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It’s For Your Own Good

Li Yirong

Working with children as a counsellor is very challenging compared with counselling adults. When treating children and adolescents, I need to establish a good working relationship with many people including parents and teachers. In the United States, if abuse is suspected, social workers and government‘s Child Protective Services will also collaborate, sharing the goal of the child’s well-being. However, there can be differences in the approach.

During the counselling process, I often hear the words: “We did this for the child’s good”. This usually comes from the parents. The intention is worth encouraging since the kids are still young and may not know what is best for them. As adults, our responsibility is to teach the kids how to differentiate right from wrong as well as guide and help them to find the path that suits them. Very often, our intention is good. For example, we worry that the children may experience setbacks, so we will try our best to protect them. However, we also need to consider whether our method is really suitable.

Let Me Protect You

I have a case of a 14-year-old who is afraid to go out by herself. Wherever she goes, her mother needs to send her and pick her up. She has problems getting along with her peers at school. She was ostracised by her peers and is unable to cope with that. Yet, she blames her mother for not helping her all the time. Her mother has patiently helped her again and again. The mother is worried that the child is still so dependant and wonders why she is unable to deal with conflicts on her own. So the mother brought the child to see me.

In the process of our conversations, I gradually discovered that the daughter’s dependency is due to interactions with her mother. The main reason she dares not go out alone is the fear of being violated by a man. She is a coloured girl living in a poor neighbourhood. Since young, her mother has taught her that men are dangerous, that she must not be alone and she needs to be alert to her surrounding environment.

Although she would like to go out to play on her own, her mother’s warnings keep “following” her. As she grows older and her female features emerge, her fear increases. The fear has evolved into her not wanting or daring to go out alone. While interacting with her, I helped her understand her fears, ways she can protect herself and build confidence in her self-protection ability.

When the time was right, I invited her mother to attend the sessions and requested her mother to help her go out alone. Together we planned a route and agreed on its implementation in a month’s time. The agreed plan was for the daughter to take the school bus to go home by herself and her mother would wait for her at the bus stop and then walk her home. After doing this for a period, the daughter would then walk home from the bus stop on her own. Her mother would wait for her at home.

At the beginning, the mother actively took part in the planning and made a lot of suggestions. She told me that finally she would have her own time. The mother looked more relaxed and finally smiled. During the process, we continued to encourage the girl. Finally, she was willing to try and even showed some signs of looking forward to this adventure. But a week before the implementation, the mother started to get anxious that something might happen to her daughter and was afraid to let her daughter become self-reliant. She told me her not letting go is to protect her daughter for her good. So again, the daughter became anxious and did not know what she was supposed to do. I spent some time helping the mother clarify what she thought was for the daughter’s good and what was actually her own fear. During this process, both mother and daughter supported each other and helped each other to face the fear. The mother helped her daughter to go out independently and the daughter let her mother understand that she could protect herself.

 

Hope You Are Happy

I have a client who came to me because she was very anxious. She and her daughter were no longer talking to each other. Whenever she phoned, the daughter would not answer. She said she just worried about the daughter’s happiness and wondered what was wrong with that? Everything she did was for her daughter’s good.

She believed that a woman’s ultimate happiness was marriage and to have children. She told me that when her daughter was little, she liked keeping long hair, favoured pink colour and loved wearing skirts. Most importantly, she liked boys. Now, her daughter keeps her hair short, likes black colour and wears pants. The greatest worry is that now her daughter likes girls. She keeps asking: “What happened?”

After knowing that her daughter was gay, their relationship was full of conflicts. The mother worked hard to change her daughter, continually persuading her to like boys. Initially, the daughter made an effort to make her mother accept her but found that it was of no avail. So the daughter left home.

The mother told me that she was worried about losing her daughter so she convinced herself to accept the situation. But when she knew her daughter found a same-sex partner, she could not help but dissuade her daughter. This led to a breakdown in the mother-daughter relationship. The mother cried and told me: “I only want what is good for her. Why would this harm our relationship?”

I understand the mother’s emotions, hoping for her daughter to be happy. However, her definition of happiness is different from her daughter’s. In the process of interacting with them, I helped them pass hidden messages to each other. The mother wants her daughter to like boys because she wants her daughter to be happy. The daughter hopes that the mother would accept her being gay because she wanted her mother to witness the important moments in her life. Do they love each other? The answer I get is: “Yes!”

The sentence: “It’s for your own good,” is familiar to us. In many cases, the starting point is the good intention from the parents but they may subconsciously impose their own judgement onto their children because the parents feel their values are good and right.

If the child does not agree to such values, conflicts may arise. Often, the initial good intention of the parents get buried in the conflicts. For instance, in the case of that 14 -year-old girl mentioned earlier, her mother’s intention was to protect her; and in the latter case, the well-intentioned mother wants her daughter to be happy. Subsequently, however, everyone’s focus is on the conflicts and how to resolve these conflicts. The original good intentions behind the conflicts have been ignored.

Of course, there are also many cases in which parents may want their unattained dreams to be fulfilled by their children. Sometimes, we want the kids to pursue the parent’s own ambition. Is that really for their good? Or is it for our own good? To understand the child is already a challenge, let alone to understand ourselves?

When we want the kids to act out in accordance with our ideas, we may want to pause and think: “For whose good is this done? Is it to satisfy ourselves or for our own conveniences or does it really help the child?”

 

To Be Well-Behaved

I counselled a seven-year-old who experienced a series of family tragedies. Because of these events, he and his mother only have each other and the mother was also on the verge of mental breakdown. Many of the mother’s relatives and friends tried hard to help. People often praise the son’s maturity and advised him to be well-behaved, not only for his mother’s sake but also for his own good. Later, however, he started to have some deviations in behaviour and the school teacher suggested that he sees a psychologist.

He seemed to be considerate, for example, he once told me he was unable to attend the next session as there was something on and the adults were unable to send him. He then asked me whether I would be alright if he did not come. Initially, it did not seem to be a problem but such behaviour is beyond his age nor was it appropriate given our relationship. So, in the next session, I asked what he wanted to do and stressed that this time belonged to him and he could choose to do anything. His answer shocked me and made me feel sad.

“I want to play, I want to be a child.” He avoided my eyes but answered determinedly.

The adults wanted him to be obedient. Could it be that the adults have too many things to face and if he is well-behaved, they can be more relaxed and worry less? Over the following year, my role was to play with him, to let him be a kid. In this process, I help him to express his emotions, to find his own place and to grow at his own pace. This approach takes a longer time and is more difficult for the people around him as he no longer has the beyond-his-age understanding of others he had before. But this method really helped him.

“It’s for your own good” is easier said than done. To get the acceptance of both parties, it requires mutual understanding and continual communication.

The author is a psychologist and clients have approved the sharing of these stories. To protect their’ identity, some changes have been made to the identity and details of the stories.

The original Chinese article is published in the Feb 2014 issue of Lapis magazine and is accessible online at: http://www.lapislazuli.org/tw/index.php?p=20140204.html

Fever As A Remedy

What most parents dread is seeing their children suffer from flu or fever. Children usually fall sick one by one when there is a flu epidemic or when the season changes. When children fall sick, the first thing that most parents would do is to let the children see a doctor so that he can give them injection and prescribe medications for them. Some children actually live off medicines used to cure flu for a long period of time, but this will only worsen their illnesses and weaken their bodies’ resistance to diseases. Western ‘Father of Medicine’ Hippocrates once said, ‘As long as the patient has fever, I am able to cure all kinds of illnesses.’ This may sound like an odd statement to us, but what does he mean?

Dr Tom Kruzel N.D., pointed out in his medical report entitled ‘Fever as Healer’ that fever occurs when our bodies are fighting viruses or bacteria while repairing the damages caused by these viruses. Hence, we should allow the fever to reduce naturally. When the body is fighting viruses and bacteria, its resistance will also be enhanced greatly. If we use medications to bring down a fever very fast instead of reducing it naturally, our bodies will become very weak and eventually lose their resistance to any virus completely.

Dr Philip Incao M.D., a specialist in human intelligences, said that the body undergoes the greatest and fastest changes during childhood stage. During this stage, a child’s body will go through many times of reconstruction and a certain degree of destruction has to take place first in order to reconstruct a stronger body. Damaged old cells need to be eliminated before the body can reconstruct. Our bodies’ immune system causes fever and infections in order to destroy and digest these damaged cells, and to get rid of them from our bodies. Hence children very often have skin diseases, runny noses or pus because their immune system is working very hard. If these waste matters are not removed from the body, they will cause the child to have allergies or more serious infections. Actually, viruses do not attack us but will grow in profusion in us when our bodies are in the process of destroying and eliminating old and damaged cells. Hence viruses do not cause illnesses but they live on illnesses.

According to research findings, fever will increase the number of white blood cells. The functions of white blood cell are to gather toxins and absorb micro organisms in order to expel them from the body. When we are having fever, our hearts beat faster and our breaths become shorter, oxygenated blood will thus be delivered to the infected area. Viruses do not grow well and fast in an environment with high level of oxygen. At the same time, our metabolism rate will increase and hence the toxins can be expelled faster. Most harmful viruses can survive only in a limited range of temperature. The increase in our body temperature during fever will limit their growth and enable the white blood cells to get rid of them from our bodies.

From these evidences, fever is actually a good remedy for illnesses. Doctors suggest we take note of the following points to help our children grow up healthily:

1. Try to let the patient get as much rest as possible, avoid unnecessary activities, do not let them go to school.

2. Keep the patient’s body warm, especially the torso and feet. Let the child wear clothes made of natural materials like cotton or wool etc. The child should be kept warm so that his cheeks are reddish but he is not perspiring. Do not bathe the child. If his feet are cold, use hot water bags to keep them warm.

3. The diet of the patient should be kept light and oil-free. Avoid protein-rich food such as eggs, meat, milk, nuts, beans etc. Provide mainly liquid food such as vegetable soup, herbal tea, fruit juice (temperature of the juice should not be lower than room temperature). Fruits, cooked vegetables or porridge are also recommended. Furthermore, quantity of food intake should be less, not more. If the child is not hungry, then do not force him to eat. Normally, an improvement in the child’s appetite is a sign of recovery, but even then, the diet should be kept oil-free and light.

4. During fever, you can let the child drink herbal tea brewed with herbs such as horsetail, yarrow, chamomile or catnip. You may also use herbs that can boost the child’s immunity or medicines that serve similar purpose. Normal antibiotics and medicines such as aspirin will only cool down the ‘heat’ generated by the immunity system, they lower the body temperature too quickly thus depriving the immunity system of the chance to reconstruct. These medications, if used too often, will weaken our immunity system and will eventually cause us to lose our resistance to illnesses completely.

5. Observe the patient carefully, is he fully conscious? Does he have seizures? Are there signs of dehydration? Children with ages ranging from 6 months to 6 years are likely to have fever-related seizures which are due to the sharp increase in body temperature. If they do not have seizures within 24 hours when symptoms of fever first appear, then it is unlikely that they will have seizures. Send the child to the doctor immediately if he has seizures. You should also look out for signs of dehydration. Check if the patient’s skin on his cheeks or hands is springy to touch, if his skin is too dry and if his tongue is moist. For newborns, you can check if the fontanel is sunken below the level of the skull abnormally.

