October Parent Education Evening

Standing Your Ground- How to Create Healthy Boundaries for Young Children

an article by Bonnie Ackley & Yunyun Cheng-Turim

Speakers Jeanne Feeney and Lani Hill led an experiential presentation and conversation about how to build a better relationship with your children through movement. Both speakers have extensive backgrounds in movement as trained dancers, choreographers and movement therapists (Jeanne is a certified practitioner of Body-Mind Centering TM and Lani is a certified Educational Support teacher), as well as have a deep understanding about body movement. Additionally, both are Waldorf parents and currently teach at the Washington Waldorf School, as well as teach a “Standing Your Ground Workshop” at WWS. This evening’s presentation provided participants with a taste of the workshop where the non-verbal realm of parent-child communication is further explored.

The speakers first emphasized the importance of movement by stating that human beings develop and form a sense of movement before the other senses. During infancy, a baby’s movement patterns develop in a progressive and critical sequence. Movement is one of the 4 foundational senses (Balance, Touch and the sense of Life/Well-Being are the other 3) critical to human development. Children absorb and imitate everything we do (e.g., slight facial expressions, subtle body language, etc.) and they take it all in completely withour filtration. As parents, the way we speak to our children in terms of movement has a profound influence on their emotional, physical and intellectual development. Through movement, we can help children better understand where their boundaries are. The non-verbal aspect of parenting is a helpful tool to communicate with your children.

Balancing Movement with Verbal Explanation: When a child is in an agitated state, he will not be able to fully process verbal reasoning. it is better to use gentle movements and calmly guide the child to move, rather than try to give commands verbally. For example, if a child had a meltdown in a public square, instead of giving instruction or attempting to comfort verbally, one can gently help the child gather his belongings put on his jacket and calmly hold his hand guiding him through and out of the agitated state. Very little words are used or needed.

Standing Your Ground: Children look to their parents for guidance. It is important to stand firm on the issue you feel strongly about and literally “put your foot down”. Movement is the embodiment of boundaries we set for our children. Standing you ground with noble and authoritative physical presence will give children a sense of security.

The speakers led exercises that represented metaphorical situations when a child tries to test a boundary, and how different ways parents deal with the situation produce different emotional outcomes for the child.

Finally, the speakers suggested finding the middle ground with your child that is neither too over powering, nor a “push over” between you and your children who will forever test boundaries. Stand firmly on the ground with love and kindness. it is a never ending process! To set a boundary is to provide your children with a clear model of what is right that can help them navigate through the big and complicated world throughout their life.

For more information about movement, you can check out Jeanne Feeney’s organization “Movement Laboratory” (http://www.movementlaboratory.org/). Jeanne and Lani also mentioned future “Standing Your Ground” workshops at WWS in the Spring.