Rhythm is the key to discipline, the secret Steiner schools have always understood. It is also the secret to making children feel secure, it is a message to their nervous system that some things are still the same in the world and that the life they know really matters.
As parents many of us have a tenuous hold on the sort of rhythm and discipline children experience at school but this is a wonderful opportunity for us to reclaim our dominion as we bring school into our home. Home Schooling last time may have been a bit chaotic or formless but we can start this term mapping out with our child/ren what home schooling is going to look like from now on.
As our children have the school rhythm already built into their body clock it is best to stick with that as much as possible. Insist that our children are dressed and ready to start learning at the usual school time - making sure we are free ourselves at this time to get everyone set up. Younger children can also go to their play area at this time as though they are doing their ‘work’ too.
Keep to the morning tea and lunch times of school, we can try to get all the inside activities completed in the morning and then go outside in the afternoon. Outside of school times we need to engage our children in as much of the home life as possible to keep them occupied and to make our own lives easier. Children should be given as many tasks as they can manage like preparing food, cleaning up their rooms daily, packing away the dishes, looking after the garden etc. I would also suggest a long family walk every day for at least an hour. This way we can wear our children out a bit, get some good exercise ourselves and get some outside time.
In order to establish our authority we need to give directions to our children that they can understand and follow. We must be careful not to disguise our directions as questions or requests. I always think the teacher’s ‘now it’s time to…..’ works very well. Once we have established these actions over a few days they will become habits. Also we should try to talk to our children as little as possible, we will see as we try to do this how many unnecessary things we say during the day.
If we only speak when necessary, we will notice how much more our children will listen.
We can say to our children ‘you need to play by yourself now until I finish my work’ (this time will depend on the child’s age) making it clear that they cannot disturb us for that time as we need to get our work done. So long as children have good solid blocks of our undivided attention they should also be able to cope with blocks of time while we do our work. When we do spend time with them we can spend that time doing household chores like hanging out washing or putting it away so that we have the chance to get things done while also being with them. If we spend our time doing chores with our children they will be even happier to have some ‘downtime’ to just play while we leave them alone.
We should try to resist the temptation to put our children in front of screens as this will just make their behaviour worse the rest of the time, reduce their capacity for deep play and encourage them to whinge and whine hoping for more screen time. if we allow our screen time to increase during lockdown we are bound to regret it when lockdown is over. If we need our child to be occupied in the afternoon for a while without us, audiobooks are a good compromise – we can use the opportunity to expose our children to some of the classics we may not have had time to read like ‘Swallows and Amazons’ or the Narnia series.
This is not an easy time for parents who are going through their own anxieties, trying to work from home, managing different age children, sickness and trying to keep family life manageable. Of course it will be 3 steps forward and 2 steps back a lot of the time however if we put the effort in for the first few days and establish and an element of predictability there will be a lot more room for love, compassion, kindness and fun in the home.
Mary Heard is a Simplicity Parenting Coach. Visit https://www.maryheardsimplicityparenting.com/ for more information.