6. Let your child know that you care for him, that you are looking after him all the time. This will help to alleviate the child’s fear and nervousness and hence hasten the process of recovery.

Most parents are afraid that if the fever is not brought down immediately, the brain of the child may be damaged due to overheating. In actual fact, the brain will not be damaged even if the fever has risen to 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit). Some cancer patients’ bodies have to bear the temperature of 41.7 degrees Celsius for 2 hours continuously and their brains are not affected at all.

What you should watch out for are complications like meningitis or pneumonia. You need not use antibiotics or antipyretics to bring down the fever. Antibiotics are life-saving medicine but they are not able to help the patient recover from his illnesses fully. Nowadays antibiotics are prescribed indiscriminately, resulting in more drug-resistant bacteria and hence illnesses which are more difficult to cure. Antibiotics can only keep infections under control temporarily, if the real cause of the disease has not been eradicated, our immunity system will remain to be weak.

So far, my two children have not taken any antipyretic whenever they have fever. I remembered Yong Wei once had high fever that lasted a week when he was 3 years old. During that week, his fever reached 39.5 degrees Celsius in daytime and rose to 40, 41 degrees Celsius at night. When he was asleep at night, he would wake up every 1 to 2 hours to cry. On the third day, I brought him to see a doctor to ensure that there was no other complication. I remembered myself fighting the strong temptation of giving him antipyretics prescribed by the doctor. I managed to overcome that and used American herbs with similar healing properties instead of the antipyretics. During the day, I prepared pear drink and brewed Luo Han Guo tea for my son to drink. His condition improved on the fifth day and his fever finally reduced on the seventh day. After Yong Wei had recovered fully, I felt that he had matured a lot, it was like he had changed into a whole new person. Upon reflections, I was glad that I allowed my son to fight this battle with his own ability and that he had successfully gone through this growing process. As for myself, I am no longer worried or scared when my sons have high fever. Yong Xing had skin rashes when he was one, it started with him having high fever for 3 days and when the fever came down, his body was covered with rashes. The rashes did not cause itchiness and they disappeared 2 days later. I did not give him any medicine or apply anything on his body. Before this incident, he would have flu once in a while and after that incident, he has never fallen sick.

I have consulted a few friends on how they helped their children overcome their illnesses. One mother used urine therapy, some mothers let their children drink lots of green vegetable and fruit juice (celery, coriander and apples). Some examples of folk practices to counter flu are consuming ginger drink, covering the patient with blanket and let him perspire, kuosha etc. Actually Western doctors very well know the disadvantages of the misuse of antibiotics, they are refraining from prescribing antibiotics unless necessary. Parents who wish to use natural therapies can use the information provided here as a guidance.

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2001 Nov Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore

The Secret Live of the Unborn Child

Rachel Chein

Age-old Chinese culture has always been serious about educating the foetus. The importance of this subject is gradually being proven by scientific research in recent years. Thomas Verny, M. D., together with John Kelly published “The Secret Life of the Unborn Child” as early as 1981. Although ‘outdated’, it contains valuable material that we are not so familiar with.

Is educating the foetus useful? Does the unborn child have a memory? A friend of Dr. Thomas Verny used to sit by the fire after dinner when she was pregnant. She would hum a certain tune over and over again because the beautiful melody left a deep impression in her. What surprises Dr. Verny is that she later told him that she was able to quieten her child by humming the same tune whenever the baby cries for whatever reasons. Boris Brott , a conductor also mentioned that once while conducting a totally new piece of music, he somehow knew how the following melody goes even before reading the scores. He later found out from his mother, who was a cellist by profession, that she frequently practised this particular piece of music when she was pregnant. That must be credited to his memory whilst in his mother’s womb.

Life starts in the womb. Contemporary medical studies are pushing the starting point of life even further back. The foetus is thought to have an independent mind. At only 8 weeks old, the foetus is not only able to turn her/his head, arms and body gently, but also able to express, through the use of body language, his/her likes by kicking and pulling; and dislikes by pushing, stabbing or striking on the mummy’s tummy. At 4 months old, the foetus can frown, stare and pull his/her face together. At 5 months, his/her sensitivity towards the sense of touch is comparable to that of a one-year-old baby; (especially the dislike of cold water) and some can even identify smell. If sugar is added to the amniotic fluid, the foetus swallows many times more. If, on the other hand, iodine-like fat is added, the swallowing action swiftly decreases, the foetus may even pull his/her face together in protest.

The development of sight is relatively slow but not unnoticeable. Starting from the 16th week, the foetus is sensitive towards light. When a light flash is incident on the mother’s abdomen, the foetus’ heartbeat quickens dramatically.

From the 24th week, the foetus focuses on hearing, showing a definite liking for music and the mother’s heartbeat has the greatest impact. On one occasion, an experiment was conducted by allowing newborns in a hospital to listen to the mother’s heartbeat. Those newborn babies who hear the mothers’ heartbeat gain weight faster and sleep better compared with those who were not subjected to listening to a tape of their mothers’ heartbeat. From the 25th week, the foetus can move in harmony with the rhythm of music. They love Vivaldi and Mozart best. When these music were played to them, foetus heartbeat calm down, and the kicking decrease. Incidentally, Brahms, Beethoven, and rock music can upset the foetus’ mood, making him/her kick profusely.

From the 28th to 32nd week, the brain network system is the same as that of the newborn baby.

A psychological test conducted to examine the mother’s emotional state indicated that those mothers who wanted the baby has the easiest and smoothest pregnancies and deliveries. The babies born are also most healthy both in body and mind. Mothers who were only superficially happy but not so truly with their pregnancies, would have off springs that would develop problems with their conduct and guts. If the mother has many reasons for not having the pregnancy (such as career, finance related issues, or just not being ready for motherhood), but actually wants it, the foetus would be affected by the conflicting thoughts. The baby born would tend to be reserved in nature. Those mothers who did not want to have a baby and openly showed it, have the most problematic pregnancies the highest rate of premature babies. The restless baby born would have low body weight.

Do not overlook the sensitive nature of the unborn child towards his/her mother’s emotional state. There was an incident in which one baby from amongst a batch of healthy newborns turned his face away consistently whenever his mother attempted to breastfeed him. Concerned doctors secretly persuaded another mother to help. Surprisingly the baby suckled away instinctively and enjoyed a good feed. Afterwards, doctors discovered that the mother actually did not want to have the baby, but did so because the father insisted. This shows that a newborn baby is capable of expressing his displeasure towards his mother. No doubt the mother can change her mind after the child’s birth to win the little heart over again; nevertheless, the starting point of the relationship was in the womb.

An adult can respond appropriately to external stimulants. An unborn child is not able to do so; it is helpless. The mother’s emotional state has a profound and long lasting impact on him/her.

When a person or an animal is being frightened, a substance called catecholamines appeared in the blood stream. This substance is extracted from frightened animals and injected into unaffected (calm and quiet) ones. In a few seconds, these animals exhibit fright characteristics. Similarly, the unborn child receives nutrients from the mother through the placenta. If the mother is upset, the child would be immediately affected.

Medical doctors have conducted another experiment. Expectant mothers were asked to lay flat under some ultrasonic equipment, but were not told that this position could calm the foetus. After a while, they were told that images on the screen indicated that the foetus was not moving. This piece of information never fails to frighten the mothers. In a mater of seconds the foetus kick violently. This experiment proved that during pregnancy, the mother’s emotional state has profound influence on that of her unborn child.

Babies who are underweight, suffering from stomach pains, temperamental, falling sick easily, readily annoyed, often crying; have been affected by their mothers’ damaging emotions during pregnancy. However, this does not include the mother’s drastic reaction in isolated incidents. It refers to her chronic emotionally-damaging state of mind. However, if the mother can put her emotions under control and rework for new hope, such a signal would be received by the child and revitalised him/her.

Generally a person does not feel that she is emotionally problematic; she feels that she is normal. However, all the suppressed emotions surface during pregnancy. In Sweden, West Germany and many European countries, psychological counselling is given to pregnant women. Special attention is devoted to unwed expectant mothers or couples who are unprepared for the pregnancy. The women are advised to re-examine their self-image, their feelings and fears about delivering a baby; their relationships with their mother, their husband and father, their emotional background, etc. The greatest contribution of such counselling is in identifying pent up emotions and rectifying them before any harm is done to the baby.

Expectant mothers who drink transfer the alcohol into the baby through the placenta. Excessive alcohol affects the newborn in many undesirable ways; including retarded development emotionally and intellectually, hyperactivity, and physical irregularities (like small head, ears positioned too low, etc). The amount of alcohol consumed is an important factor here. The other is the time of consumption. Drinking during the 12th to 18th week (most important period when the brain is developing) and 24th to 36th week would be detrimental.

If the expectant mother smokes, the baby born would be smaller in size, weaker physically, have high incidence rates of reading disabilities and emotional problems appearing after 7 years old. Smoking fathers also affect the baby. According to a West German research report, a high mortality rate happens in the family of a smoking father. Needless to say, caffeine and drugs also imposed definite damages to the unborn child.
(to be continued)

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2001Aug Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore

The Conscious Baby Birth Initiative

The Conscious Baby Birth Initiative

Thanks to the pioneers of prenatal and perinatal psychology, we are gaining awareness of how birth profoundly imprints itself on our lifelong health and behavior. Verny writes, How he is born, whether it is painful or easy, smooth or violent , largely determines who he becomes and how he will view the world around him. Whether he is five, ten, forty or seventy, a part of him always looks at the world through the eyes of the newly born child he once was. (1981, p. 97)

In his landmark study, Chamberlain (1986) found that under hypnosis children were able to recall very minute details of their birth experiences. These stories were matched to the reports given by their mothers who were also under hypnosis. Chamberlain concludes,

The content of birth memories suggests a sophisticated level of physical, mental and emotional consciousness at birth, beyond anything predicted by developmental psychology. In this light, many routine practices in obstetrics need to be re-evaluated from the baby’s point of view. (1986, p. 94)

The purpose of this paper is to suggest ways to facilitate a better birthing experience for all newborns based on the belief that babies are physically, mentally and emotionally conscious at birth.

Babies Are Conscious At Birth

A growing body of experimental, clinical and anecdotal evidence supports the idea that consciousness exists before and during birth. Wade (1998) points out that in regression many people are able to recount incidences that took place long before any significant brain development has occurred. The therapeutic work of Chamberlain, Castellino and Emerson, among others, acknowledges, validates and strives to heal the often traumatic birth memories individuals of all ages harbor.

Sensory Consciousness

Physically, an emerging newborn is well aware of his or her environment during the birth. Most senses are well developed in the full-term newborn and have developed many weeks before birth. During birth a child is capable of hearing, touching, tasting and smelling everything around him or her. Some suspect that the newborn’s senses are more keen than the senses of adults’ present during birth. Leboyer states that birth is “a sensory experience so vast (for the newborn) we can barely conceive of it” (1975, p. 15).

Care Of The Sense

Leboyer (1975) brought light to the elements necessary for welcoming new people gently into the world. Listed below are some suggestions for the birthing environment based on what we know about the senses of new people.

