I am a Hybrid Rasta Mama.
I approach parenting from a “what works for us” mindset. However, as much as I trust my instincts, I do love to read and research, especially when it comes to child development and parenting approaches. I take a little of this and a little of that and blend it all together into a parenting philosophy that I can feel good about and that upholds my values and ideals.
So what or who are my “parenting influences?” Where have I found inspiration and ideas to become the mother that I am and the mother that I am still becoming? What are my go-to guides?
Over the next few weeks I am going to highlight my parenting influences, inspirations and guides. I will provide you with a brief overview of each philosophy or approach I have woven into my mothering. If a particular book has touched me or opened my eyes to a better approach to parenting, then I will highlight the top ideals that I am incorporating or utilizing. If I disagree with a portion of the book, I will certainly discuss that as well.
I am so excited to have the opportunity to not only share those resources that have inspired me, challenged me, guided me, made me more aware , and often times provided me with an “aha moment,” but to also pass along some great information to all of my dear readers in hopes that you might be able to takes bits and pieces and apply it to your parenting. Several of these resources will probably not be new to you but certainly some will. In either case, I hope you will at least enjoy getting a slightly deeper insight into what me makes a Hybrid Rasta Mama.
Now – first up….drumroll please….
Let me preface the rest of this post by emphasizing that I am focusing on Steiner’s view of child development and NOT Waldorf Education. That would be an entirely separate and lengthy post.
Let’s start with two of my all-time favorite quotes by Steiner. These really set the tone for his take on child development.
“Children who live in an atmosphere of love and warmth, and who have around them truly good examples to imitate, are living in their proper element.”
“If the child has been able in his play to give up his whole being to the world around him, he will be able in the serious task of later life to devote himself with confidence and power to the service of the world.”
Steiner viewed “childhood” as the first 21 years of life. He divided these years into three distinct stages; birth through 7 years of age, 7 through 14 years of age, and 14 through 21 years of age. Here is an overview of each of the three stages, with more emphasis placed on birth through age 7 since that is the stage Tiny is in. I am highlighting Steiner’s views that really are spot on, based on my observations and experience working with and engaging children in each stage of life.
Birth to age 7 – Focus on Imitation
A child’s first seven years of life involve some monumental developmental milestones:
· Building the physical body: teeth, bones, muscles, brain, internal organs, and nervous system.
· Learning to think, talk, walk, and coordinate actions such as drawing with a crayon, sweeping a broom, riding a tricycle, or cutting with a knife.
· Using the senses to learn the world’s basic rules: hot and cold, up and down, wet and dry, and so on.
· Developing the will, a Waldorf term for the inborn drive to try things out, to start projects, and see them through to completion.
Steiner emphasizes that the parent’s aim during this stage is to support the very young child in meeting these challenges and milestones by providing plenty of opportunities to play, run, jump, climb, and learn by doing. Absent from this are reading, writing, and arithmetic. (Formal academic subjects are not taught in Waldorf classrooms until age seven, and abstract concepts are minimized until children are even older.)
Steiner suggested that essentially children should take the lead in where they want their learning to go, giving natural aptitudes and interests the chance to develop naturally. To this end, I fully embrace the Steiner influenced parenting philosophy of letting your child be a child. Let him or her enjoy the richness of childhood without feeling the need to grow up too fast. There is plenty of time to master the alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, names of the states, etc. There is such a small window where children can be children and I fully believe in and support the idea of encouraging your child to just enjoy this precious time that’s over much too quickly for all of us.
A few other Steiner supported parenting approaches include:
· Letting go of the notion that children need to be “taught and trained.” Very young children soak up everything they experience, from the speech patterns they hear, to the way their parents walk, and the values and attitudes of the adults and other children around them. A child will thrive when allowed to “learn” through imitation and example. In this way a strong will is developed.
· Allowing enough time each day for children to observe and engage in household chores and daily “life” duties.
· Establishment of rhythm to the daily activities is key during the first seven years.
· Children’s capacities are enhanced by listening to stories told by the parent (not read from books exclusively), painting and making crafts, singing and celebrating seasonal festivals just to name a few.
· Children should be provided with ample opportunities to explore and enjoy nature in all of its splendor.
Ages 7 to 14 – Focus on Imagination
· Various physical changes take place during this time, the most prominent physical change being the loss of the milk teeth. (It is a fact well known by biologists that it takes seven years for the transformation of every inherited cell in the body.)
· Children in this stage both express and experience life through finely tuned and delicate feelings.
· As the child moves through these years, the faculty for more sequential and logical thought begins to unfold. Careful handling is necessary, for while this faculty needs nurturing, the ability to be fully at home in the world of imagination remains the child’s most vital asset.
· During this stage, the parent’s task is to foster the child’s soul, developing its love for community and its imaginative and inner life.
· The practice of crafts and arts is critical. As important are the singing of songs and the telling of fairy-tales and other stories.
· The strong imaginative power of the child is encouraged and fostered at this stage.
· The development of a refined moral sense is achieved during this stage.
· Children in this stage learn best from loving and consistent authorities who embrace the world with interest. Information should be presented in a lively, artistic and engaging way in order to ignite children’s enthusiasm for learning the academic, practical, and physical skills they will need for life. An artistic, imaginative approach is taken to all academic lessons – thrilling tales of adventure in history, true hands-on learning, and children creating artistic representations of what they learn.
Ages 14 to 21 – Focus on Truth, Discrimination, and Judgment
· During this stage, the child is on a search for truth, and she begins to experience the power of her own thinking.
· Two other major features are present in this stage: a healthy, valuable idealism and a vulnerable sensitivity about one’s own inner experiences and the sense of self.
· The adolescent psyche needs protection, and many youngsters from puberty onwards are energetic in disguising their inner condition. Girls may become coquettish, daring and defiant. Boys’ defenses may take the form of sullen or introverted behavior, apparent unwillingness to communicate, or a withdrawal into a “cocoon.” In any case, they often erect barriers for self-protection. The adolescent behind the barrier is constantly seeking a role model with qualities to emulate. It is critical for parents to live up to the model their child has created of them.
· Adolescents learn best from experts in their fields with whom they can exercise their independent thinking and pursuit of truth. At this age children deepen their understanding of the world and thrive on challenging intellectual study.
How do Steiner’s views sit with you? Are they “correct” in your opinion?
Up next…an author whose book on childhood simply blows me away! Until then…