CONSCIOUS PARENTING GUIDE


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by Julie Le Gal Brodeur

CONTACT:consciousparentingguide@gmail.com


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WELCOME,     ABOUT,     PRE-CONCEPTION,     PREGNANCY,     PREPARING FOR BIRTH,     BIRTH,

THE FIRST MONTHS,     CLOTHING AND CARE FOR THE BABY,     THE FIRST YEAR,     FROM ONE TO THREE,

ARTICLES,     RECOMMENDED READING,   LINKSBIBLIOGRAPHY


ON THIS PAGE: Being a role model, Stages of development, Warmth, clothing and shoes for young children, Environment of the young child, Diet and nutrition after one, Creating rhythm and rituals, Creating a home life through the year, Toys and the importance of play, Using the toilet, Giving choices and reasoning, discipline and speaking to the child, Playgroups


FROM ONE TO THREE

Being a role model - The first six or seven years, children learn through imitation, the first three most intensely so. [1] This is where as parents we can ask ourselves; what are we doing around the child, how do we respond in action, emotionally, and what are we saying in front of the child? Are these things good for the child? What is the child exposed to, are her senses being overwhelmed? What stage of development are they in?

 

As with any human being, children thrive when they are treated with respect, understanding and have their needs met. Since a young child learns by doing and imitating what is around them, it's good to ask oneself if we are truly respecting the child's nature, by our actions and words, are we are being honest with them and ourselves, are our actions worthy of imitation? When we say one thing and our action says something else, when we lack in consistency or following through with an action, are we giving them mixed messages? Do our actions correspond to our words? Are we showing the child a unity of intention and deed?

 

On a more personal note, it seems some of these questions apply not only to parenting, but to the whole of life. If, as parents, we keep evolving and growing, we may be able to see the challenges and trying times as a time for self-examination and reassessment. As if is there is a secret gift of a life lesson in every challenge we meet. It seems that if we are always striving to do our best, listening, being present, learning from life, though we will never be perfect, we are more likely to be candidates worthy of imitation. Also, when times are more challenging, a good dose of humour is always helpful.

 

A few examples of things one could focus on: How do I sweep the floor? How do I put clothes away? How do I wipe my child's runny nose? How do I hold the door for him? How do I speak to or answer my partner? How do I speak to the cashier at the grocery store? Am I present in what I am doing? Am I doing it with attentiveness and love? What do I think about?



[1] Norrie McCain, Hon. Margaret, and J. Fraser Mustard. Early Years Study. Publications Ontario, Toronto 1999

 

See How to make decisions


The negative effects of media

 

ARTICLES


Baldwin Dancy, Rahima - About conscious parenting in our modern age.htm


Baldwin Dancy, Rahima - Conscious parenting - what can help us on the way?.htm


Billington, Kim - Creating a Steiner playgroup


Gibran, Kahil - Children.htm


Leisher, Esther - Housework.htm

 

zur Linden - caring for a sick child - the mother's love.htm


 

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Stages of development - When we observe the child and take our cues for readiness from them, we are being much more efficient with time and energy spent, as well as respecting the child's current stage of consciousness and development.

 

See more in Observing stages

 

Language and baby talk


How to make decisions


The negative effects of media


ARTICLES

Jane Swain - Pikler’s Trust in the Wise Infant.htm


Pikler, Emmi - development of movement- stages.htm


Winn -The Plug-in Drug- Parenting before TV.htm

 


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Warmth, clothing and shoes for young children - Because young children still are not able to fully regulate their temperature, they are often unaware of being cold, so it is important to keep them warm. Layers of clothing are a good way to keep adjusting to changing temperatures, and an undershirt of soft wool or cotton that fastens at the crotch ensures a warm belly.