Seeing – Because a baby’s eyes are so sensitive and used to seeing light filtered through mother’s belly, the lights should be dimmed. We must allow baby’s eyes to adjust to the outside world slowly and without shock. Hearing – Likewise, a baby is used to hearing sounds that are muffled by flesh and fluid so speech should be soft and noises should be kept to a minimum. Tasting – If possible, nothing should be placed in the newborn’s mouth before he or she has a chance to breastfeed. Babies are prepared for and expecting to taste their mother’s breast milk soon after birth. Imposing bottles or syringes on them during the perinatal period is invasive and detrimental to bonding. Smelling – Babies are precisely sensitive to smells. The birth environment, especially in a hospital setting, can be overwhelming to the olfactory system. We must be mindful of the potency of the natural and non-natural agents used around the baby during birth. Touching – We speak to the child through touch (Leboyer, 1975). Through touch we communicate love, fear, tenderness, violence, confidence, ineptitude, etc. With that in mind how might we handle the newborn? Within seconds after birth, mother’s hands should be the hands that welcome her children and reassure them that they made it and they are safe and loved. Anyone else who has contact with the baby should use respectful, loving touch when handling the newborn.

Mental And Emotional Consciousness

The work of Van de Carr (1988), Manrique (1998) and Panthuraamphorn (1998) yields proof that babies are learning in utero. More and more parents are talking to, playing music for and bonding with their unborn babies. If babies can learn in utero, one could easily infer that they are learning during birth as well. Not only are prenates taking in the sensations of the birthing environment, they are mentally processing the information and developing patterns of being in the world based on the information gathered. For example, Chamberlain (1988) describes the story of Stewart an adult patient who grew up believing he was a “difficult kid” and “not normal like the regular children.” When he was regressed back to his birth during a psychotherapy session he discovered the source of these core beliefs about himself. During his labor, the doctor became angry and frustrated that Stewart was not “dropping” into the birth canal. Subsequently, the doctor told Stewart’s mother that she had a “stubborn child” who was “difficult” and “would be late for everything” (1988, p. 4). When we gain access to the sources of our core beliefs therapeutically, often we are able to acknowledge and re-pattern the way we exist in the world.

Babies are not only affected by the words said to them during birth but also the emotions surrounding the event as well. In his book, From Parent to Child: The Psychic Link, Jones discusses the telepathic connection between the mother and her unborn child.

The unborn child is affected by what the mother thinks, feels and experiences. Tension in the delivery room can contribute to problems just as much, if not more so, than bacteria. On the other hand, positive thoughts directed to the mother and baby can contribute to a more rewarding experience for both. (1989, p. 90)

Mental And Emotional Care

A powerful and positive birth setting is created when everyone in attendance is able to slow down and hold the image of the emerging baby as a conscious, sensitive and aware person who has the innate knowledge of how to be born (McCarty, 1996). Addressing the baby and telling him or her what is happening to both baby and mother during the birth is also important. This is most crucial during any invasive procedures. Through re-birthing and other therapeutic techniques that allow people to re-experience their births, we know that often birth is scary, stressful and painful for the newborn. Verbally reassuring babies that they are safe and supported during their journey can alleviate some of the fear they experience.

Leaving the womb is a profound transition and can be disorienting and shocking to the system. Once the baby is born, everyone in attendance must be mindful of how they place their attention on the baby. “The more we can learn how to be present, relaxed and centered in our own bodies, the more babies can then stay oriented, connected and present with their own” (McCarty, 1996, p. 25). Above all, the birthing environment should be filled with love, joy and reverence for the newborn child.

The Effects Of Drugs On The Newborn
Through a monumental review of the literature, Brackbill (1985) concluded that drugs administered during labor and delivery significantly effect the infant’s behavior. Some of the known effects of drugs on the baby are listed by Simkin (1991): Abnormal fetal heart rate, interference with normal newborn reflexes, inhibited sucking response, difficulty with breathing and excessive drowsiness.

Of 59 published studies, not one found any beneficial effect of anesthetic medication on the infant (Brackbill, 1985). From the perspective of the child there should be no drugs used during labor and delivery. Since there are situations when drugs are necessary such as cesarean deliveries, they should be used with great caution and parent and the babies should be informed of the possible effects of the drugs.

Bonding

Bonding is the process by which a secure attachment is formed which ensures the continued care necessary for survival of the new child. Bonding is the original and immediate connection between mother and baby (Gaskin, 1990). Both newborn and mom are instinctually prepared for and expecting to bond face-to-face, skin-to-skin and mouth-to-breast immediately after birth and for the next several months. According to Castellino (1997), “Healthy bonding and attachment are the outcome of a whole series of events that are somatic, neurophysiological and psychological in nature” (p. 18). It is therefore, essential that babies remain with their mothers immediately after birth so bonding can begin.

Upon delivery, and before the child is take away from the mother for bathing, weighing and other interventions, he or she should be placed naked on the mother’s abdomen. In that position the child smells her smell, feels her warmth and hears her voice. Once again they are together yet seeing each other for the first time. Shortly after birth the child enters a quiet alert state. During this time the newborn is very still, often molded to the mother’s abdomen, but able to see, hear and respond to their new environment. At this time most mothers coo at and stroke their babies.

For the next hour, if the surroundings are calm, and the baby received no pain medication via the mother during labor, he or she will begin a process called delivery self-attachment. Delivery self-attachment describes a newborn’s ability to find their way to the mother’s breast, latch on and begin suckling (Castellino, 1997). The four-part delivery self-attachment sequence is as follows: For the first 30 minutes, the newborn remains in the quiet alert state looking up at the mother and observing their new environment. Between 30 and 45 minutes the lips begin smacking and the infant begins to drool. With support under the feet, the baby begins to inch forward towards the breast. During this time the infant is moving and resting throughout the climb. When the infant reaches the level of the mother’s breast he or she will begin rooting around for the nipple. Finally between 45 and 60 minutes the baby latches on to the areola and baby latches on to the areola and begins to nurse (Klaus, Kennell and Klaus, 1995).

As noted above, new mothers are equipped with bonding instincts as well. For example, early nipple stimulation by the newborn during breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is responsible for naturally contracting the uterus and reducing blood flow as well as signaling milk let-down. Subsequently, each time the baby nurses, mom’s oxytocin level increases which has a claming effect on the mother and naturally increases mother’s affinity towards her baby (Klaus, Kennell and Klaus, 1995). In essence, the bonding system is set up so that nurturing begets nurturing.

Conclusion

No longer can society afford to ignore the consciousness of the newborn and the detrimental effects of most current methods of birthing. We must honor and respect the birthing process and yield to the innate wisdom of the newborn. I am strongly committed to working towards raising humanity to the next level of evolution. I know that one dramatic way to make this leap is to change how babies are treated during and immediately after birth. Based on some of the ideas presented above, I can envision a document which outlines eveidence-based ways we can create the optimal birth setting for all new people. Perhaps it will be called ‘The Conscious Baby Birth Initiative.’

References

Brackbill, Y. (1985). Medication in Maternity. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Chamberlain, D.B. (1986). Reliability of birth memories: Evidence from mother and child pairs in hypnosis. Journal of American Academy of Medical Hynoanalysis, 1(2), 89-98.

Chamberlain, D.B. (1988). The significance of birth memories. Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology, 2(4), 208-226.

Castellino, R. (1997). The caregiver’s role in birth and newborn self-attachment needs. Available from Castellino Training Seminars, 1105 N. Ontare, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.

Gaskin, I.M. (1990). Spiritual Midwifery. Summertown, TN: The Book Publishing Company.

Jones, C. (1989). From Parent to Child: The Psychic Link. NY: Warner Books.

Klaus, M., Kennell, J. and Klaus, P. (1995). Bonding: Building a Foundation for Secure Attachment and Independence. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Leboyer, F. (1975). Birth Without Violence. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

McCarty, W.A. (1997). What Babies are Teaching Us. Available from Wondrous Beginnings, 5662 Calle Real, #221 Goleta, CA 93117.

Paranthuraamphorn, C. (1998). Prenatal infant stimulation program. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. 12(3&4).

Simkin, P. (1991). Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Van de Carr, F.R. & Lehrer, M. (1998). Prenatal University: Commitment to fetal-family bonding and the strengthening of the family unit as an educational institution. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. 12(3&4).

Verny, T. (1986). The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. New York, NY: Dell.

Wade, J. (1998). Physically transcendent awareness: A Comparison of the phenomenology of consciousness before birth and after death. Journal of Near-Death Studies. 16(4), 249-275.

Carrie Contey, M.Ed., M.A., has been passionate about birth, babies and parenthood since she was a child herself. She has dedicated her adult life to pursuing the academic study and hands-on art of early parenthood and optimal human development. Currently she is completing her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a focus on prenatal and perinatal psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute in California. Along with Early Parent Coaching, Carrie is a Certified Whole Person Fertility Specialist as well a Marriage & Family Therapist Intern working with families at Beginnings, Inc. in Los Olivos, CA. Since teaches pre-conception preparation, prenatal parenting and toddler classes locally and nationally.

To learn more about Carrie and the work she is doing please visit www.earlyparenting.com. You can contact Carrie directly via email at carrie@earlyparenting.com or by phone at 805-687-2646.

To learn more about prenatal and perinatal psychology please visit: www.birthpsychology.com and www.sbgi.edu

Nurturing The Unborn Child (Part 1)

A nine-month programme for soothing, stimulating and communicating with your baby (Part 1)

Introduction:

Scientists have recently discovered that the foetus is a very sensitive individual. Not only can it develop a very strong bonding with its pregnant mother and father, it can also respond to the outside world.

A 4-month-old foetus can feel the strong rays of light shone on its mother’s stomach and is able to raise its hand to cover its eyes. It also has senses of touch and taste. The sense of hearing is developed when the foetus is 5 months old. New York Einstein Medical College also pointed out that the brains of foetuses who are 28 to 32 weeks old have learning ability.

Physically speaking, whatever the mother has drunk, eaten and smelt will be passed on to the baby through blood circulation. Emotionally speaking, the baby will also be affected. For instance, if the mother is under great stress for a long time, the actions and behaviours of the mother will also influence the baby greatly. When the mother caresses her stomach, talks, sings, or dances, the foetus will know that the mother is “there”, and it will move its body or kick to respond to the mother. The mother should be able to differentiate between a happy kick and a disturbed kick.

The baby’s experience at birth will also have some influence on its way of life in the future. Recent reports show that, babies who experience difficult births are more likely to commit suicide or use drugs as compared to those who have smooth deliveries. These early experiences not only reflect a child’s personality, they will also have unimaginable effect on the child’s future physical and emotional development.

The “Womb-Regulating Method” introduced here can help u and your spouse to bring up a cool-headed and confident child who is able to lead a happy life. This method is easy, systematic and it can explore the baby’s intellectual and emotional potentials fully. When you begin to practise this method, firstly, you have to be fully relaxed, in order to remove the hormones built up in your body due to anxiety and stress. Not only will constant practice enhance your ability of managing your emotions, it will also enhance the relationship between the husband and wife and reinforce family cohesiveness. Your unborn baby will be able to feel the warmth and love throughout the entire process.

