A Natural Attitude to Childraising
This page aims to give a wider understanding of “natural parenting” and offer some of my insights into our developing children. It is a work in progress and updates and new articles will be added regularly. I have included some great links that are really worth a visit also.
– this page lists many of the great people who have advocated women and mother’s rights, provided insights into the needs of the developing child and continue to educate and enlighten.
Newborn to 12 Months
Clothing, Interaction, Baby’s Needs, Co-Sleeping
The Toddler Years: 1 to 5 Years
TV and Brain Development, Environment, Toys, StoryTelling
The Early School Years: 6 to 11 Years
Education, Tooth Loss, The Nine Year Change, Rites of Passage, Computers
Birth to Toddler
The way to make life comfortable for your new baby and easier on yourself is to keep things simple.
We all know that we come from a long line of primitive (comparably speaking) mothers, whom had to do without all the comforts of “new developments”, but maybe along the way we have forgotten the basic truths.
Your newborn to 12 month old wants one thing only. No pushchairs, no highchairs, no multi-gym walker, no intercom system and no other entrapments that are supposed to make life easier for us.
Your baby just wants you. Carry your baby. In-arms parenting as it is sometimes called advocates holding and carrying your baby for most of it’s early months. The gentle rocking motion stimulates brain growth and your smell, warmth and closeness provide immeasurable security for your infant.
It is therefore important to find a baby carrier that works for you. There are many slings available, but I would advise trying to borrow one first as they all vary. My favourite for babies six months plus is a native back sling, even a old cloth or sheet can work for this, lay baby in a long piece of fabric and heave onto your back (you’ll need help to begin with), whilst bent over, tie securely around your front. I am on the look out for a UK-made easy and secure version of this ancient baby carrier and will offer them as soon as possible in our online shop !
We need to regain a lot of the confidence in our ability that has been lost to the western medical world and baby product corporations, that frankly are set to gain from our insecurities. We will buy every gadget and accessory available in the hopes that we’ll be better parents (I know, because I’ve bought many of them ! )
So I have learnt an expensive lesson and observed for free that all babies really need is warmth, breastmilk, touch and interaction.
Clothes are not fun for new babies, they seem to think we’re trying to upset them deliberately by manipulating their bodies into these strange garments. Keep clothing simple and comfortable. Clothing made of natural cotton, silk or wool fibres will allow the skin to breathe. A winner is the baby gown, long in the body with a drawstring tie. Baby is free to move comfortably in these and they allow for easy nappy changes (important!). Newborns and babies up to a year should almost always wear a soft cotton cap also. Newborns are unable to properly regulate their body temperature and really benefit from hat wearing even in summer. Shoes are a waste of money. Babies feet need to be free to grow without restraints and they won’t be walking much before a year, so just throw on some nice thick socks or soft slippers/moccasins.
When a baby is born it’s vision is limited and it’s optimum range (where he can see the clearest) is approx 10 inches from his face. Not surprisingly, this is the distance between his eyes and mum’s when breastfeeding !
Breastfeeding is a great time for interaction with baby. He will love to hear you hum gently and speak to him. He is intently watching your facial expressions and you’ll see him react your gestures.
Keep toys to a minimum, he is only just learning how to live in this world with all it’s noise, colours, lights, sounds and smells, this is plenty to stimulate the baby’s mind at this stage.
Following your instincts is the best way to meet your baby’s needs.
I find it curious that there is a general attitude amongst some people that you can “spoil” a baby.
How ludicrous! Some people even feel that their baby is trying to “control” them and that if they “give in” the baby will grow up not respecting them or taking advantage etc.! It needs to be understood that babies do not have the manipulation capabilities to confirm these opinions.
Babies cry and parents respond. This is so and how it should be. We’ve all heard that crying is how our babies communicate with us, but ideally we should aim to prevent the need for our babies to cry. Obviously, there will be times that our babies cry, we’re often pretty busy people and so can’t spend every minute watching our babies to second guess them, but it is possible to learn the rhythm of our babies needs. When a baby rouses from sleep, especially a newborn, it will most likely be hungry, etc. I have observed with my own children that the babies I couldn’t always quickly tend to, (bless, number 5….) then learnt quickly that they would have to cry to get my attention. even when I was right there for them on occasions. It was a lesson they learnt that is not easily (if ever) forgotten.
