As we move forward with our book reading, I was excited to be writing on rhythm, which is the title of this fourth chapter. It has been elusive at times for me. Mixing at moments in life, schedule with rhythm. Actually, it was my understanding that sometimes got clouded because most of the time the rhythm was set up and strong.
Kim John Payne starts this chapter with unpredictability. You know, when we are doing tons of things, having a rhythm can seem laughable! However, he insists (rightly so) that the more jam packed you are the more your children need some sort of rhythm.
Increasing the rhythm of your home life is one of the most powerful ways to simplify your children’s lives.
It can start from predictability but as the author says: The aim is to have rhythm and ritual, predictability may be what we can achieve. So what would this look like? Here we get a story of a child whose parents worked flexible hours and he never knew how he’d go to school or come back from there. Where he will do his homework or take his dinner. The easiest way to give him some predictability is simply to pictorially (for the young ones under 7) give him a break down of what can happen..” tomorrow you’ll go to school with me. When school breaks, there you’ll be under the apple tree and when you look up, you can either see my red car or mum’s blue one.” Knowing what to expect helps a child to feel less anxious and more secure.
Next, we read about establishing a rhythm which has nothing to do with schedule! a rhythm is the breath of life, the ebb and flow of your family. It can gives stability, grounding, calmness to both children AND adults. The best way to start a rhythm is to look at your days. How do these play out? He asks us to look at which periods are difficult with the children – many times transitions! and to build slowly from there. When your child is less than 7 years, rhythm will be natural to them, they will soak it up. Older children will take a while and is best to start from very small things like hanging your back pack at the same place every day. Again he tells us the importance of including the older children in discussions on the changes beforehand and gives some examples of how one can go about it.
Busyness, change and improvisation will still have keys to your house, but they won’t entirely rule the day. This is absolutely agreed by myself. We have less conflict at home, less transition problems because of rhythm. The children know and expect Fridays to be cleaning day before school. There is no fighting about doing chores, they are just done (sometimes with grumbling)! They know and look forward to meeting with friends in our local woodland on Wednesday. They know that at 6.30 pm the bed time routine starts to unfold. They are pockets of this is what will happen today. It gives consistency and connection. Something which I prize a lot. At the same time things can change suddenly and when that happens depending on its nature, we will either prize more our rhythm or enjoy more the unexpectedness of surprise.
Most importantly here it is mentioned how relationships grow in the intervals, when nothing much is going on. Children will come up to us to talk when there are moments of quietness. If we are on the go all the time, they will not feel there is time for this talking, expressing themselves. Making this time now that I have older kids, is even more precious! It is pointed out that we do not need to make anything special, just being there and listening is all it requires. So, so true! Having the children come up and talk to me does not require much except me listening and the more I do it, the more they do it and the more I can understand them. Win-win for all!
There is quite a chunk in this chapter about family dinner and simplifying meals. For us this looks something like this. We try have dinner daily together (usually its about 4-5 times a week!). Also everyone knows the menu: Monday is vegetables, Tuesdays is pasta, and so on. The recipe will obviously vary but we know what the food will be about. On the surface, it simplifies for me the main cook at home what to do! It helps the youngest one know where we are during the week, it avoids having children bickering that they do not want to eat xyz. On a more deep level, as per Kim John Payne in page 115: Coming together, committing to a share time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies….The process is more then the meal: It is what comes before and after. It is reverence paid…..
We than start tackling the simplifying of meals as a way to reduce power struggles around meals. Re reading this section was an eye opener actually, as I had forgotten about it. Yet, reading again how even the fast and the most that gives us a hit has reached not just toys but also meals felt sad. However, I could relate to the truth of it. I simplified meals because it felt right at the time; also fear of too much artificial stuff in the food. Reading this bit, reminded me how hyper my children get when they eat something which has a lot of additives. Mostly its a matter of these things are not found at home. If say, they are at a party and they are offered soft drinks or candy, they know we do not take that stuff but they also know they can try it. Some times they do and tell me it was disgusting which always makes me smile.
The last few pages are dedicated to sleep and pressure valves.
Sleep as we know is very important and if children are not seeping well we should look at pressure valves to help them relief their day’s tensions. These again need not be very sophisticated things. Could be a moment of silence together, discussing the day together, doing a project together. We all need to release a bit throughout the day and so do children. The chapter ends with bedtime stories. Stories that when chosen with care can also heal children. Stories that should still be read to children when they become good readers themselves.
So far this chapter had the biggest impact on me. What about you?