This method has 47 practices that can be adjusted according to the needs of the mother and foetus. Some of these practices can be carried out repeatedly throughout the 9 months of pregnancy, whereas some have to be carried out at specific stages of pregnancy.

Overture
First month: The beginning

If you discover that you are pregnant, you will have mixed feelings of happiness, uncertainty, fear etc. The sooner you are able to recognise these emotions, the easier your pregnancy will be. Your unborn child needs love just like you need food and air. Hence, you and your spouse should constantly emphasise positive feelings. Listening to classical music helps you to stay calm and to understand your inner feelings. According to research findings, the rhythm of classical music ranges from 60 to 70 beats per minute. This is rather close to the heart beat of human being at resting state. It will help to enhance the ability of concentration and keeping calm. Rock music or sound of siren and alarms have negative effect on the unborn child.

Womb-Regulating Method

Practice 1

Listening to music can help you to relax, to calm your growing baby down and to stimulate the brain cells responsible for concentration and learning abilities. We suggest using Bach, Mozart, Handel, Corelli and Vivaldi’s classical music. Your spouse’s or best friend’s musical recordings will also be able to achieve similar effects. Do it at least twice a week and each time should last 60 minutes.

Note: Do not listen to music that will cause you and your baby to fall asleep.

Practice 2

Give yourself some quiet time, this practice can help you to maintain clarity of mind and positive thinking. You have to relax your body and be free of worries. Sports psychologists often use this method to enhance concentration and performance in sports.

Do it for 20 minutes a day and you’ll feel recharged and refreshed. First, find a quiet corner in your house, sit on a comfortable chair and listen to music for 10 minutes (You may use the music found in our cassette tapes or any popular light music). Then listen to the instructions pre-recorded by you or your spouse. Do not attempt to analyse that audio recording, let it bring you to an imaginative world.

Close your eyes, take 2 deep breaths. Continue to breathe deeply and evenly, put your attention on the rhythm of breathing in and out, on the feeling of your body or any imagination, feelings, emotions that’s related to yourself. If there’s any intrusion of unrelated thoughts, let them go like white clouds drifting across the horizon.

Now, concentrate on your feet, pay attention to the pressure placed on your feet and the way the feet are positioned. Pay attention to your soles, heels, toes and ankles. Now, curl your toes towards your soles, as if attempting to touch the soles with your toes. Curl your toes further down, down, down and stop. Alright, relax.

Inhale, exhale, relax, relax. Every breath is able to make you feel more relaxed, but not to make you feel sleepy. You are still fully awake but completely relaxed. Now, shift your attention to your calves, the part from your knees to your ankles. Tighten every muscle in your calves, tighten, tighten, tighten, alright, relax. Inhale, exhale, relax, relax. Every breath will help to make your body more and more relaxed.

Now, tighten every muscle in your thighs. Tighten every muscle in your lower abdomen. Tighten every muscle in your buttocks. Tighten, tighten, tighten, alright, relax.

Inhale, exhale, relax, relax. Continue to breathe in and out smoothly. Every breath taken in will bring you lots of oxygen and energy. Every breath let out will get rid of carbon dioxide and waste gases in your body. Imagine with every breath taken in, you have inhaled all the love and support in the world; with every breath let out, you have released all negative emotions and anxiety.

Now, let’s focus on another part of your body – the spine, from the upper part of your neck right up to lower waist. Press this part of your body closely against the chair. Press harder, harder, maintain this posture, alright, relax. Feel the tiredness in your back and chest.

Inhale, exhale, relax, relax. Every breath will help your body to relax. When you inhale, every muscle and cell is nourished and energised. When you exhale, every muscle and cell is cleansed. Your body and your unborn baby will enjoy this exercise totally.

Now, focus on your shoulder, neck and all your anxiety, stress and worries. Raise your shoulders towards your ears, as if you are trying to touch your ears with your shoulders. Raise it up, up and up, alright, relax.

Inhale, exhale, relax, relax. Now raise your hands up a few centimetres, clench your fists, clench hard, hard and harder, alright, relax.

Inhale, exhale, relax, relax. Continue to breathe in and out evenly. Every breath will help you to be more relaxed. You will feel comfortable and secure.

Now, focus on your face, pay attention to every muscle around your eyes, mouth and chin. Now close your eyes, tighten the muscle around your mouth, tighten, tighten, tighten, alright, relax.

Inhale, exhale, relax, relax. Now your body and mind are relaxed. The music is going to be played soon. Listen to the music, let it bring you to all the places that you should go to. Go with the flow of the music, don’t force yourself. You deserve to feel relaxed, you have to relax, your unborn child has to relax too.

After you’ve finished listening to this music, you’ll be completely relaxed and feel refreshed. (Play music for 10 minutes.)

Now, slowly regain your initial state. Move your fingers and toes, open your eyes, remember to maintain this calm state. You should still be relaxed, use your five senses to feel the surrounding. Now that you are recharged and relaxed, you can stand up and continue with your day.

*The person who is recording the instructions should do it slowly and calmly. Pause where appropriate.

Practice 3: Writing diary (Focus on emotions)

In your diary, you can vent any uneasy feelings you have deep in your heart. When you are able to acknowledge your emotions, you will develop a sense of responsibility and will make positive changes in your daily life.

(To be continued)

All “PLAY” Before Seven Years Old

Anthroposophy highly emphasizes the importance of “play for children during their first stage of development, which is from 0-7 years old or before the changing of primary teeth.  This is contrary to contemporary learning methods which emphasize more on knowledge acquisition.  However, this “play” is unique, and how can we provide an environment to support children in their play that will lead to a wholesome and healthy body, mind and spirit?

Since 1998, the Lapis Lazuli Light magazines have continuously published materials by Dr. Steiner on children education.  This information has brought to my understanding of how anthroposophy takes a holistic approach in taking care of a child’s body, mind and spirit.  It is fortunate that my children are enrolled in the Rudolf Steiner’s kindergarten to “play”, that I have a chance to observe the way the School leads the children.  Parents may wonder how they are going to “play with their children” at home.  Instead of saying “playing” all day, the more appropriate way to say is how to plan for our children’s daily activities.  Hopefully, my observations on the Waldorf School, along with my own experience, can be used as a reference for you.

THE RYHTHM OF EXPANSION AND CONTRACTION

Rhythm is highly emphasized in Waldorf’s education.  This living rhythm is just like breathing, inhaling and exhaling, contracting and expanding.  With a rhythmic lifestyle, parents will find it easier to take care of their children; there will be less incidence happening and children will also form healthy habits from this lifestyle.  At the Waldorf School, the day starts with outdoor activities, while the School waits for all children to arrive.  After the children enter the classroom, they may begin with a drawing lesson.  After that, it can be free leisure time, and then all are seated and drink water.  Next, they may form a circle and do some singing or to play some games, and then followed by a tea break…. From this example, it is obvious that there is a rhythm of expansion and contraction.  I feel that it is very considerate of the teachers to specifically add a “water drinking time” into this rhythm.  My family also tries to incorporate this kind of expanding and contracting rhythm into our daily family activities.  This will not only let the children learn to naturally engage in activities that involve movement and stillness, but also enhance their etheric (qi) body.

I know of a mother, a Lapis Lazuli Light member who has successfully arranged a well planned daily routine for her child.  In addition to this routine, her child is on a pure organic food diet (at least 99%, even the nappies are made from organic cotton), dinner is served early (the dinner serving is smaller and the child goes to bed punctually at 8pm).  This child has been sleeping very well since young, and the appetite is amazingly good.  When I asked this mother what to do when a child was ill, she said she was very sorry but she could not help me because her child was never sick.  She said she would not have a clue if her child had a slightest cold.  I think she is a role model for us.

GET INVOLVED IN THE TRANSORMING PROCESS AND EMPHASIZE THE MOVEMENTS OF FINGERS AND FOUR LIMBS

The Waldorf teachers try diligently to let children see the transformations of physical things or experience the rhythms of the year and seasons. Throughout the changing of the four seasons, there are always different displays in the classrooms, reflecting the changes in spring, summer, autumn and winter, or illustrating the observations and celebrations of different festivals. Generally, this can be easily done in most households. For example, when we celebrate Chinese New Year, we always paste Chinese calligraphy, light fireworks; during the Dumpling Festival, we would stick stalks of myrrh and make dumplings; such activities allow the children to be involved in the traditional customs and festivals.

Generally during lessons, the teachers would let the children make flour from wheat using a hand grinder, and then the wheat flour is used to make bread. The children are also taught to use strings to make into ropes; other activities include playing with sand, molding beeswax, sewing, planting flowers, and all other activities that allow the children to experience and to get involved in the process that starts from scratch and have it made into something. In effect, the children get to exercise their fingers.

The teachers also incorporate specially designed lessons into singing and game sessions, leading the children to exercise each and every finger while they sing and play. What is the benefit of moving the hands? When children exercise their little bones and muscles (especially those of their hands), these movements stimulate the growth of brain cells. Research also found that children with clumsy fingers tend to make more mistakes in their mathematical tests. We ought to be aware that a lot of commercial toys tend to minimize the movements of children’s hands. The worst type is those toys that only require pressing a button to play. In fact, these toys were initially designed for the handicapped. Yet now, these toys are commonly marketed. We ought to encourage more finger-moving activities such as molding clay to form into birds, etc., in order to stimulate children’s imagination, and not taking the mold of a bird and directly mold the clay into the given shape. After cutting teeth, it is then more suitable for the fingers to play tool-like toys.

NATURAL INGREDIENTS

Whenever I step into the Waldorf School, I immediately feel nurtured by being in the environment. I see all elegant and beautiful displays; the ingredients used are as pure and natural as possible, I am tempted to turn my home into something similar.

There are many tools and toys in class for free-playtime, for example, different sizes of glass stones, wooden blocks (more of round and smooth shapes), rubber tree seeds, shells, wooden or cloth puppets, wooden, metal or ceramic household toy utensils (bowls, plates, cups, forks, spoons), some rugs or silk cloths, little backpacks or bags, various kinds of costumes: princess, warriors, witch hat, etc. Larger tools include frames (two movable frames topped with a cloth becomes a little house), wooden horses, swaying cradle (when overturned, can be made into a little ladder), so on and so forth.

For outdoor activities, there are usually wooden sandboxes, swings and so on, children are also encouraged to climb trees, to run and jump. Any kinds of simple natural ingredients, a few pieces of logs are enough to allow the children to express their potential creativity.

At the school, the candles used at school are made of natural beeswax, beeswax clay is used for playing and molding, natural wool fiber is used for stuffing sewed dolls. Snacks served are all organic and freshly-made food or bread freshly baked from the flour kneaded by everyone in the bread making class the day before. These natural ingredients may not be cheap, but the good intentions from the school are obvious, and it is hoped that children are in contact with natural ingredients since young, so that the children’s little spirit are not influenced by overly beautiful artificial colour or inflexible plastic toys.

REAL LIFE LEARNING

After everyone is seated for a meal, the teachers usually lead everyone to sing a song of gratitude, then two children are assigned to help, the teachers prepare the meals and beverages, and these two children help bring food and water to every child. When a child is done eating, he/she is responsible for bringing his/her own plates and cups and leave them in a big steel basin. If there are leftovers, the food must first be thrown into a bucket. In another Waldorf School, children are required to clean up the tables and even wash the dishes; the teachers let the children learn to help so that the children know better how to help out at home.

