation. Childhood Education, 75(1), 25–30. doi:10.1080/00094056.1998.10521971 Retrieved from sci-hub.tw/10.1080/00094056.1998.10521971