 

Since the child between one and three is learning about the world especially intensely through movement, it can be of great support to him to clothe him in a way that keeps him warm and least hinders his natural movement. For example:

- woollen tights or leggings that are not too tight at the belly

- dresses, overalls or jumpsuits that attach at the shoulders

         and keep the belly free of elastic bands

- wool sweaters (jumpers) or cardigans over a cotton shirt

- in the summer, cotton cardigans over a short sleeved shirt    

 

Footwear for children this age is likely to be of best support for the healthy development of the foot if it offers least resistance to the foot.[2] Most children have flattish feet until they are about five when the arch forms, so there is no need to support the foot. The ideal shoe is soft and protects the foot from cold, rough surfaces and resembles going barefoot. There are wonderful leather slippers that slip on and are held by a elastic inside the ankle piece. Children have difficulty taking them off, which is usually a very good thing at this stage, and they are very warm over a pair of warm socks or stockings. They are wonderful for inside wear and for outer-wear in dry weather. Going barefoot is ideal when it is warm, and the surfaces are not to rough on the feet. In cold weather, the softer the shoe and the more breathable wool and leather on the shoe the better, but this can be difficult to find. To keep the feet warm in winter wear, it can help to have the shoe or boot be a little too large to have a layer of wool socks on top of the regular sock.



[2] Glöckler, Michaela and Wolfgang Goebel. Guide to Child Health. Floris Books, Edinburgh and Anthropsophic Press, Hudson, New York 1990

 

See The importance of warmth

 

The importance of natural fabrics

 

Design and simplicity of clothing and surroundings

 

How to make decisions


ARTICLE

Gloeckler- clothing.htm


Gloeckler, Michaela  and Wolfgang Goebel - Using sheep's wool.htm


zur Linden - clothes for the baby and small child.htm


 

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Environment of the young child - What are the best surroundings for the young child, for efficient learning and well-being? Though the child under three is mobile, and very much in the world, they are still in a very different stage of consciousness than adults or even older children. Protecting the senses from overstimulation and helping the child to keep their 'dream-like' consciousness, is of immense value at this age. It does not mean to under-stimulate them, but by keeping the home environment gentle and calm, and a safe place to be in, we encourage them to seek the world out as they are ready. This gives the child time to focus on their current learning task without being overwhelmed by an overload of sensory impressions.  We also allow for interest in simple things to develop, and we foster their ability to awaken their own interest in something, rather than needing entertainment.

 

For indoors, think of the colour of the walls, the quality, the texture and smell of objects that surround the child. Are the objects beautiful? Do they inspire one to touch them and play with them? Are the rooms spacious or de-cluttered enough for the child to be able to play freely? Are the objects and toys versatile in their use, or neutral enough to be many things?

 

If you can, avoid unnecessary noise an stimulation of machines, loud music and television, even if the child isn't watching it.

 

For outdoors, the world of nature can be endlessly fascinating for a young child. Leaves, grasses and sticks, chestnuts, pinecones, nuts and seeds, earth, sand, air, wind, sun and shade, rain, snow, and, of course, puddles and mud, are wonderful tried and true playthings of childhood. Being in nature is a wonderful, healthy environment for a child.

 

See The negative effects of media


Creating rhythm and rituals

 

Toys and the importance of play

 

Giving choices and reasoning

 

How to make decisions

 

ARTICLE

 

Billington, Kim - Creating a Steiner playgroup

 

Winn -The Plug-in Drug- Parenting before TV.htm

 

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Diet and nutrition after one - What is an ideal diet for a young child? There could easily be an entire site devoted to this subject! But here are a few things I discovered: When little children are exposed regularly to fresh vegetables and grains, and have as little processed foods and as little sugar possible, they acquire a taste for healthy eating habits, as well as being well nourished. If possible, look for local fresh foods that are high quality such as organic, and even better - biodynamic, foods. Biodynamic foods are grown and raised not only with organic standards, but also use farming methods to enrich the vitality of the soil.[3] For the early years, digesting intense animal protein (meat, fish and eggs) takes more energy and uses forces that are in great demand for growing and developing in the first three years. It is quite possible to give them enough protein via milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese, nut butters and seeds, and whole grains. The books Foodwise and Laurel's Kitchen are a great source of ideas for the vegetarian diet.