What is worth mentioning is that all the bowls used are ceramic and cups are made of glasses, however, the incident of breakages is very minimal. Compared to kindergartens that use only plastic plates or disposal cutlery, this kind of special feeling is more than the word “warmth” can say.

Because I always have many things to do, as soon as my children are asleep, I would attend to my own chores (especially those that require computer), and try to leave the housework until later when my children are awake so that they can help with the housework, after all, the kids and I spend time together all day, why not let the children “play” with me for a while and I “play” with them for a while. In fact, in doing so actually corresponds to the anthroposophy education concept, that is, early childhood learning is largely experiential, imitative and sensory based.

When my children started to stand, they would crawl on the side of my dish washing sink and “observe”. In cutting vegetables, I would give them a little blunt knife so that they would not be hurt even if they cut themselves; to make incense offering in the morning, I would place the candles first and my children would help to light them; in making buns, my children would help add in flour, water, …., that is engaging the kids to do little things that are within their capabilities. My requirements are very simple, the first few rounds are the “observational” stage, and they can only observe and listen to my explanations. My only principle is that if they do not follow instructions, they have to leave and lose their choice to play (rules such as: do not point the knife towards others, do not intentionally throw the dough on the floor), very soon my children learn in what ways they get to play with the adults.

Unlike other adults, I usually do not worry about certain things that children may do, such as using knife, lighting fire, handling needles and thread, all I do is teach them how to avoid danger, and my children have never been hurt from such activities. Of course my tolerance level is high, I do not even mind if my children grab the soil in the vegetable garden and put the soil into their mouth, because I know that once they taste it, they know that such a thing does not taste good, so there is no reason to prohibit them from doing many things. (Little kids begin by using their tongues as the sensual organ, which is why they tend to put everything into their mouth).

“Eating” is a very important issue in my family, because we live in a foreign country, there is limited variety of healthy Chinese vegetarian food, and whole wheat, organic produce are very expensive. To ensure that we eat quality food at home, I choose to grow my own food and make my own meals. My children follow me to the vegetable garden everyday, every week they have a chance to accompany me in making various types of buns (mantou), steamed twisted rolls, bread, etc, and my children’s favourite chores are to help out in making jelly, grass jelly (chinchow), ice cream and other snacks, and they also know that they do not get to eat if they do not help out. A mother in our neighbourhood, always quickly makes use of the time when her children are asleep to make buns, because she feels that the children are clumsy and would hinder her when she does housework. So her children has never helped with housework and do not know how to do any housework. Whereas for my children, they follow me in doing different kinds of housework, my eldest daughter was able to help me roll dumpling skin when she was only two years old. This reminds me of what Confucius said about himself “I had been very poor since young, so I am versatile in doing things.” Perhaps it is because of Confucius’ versatility, that he later had such accomplishments!

PLAYING WITH MY CHILDREN

I started spending more time to play with my children when they were two to three years old. The criterion is: play with things that I also enjoy or that have positive meanings.

We often played with recycled paper products, we would use hole puncher to make holes, use thread to bind the paper into booklets, or use the paper for drawing, paste paper parts, origami, or make cards. I always feel that it is worthy to teach children handicraft, because they really like cutting and pasting, once they get it, they will play on their own.

Once, I picked and printed out some interesting Chinese children songs, and picked related pictures from recycled magazines and let the children cut and paste, to make into their own Chinese children songbook. My daughter was only three. Since she was the one who paste the pictures, she was able to identify all the nursery rhymes that she was singing. She felt a good sense of accomplishment.

When I saw my children’s classmates following the “trend” in using cane baskets to carry lunch boxes, I really enjoyed this revival of the ‘good old days’. Eventually there were more and more cane baskets in my home, used mostly for keeping my children’s toys, though sometimes the children and I would bring the baskets to the park to collect some interesting ingredients to bring home (for handicraft purposes). For example, we would collect the walnut shells (walnuts have been eaten by squirrels) for toys, or collect seeds from big trees (to be used as stuffing material). The seeds from maple trees collected are thrown from upstairs to show the children the amazing natural spins of the descending seeds, or the seeds can also be pasted on paper to make into pictures of birds. When we were living in the dormitory, there was a soap tree, and we would collect soap balls from the tree. The soap balls would be soaked into water to make natural soap water to wash my children’s nappies. When my children wanted to take a stroll, we would walk around the neighbourhood and at the same time pick up some litter; in effect they learn to create merit since young. Frequently whenever we wanted to pick up the litter, there would be plastic bags lying around; with the plastic bags we do not need to carry the litters in our hands.

COMMUNITY MUMS

Together with a few mothers in my community we formed an informal meeting group. It started when I gave some of the mothers Lapis Lazuli Light magazines; some mothers began to be interested in vegetarian diet, some came to borrow vegetarian recipes because these mothers felt nauseated when they were presented with meat in their diet during pregnancy. So I came up with the idea that everyone come to my place and have cooking lessons with the children! Since then on every Wednesday, we would guide the children in kneading dough and make bread or pizza, etc (the mothers would take turns to come up with the menu), the children would play with the dough and the mother would participate in dough making while sharing daily experiences. The mothers would then prepare a vegetable soup, and when the bread was baking, the children would play outdoor. When the bread was done, the children got to eat their own hand-made animal shaped bread and drink soup. Those children who normally did not like eating rice and vegetables all had great appetite.

I am always highly protective of my children from various external pollutions. That is why we do not have a TV and there is no junk food at home. Initially I minimized my contact with my neighbours because I noticed that when children get together, there will always be some generous aunties distributing candies to the children. In our community, there are some children activities, many mothers would send their children there, so that they themselves can take a break. Whereas for me, I never let my children join such activities because the snacks prepared in such functions are prohibitive in my household, if I do not allow my children to eat those snacks during the parties, I am afraid that will generate mental imbalance in my children, and I am worried that my children may pick up some bad habits from these interactions. Over time our mother-children parties generated very positive meaning. On the one hand due to the Lapis Lazuli Light magazines, all the mothers had a common understanding, we all learned to use healthy ingredients for food, and on the other hand, by allowing the children to be practically involved in playing and cooking, the children were happy and the adults got to share their experiences in bringing up the kids. I learned a lot from all these.

With the community mother group, we always had ideas coming in that benefit many people. During a Dumpling Festival, all of us came up with some good ideas. I suggested letting the children sew a pouch that had real protection effect (footnote 1), some mothers taught the children to make the Dumpling Festival décor from folding paper, some mothers helped children to tie colour strings on their arm to protect them from evil, etc, and all the mothers made dumplings together. The children got to eat and play, that was really an unforgettable festival.

This college community mother group ended when most of us graduated and left the place, and I also moved to a new environment. It is very difficult to maintain a healthy living environment for my children, my daughter picked up nails painting during her visit to her new neighbour, when she came home she used crayon to paint her fingernails. When the parents of her classmate invited her over to play, I had to first explain to the parents that I do not allow my children to watch TV or eat junk food but fruit snack is acceptable. But to my great surprise, this classmate of my daughter is a Barbie doll fan, and so I later had to explain to my daughter’s friend that I am trying very hard not to let my daughter play with this kind of toys, that I hoped she would understand and would not bring her Barbie doll to my home anymore.

I am sure all parents wish to find their children perfect playmates so that they can grow and have fun in a healthy environment while having good models and picking up good behaviours, thus it is highly crucial if we can find parents that share the common understanding. I have been talking to several Lapis Lazuli Light mothers and realise that most mothers hope to be able to find others who share the same concept in their living areas, especially new mothers who are breast feeding or mothers who need friends’ support and advice when their children fall sick. It would be even better if there can be Lapis Lazuli Light community mothers’ gatherings. Here, I am willing to be the initiator, if you wish to get to know the Lapis Lazuli Light mothers in your areas, regardless of where you are, please contact me. You may actually find someone who is nearby your place! (to be continued)

CONTACT:
VIA FAX (USA) : 1-425-940-2044
VIA EMAIL : rt2209@yahoo.com

Footnote 1:

Ingredients for pouch: equal portions of sea salt, sand, cinnamon powder, sublimed sulfur powder. Keep the mixture in a small pouch and put next to the bed or hang in the car, etc. This helps ward off evil and protect the individual.

Reference: “How to Counteract Environmental Poisons”, Hanna Kroeger publications, ISBN: 1-883713-15-3

How To Raise and Feed Babies

Experience From The Lapis Lazuli Light Mums (I)

Translated by Yih Pin Tang
Raising and feeding babies are always a key threshold for all inexperienced mothers. There are usually questions such as “How should babies be fed during this period?” “What are the incidents that happen frequently?” “How do we deal with them?” Here we specially invited a few Lapis Lazuli Light mothers to share their experience. Although we are not the specialists, we do hope that with the collection of everyone’s effort, a smooth path will be laid out for the future Lapis Lazuli Light mothers, or at least keep them from making the same mistakes. However, each child has his/her own unique characters and body, so we are only sharing our own experience with you. In feeding and raising children, there are way too many negligible matters to take care of. The older generation has taken care of many children and is highly experienced, so remember to ask the older mothers around you for advice.

In practising the Lapis Lazuli Light concepts of protecting the environment, caring for lives and nurturing the body, mind and spirits of children, you are welcome to raise questions regarding raising and educating children should you have any queries, and it is also hoped that you would share your experience with us. Please contact us via fax to USA (1-425-940-2044) or by email (rt2209@yahoo.com) and simply write attention to “For LLL moms”.

How To Prepare Non-Staple Food?
This topic was actually covered much earlier in the August 1998 Lapis Lazuli Light Chinese Magazine, with experience shared by Mandy Hsieh [please refer to “健康素寶寶怎麼吃?” or [meaning in English: “What do Healthy Vegetarian Babies Eat?”]. After that article was published, many vegetarian moms had first referred to it before they fed their babies non-staple food. We would like to recommend that article to you, because it contains a lot of crucial information which will not be repeated in this article.

Feng Juan [name spelled by pinyin]:
After my baby got used to eating fruits, I started boiling vegetable soups for her when she was nine months old. For each meal, only one type of vegetable was used, and it was mainly the seasonal vegetables, such as carrot, cucumber, knot-vegetables, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. After the vegetable soup was cooked, it was mashed using a blender. After making sure that my baby was not allergic to any of these vegetables, I started to feed her with vegetable and brown rice porridge. As for the rice porridge ingredient, I used brown rice, millet and quinoa, whereas vegetable was always one kind every time. Initially, I tried to add water to the rice that was soaked overnight, mashed and cook the rice, but the food frequently got a little burned due to my negligence. So I later switched to another method; in the early morning, I would first add water to the soaked brown rice and bring to a boil, and then off heat and keep the pot covered for one to two hours, and then add in vegetables and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes. (The pot I used was a ceramic pot). Although this method was more time consuming, I find the vegetable porridge prepared in this way softer and finer in taste, and my child liked it better. For a different taste and for variety, I also soaked a mixture of rolled oats and raisins overnight, and then cooked for her the next day. Sometimes I used organic brown rice bran, add in molasses, stir into paste, and then fed it to her. After she past one year of age, I slowly let her eat the same diet as ours, but I would always add more water to the rice and cook a little longer so that the rice was softer and pappier.

