I am continuing the story of my “parenting journey’ from the previous post.
As I searched for a “discipline” style, A was born and beautiful chaos filled the house once again. Things were so much easier this time not because I knew what I was doing (still don’t) but because I knew what my purpose was and I was not afraid. A was a calm baby, probably in part because I was a more calm mother.
As we settled into our new life, I realized that it was time to start thinking about “education” for Z. I knew that Pre-school, while at least a year off, was something I wanted to approach with as much thought and intention as I had tried to approach other decisions in our lives. I had been vaguely familiar with Waldorf schools because my sister had gone to one for a year when I was a baby, so the one I accidentally passed one day about five minutes from my house intrigued me. This was the first place I investigated as far as schools for Z and about an hour into looking around their website, I was giddy with excitement. I felt already that I had found a place for us and immediately signed up for the parent toddler class.
I had begun to learn more about Waldorf education in the coming months, but the first day of that class changed my life. Walking in to the kindergarten classroom (the same one that Z now spends three of her mornings a week in) was incredible. It was beautiful, calming, nurturing and inspirational. The real moment that meant the most to me, however, was when the teacher (now Z’s wonderful teacher for the next few years) began the parent discussion portion of the class with an explanation of why we should not be giving small children lots of choices. This was prompted by a question from a parent and followed by an incredible quiet as all of the mothers listened to this radical advice. In this day and age, lots of “confidence-building,” “person-she-is-inside respecting” choices for small children are one of the guideposts of good parenting. How could that be bad?
Well, as it turned out, small children are not ready for the burdens of deciding. Imagine being so small, having no life experience, no ability to guess the future by even a few hours to prepare for it and no concept of nutrition or time or color-coordination. Then imagine being asked to choose over and over and over what you want to eat, do, or wear among a million other things each day! That would be terrifying and certainly stressful. Children need to feel safe and protected and that includes knowing that their parents know what is best for them and will provide it and even insist upon it. This frees them to just be children, to live fully in the moment and to grow in a healthy way. Plus, it makes life easier for parents; If they never learn that they are in control, then they never act like they are. Its amazing.
Children are calmer and more content when they can trust you (or the clothing fairy who picks out the clothes in our house, for example) to provide what they need (but not always what they want). I remember how Z used to just stare at me in a frozen state where she was unable to decide, even when I offered acceptable “limited choices.” It also made my job harder because she would inevitably change her mind and then I was faced with enforcing the original decision or letting her flip flop back and forth several times, neither being very good options. This certainly did not boost her confidence or teach decision making skills. Quite the opposite in fact. Another way that forgoing choices makes things easier is something I have learned almost accidentally: children who never learn that they can have whatever they want are much easier to guide gently because you simply avoid many of the common power struggles. They never learn to be the “center of the universe” and don’t have entitled attitudes, all huge problems I see even within my own generation. For example, it has never once occurred to Z that she could beg or insist upon me buying something from the store. It just does not come up (and granted, I’m sure she’ll figure this out at some point as she gets older but I’m very happy to have made it this many years and there’s always the option of just not taking kids on so many errands!).
I know I have gone off on a tangent a little, but my point is that there is much more to Waldorf education than just education. There is a whole philosophy behind the beauty. Waldorf education is so much more than a means to an end. Yes, the education aspect is wonderful, but the incredible resources for parents are equally important. There is another option for us besides being either harsh/rigid/strict/”no” parents or permissive/spoiling/”yes” parents. And the option I choose is not so-called positive discipline, behavioral modification (learned from training dogs by the way), time-out parenting or talk-it-out-to-death parenting. Instead, I choose to be the parent who often says neither “no” nor “yes” but instead says everything that needs to be said with my presence, my intention, my example, my very being, and the simple daily life I have created for my family.
This has barely scratched the surface of my experience with Waldorf ideas and is most certainly not a comprehensive introduction. Instead, this is a snippet, an excerpt of something that has absolutely changed and improved my life.
From that first day of parent-toddler class at the Waldorf school until now, I have learned and, I hope, grown as a person and a mother very much. I will be sharing a lot of what has had meaning for me here. I hope that my intention to share and learn will show through and that what I say will be taken in the loving and non-judgmental spirit with which it is intended. I know that every parent wants what is best for their children. I merely want to share something that I feel helps me with that goal.
The theme of “Serendipity” is very applicable here. As parents, we are products of what people, ideas and information has been randomly (or not, depending on your beliefs) laid in our path. We are all doing our best with the information we have!!! I feel lucky that the information I happen to have is so right for my family and so healthy for my children.