[3] What is Biodynamic Agriculture? Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association www.biodynamics.com, 2009, researched August 2009

<http://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html>

 

See Recommended reading

 

How to make decisions

 

ARTICLES

 

Spock - vegetarian diet.htm

 

Lambert, Louise - Rituals at meals.htm

 

Cook - Cooking for Children.htm

 

Caplan -The Early Childhood Years - Feeding, Nutrition and Eating Habits.htm


 

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Creating rhythm and rituals - Creating a rhythm in the day and week can be of immense help for both the parents and the child. Having regular meals, naps, bedtimes and outside activities gives structure to the day and gives a growing and developing child a sense of security and trust to know or recognize what is coming. Rhythm gives an outer structure that creates a consistent, calm environment they can trust, and their life is filled without the need for constant surprises. This sense of security allows them to construct their own world rather than constantly having to adapt to outer changes, and allows them more focus on what they are currently developing.[4] Regular meals allow the body to prepare for mealtime and better digest food. Then, there is the advantage of sleep. If a regular nap time and bed time is established, the body's natural rhythm is supported which allows for better sleep, and less fuss going to bed.[5] When rhythm is added to the structure of the day, it also helps parents to be efficient with their time and energy and allows them to more easily plan ahead to create and provide interesting, healthy activities. When a child knows what comes next in the day, there is often less fussing, less need for discipline or negotiating because the course of events is accepted. And the family patterns established in the first two years can be helpful for living through the sometimes challenging “no” years.

 

One can also add the rhythm of inside and outside activity. Outside activities are a wonderful balance to playing inside, allowing for running around, making endless discoveries, and enjoying braving weather, cold, hot or damp.  Examples of some outdoor activities are: a morning or afternoon walk, picking up sticks, pinecones, leaves or stones, running in the park, walking in the rain or snow, exploring the neighbourhood, pushing a stroller, or when they are older, picking up garbage or trash and putting them in a bag, learning to ride a tricycle, helping with gardening, etc. With the exercise and fresh air, it can make for hungrier children at meals and quieter activities indoors.

 

For some people, establishing rhythm in a day can be very difficult. A good place to start is regular sleeping times and meals. A child may grow to know and love a bedtime routine that is done almost as a ritual every night, a sequence of simple events done with full attention. For example, saying goodnight to the toys as they are put away, then brushing the teeth, changing into a pyjama, saying goodnight to favourite objects in the room, then going over the story of the day (what the child saw and did) and ending with a lullabye or prayer or blessing and "good night". Or at mealtimes, setting the table in the same order, making up a setting-the-table song, can awaken the child's interest and encourage them to participate. Or beginning a meal by lighting a candle with a verse or a grace, or starting to eat together with "bon appétit" or "blessing on the meal", are small ways to bring more regularity to an otherwise hectic day. 



[4] Dancy, Rahima Baldwin. You Are Your Child's First Teacher. Celestial Arts, Berkley, California, 1988

 

[5] Largo, Remo H.. Babyjahre Die frühkindliche Entwicklung aus biologogischer Sicht. Piper Verlag GmbH, Hamburg, 2000


 

See Creating a home life through the year

 

The negative effects of media


ARTICLES

Harwood, A.C. - Rhythm.htm


Lambert, Louise - Rituals at meals.htm

 

Leisher, Esther -Housework.htm

 


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Creating a home life through the year - A wonderful way of giving a focus to activities and crafts through the year is to bring festivals and seasonal celebrations into the rhythm of the year. Preparing for a festival by making crafts, baking, making cards to send, decorating, singing songs and saying poems that relate to the coming event can help prepare the child and evoke a sense of wonder. One way to start is to find a little shelf or table that becomes the seasonal or festival table, where one can put objects of nature pertaining to the season, images one finds, crafts and anything that helps create the mood of the festival. For example, the table cloth can be changed to different colours according to the season, in autumn one can collect branches or leaves, in the spring and summer, fresh flowers and in winter one can create a little winter scene.