Shu Juan [name spelled by pinyin]:
In feeding fruits to my baby, I most often use a small teaspoon (one that is thinner) to scrape and mash the fruits. After one teaspoon of mashed fruits is fed to her, then I would scrape the next spoonful, this makes the feeding more convenient, and prevents oxidized or discolored fruit mash; fruits such as apples, guava and pears can be fed this way, whereas other types such as jamrosade/rose apple (also known as jambu air in Singapore/Malaysia), grapes and dates require a blender. For raw food, my son quite liked finely chopped alfalfa sprouts and carrots (but he would not eat it if mashed), but his sister did not like it. For the first few months, I had to blend raw food, and then add some wheat germ crackers to get her to eat, and she could eat up to half a bowl each time. Now she likes it even without the crackers. For cooked food, in the beginning I adopted Ms. Mandy Hsieh’s method; I would grind the rice that was soaked overnight into powder, and then cooked it. That was really convenient, but both my son and daughter did not like mushy food. So I switched to cooking sweet potato porridge, kelp porridge, cabbage and carrot porridge, mixed vegetables porridge, vegetable cakes, sesame oil five-grain rice, etc., but they only consumed small amount. When my children were below one year old, I fed them with plain food without any seasonings. After one year old, I added a small amount of miso or sea salt. My son’s appetite improved only after all of his teeth had grown. Initially, he simply had a light tasting of food, and his preference for food also changed over time. For example, at first he loved to eat bananas, but later he would not even take a bite. Now he likes everything. We were so worried that he would become picky with his food, just like the kids of our friends and relatives around us. Luckily after all his teeth were grown, his appetite improved, and after that I think he loved all food except bittergourd. He is now four years old and has excellent appetite and eats about the same amount of food as we do.

My daughter’s appetite was not consistent, though. She would normally try a few bites, and stopped eating when she did not feel hungry. Sometimes she liked rice, so I would serve the three-grain or five-grain rice from the rice cooker (I found the mixture of brown rice, millet and red rice has a nice chewy texture, especially if mixed with glutinous millet, I would serve the rice hot in a bowl, mixed with cold pressed sesame oil, grapeseed oil and a bit of organic black bean soy sauce, almost like the savory pork-oil mixed with rice that we used to eat when we were little (this mixed grain rice was served only after they past one year old). Since the mother’s milk was not readily available, at times when my daughter really refused to eat anything, I would turn to my last resort: wheatgerm crackers soaked in soup, then she would take half a bowl to one bowl, I sometimes used soup from porridge, sometimes I would make a three-grains gruel or apple-carrot juice, etc, and add in a small piece of wheat germ crackers (bought from an organic food shop). She quite liked it, and that could at least supplement her with some water substance.

Rachel:
When I prepared meals for my babies, because I was too lazy to slowly cook the food until mushy, or to use grinder to grind food (it was too troublesome to wash the machine), I emulated the ancients by chewing the food in my mouth, and then spit it out to feed my babies. I personally felt that it was the most convenient way, but my mother-in-law could not accept that and described to me the elaborative preparations other mothers have done for their babies. I suddenly had an idea and replied, my chewing the food would help the baby to digest the food (the amylase in saliva helps to digest carbohydrates), and on top of this, I added, in Taiwanese dialect, “she eats my saliva and she listens to me”. In fact, I was merely trying to find an excuse for my laziness. Amazingly, my gentle mother-in-law accepted it and stopped commenting. One day, two years later, she seriously said to me, “You are right, this child really listens to you!” This part is shared with you as a joke, but you may try it if you wish. The funnier part is that my second baby did not like ground food, she frequently would place whatever food into her mouth, and spit out what she had chewed and yet not able to swallow, and eventually the food ended up in my stomach. And now I as the mother have eaten lots of my daughter’s saliva, I wonder who is going to listen to whom in future? What an immediate life-time retribution!

What Shall I Encourage Children To Eat And Why? What Shouldn’t I Let Children Eat, Or Eat Only After A Certain Age?

Shu Juan [name spelled by pinyin]:
I encourage babies to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, because what I have learned from the Lapis Lazuli Light message is that fresh and natural food is what we are meant to eat. I would restrain my babies from eating processed food or snacks with artificial flavouring, colouring or additives.

Feng Juan [name spelled by pinyin]:
From ten months, in order to let the child get used to raw food, we served a little amount of sprout in the rice or noodles, and encouraged her to eat. Now, my child not only eats half a bowl of sprouts before meal, but also frequently goes into the kitchen to eat the sprouts that we have already washed. After reading the book, Incarnating Child by Joan Salter, whenever I choose ingredients, I would be very careful not to let the child eat vegetables belonging the nightshade family, for example potatoes, tomatoes or eggplants. This is because in the process of their seeds forming into protein, alkaloid is produced, leading to overly high amount of nitrogen.

(For more information, refer to the book Incarnating Child) For beans or bean products, the child must be at least 14 months old before allowing her to try just a small amount. As for snacks and drinks that contain chemical additives, it is definitely banned from my home.

Li Hui [name spelled by pinyin]:
Before my son was two years old, I did not allow him to eat an entire egg or nuts. Firstly, they were not easy to digest; secondly it would result in an allergic constitution. After the age of three, he was then given honey, as the body system of a very young child is unable to digest honey. Foods from the nightshade family were also given very minimally, especially potatoes, higher consumption of potatoes will result in a tendency towards materialism, that is why potatoes are not recommended.

Xiao Hui [name spelled by pinyin]:
I encouraged my children to eat vegetables, green salads, but always with coaxing or cajoling, and still I had to whip up a tasty sauce (a little sweet and sour bear better result). From the age of two to three, fruits were the main course during breakfast, plus a small amount of oats. After five years of age, breakfast progressed to a high protein food, which included eggs, milk, and oats, while fruits were given between two meals. This is according to Dr. Susan Johnston’s suggestions that follow traditional Chinese medicine. She has also suggested that children should not be allowed to eat sweets (artificially made) and processed food.

Sylvia:
I feel that as long as it is local and seasonal fresh organic food, then that is good. Children do not need many different, complex kinds of food. They do not know as much as adult. For example, our school specially arranges different kinds of grains be served as snack every day for the children (this mother is a teacher in a Waldorf kindergarten). On Monday, it is brown rice, on Tuesday oats is served, on Wednesday millet, on Thursday quinoa, on Friday rye, on Saturday wheat and on Sunday cornmeal. Generally, this can also be done at home; this will enable the children to absorb best.

Nian Ci [name spelled by pinyin]:
I specially supplement his diet with spirulina, multi-vitamin, and add flaxseed powder and black sesame powder into his favorite no-egg carrot cake.

Rachel
Other than the main meals and fruits, I feed my children with friendly bacteria, Bliss Delight, Radiance Vitamin C, healthy candies, etc. The best part is that I do not allow my children to eat sweet, but they often ask me “Mummy, may I have a friendly bacteria or a Vitamin C?” in a tone of a child asking for sweets.

Shu Juan [name spelled by pinyin]:
Before I stopped breastfeeding, I never added any supplement. Now I add friendly bacteria, Bliss Delight, lecithin and calcium powder.

Jia Yu [name spelled by pinyin]:
It was only after giving my baby plenty of molasses that the baby’s nails grew well. I guess that for very small children, it is necessary to add more iron into their diet.

Highlights Of Waldorf Education

Sunny Chen

Returning from an organic farm nestled in surrounding hills, my son has been away for three days. On the first day, the whole class (including hefty David) embarked on the cross country trek of four hours, with the convoy of 2 teachers and 2 parent-chaperones. They arrived at the organic farm, situated 10km away from school. Along the way, the class observed and identified the myriad behaviors of flora and fauna awaking on a warm summer day.

As I arrived at the farm at three in the noon, the students were engaged in small chats or football games. Soon farm workers introduced them to the natural environment through games and songs, highlighting the characteristics and importance of various living organisms. The class was then split into groups to carry out various tasks at the farm: feed chickens, collect eggs, replenish water, clean coops, chase chickens back to coops, wash eggs, etc. One group of students helped prepare dinner, while the other group was responsible for the washing after meal. And then followed by the most anticipated highlights of the night: campfire and night trek.

Night trekking was the exciting finale of the farm activities, and the fifth grade students really looked forward to it. (They have experienced and are familiar with the farm work as they have field trips to different farms each year.) Out of the well-lit living room, the class walked into the pitch black forest, with only stars and moon lighting the way. No torchlight, and normal vision was inadequate for the occasion. Every student needed to make their way through full attention at hearing, exploring the ground using the feet, and feeling the surrounding through skin contact. Before this at dimly-lit location, the students learnt to discriminate peripheral vision. When one enters darkness of night, the centre of gaze rests due to the lack of light, while peripheral vision becomes active. At this point, stars are unusually bright. Someone even noticed a shooting star! Upon return, the guide gave each child an opportunity to walk singly in the dark, with a lapse of 20 seconds between each child. This was for the child to experience walking alone in nature in the night and to observe the delicate relationship between the physical senses. With the first glimpse of light appearing ahead of them, there was an indescribable feeling of warmth, and also a reluctant parting with the brilliant star-filled sky.

The second day was packed with outdoor learning, farm work and night trek, but full of vigor and vitality, the students were not daunted. On the third morning, the students prepared their dry provisions, and walked the 3 hours trek back to school.

Field trips or outdoor learning like this get more adventurous and rigorous each year of my son’s education in Waldorf School. From half-day excursion in kindergarten and an overnight stay in grade 1, one more day is added to each higher grade’s field trip. When he reached grade 4, he has experienced a 4-day farm stay at biodynamic organic farm located 6 hours’ car ride away from school. Coming May this year, at grade 5, he will be traveling to Mt Shasta, a mountain sacred to the Native Americans, for 5 days. On top of that, there will be a sport meet that models after ancient Greek Olympics. Through dynamic and diverse teaching methods, my son’s learning has gone beyond the textbooks. Living the lifestyles of ancient cultures, like Native American and the wildwest, he experiences in first person the many ways humans have lived with nature at different stages of life, across different cultures and livelihoods. Gradually and subtly, these experiences enrich and mold the outlook he holds for life and the character he is to become.

What’s gratifying is that these activities are carried out in the open classroom of Nature. No modern digital gadgets like the computer and digital games. Neither are there rigid abstract lessons on papers. Nor endless surge of worksheet exercises. The outdoor teachers and tutors do not only teach natural knowledge, but as living models, pass on the legacy of respecting nature and pursuing a balanced, harmonious attitude towards life. They nourish the little young hearts with messages of compassion, love, appreciation, equanimity, diligence, humility and joyous simplicity.

My son’s education in Waldorf School arouses the envy of my friends. They gasp in admiration towards the light assignments that allow a child’s full expression in originality, and the highly creative art and craft works. How they wish they have a chance to participate in the enriching outdoor lessons and field trips. (You can imagine how exhilarated I was when I was parent-chaperone for some of their excursions.) Though my friends who are parents themselves exalt the curriculum, they voice concerns about a Waldorf-educated child’s ability to co

pe with social competitiveness, academic achievement, assimilation into mainstream education, etc.

