Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Beginning the Journey!

Time for new beginnings as Spring begins to show the first signs of renewal and growth.  Welcome back to those of you who have attended our Love and Logic classes..  If you are joining us for the first time just a little background information to get you started. 
If you have not already done so, it will be of GREAT help to get a copy of the book Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster Cline (2006 edition).  It is available on Amazon and at most libraries.  

There will be new blog posts every two weeks.  You are encouraged to ask questions and comment after each post.  Each month there will also be suggested readings, some from the book and some which will be posted in the blog.  

To get us started let's look at the child's need to belong.  Many of the issues that arise in our families can spring from a conflict between the child's need to belong and the pressures of daily life. 

The Child’s Need to Belong:
At Home and In the World

One of my students wrote a story called “Lost and Found”.  The theme has been repeated in literature and art throughout time:  losing and regaining one’s place.  In her story a young leopard became separated from her parents in a blizzard.  Although she was very sad, she went about finding shelter, food, and joy in her environment.  She watched the stars, the birds and became adapted to her new life.  Eventually, the family was reunited.  The sense of belonging to herself, her family and to the larger world was clear. 

A basic need of all humans is to belong, to feel safe and at peace. In the home achieving this state of security is essential.  Four elements must take place for the child to truly belong to his family and home: orientation, communication, understanding, and contribution. 

Orientation, or the ability to function in one’s environment, begins at birth.  Maria Montessori talked of the infant’s ability to watch with great concentration all the activity that takes place around her.  Once the baby can crawl she explores every corner with all her senses, reaching, tasting, and listening to family life.  All young children are sensorial explorers and it is critical at this point to allow the child freedom and real activities, which will bond her to her home.  The predictability of finding toys and furniture in the same places, day after day, provides order to help this process. Practical life work at home gives each child the opportunity to become connected to the family and to feel useful.  As she dusts, polishes, cares for plants and animals and cares for herself the awareness that she belongs becomes integrated into everyday life.

Communication, both verbal and non-verbal, gives a deep message to the child that he belongs.  Think of how we feel when entering a room of strangers and someone smiles warmly, and extends a hand.  In the daily stress and business of life it is easy to forget to smile, to pat a child on the back, to hug, and to talk about our lives, hopes and dreams.  Children love to hear stories of when we were young, our adventures, and even our day.  Establishing a sense of family with conversation and body language tells our children that we value them, that they are part of a greater whole, and they have a place. Mealtimes are a great opportunity to talk, laugh and enjoy each other.  We show the children through example how to listen, and how to share

Developing understanding of our own culture and that of others brings about a sense of belonging to the larger world.  We are fortunate to have a multitude of cultures in Houston.  The children begin by learning the way to function in our own culture:  saying please and thank you, waiting to speak, caring for a friend, solving problems and all of the other social  graces help us to be part of our society.  As understanding develops, so do the child’s feelings of acceptance and appreciation of himself and others, preparing him to take his place in the larger world community.

As all of these elements come together, a desire to contribute to the family, the school, and the community is born.  Helping with the work at home has always been a part of childhood.  In times gone by children often worked alongside their parents, baking, plowing, planting, and repairing.  In our modern culture, these opportunities are often lost in the hustle of our lives.  Making time for family projects, doing chores together, planting a small garden, washing the car or painting a wall will bring the child into the family circle in a way that tells her she is valued and important It is clearly their home in a way that no words can convey.  Their contributions to the daily life of the family are appreciated and obvious.  Even the smallest child can mist a plant, sweep up a spill and return toys to the shelf ready for the next person.  As the child matures the desire to contribute to the larger community will be noticeable.  This is the time for community service:  cleaning a park or stream, recycling, collecting toys for charity, or donating time to a project.  As our young people move into the second plane of development (ages 6-9) those who have a true sense of belonging will be ready to take their places in the world as caring and responsible citizens, sure of themselves and of the contributions they can make. 

Spend some time thinking of ways to bond together in the work, play and joy of everyday life.  The rewards will be wonderful!