 

"He, who works with his hands, is a workman.

He, who works with his hands and his head, is a craftsman.

He, who works with his hands and his head and his heart, is an artist." Francis of Assisi

 

See Recommended reading


Craft and festival resources

 

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Toys and the importance of play - Playing is of vital importance for the young child for development in the social realm, cognitive development, bodily co-ordination and ability, and for emotional wellbeing.[6] After the first year and a half of learning to stand upright, play becomes the new main task in a child's life. In play the child repeats and imitates what she experiences around her, she creates experiential learning situations, interactions and negotiations with others, and very importantly, she learns to concentrate on an activity and complete projects. Today's often hurried lifestyle can be stressful for children and can frequently rob the child of precious playing time. It is important to leave children time and create situations where free play is possible.

 

         “Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right    of every child.” Kenneth R. Ginsburg [7]

 

What toys best serve play? The first years, the sensory, real, natural world holds plenty of interest for the young child's exploration needs. Many toys made today for the young child are very loud, visually as well as audibly, and often limited in their play function and interpretation. For your own sanity as well as the child's play abilities, you may try to avoid battery-operated toys that dictate what they are, or have a very limited function. The simpler and the more open to interpretation the toys, the more a child can develop their own interests and imagination and use the toys in manifold ways. For example, a small piece of cloth can be a blanket, a hat, a tablecloth, a duster, a big piece of fabric can be a river, a roof for a house, a drape for a throne... Found things like a piece of driftwood, chestnuts, and pine cones are wonderful to transfer from one container to another, dump out and pick up. Use wood or metal containers from the kitchen with a wooden spoon to make 'pinecone soup' or outside, use different containers to pour water in, or sand. You can make or find simple dolls made of cloth with non-expressive features that leave more up to the imagination, such as Waldorf dolls, and find wooden figures or rolling toys with gentle shapes and few details.

 

How can we encourage play? Having toys be visible on shelves make them much more accessible to young children than having them hidden in a basket or box. It is sometimes helpful to engage with the toys oneself and place them or put them away gently and with respect. Little children especially like to participate in saying goodnight to the toys by putting each one in its place: "Goodnight little box, goodnight chestnuts, let's put you in your bowl, goodnight cow..."

 

Young children are very happy to be able to engage in what an adult is doing, they love to have tasks and 'work' to do. A child of two will likely want to imitate or join in everything we do. Though it requires more time and patience, we can support the child’s interest by providing her some way of helping if possible. For example, giving her a sponge for washing dishes with you, a small broom for sweeping time, or have her give you clothes to put in the washing machine.  

 

If the child is restless, it can sometimes be helpful to fully engage yourself in an activity of your own and allow the child to participate if he wishes. Or you can start a play activity with them for a moment, for example by putting pinecones in a basket, bringing out a pot with a lid and a wooden spoon, or putting dolls in their bed, to create interest in toys or what is there.

 

"Play is a wholly absorbing activity from which logic, social skills, memory, fulfilment and values are derived. It is not a negligible aspect of human development, to be relegated to a leisurely pursuit, but in fact lies at the root of our nature. Play encompasses humour, art, bodily wellbeing, human relationships, awareness of one's environment and sense of self. It is an indication of mental health. The longer we play, the better we learn."

Christopher Clouder and Janni Nicol from Creative Play for your Baby[8]



[6] Ginsburg, Kenneth R., MD, MSEd. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. American Academy of Pediatrics, PEDIATRICS Volume 119, Number 1, January 2007, researched August 2009 <http://www.aap.org/pressroom/playFINAL.pdf>

[7] Ginsburg.