Before I share my views, I always raise the questions: What goals do you have towards your child’s education? What are your considerations and priorities? School fees aside (Waldorf school provides subsidies for families who need them), what types of school do you look for to educate your child, or how to customize a suitable learning environment for your child? These are not easy questions. As parents, we wish to find a school that meets all desired requirements.
Waldorf School is my choice as I emphasize on a holistic spiritual development of my child, and a natural teaching approach. I have tasted spoon-feeding, cramming approach, serial-examinations approach, and academia-worship education, and I do not wish my child to follow the footsteps. The intense competitiveness will deprive the joys of childhood he rightfully deserves. As parents, we also yearn for the vision that Waldorf Education envisages: to educate the ‘whole child’ to become a balanced, spiritually mature world citizen, a member of humanity. Once the education is completed, the child will not lack social competitiveness or academic achievements. Mainstream society will also welcome a Waldorf-graduate who exhibits high team spirit and EQ (emotional quotient). (Allow me to share about this in next issue)

I have come across a few articles recently. One of them reported a few scientific studies done these few years that showed Waldorf Education can be a healthy option. The article highlighted the significance of appropriate education in arousing vital life force, leading to long term health benefits – the principle that Dr. Steiner stressed upon. Waldorf School makes full use of music, rhythm and physical activities in their daily curriculum – eurythmy, handwork, artwork, sports, dance, gardening and woodworking – and these promote a child’s overall well-being. Thomas Poplawski, author of the article, mentioned a few studies to illustrate this.

30 years ago, a German physician noticed that children are reaching puberty at earlier ages due to the changes in society. He worried that these children may not have the emotional maturity to respond appropriately to the changes in their bodies. There are various factors for physiological-sexual precocity. Higher nutritional level and man-induced growth hormones in animal feeds are a common phenomenon of modern times. Pressure from society is another factor – mother suffering from depression, single-mother, non-blood-related male in the family, family conflict, urbanization, adopted children from third world countries, etc. Recent researches also identify obesity as related to precocity. Factors for late maturity include big or extended family structures, close relationship with biological father, and low-stress, supportive family environment.

Two physicians highlighted a few features of Waldorf Education and were curious if these might contribute to late maturity in children. Some of the features are: classroom is furnished with a homely atmosphere, longer teacher-student relationship (teacher remains with same class from grade 1 to 8), less stressful and non-competitive learning environment, and students are not overloaded with homework, tests and academic pressure.
Girls have more obvious physiological changes upon puberty than boys. Hence, they decided to conduct studies on girls, collecting data on the age of their first menstruation. The comparative study involved 1175 girls from Waldorf School and 1118 girls from public school of the same region in Germany. They discovered that onset of menses for girls in public school is 12.63 years (similar to 12.43 years for American girls), and 13.25 years for girls in Waldorf School, a difference of 8 months.
We need to understand that this study was done 30 years ago. In this 21st century where instant foods are pervasive, we can expect the onset to be earlier. The diet of Waldorf families is generally inclined towards healthier, organic foods; hence, the difference between the two categories of girls can be greater. The dangers of physiological precocity are many, and have been reported in Lapis Lazuli Light magazines, thus this will not be in the scope of this article.

Myopia seems to be a birthright of Asians. My son’s optometrist remarked that it is easier for Chinese than Americans to develop myopia. Scientists in last century reported that childhood myopia is mostly heredity. The rate of myopia in childhood of Asian origins, in countries like Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, is 40%, and 10% / 16% for American children (10% for lower levels, 16% for high school students). But is childhood myopia going to be a haunting nightmare for Asians?

In his article, Poplawski described that a few myopia expert scientists discovered that their own children developed myopia while no one in their ancestral history had it. This led them to suspect if tiredness of eyes is the cause. Related evidence came from studies on Alaska aborigines. Two-thirds of the aboriginal children developed myopia after they started schooling, and their illiterate parents and grandparents had no history of myopia. The scientists eventually acknowledged that excessive reading and other short-distance focusing activities that strain the eyes and visual fatigue are the culprits of myopia.

Visual activities of Waldorf School children are different from mainstream children. Firstly, they do not start reading or do very minimal reading before the age of 7. Instead, parents do story-telling. They seldom watch television and are not exposed to computer. Secondly, their school lives are immersed in colors.

Waldorf classrooms are painted using lazure technique, a highly versatile painting system. Transparent watercolor paints of various shades are painted on white walls, layer after layer, to give a natural effect akin to sunlight on a solid surface. From grade 1 classroom that is painted with shades of red, to grade 6 of shades of blue, children are experiencing a permissible and breathable space with the soft gentle hues of colors. The wall at entrance of my house is painted by my two sons and myself using lazure technique, and it is very well-received among my house guests and visitors.
Besides that, since kindergarten to grade 5, my son gets to play with colors every single day. Through watercolors, knitting, cross stitching, color chalks, color pencils, wax crayons, color pens, etc, the exposure to colors has a relaxing effect to the eyes. Field trips that are conducted a few times a year give the children opportunities to be near nature, without overburdening their eyes. All these, especially the start of reading only at grade 2, are reasons for Waldorf schooling children’s healthier eyesight.

Ten years ago, a team of Swedish researchers observed and raised concern about the rising number of children having allergic problems over the last few decades. They also noticed that children growing up in alternative medical, nutritional and educational environments seem to have lesser allergies. One example is children from Waldorf schools.

They conducted a comparative study of 295 Waldorf students and 380 mainstream students from neighboring schools. They collected medical history reports of these children from their parents and conducted skin test of 13 allergens on these children and blood test. The study showed that 13% of Waldorf students and 25% of mainstream students are having some forms of allergy. They reported that the more the families practise Waldorf/Anthroposophic principles in their homes – like eating organic foods and avoiding vaccines – the more the children are spared from allergies.
Other possible factors are as follows: Waldorf children do not take MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccines, hence most of them probably contracted measles before. (Waldorf children accounted for most of the measles cases in Sweden). They are usually inoculated with Tetanus and polio vaccines when they are much older. (Like myself, I was only inoculated at age 6 or 7. During that time, there wasn’t any MMR). Waldorf children seldom take antibiotics and anti-fever drugs, and consume more organic food products, biodynamic farm produce, food that contains acidophilus, and fermented vegetables (yogurt, kimchi, pickled cucumbers, etc.). Most of them probably were breastfed, and suffer less from secondhand smoke at home.
Another international group of researchers decided to repeat the study. They surveyed 4606 Waldorf students and 2024 neighboring public schools’ students in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Holland. Results of this study were similar to the Sweden study mentioned above – the occurrence of sinusitis, atopic eczema and atypical allergies in Waldorf students was significantly lower. The conclusion was that Waldorf students have lower probability of developing hypersensitive diseases or allergies. Though they attributed it to the lifestyle of Waldorf families, it was still unknown how the difference in lifestyles can contribute to the disparity of the two groups under study.

Considering all the factors and in sum, the emphasis of Waldorf Education lies in a child’s sociability, healthy outlook on life, emotions and lifestyle, with strong foundation in humanities, and long term cultivation of a child’s healthy body. These are considerations for the modern parents.

Chinese education in retrospect, other than delivering knowledge and information, what can our educational approach provide for our children? 5000 years of education in moral-ethics serve to motivate a healthy outlook of life, but I feel that the educational approach weighs more on competitive material gains than aesthetic and spiritual cultivation. Humanity suffers severe laceration and destruction in the past 50 years. Knowledge-based education is not able to address the fundamental issue at hand — How can we revive the age old wisdom of appreciating nature, immersing in the spirited way of a simple, wholesome and natural lifestyle?

Perhaps aesthetic education is a good opening — learning from the colors, and we progressively walk into the beauty of Nature, and uncover the sanctity of our true nature. Then it is possible to bring more peace and harmony into our society.

My heart is gratified in watching the influence Waldorf aesthetic education has on my son, little by little. And coming August, Dr. Lai compassionately organizes a workshop in Crestone where she invites a few Anthroposophic or Waldorf art-teachers to impart the principles of art and colors. For educators and parents who would like to explore the beauty of spiritual, aesthetic education, this is a precious opportunity. I look forward to it with full anticipation.

Original article is published in May 2008 issue of Lapis Lazuli Light magazine (Taiwan)
Translated into English by D.Light

The Soul Of Discipline

Pu Yun
Translated by JM

Kim John Payne (abbreviated as Mr Payne in the following), is an education consultant. He was a Waldorf teacher and had researched much on children’s dysfunction in behavior and emotion. In these many years, he brought up a set of penetrating opinions on the discipline of children based on his personal experiences with young delinquents who had committed offences, autistic children, children bullies and children who were easily bullied. Many parents, teachers and children had benefitted greatly from these opinions. I had a lot of feelings after listening to his talks, and from the personal experience of accompanying my own child’s growth. His theories and suggested methods are indeed the disciplinary compass for children. I hope that with this article, I can share with everyone the limited resource of my memory.

Mr. Payne had helped children from the Thailand borders and Cambodia before. These children suffered fully from the devastating effects of war, and had the typical postwar syndrome of anxiety, over defensiveness, quick and bad temper or extreme anger. They are easily frightened by new things and normally are only willing to work on the same routine exercises. Basically, these little friends do not have the means to enjoy fun. Following after, Mr. Payne counseled a group of middle class kids in London, England. He was very astonished to find that his suggested healing plan for them is the same as the ones for the suffering children of wars (as mentioned above). These London kids suffer from the mild syndromes of pressure even though England had not had any war in the last decades.

He described the response of these London kids as a kind of accumulated reaction from pressure. In his opinion, this is a crisis for their childhood. He believes that in many current developed countries, children are the sacrifice for the over stimulation of the senses. But regretfully, many people consider this to be normal.

Today, many young children are suffering from sleep deprivation (less than 11 hours per day). The negative influences for some of these children could be that – the light in their room at night is too strong, they had too much popular food (normally too sweet or too much artificial flavoring), had long hours of seating in the car, them having too many toys, books and computer game products, there is too much noise, or even the high ceilings in modern houses that produces echo.

If children live in this kind of over stimulating environment for long periods of time, disciplining them will become very difficult. When a child is under too great a pressure, even a simple request like having him seat into the car would have him shouting “NO!”.

All the qualities that we appreciate about our children would be distorted under stress. For example, a child who is usually reliable may become addicted to a certain matter. A boy who likes to do things may become hyper active. An imaginative girl may become distracted. A proactive youngster may become willful. A strong willed boy may become provocative or a girl who knows how to protect her interest may become filled with hostility. The same situation had also happened to parents with too much burdens. It is very difficult for them to maintain calmness. They would often over react and even become the source of their children’s stimulant.

Stress will trigger the most ancient point of the human’s brain. This is the part that is in charge of the “fight or flight” response, when humans are threatened of their survival in situations of crisis. The hormones released in such stressful conditions would suppress normal or rational reactions. Regardless of adult or child, in situations where there is too much stress, the understanding abilities for another are greatly reduced. They would tend to ridicule another or feel angry instead. They may easily become biased, and hold a negative attitude about the future. They do not think that there is a better tomorrow. Their belief and reactions towards matter is geared towards returning and lingering in the worst periods of their life.

