Little Ones Who Chatter

(the following is adapted from a message I posted on my yahoo group “Waldorf-At_Home”)

Fundamental to a Waldorf understanding of young children is therecognition that they are in  the imitative phase of their lives. Everything that goes on around them goes in – and usually comes right back out. We see our husband’s gestures, the way the baby-sitter smiles – and the way the super-hero grimaces or leaps about in the actions of our little ones. And when they’re homeschooled, there’s just you for
much of the day – and that’s who they’re going to copy. And if, when your husband comes home (if that is how your family is arranged)  much of the important time you spend with him is in conversation, then that will make an impression on them. Talk is obviously an important  feature of adult life! And so many children at this age seem impelled to chatter constantly – with no regard to how their speech is received or, sometimes, what it is they say! It is as if
that small children have no inner voice – rather, their inner life at this point in their development is too busy working with the sense impressions and materials that flow through it. There is no discernment, no filtering. The child – whether she is one who chatters a lot or  or not – acts as a conduit for all that flows in and out .

Under 7’s are in the process of creating their “I”, their Ego, their Self-Consciousness (if they had it already, that would mean that an important part of their early development would have been missed or rushed – so celebrate this step as much as any other!). They need you to bounce their own formations of Self off of. You are helping them create their “I”, your interactions with them and how you form their days lays down a template, as it were, for them to create themselves out of. At some point, one wants this outer verbalization to internalize – few things are more irritating than a child who chatters away all day – especially if she seems to require your presence to bounce all this chatter off!

So how to cope and how to help children gently and slowly develop their internal voices – first of all, by not bringing it to their attention! Rather, by humming and singing softly, you can hold and carry them,surround them with your warm presence – but not be engaging them in ahead-to-head way, which usually only exacerbates the situation. The more you answer, the more questions you get!  Often, the child just wants to see your reaction. So if your reaction is warm interest and presence – but you are busy, engaged with the dishes or whatever it is that you do all day, then you are not ignoring them or rejecting them – but you are helping them contain their verbalizing!

Consciously cultivating silence helps, too. Don’t let children interrupt stories with questions, for instance. This can become a real habit foursome children and does not encourage the kind of inner stillness and peace required to actually get an answer. If you’re telling them a story and they ask questions, just put your finger to your lips, gently whisper “shushhhhh” and carry on. When you’re reading to them. just say “let’s just finish the story, then you can ask your question”. Often – and this is the point – there is no more question at the end because it has been answered by listening (obviously, there are time when you need  to interrupt to answer something – but if you’re on the ball, you can often anticipate this and weave in an answer as you read).

Our world is so noisy and our culture encourages blurting out and quick response over silent contemplation and unhurried and considered opinion. I think we need to really be aware of the seeds we sow in our little ones. They must see us having our own quiet time – by about 5 years old both my sons knew that “mommy’s having some quiet” meant they were not to disturb me. At 12 and 14 they often seek quiet time to reflect when they need it. By not having background music, by bringing consciousness to our speech, then we bring health into our communications with others.


Posted on December 10, 2005 in Family Life and Parenting, Kindergarten (and pre-K)

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