[8] Clouder, Christopher and Janni Nicol Creative Play for your Baby Hachette Livre UK Company, London 2007

 

For examples of waldorf inspired dolls and toys see the TOYS section in Links


See Recommended reading

 

How to make decisions

 

The negative effects of media


ARTICLES

Winn - Parenting before TV.htm


Baldwin Dancy, Rahima - The importance of play.htm


Baldwin Dancy, Rahima - Creating an inviting environment for play.htm

 

Billington, Kim - Creating a Steiner playgroup

 


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Using the toilet - It seems the right time for using the toilet often becomes clear in the child's behaviour. The child becomes aware of his bowel movements and peeing, becomes more and more interested in what is in his diaper, in the toilet, and he will eventually show interest himself in using the toilet or potty. It is very valuable at this time to let the child take the lead and not push anything. Many children will be interested at first, and even use the toilet regularly for a time, and then regress to a diaper for a while. It may simply be that their interest and learning focus is elsewhere, and that the toilet business is too much to be aware of as well.[9] Being positive, noting habits and rhythm, being attentive to their body language and where their attention lies can help support the transition to using the toilet without pushing them into it before they are ready.




[9] Davis, Laura and Janis Keyser. Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. Broadway Books, New York 1997


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Giving choices and reasoning - One aspect of the young child's nature is the inability to judge good from bad. This could also be called the 'innocence of childhood'. This is a state of great openness revealing the child to be in a different consciousness than ours. This other kind of awareness allows them to develop and through imitation without the burden of a judging consciousness. This is important for this early age, and it is important that this state of consciousness be left them as long as possible, without holding them back from their natural development. As parents, we can be the judges, make decisions for them and, as much as possible, not burden them with the responsibility of choices they are not in a position to make. Staying away from giving the child choices, and following daily activities that are planned and led by an adult gives them security, a sense of belonging, and it leaves them free of unnecessary pressure. We can make the adult decisions to provide adequate nutrition, clothing and sleeping habits, and the child will make plenty of his own choices in his free play.

 

As an example, rather than ask if a child wants a snack, we can tell him happily that it's time for snack or make up a little snack song. Rather than ask if he wants to wear this or that hat, we can choose a hat and tell him it's time to put on the hat for going outside. Rather than ask if he wants to go to bed, we can start picking up toys for bedtime, sing a bedtime song and show him it's that time, through a regular bedtime activity.

 

Another aspect of the young child’s consciousness is his inability to reason. A one-year-old child, for instance, is imitative and does not think ahead, so there is no possibility of reasoning at this age because there is no real memory or sense of time or consequence. His memory is localized rather than abstract. For example, an eighteen month old child may not remember Grand-Mother's kitchen cupboard, but suddenly being in front of it at Grand-mother's house, there is a physical memory of opening it, and maybe finding pots and pans that made loud noises, but there is no abstract memory of it. This is why, at this stage, they are easily distracted: the child's memory at this age is local or bound up with the object. It is more recognition than memory.

 

A two year old begins to have more memories, and it becomes tempting to explain and give reasons for things, especially as they begin to speak. This is where the line between reasoning and showing them clear boundaries becomes trickier. It may help to think of observing and sensing what they really need to hear and responding to that rather than give them more information than they need or are even able to understand or assimilate.     

 

One can always ask oneself: "What does the child need from me now? Is what I am saying, or is my action, helpful, or confusing? It gives the child security to be guided clearly, gently and firmly and shown the boundaries, without having to be presented with reasons or apologies. The clearer the parent is about a given circumstance, the easier it will be for the child to follow. For example, a child that finds herself with a pair of sharp scissors in her hand can be told gently, "You found the scissors. They are not a good toy. I'll put the scissors away here. This is where they go." Sometimes they even enjoy participating in putting something away, or they may not be happy about the situation, but the situation is clear for them, the words match the action and they can accept the boundary.