Some stress comes from the environment that the child is in, such as a home filled with eye dazzling decorative ornaments or the broadcasting of intense music. All these create too great a sensory impact on most children. Parents who arrange too many activities for their children are also one of the sources of stress, such as having music lesson, playgroup, ball game, religious activity, school activity and so forth all in a week. In the current day environment, grocery shopping in the super mart occasionally can also be a kind of burden for very young children.

Mr. Payne suggests that in the aftermath of some of the popular activities that excites the child, such as when after an intense ball game, to let the child rest quietly at home for 2 days, so as to balance the stimulation brought about by the game. If a balance is strike between activities that excites and calms a person, the child would usually possess a happy disposition. Their moods would not have major rise and falls. Children who feel tranquil at heart can enjoy new stuff easily and their contact with people would also contain humor. Even when met with issues of great stress, they can also return to a calm state easily. They are able to put themselves in the shoes of another easily and are able to respect the other. When faced with obstacles, they can still maintain positive thinking. Mr. Payne suggests the execution of some calming activities and a lifestyle of everyday forecast routine, by way of change to the chemical release in some of these children’s bodies. He used this principle to treat many hyper active children. He mentioned before that he went to the homes of the children who needed counseling, took out a big bag and took away half the toys, books and so forth from their house. The change in effect was swift.

In the past 50 years, the ways to disciplining children had many changes but not all are for the better. Our parents may have been brought up by a certain way of discipline but had used another to raise us. We could be combining many ways of discipline to treat our children. However, in the many ways of discipline in current days, parents may still be lost about their children’s expression of violent language and actions.

Recollecting the past ways of discipline in all these years, 1960s require children to have obedience as their inherent responsibilities. Children are to have incomparable respect towards their parents, otherwise should they have the slightest disobedience; they would be traded with immediate penalty. Children are to be humble in front of their parents. This way of discipline uses fear as the children’s guide. They have immediate amenability to their parents’ any requests. Even the slightest disagreement with parents would be considered as arguing. Although the greatest benefit in this method is in the child’s obedience to authority but this would also accomplish a submissive attitude in a child or produce a revengeful behavior in the future.

After 1970, the ways of discipline had an intense rebellion against the 60s trend of authoritative education. Parents allow children all kinds of behavior, even in tantrums or the provocation of another, the parents would clap their hands in praise, thinking that this is a very healthy self expression. They consider setting boundaries as very unfriendly towards their children, while saying “No” as hurtful to their self esteems. Parents give concessions to their children unconditionally. They expect their child to fulfill only very little of family responsibilities and in the sharing of house chores. Their children are the center of the universe and should be respected in the same way as an adult. Under this type of method, children have very strong self awareness but also give rise to them thinking and feeling that they are qualified to enjoy each right. They do not wish to wait, but expect to have immediate satisfaction in the development of matters. This laid down the cause to their habits of becoming easily addicted in the future and their problems in interpersonal relationships.

Towards the end of 1980s, scientific behavioral management ideas were also combined into the discipline culture. This style uses rewards to encourage the expression of children’s behavior desired by parents. Another slightly different discipline model but also using the same concept, is not in cash rewards but uses negative consequences to control the undesirable behavior of children. Charts have proven that these two ways were effective in the discipline of children’s behavior. They may be effective in having the obedience of the children but at the same time let children react to external factors like rewards or negative consequences instead of using their sense of responsibilities from within their hearts to determine their behaviors.

Mr. Payne said, “If we have to use bargaining to obtain a child’s amenability now, then in the future, we would have to plead in order to receive the same. Mr. Payne quoted a saying from Ronald Morish’s book titled “The Twelve Keys to Discipline”. “Children who grow up under this kind of disciplinary system would become negotiation experts. They would compare the proportion of danger and rewards against the output of expenses and benefits by way of an analysis to decide their behaviors. This kind of disciplinary methods would let the child into using ways of threats (e.g. Throwing tantrums in the public) to make the parents give in or they would negotiate unceasingly with the parents until the latter is totally drained out. These are not the consequences we desire. Young children do not have the ability to choose. To the children, it is a very heavy burden if we request them to choose over long periods of time.

After 1990, the emphases of the theory on children self esteem arise in east California. Every little thing that the children do would receive the loud praise of “GOOD JOB!” (Well done). The many praises given to children over long periods of time would instead become rubbish to them. Unless parents praise them like cheer leaders at their side, the children cannot get satisfaction from any matters. Toronto university of Canada once did a research. People normally consider that children under praise grow up with more space in their being. However, the truth is not so. On the contrary, these children are less genial towards others. Under the attitude of expectation to be praised, these children became instead holders of the principle – defeatism. Hence, the achievement they should have is also reduced.

Mr. Payne quoted from Carol Dweck’s book – “Self Theories” that when praise is abused, children only learnt how to make themselves look more intelligent, and not really in the learning of the matter. Children also sacrifice the enjoyment of fun, or are reluctant to accept challenges, in order to receive in exchange the appreciation of parents and elders. I have also seen some articles which mentioned students who had continuously obtained A, were unwilling to take on lessons that are challenging. As a result, they lost a precious learning opportunity in life. Mr. Payne suggests that parents observe quietly and tell the children their heartfelt feelings such as “You have been drawing that truck for a long time, look how tall you’ve drawn the wheel!”, rather than ardently praising. The children will feel very happy, thinking that you have noticed their activity instead of being commented on. They can enjoy having their own unique activity experience thoroughly without being changed.

This method can also help children cross over from one environment (situation) to another. For example, he suggests to not constantly urge children to enter the car or to come to the dining table but rather, parents can enter into their children’s world to meet them, and then bring them into the former’s world, to build a world together. For example, when the child is drawing, the parent requests suddenly that he has to bring his drawing away immediately so as that the former can prepare dinner, the child would be very angry. However if the parent observe the child’s drawing friendlily (such as pointing out the very pretty diamond he drew on the king’s crown) then tell him the kind of vegetable cooking on the stove now (like the ones just picked from the farm) and bring him into your activity (like “let us see how small these green vegetables will shrink after being cooked”). This preparation process for meal time allows the world of the parent and child to combine into one. This way is far more effective than urging them urgently.

Mr. Payne consider that the method of disciplining children should accord with the three stages of child development (the will stage of 0-7 years, the feeling stage of 7-14 years and the thinking and analytical stage of 14-21 years) as brought up by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. There are different procedures in these stages where the appropriate response and conversation is in accordance with the different ages of the child. Starting from encouragement, establishing everyday goals, setting boundaries for the child, making agreements with the child to giving the child immediate responses frequently and so on are several different methods used to help the child in their stage, grow into their next phase.

In the early days of childhood (during time of will development), we teach children to defer stipulations, accept adults’ directions. In this stage, parents are kings and queens. If we wish for children’s amenability, the secret is to confer them with set boundaries. Everyday life activities are orderly. Children at this stage are unable to understand the relationship of cause and effect hence reasoning with them is not of much use. When we are correcting their behaviors, we can say “no” to them in a tone filled with love. At this stage, do not arrange too much learning for them. Let them grow slowly at their own pace. Mr. Payne quoted Morish’s book, stating that the motto for this stage is “Start with little matters, be with them, persist in this principle and implement”.

During this period, parents setting the examples of good models are very important. At the same time, request children to repeat by way of correction for their undesirable behaviors. This is more effective than the use of rewards or punishments. This period is also the very important stage on the cultivation of children’s good manner, such as having them thank graciously after their meals the people who had prepared their food or to people who drove them.

At 7 to 14 years (when sentiments are important in life), parents should play the role of the shepherd. At this stage, the key to discipline is discussion and instruction. Mr. Payne thinks that here, the teaching of social skills and emotion management can be started with the children. Use the method of “repetition” to teach them. If the child refuses to repeat, Mr. Payne suggests that the method of very slight penalty can be used. However he thought that the correction of the child’s wrong is more effective than penalty, while reminder is more effective than threat. At this time, one can start teaching the children consideration for the other, through the changes in the intonation of voice and body language to transmit one’s meaning. Parents should also discuss with the children prior to them facing challenging situations, so that they may make the right decisions when adults are absent.

During puberty, children start to have their independent thinking. At this time, the child’s intelligence had reached a certain level of development. Parents can use cooperation instead of negotiation to be with them. If they have learnt to be considerate for others and in making self choices before this, then this stage is easier to process. Mr. Payne suggests the method of letting the children know on the perspicuity of the matters’ consequences, to educate them. During this period, use encouragement instead of bribery. His motto for disciplining children at puberty is “do not satisfy them too quickly, be prepared psychologically to argue with them as it is inevitable, and affirm their right choices.” He brought up a few examples of parents’ dialogue with their adolescence.

  • When you have finished your report, you may go online.
  • If your friend’s party has alcohol tonight, what will you do?
  • Calling me at ten is a very good idea.

Mr. Payne thinks that the culture of current day is flooded with disrespect; parents have to help children resolute between the difference of a critical idea and criticism. When children during puberty are making choices, their choices should come from that which feels right, from deep within their hearts, rather than simply reacting or deciding from cynicism and disrespect
When the result for the discipline method of the appropriate age is not clear, Mr. Payne suggests the method of the previous stage to be used. Such as when the child in puberty is unable to make good decisions, then return to the preceding stage to teach them. If still not valid, then return to the earlier preceding stage to teach. If still not valid, then return to the first stage.

He explained with examples, such as if the child in puberty delays for a long time, and still would not make up his room, speak with him first on how to tidy it while at the same time, striking an agreement with him on when he can have the room ready (cooperation style). If the agreed time is passed and the room is still very messy and dirty, then remind child and give him a chance to repeat (guide and develop their skill on room making). If the child is still unresponsive, use stage one’s (starting with the smallest matter, follow him, insists and implement) method. Walk the child to the room. If necessary, request the child to tidy up a small area such as keeping one pencil properly at time as a start (obedience). Ultimately the room will be cleaned up and, you have also done your duty as a parent.

Regarding a child being bullied or ridiculed by people he meet and on how to help him overcome, he raised an example such as, if your daughter comes home and tells you that someone asked her in a mocking tone, “Heard that you wrote a love letter to someone, so disgusting!” At this time, you can teach your child to ask the person who is ridiculing her, “Do you believe?” Usually, half of these people will say, “I don’t believe.” and walk away. The other half would say, “I believe!” and get ready to continue ridiculing. It is then that if your daughter can tell the party calmly, “Very well, if you believe this is true, then it is your business.” Normally, the mocking would hence end here. This is because the children who like to bully or ridicule another normally wish to see the fury, panic and angry reactions of the ones they are targeting. If we can let our children learn the principle of being concern with matter, instead of the individual, being calm instead of reacting emotionally towards people, situations of bully would lesson considerably as well. When there is conflict amongst children, parents should not blame either party constantly otherwise they would feel victimized and resort to behaviors of retaliation. Listen to the arguments of both sides; let them feel your attention and love, assists them to solve their difference together.
Mr. Payne’s books on discipline would be published in September next year; interested readers can go to his website (www.thechildtoday.com) for more information. May all the readers benefit much from this long and difficult process of raising children.

Originally published in Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine (August 2008 issue), titled 管教的靈魂 also found in web link: http://www.lapislazuli.org/TradCh/magazine/200808/20080806.html