- Breastfeeding on demand will one of the most important ways you can make your baby secure in the knowledge that his/her needs will be met.
- Co-sleeping with your baby is the healthiest option in every sense of the word. There is plenty of research to demonstrate that the family bed reduces risk of cot death and promotes healthy independent children. This is something a lot of families practise and may feel uncomfortable about on a social level despite being happy with the arrangement. If you want to know more about this topic or to arm yourself with the facts to feel confident is trusting your instincts, visit our Co-Sleeping Page and visit our Co-Sleeping Links
So to recap…..if you want to make things easy on yourself, “spoil” your baby and thumb your nose at any that “disapprove”!
The Toddler Years
Behaviour, Play and Development
In regards to childraising, Rudolf Steiner (philosopher) once said that our “Every action should be worthy of imitation”. Wow, this really piles the pressure on, but is alarmingly true.
How much they grow and learn is just a few short years! We all see behaviour in our children that comes directly from the blueprints of ourselves (sometimes less than desirable… ). And I think it takes a pretty special sort of person to be able to leave all their “negative” qualities behind them once they have a child! So the behaviour we demonstrate is an ongoing project that may just last forever. I know I struggle almost daily to be a good role model (all these hours at the computer aren’t helping! ), but it’s possible with inspiration . The more I learn about natural child development, the more I want to exhibit the good qualities within me that children respond so well to.
Singing, Music and Discipline
I came across the remarkable qualities of music and singing in a Waldorf school we attended. In the Early Childhood program, the teachers will most often sing gentle, uplifting songs to get the children to co-operate and listen to them. This is a magic that has to be seen (think “Pied Piper”)! Children are far happier to tidy up, come with you or quieten down if there is a song that you can sing specific to the task and you don’t have to be Celine Dion either, the soothing qualities of a live human voice is captivating for children, they aren’t interested in perfect pitch. A good book on this is Seven Times the Sun – guiding your children through the rhythms of the day, by Shea Darian. She focuses on the important of rhythm and routine for children and offers some great suggestions, songs and verses. A family favourite.
Play is work to be taken seriously and respected. Toys can be most anything for a child at this age and the less “form” a toy has the more it will stimulate his/her imagination. It may sound odd to suggest just giving your child a few pieces of cloth or wood to play with, but just watch as they turn them in to costumes, tools, houses and are away ! The less “character” or pre-determined purpose a toy has, the less limits there are to play with it. One reason children get bored so quickly with those toys they’ve been begging for, is that they are limited in play potential and perhaps why Lego (although not entirely formless) is a favourite with most children. My eldest son explains that Lego can transform when you are bored with one project into something else. Try offering your child smooth pieces of twigs and wooden blocks , leaves, shells and simple dolls with no features (for them to “imagine in” the expressions). I have also found that I am happier to pick up these more attractive toys after their play and feel good about their qualities (a bonus! ).
Children’s play is also a reflection of their environment, so if your child’s imaginative play is dictated by the programmes on TV they watch i.e. they pretend to cartoon characters and/or use “smart-talk” catch phrases, etc., use that as an indication of needing to restrict their viewing, be more selective about what they watch, or eliminate it!
Developmentally, the TV is more harmful than most of us realise. When children are young, they’re brains are not fully grown and are still making many cognitive connections. TV and it’s quick imagery interferes with the process of these connections and can lead to children having trouble concentrating, ADD/ADHD amongst other things. Due to the areas of the brain TV affects, it also causes right-side body dominance. All this without even mentioning the unhealthy exposure to radiation as well as the inappropriate content of TV (see above about Imitation! ).
I was raised on TV and subsequently find it a real struggle to “kick the habit” despite being quite self-disciplined. It is a powerful addiction that I do not want to pass onto my children. If your children currently watch more than 1 hour of TV a day or you want to eliminate their viewing altogether, a short period of adjustment will be needed. I found that for the first few days, when they would ask to watch their favourite show I firmly refused and quickly offered alternatives. They were keen to accept the new activities and I was surprised at how soon they stopped asking to watch! I limited my own viewing until after bedtime Here are my tips on weaning your family from the tube:
- Be prepared for your children to have extra energy – after being such passive recipients to TV, the real spirit of the child may be released (this may surprise even them! ).