 

ARTICLE

 

Winn - Parenting before TV.htm

 

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Discipline and speaking to the child - Here are some thoughts: At the early stages, it may seem pointless to think of disciplining a child, but it is at this age that a good foundation for discipline is laid for later. If we disagree with what a child is doing, it is always helpful to remember it is the deed we want to change, not the child. In the early years, bringing the child's focus away from the action and showing interest in a new activity is often enough for the child to stop. If the child persists, for example if they run out on the road, we can pick them up and tell them that we walk on the sidewalk, repeatedly, firmly, patiently, until they stop going out on the road. If they don't stop, we can remove them from the situation, for example, by carrying them, or going inside.

 

The more one is firm and consequent now, the easier it is likely to be later. Though it may seem easier to give in sometimes, and one sometimes does have to pick one's battles, in the long run it is worth the effort to be consequent. When we are clear with the child about what we need to do, or what we need from the child, we not only make our own life easier by following through, but we also give the child a sense of security, even if they momentarily dislike the boundary being set or task ahead.

 

Being completely present in our interactions with the child can also be of immense help in discipline. When a child is misbehaving or over tired, they are often brought back to themselves and calmed by a few moments of our undivided attention. In dealing with an issue with our full presence, we give the child respect and we are better able to assess the situation and the child's needs.

 

By being emotionally neutral and gentle, we are more likely to focus on the behaviour rather than the child, and make the event less interesting for them: when we react emotionally, the child may become interested in this and is more likely to push boundaries again to evoke emotional reactions more frequently. It is an effective way to receive attention! So it seems the ideal is to be in a constant balancing act in being consequent and consistent, and being present but not emotionally reactive. Yes, a tall order. Yet it seems the more we do this when the child is at a young age, the easier it is to establish boundaries and to discipline later.

 

One thing used in Waldorf Kindergartens when a child hurts another child, is that attention is given to comfort the hurt child, without reprimanding the child who did the hitting. Their attention is brought to the suffering they have caused by the fact that the guardian's attention is there, and they are not granted attention because of their act. Also, sometimes simply gently saying or singing the child's name to let them know they are being seen can be enough for them to stop an undesired activity.

 

Another consideration is what effect our words and our speaking have on our child. At the outset, they have total trust in us. In this light, it may be wise to weigh our words and be aware of how frequently we speak to a child. When we talk at them incessantly they are not able to fully focus on their current task. It overloads them with unnecessary information, and after a while, can bring them to shut our voice out because of overstimulation. This often leads to parents having to either yell at their child or repeat something many times before they get their attention. It is much more effective to simply engage with the child when they engage with us, and interrupt their play or activities only if necessary. Then our words mean something to the child.

 

Also, a simple thing to consider when a child is fussing or doing things she knows usually not to do, is that she may simply be hungry or tired, have a wet diaper (nappy), or she may need some quiet time in a safe place, away from new impressions, or need to be in your arms to quietly look out the window or hear a song for a few minutes.

 

See Language and baby talk

 

Giving choices and reasoning

 

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Playgroups - The first two years, young children will often play side by side, interacting with each other only for short intervals, and they start engaging in play more around the age of two and a half or three. So early playgroups are often less about children playing together, and more about being around other children, and they are a good way for parents to socialize and have an outing.

 

Playgroups are often a good place to meet parents with similar interests and to get ideas for enriching home life. Some areas have Waldorf playgroups, Waldorf Parent and Child or Parent and Baby sessions where one can experience and find support for creating a gentle, rich environment for children to thrive in and learn rafts and songs

 

See WECAN in Links to find one in your area.

 

Parent and Child Group Handbook - A Steiner/Waldorf Approach in Books on Waldorf/Steiner education

 

See About conscious parenting

 

ARTICLES

 

Baldwin Dancy, Rahima - The importance of play.htm

 

Baldwin Dancy, Rahima - Creating an inviting environment for play.htm

 

Billington, Kim - Creating a Steiner playgroup

 

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Conscious Parenting Guide  www.consciousparentingguide.com 2009 

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Copyright © Julie Le Gal Brodeur 2009         Updated Sept 12, 2010