Friday, January 05, 2007

Respecting the little people

Sometimes I marvel at how hard it is to be respectful of my children. I mean, I birthed them, still change their diapers, and can pick them up and carry them. So it's hard to remember that they aren't little beings for me to control.

I try to think about it like this: if this child were an adult, how would I be acting and speaking in this moment? Would I be yelling? Probably not. Would I spank them? Probably not (consenting adults excepted, of course). Would I constantly be telling them what to do? Probably not.

It's easiest for me to remember this on occasions where my child might need help. Usually when one of them falls down, I watch and wait instead of rushing in to pick them up and make a fuss. Perhaps I acknowledge their fall verbally, "Oops, you fell down. Back up on your big strong legs!" (this last comes from my neighbor Heather, a nice affirmation of their physical capabilities). But otherwise I don't intervene unless they seem truly hurt or upset, just as I might do with an adult who trips and falls. And even then I tend to be on the calm side, so that they don't become total drama queens, or at least any more than their natural proclivities!

When my son was born, I took a parenting class through Rudolf Steiner College, where in addition to Waldorf methods, I learned about RIE, or Resources for Infant Educarers. The amazing thing about RIE was that it taught me that children, even infants, mostly need us just to be present, but not necessarily actively directing them. When my son was an infant and needed a bit of extra help with his physical development, I found just letting him move freely on the floor, with a few toys for motivation, and me sitting quietly nearby, allowed him the space to learn and grow at his own pace. I think it allowed him to be confident in his body, and secure that I was there for him without interfering.

Nowadays it's a bit harder, with two toddler/preschoolers full of emotion, needing to assert independence whether it's convenient or not, and way too smart for their own good! I need constant reminding that they are human beings, albeit small ones, with their own agendas and destinies. I am here to keep them safe, be a role model, and shower them with love. Everything else is just my stuff getting in the way.

3 comments:

Helen said...

I am very interested in Rudolph Steiner education. I know so little about it but what I have heard seems so reassuring and to fit in with what I believe. I'm going to look out some books from the library.

When Kiko falls over, he often looks at me to study my reaction. If I panic, he cries. So I try not to react (unless he really hurts himself, of course), or I say: "You're OK!" in a hearty voice. I've often wondered if this is "right"... but it does seem to be the best response for him.

I've had to encourage his physical development too, as you know - and I find myself doing the same as you did - letting him roam round the floor with his toys, with me in the background. Again, I've had big worries that this might be "wrong". In the general clinic (not his physiotherapy one) they said I had to always actively play with him but that seemed to irritate and exhaust him. Now, about 30% of the time I'll play with him or read to him, and for the rest of the time I give him freedom to do what he wants. Lately, he's been keen on hiding under a table and waiting until I "find" him and then I have to haul him out by the ankles while he giggles like a maniac. He insists on doing this up to 50 times a day. No wonder I'm so exhausted!!

Henitsirk said...

Helen, check out this for more local Steiner school info:
http://www.steiner-australia.org/
(Thank goodness for Google, I just typed steiner school australia and found this!)

You might be interested in the books by Joan Salter, who founded an early childhood center in Melbourne. These books appealed to me since I already had a basic knowledge of Waldorf methods, but you might give them a read and see what you think.

I think small children can easily get over-stimulated if we always interact with them. They need time to explore their world, or even just sit and daydream. As a creative person I'm sure you know about that!!

(un)relaxeddad said...

Hi - great point about the overstimulation - and we've so been doing that since his leg broke, absolutely showering dudelet with attention when he hasn't actively been soliciting it.

Last night, we were both in the same room as dudelet and his beanbag ("binbag") and neither of us was particularly focusing on him (busy taking down Xmas decorations). Then we noticed that he'd been happily immersed in his world, playing fir about ten minutes with a piece of red tinsel - turning into a bracelet, a mobile phone, clothes for bunny and all the while accompanying himself with a little made-up commentary song.

Helen, we try and do the same. Now its a little ritual (under normal circumstances. He trips over, he looks at us, we say "Oops a daisy" and we all vigourously dust ourselves off, generally concluding with dudelet loudly asserting that "I'm okay".

I think 30% sounds good. We definitely try and engage too much.