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The Will is the first developmental stage for our young children ages 0-9. This explains why it is so difficult for mamas to reign in these little ones, to guide these “will forces.” It is most important during these early years for your little one to be active.

Helping your young child to be active and in their body is vital to their healthy growth, rather than overwhelming them with more advanced thinking with early reading, spelling, and math tasks and games. I actually find this freeing and helpful in keeping life with little ones much more simple.

Children during this stage think in pictures. Their thinking is not logical, intellectual, or abstract. At ages 3 and 4 our children are filled with questions. All that is needed are simple direct answers without too much detail. Questioning and believing are the methods by which they learn. Knowing and understanding come later. Storytelling can replace teaching your child more advanced thinking skills. Telling your child stories allows their brain the opportunity to create pictures and to develop a fertile imagination.

Following the natural development process of our child will allow them to fully flourish at each stage without stress or pressure.

Our young children see the world much differently than we do. Children gain an adult consciousness gradually. This gradual “awakening” can be referred to as “incarnating.” “Incarnating” means coming into the body or into earthly life. Essentially, if a child does not come into their body, he remains childlike. Incarnating occurs naturally and should not be rushed or slowed.

After my weekend of Simplicity Parenting training, I’m understanding the full scope of our good intentions to enrich our children’s lives. Your 3 year old loves ballet or soccer or gymnastics – or your 4 year old is spelling and reading. It takes so much more intention for parents, of our generation, to hold our children back from what our children seem to “want” or what they seemed “gifted” to do. Inadvertently, in hopes of enriching our children’s lives, we are, in fact, pushing our little ones into adult consciousness, rushing them toward incarnating too quickly.

What are the consequences? We may see more behavioral challenges – defiance, biting, hitting, tantrums – or even labeling of ADHD, ADD, etc.  The reason it can manifest in these ways is because being rushed toward adult consciousness, or toward “awakening” is stressful for the spirit.

During childhood, time exists in the moment and the “tasks” of running, swinging, spinning, playing, and imagining are, in this day, being replaced. Due to our own addiction to being busy, we are replacing the dreamy state of childhood with too much screen time, scheduled classes and sports, and unpredictable fast meals and bedtimes.

Our children are born into a dreamy, stream-of-consciousness, a zen-like place – a golden room. Young children have the capacity to be truly in the moment. They are not burdened by the past or the future. They have no concept of a “to-do” list of tasks that need to be completed.

They can’t understand what waiting for 10 minutes actually means nor do they really grasp the concept of “grandpa gets back from his trip in 3 days.” In the dreamy golden room, time is only understood in the “now.”

According to Kim John Payne in his CD The Soul of Discipline, The Will stage of development is about doing, moving, growing, coordinating. Our kids learn things by…

  • repetition: discipline is easier when you recognize that you will repeat rules, instructions, and requests because it is part of this developing stage.
  • doing: if our children are only “told” to do something we will see that this rarely works as well as showing them what we want them to do. They need to move; sitting still for this younger age is not an appropriate expectation; short time of being still can be practiced in order to help them become better at it.
  • imitating: they negotiate, yell at us, and say “no” because they do what they see and hear. When we become more self-disciplined, rhythmical, predictable, and more peaceful, so will they.

I think all of us would agree in this community of intentional mamas, unlike generations in the past once demanded, we aren’t looking for “blind obedience.” We do recognize our children as unique individuals whom we do not want to manipulate nor control. We want our children to make good, healthy choices and we want them to be intrinsically motivated.

Our young children thrive on knowing what we expect, how to make the right choices, and how to behave appropriately in different situations.

I think it’s also safe to say that we want to help our child develop a healthy will. What do I mean by a healthy will?

Before I left on my trip last week to Seattle, I was exercising regularly and my body was accustomed to the daily stretching and resistance; I was able to work harder and harder each day. When I returned after 5 days without exercising and I started my workout the day I got back, I was shocked at how weak and slow I felt. It felt like my muscles weren’t as strong and I had to start at a lower level of activity than I was at before I left. My muscles were weak.

The same can be true of a child in these early years who will not take direction nor comply to a request. This is not the description of a child with a strong will. In fact, this child is exhibiting a weak will, just like my muscles after a spell of not being worked out, this child needs to practice meeting resistance. A parent can be assured that their little one is needing more of their consistent limits and reasonable expectations and rhythmical predictability, not through punishment, but through staying close and helping the child to follow-through with the tasks.

Stay tuned for more insights, mama. This is truly just the beginning!