We like to promote an energy of respect and gratuity for the goods we have in our life, and continually caring for our materials goes a long way. Perhaps it is because of our attitude of respect, gratuity and flow that we attract many new items to us each week from family, friends and strangers.
I find that our attitude has a big pay-off in guiding our son in peacefully interacting with the materials in our world. Hopefully this will be a healthy attitude for life. For me, my personal belief stemmed from a lesson from my grand-mother when I was very young, perhaps 20 years ago. (Along with many other remarkable and spiritually-sensitive remarks she made, this one comes into my thoughts at least several times per week.) She said:
“Always respect the money in your purse. Fold it neatly, pat it down, and never bend or crumple it. Show everything you have respect, including your money, so that it loves coming to you.”
My next level on this is to treat money as germ-less. Although I know it’s not – and we always wash our hands after handling money – you will never hear me exclaim that money is full of germs, and I will never direct my children to not touch it. You can imagine how easily this attitude can be extended to other objects in your life – for example, pets, insects, outdoor items, and our own bodily organs and excretions. We are grateful for everything that is in our life. We wash our hands and handle with care (if at all), but we speak with love and admiration for the purpose they play in our lives. (This attitude makes the transition from nappy to toilet 100% easier – I’m absolutely certain of this).
A healthy attitude in the home
There are many benefits to keeping toys and activities organised within the home – and in re-arranging the house, toy baskets, and bedrooms regularly to keep living spaces healthy.
By doing this it becomes very unusual for materials to be lost or separated from their other components, treated roughly or damaged, or left out of designated baskets to trip over.
In saying that, I’m certainly no enforcer of my children tidying on their own or on serious or harsh terms. I lead by example and make tidying or re-arranging appear as another level of play … something we do together for fun. I never throw materials or complain or kick my way through objects on the floor. I get down on all-fours and handle items respectfully. Because of this, I have never seen my son throw materials or whinge or kick his way through objects. He often quotes that his materials are precious or fragile, and takes great care to keep them in-tact.
Respectful sharing of materials with friends
From a very young age (i.e., 1 year old), our son has been sensitive to visitors handling his materials roughly or throwing the materials that we so-carefully look after. This has made for some interesting and challenging conflict resolution scenarios when our friends visit, as sometimes he has been hesitant to let friends touch his materials at all for fear they will break it (sharing at a young age is always difficult). I understand his feelings. I liken the situation to when I have visitors in my office. I expect them to respectfully handle paperwork and objects they find – if they touch anything at all. And when my husband has visitors in his garage, he expects them to carefully and respectfully handle his tools. I imagine how I would feel if my office door was open and a group of friends entered to rummage through everything and use everything I am currently working on. I would find this incredibly difficult!
A wonderful friend has taught her daughter to share in a gentle way and I greatly respect and admire her tactics. She often says to her daughter, ‘This is mine, yes, but I want to share it with you.’ I love the way this shows respect for the material but also spreads positive energy for sharing it and enjoying using the material together. Knowing our children are little copy-cats, I have decided that I would love for my son to say this when playing with me or his friends.
A little patience goes a long way
I have found that of all the things I do as a parent, the most important thing I can do is lead by example. This also applies to tidying and cleaning the house. Most children love to learn how to clean. Washing windows, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping benches, and washing plates and cups is something children love to do from the moment they can grasp their hands. It is also a popular redirection / diffusing tool for handling negative energy, such as conflict, sadness or tiredness. Most Montessori and Steiner environments include cleaning utensils at a child’s height to allow them to copy their parents actions and explore how to clean. As more proof of the popularity of cleaning activities, many plastic toys are now available at the shops to let children mimic their parents. (Personally I find the smaller real-life utensils more helpful in the home.)
I believe children can not be forced into cleaning before they are mentally ready or have the attention span or strength. I encourage my son to clean with me if he wants to, and otherwise, I set a good example by happily cleaning on my own. I believe that it is important to show our children that routine cleaning is not to be feared, it is not a negative activity, and it is not something we do with conflict, arguments, nagging or sighs.
We naturally want to clean as we get older, to support our own personal living standards and the environment we desire for ourselves. (Wow – a hard concept for most parents! We worry so much about what our children will be like in the future. I plan to demonstrate by example but let my sons choose their own living preferences as adults – instead of teaching them to judge their success against my preferences.)
Our son understands how to wait while I clean up and he explores with different ways of helping me. We often decide TOGETHER to clean later, if an opportunity is available to do something more important (I consider playing, crafts, making it to playgroup on time, and exploring outdoors while the sun shines, to be more important). Sometimes I feel overwhelmed after a big week of mess. But I would rather get upset once every three months then twice a day. Getting tense over something like cleaning is such an easy way to transform positive energy into negative energy – and ultimately, it’s not worth the shift and possible negative affect on the rest of my day.
Passing on goods to another home
We regularly advertise pre-loved items for sale and sell them for fairly cheap prices, knowing that we gain in two ways: we have more free space to attract a fabulous new piece to us, and we make a little money (the cash is a bonus that we respectfully affix to our dream-board until our new item is ready for us).
It brings me great pride that as we tidy our house and my son’s bedroom, toy room and outdoor toys, he generously suggests to sell his items because he doesn’t use them anymore and we can buy something else he has been dreaming of. I love that he is first-of-all dreaming, and that he is also patient and willing to use his mind to problem-solve how he can achieve two solutions at once.
The learning benefits we gain from respecting our goods
No matter what it is we are working on within the home, garden or shed – when all parts are kept together, activities can be picked up and worked on from start to finish with logical, sequential paths of thought. By demonstrating this way of thinking from babyhood, this approach will eventually become instinct for your child – meaning that by the time they are three years old they will already understand the purpose of activities and how the materials come together for the purpose.
The learning benefits associated with the activity are achieved every time. Because the parts are returned to their designated place the activity can be repeated time and time again, and the lesson sinks in through repetition. This is a typical approach in households that favour both Steiner and Montessori philosophies.
It all sounds quite serious written down … as if by learning how to respect goods is taking the fun out of playing. But this is not the case! Respecting materials and learning how to use them creatively within their designed purpose is a skill children love to learn. In my own experience I have watched my son learn to speak well, focus well, identify parts and build, explain his ideas, develop fine motor skills and expand his knowledge about our world all while laughing, making silly faces and words, singing songs, dancing and enjoying free unguided play in his favourite environment.
Children also feel empowered to choose their activity and set it up by themselves when they understand how it is organised. My son loves to come up with the idea for the day’s activity, collect the basket from the wall-unit, and set it up on the craft table.
The pscyhological benefits of keeping our home organised and simple
I want to share this article by Simplicity Parenting. It shows the difference in a child’s behaviour going from a bedroom overloaded with toys and ideas, to an organised and simplified room. Many of us can associate with this. Check out the psychological advantages – they are truly inspirational!
As a mum who experienced post-natal anxiety I associate with the need to de-clutter and keep the house organised for my own health. At one stage I struggled with the mess (when our house was for sale, in particular) so I brought out as many materials as I could to make the house feel and look lived-in and loved. I figured that by doing this, the mess was camouflaged. This approach worked really well, especially with the addition of salt-lamps to clean the energy in the house. The compliments flowed in that our house was finally warm and looked like a comfortable family environment. However eventual feelings of stress led to my husband suggesting moving as many items as possible back into cupboards and draws and baskets, so visually, I wasn’t overwhelmed. Now we have a pleasant compromise between a warm, family environment with displays of our personal loved items and pictures, without the bench clutter.
Joanna Becker, Author and Wellness Medium
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