- Have alternatives ready – Invest a few board games or packs of cards and play with them when they would normally be watching TV.
- Start reading a favourite book in the evening – this will give them something to look forward to and help recapture their imagination.
- Be strong- don’t give into their whining or cries of boredom!
- Cover the TV with a cloth – out of sight out of mind!
- Plan lists of jobs they can do alone and with you. Young children love polishing and cleaning, put that extra energy to work!
It will be during the hours they normally watch that you will need to be more involved in their activities to start with, but I have been told it takes three weeks for children to learn a new routine, so give it at least that long.
If you have any good suggestions on what worked for you, I’d love to hear from you or better still, visit our Discussion Boards and post your message for other parents to read and reply to!
To hear more information and details on this topic visit these links.
I am your Child – Brain development and TV page at a terrific site about child development
How Television Images Affect Children -violence on TV
AAP’s Statement on TV and Brain Development
Brain Development Easy to read with some good links.
The School Years
This can be an easy time to pay less attention to our children if they are at school most of the day, so it’s important to make your time together count.
I have found children at this age quite secretive about their life at school:
Me: How was school today?
Me: What did you do?
Child: Not much……
I know this sounds familiar, but the hidden message in this conversation is that your child is saying:
“School is my time and what I do there is personal”. It can be their private space and business.
As long as they are happy in themselves you need not grill them about it too much! Of course it is important to observe for signs of trouble at school, which children are often just as likely to keep to themselves. Being involved with your child’s school is an important part of remaining connected to their school life and schools are usually happy to have parental involvement! Indeed many small, independent schools could not function without it’s parents commitment.
The school your child goes to should be a subject that you give a lot of consideration to, it will shape and mould them, just as their first six years of life fully in your care has done. Please visit my Education page for my thoughts on this topic.
Baby Tooth Loss
A major life change for your child is occurring at the onset of baby tooth loss, usually around six years. It demonstrates a dramatic physical change as well as an awakening to the world and gradually leaving the early childhood realm behind. I have noticed with my own children, tooth loss patterns that correspond with their personalities! My dreamy boy is losing baby teeth much later than his energetic sister. The visits from the tooth fairy are something we are able to keep even with our 10 year old. The Tooth Fairy frequently trades special treasures like gemstones, books, jewelry and such for those prized teeth, (what does she do with them all…?) we imagine elaborate pearly castles and woodland trimmings. We believe in keeping the creatures and folk of the magickal realm alive throughout life!
The Ninth Year Change
I have learnt a great deal about child development through Waldorf/Steiner Education, but learning about the 9th year changes for my children were remarkable. The following article is from an anthroposophical perspective, but maybe this is something that will make sense for you also….
The Ninth year
adapted from an article by Bernadette Shearer on a talk by Dr James Dyson Introducing his talk, Dr Dyson referred to the many children he sees in Steiner Schools from Classes 3 and 4. The development change which happens in the child’s ninth year is recognised by teachers in Waldorf Schools as being an important landmark. However this change is difficult to describe since there is no obvious physiological marker: with the transition for the child at sever years there is the change of teeth and fourteen years there is puberty.
To understand the change in the ninth year one needs to look closely at Steiner education and child development. Dr Dyson regards Rudolf Steiner as the only person to have described the physiological and psychological changes in the nine year old. These changes mark a transition which may begin in the eight and a half year old and go on to nine and a half years. Sometimes the transition will span a year but six months is usual. For many children the transition is hardly visible; the children who are referred to Dr. Dyson experience a more dramatic period. Problems which the young child had suffered and were felt to be resolved may flare up again. A child Dr. Dyson saw recently suffered, once again from a squint. Signs include asthma, eczema, headaches, sleep disturbances, lethargy, tiredness on walking up hills, growing pains, digestive disorders and cold feet, and at a psychological level, awful dark drawings, dwelling on questions about death, restlessness and the child becomes more private.
What lies behind these changes? From birth to age 21, life is a journey between two worlds, the one visible, the other invisible . We all experience something of this invisible world when we sleep and when we dream. The journey between birth and adulthood is a journey between sleep and wakefulness, between participation in the life of dreams and the development of wakeful participation in the outside world. Part of this lies in our own biography.
