Thursday, October 22, 2009

Healthy Hassling

Serena is 6. Among many things no one tells you when you become a parent, 6 is one of those things. 6 is hard. In Waldorf circles, it is even sometimes referred to as the "6 year change", much like the "9 year change." For us, we have noticed all the developmental things, like an increased interest in letters, body parts of both sexes, antipathy toward things previously enjoyed, and some movement milestones met. Others, like riding a bike, we are still working on. One thing I have noticed in myself is that I feel like the mother I was when the children were 18 months...I say "no" a lot. But the "no" does not come from a place of physically redirecting a toddler's insatiable, and sometimes unsafe, curiosity. It comes from a place of constantly re-iterating my stance on certain things.
Like food, for example. She will ask if she can have a dessert for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. Or "health food cheetos" or any other thing I don't want her growing body to have. I will say no. She will start to try to negotiate with me. I sometimes become irritated.
I finally stepped back and asked why I was saying "no" so many times, and also why I was becoming so irritated.
There is this "old" book I have from the 90's called, "Self Esteem, a Family Affair". The book talks about "healthy hassling". Healthy hassling is keeping one step ahead of children, and taking their "no's" with a light heart, and is more for teenagers than 6-year-olds. I also read "Outliers" and in this book the author talked about different negotiation skills among socioeconomic levels. Both books inspired me to think of "healthy negotiation." Am I trying to teach my child that what I say goes, no matter what? Or do I want her to be able to negotiate mindfully to get her needs and wishes met? Of course, I want to teach her how to negotiate. And, I want her to respect my authority. I am not sure how my family of origin would handle negotiating....I think they were more of the "what I say, goes!" flavor. And, as a parent, because you hold the boundaries, some things are just not negotiable. But some things are, and at age 6, I think she is ready to be able to learn how to negotiate in a way that is pleasurable for both of us. Whining is not a pleasurable way to negotiate. But asking kindly is. Screaming is not a way to protest. But using words is. The list of what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable is being developed on the fly!
I have been telling her a story about a mother and child who meet a bear in the woods. The bear roars a lot. Together, they find out why the bear roars (his paw is hurt) and they help the bear to calm down and be tame enough to walk past in the woods without fear of being roared at.
That is where I am in my parenting journey today.


  1. Ah, six. Six was almost as tumultous as four. I love the story about the bear with the thorn in his paw. Also great new header image. Beautiful.

  2. Six??? I have not heard about this! Aidan will be 6 in April and I was just lamenting to my mom this weekend that I used to think I was doing ok with my parenting and now I have a small teenager all of a sudden. : ( A bad mother is welling out of me and I feel lost... I have Heaven On Earth but is there some other good reading in particular for these age milestones and our child's needs for them?

  3. Ah! Ordering Parenting with Spirit from your next post. Thank you! : )

  4. thank you, thank you for this!

    i thought it was just me?? i have been plagued with the no's and the nagging.

    things are pretty peachy with the eight year old, but the six year old and i have been locking horns.

    will have to read a little more on this, have been meaning too, but just haven't.

    i love the bear story.


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