Parenting with Soul ~ Queen of the Castle
By Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie
I am delighted to introduce you to this new column, Parenting with Soul.
Soulful Parenting is about aligning our beliefs, our feelings and our actions. It is conscious, creative and dynamic, shifting to meet the situation at hand. It is about being the author of our life. Authentic author. Relaxed author. Playful author.
Parenting is the hardest job we ever do and the one we are least prepared to do. We are growing human beings and in the process are growing ourselves as human beings. What has become clear to me over the years is that discipline is about ourselves, the adults.
Discipline is something we do to ourselves, it’s the ability to stop speaking before we go too far with our words, the ability to set the clothes out the night before, the ability to put the work down and be present with a child who needs us, in the moment. It is also they ability to say, “no” as well as the ability to recognize when agreeing to another task is just too much. It is about “doing” what we believe in, deep in our heart and minds.
Each day brings us a new beginning, a fresh start. As Penni Sparks has said, each morning when we awaken and rise from our beds, we can make a decision for the day, do I want to be Queen or Slave Girl?
The Queen is Regal, she bears herself with Calm Presence. ( As does the benevolent King) She is a step ahead of the rest of the Castle and knows what will be served for dinner that night, when the garden walk will take place and how long to linger at bedtime. She knows what homemaking tasks are to be done this day and what activities the children will do because she has a plan and she trusts herself to be the Queen Mother.
She breathes through the day and never hesitates to inform her subjects, ” I’ll think about that,” or “we do this now” or “you may not do that.” When she feels overwhelmed, she asks for help and takes a step out to gain perspective, it may be a step away from the conversation, a step outdoors to look at the sky and breath or a walk down the road away from it all.
Slave Girl is exhausted, she is constantly reacting to her subjects demands. emotional outburst, tantrums, clinging and feels irritated and cranky much of the time. (Same with Slave boy) She rarely sits down to eat and is chasing the little ones all over. She has no plan. She dos not trusting her mothering. She lacks pictures of how it might be.
How do we move ahead of it all, where do we find the clarity when we are mired in the dishes and the bickering and the tantrums? Where is our solid ground? How do we weave the Queen’s Mantle to enrobe ourselves each day and reign with nobility?
- Acquire an understanding of child development. What does this age/stage look like? What to expect? How to nourish it? What are the challenges the child is facing? For the child from birth to seven, it is about engaging the will forces, taking action and moving through a task. How do we meet the child with playful, active transitions? through movement? With an understanding of what the child is experiencing come Reasonable Expectations.
- Do the Inner work. Ask yourself, what was my development like as a child? Where was I hindered? Nurtured? How? What are my fondest memories of childhood? What is bothering me about this now? The child whose behavior “bugs” us the most is usually the child with behaviors that mirror our own. What is my temperament? Where do my senses lie on the spectrum for being aroused and finding calm?
- Create and maintain a strong consistent rhythm to the day, the week, the year. Rhythm is about routine, yes, and also about the quality of the gesture. Is it expansive or contracting? Is it energizing or restful? Look at what time of day works best for each type of activity the child experiences within the context of the day. Rhythm is consistent and predictable yet expands or contracts to meet the moment. Put the child’s schedule first.
- Observe, observe, observe and learn to parent the child before you. We all receive unsolicited advise and hear about other parents and parenting techniques. Who is this child in front of me, what is s/he asking of me? How to I meet this particular child? That child is not me, is not his or her sibling. Who is that child? What are in the gifts in the challenging behavior?
- Establish and uphold clear and consistent boundaries. Children crave and thrive in the presence of reliable and dependable adults. Initially, they may throw fits and beg and plea, yet when they grasp that “no means no” and “now we do this,” they relax into the moment with a feeling of great security. The child knows the adult is truthful and trust worthy because the adult does what she says. The child is free to be a child within the form (the boundaries) that the adult holds. Recognizing and upholding boundaries seems to be the great challenge of our time. The challenge for parents is to be crystal clear when we say, “one more kick and we turn around,” we have to carry it through and turn around if that kick happens.
- Create an environment that is simple, beautiful, safe and worthy of reverence for the child. Within this world of clear and firm boundaries, the child finds great freedom to play creatively (with simple open ended toys) and freely. Less is more. When my children were young, we had a small low table in the kitchen with little benches to sit on. Around the age when my child would start exploring the kitchen cupboards at floor level, I provided small pot with a lid and a small pan, a wooden spoon, some nuts (we used chestnuts and Brazil nuts) pine cones and sea shells on the little bench by the table. My children cooked as I cooked. As they grew, they helped chop vegetables, first with a julienne knife when they were very young, then with a paring knife. I love it when they prepare meals now!
- Model behavior that is worthy of imitation. Children will do as we do. How many times have we experienced that initial shock of hearing something come from our child’s mouth that is exactly what we have said? Look closely at children’s behavior, often they are doing what they have seen us do, it may seem out of context of time and place yet it is imitation of us. Notice our own, complaining and blaming. Do we whine? Do we have tantrums?
- Speak less, sing more, move more. Children engage through doing, through movement. If we sing, “hop little bunny, hop, hop, hop!” Chances are good , the child will hop along beside us. How many times have we said, “put your coat on it’s time to go” and the child continues playing. If we put our coat on and sing the child over with the hop, hop song, chances are he will willingly slip his arm into the jacket. If he refuses, we can remind him that we will go out when he is dressed. And pause. Big pause. Ask yourself before speaking: is it true? is it kind? is it necessary? does it improve upon the silence? Often children come around at their own pace. Watch for movement. Move for movement.
- Trust the child to take risks and to resolve conflicts with other children. Magda Gerber’s books best describe this for young children, birth to three. (it works for older children and parents too) Sportscast what is going on with the children and stay back as long as no one is getting hurt and step in only to prevent hurting. Children have an amazing capacity to work out their own conflicts.
- Ask the child’s guardian angel and our own for guidance. At night practice ruckshau, the reveiw of the day going backwards. Ask the angels for help where you need it.
- Take care of ourselves. It is just crucial to eat wholesome nourishing food and get adequate and restful sleep and find times for friends and activities that recharge our energy.
- Simplify life. Have less stuff. Protect children from exposure to the adult world of media and conversations. Talk less. Have few scheduled activities, very few. Love the activities that you have.
- Have more fun. Geesh! How can we have more fun with a daunting list like this? Remember that it is a process, that it is our striving that matters, and that our children will grow into who they are despite our parenting.
Each morning when you rise from your bed to greet the new day, ask yourself, who will I be today…Slave Girl or Queen of the Castle?
(Men, you are not off the hook, you reign as the benevolent King or suffer as Slave boy, who will it be today?)
About Rudolf Steiner’s Exercises for Spiritual Development, here
The Exercises are at the end of this fine article by Lynn Jericho, I am a Human Being! here.
Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie is the Editor and Publisher of The Wonder of Childhood.