Growing up is a process of adapting ourselves to forces which belong essentially to this world. Look at the baby suspended in amniotic fluid whose buoyancy overcomes the forces of gravity. The brain is surrounded by a fluid sheath, the cerebral spinal fluid giving it buoyancy. The child’s journey is one of gradual development from fluid, weightless buoyancy to gravity, weight. The skipping, running of young children may recall that of lambs identifying with the forces of Spring or feeling inwardly like “jumping for joy” at some good news.
During the nine year change it seems that the symptoms show a tipping of the scales in favour of gravity and weight. This is a transitional phase though; the scales tip and then balance. There may be a feeling though of losing the sweet, responsive child for a while.
When a baby first focuses, this is not a primitive reflex but the first milestone on the way to true will development, into the limbs, into walking, through manual dexterity, part of a journey from eyes to fingertips, from head to feet. Early life physiology describes this development from above – down.
Looking at a nine year old child, observe how they walk or run. This child is in a totally different relationship to gravity from the young child. The limbs act, move, speak for themselves. Young children experience themselves in relation to their heads, while eleven year olds experience themselves in relation to their limbs: the experience of the ego-self is related to the limbs.
The nine year stage may be seen as a transition between one world and another. Problems arise at this stage because some children experience something of a haitus. The forces from the head withdraw, exerting less of an influence on the metabolism and limbs. The body is not sustained by the etheric forces, bringing a tendency to growing pains and headaches, for instance.
How a child is helped over this phase influences the child’s development profoundly. Some children link into earthly forces quickly so one does not notice the transition, however when “link out” happens before “link in”, where the transition is not synchronised, then there will be difficulties: one has to carry the child as it were. It is very important never to tax the head then as the etheric forces are withdrawing. This is often the stage when parents of children in main stream schools realise their child is not thriving because of the over-intellectual approach to education.
Dr. Dyson gives the following advice to parents to help the child:
- Do not tax the nervous system unduly
- Allow a degree of license with food – expect some loss of appetite
- Pay particular attention to body warmth
- Do not force physical exertion against resistance
- Do not force the child on any front
- Now is not the time to learn a wind instrument because of the degree of stress it imposes on the respiratory system
- Sleep is very important
The child may be ready to take on extra questions about death in a more pictorial way. Previously death was not a reality in the same way because the child was carried by the pre-birth forces. At nine years these forces yield.
A sense of the child’s individual destiny is formed in three stages – one at nine years, another at eleven years when the limbs become lanky and at puberty up until sixteen years old when the true individual breaks through. The developing adults take responsibility for their own destiny.
Some medicines help the child through the nine year stage, notably iron – blood levels of iron may fall and bearing in mind the special relationship that iron has to the Earth it is an appropriate medicine.
They are virtually unavoidable today, and are one of the greatest tools for information and management. They are required to be taught to very young children by the National Curriculum in the hopes that our children will be prepared for the world of machines when they graduate. However children below the age of 14 do not need interaction with computers. Children of 14 or older are quite capable of learning very quickly the workings of a computer while being more prepared and able to do so productively than a 7 year old. The harm to children from computers in similar to television (see above) regarding radiation, two-dimensional viewing etc. Many people argue that while this is the case, computers differ from TV in that the computer requires interaction. Indeed, you are required to not simply be a passive viewer, but you have to initiate and respond to the computer. This interaction though can create additional problems in the developing child with hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills. My eldest son enjoys playing puzzle and building games on the computer, but we strongly restrict his playing and he understands that it is not a healthy pastime. We explain to all the children how TV and computers affect our brains and this helps them want to limit exposure! We have observed that our son seems to gain a sense of achievement from playing computer games (educational or recreational), but this achievement is not a healthy kind, or even real. Real power (empowerment) is not gained from simulated situations but I feel this hinders children in their search for genuine empowerment. Building a play house, finding treasure using a map, fixing a bike are all real ways of creating genuine achievement and help to develop hand-eye co-ordination!!
Here are some good links on this subject –
“While we work on the computer, it works on us, molding our minds to fit its narrow capabilities at the expense of other ways of thinking” taken from The Web and The Plow by Lowell Monke.