My sweet nine year old is going through what in Waldorf circles is known as Crossing the Rubicon. It is an important turning point in a child’s life. Since turning nine she has become anxious, experiences nightmares, can’t settle at night and has fears about death. It is also a very challenging age with lots of door slamming and stomping and plain rudeness. This is very typical of this age group, but so little is written or known about it outside of the Steiner Waldorf sphere. In the Steiner school, it is equated with being thrown out of Paradise. All that the child has known thus far; all the innocence and feeling of oneness of early childhood starts to erode and it is as if an imaginary veil is lifted and they see how separate they are; from their parents and from the world and they can feel great sadness at this time and also much anger. Adults have to stand firm and create good strong boundaries for such behaviour and also show them deep love and acceptance and make them feel safe. They are testing us and their teachers to see if we are worthy of their respect. There is a lot of criticism and some children question whether they are adopted at this time.
Often I have let rudeness go or ignored it to save myself getting into an argument, but I would absolutely recommend setting boundaries for behaviour at all times during development, but especially at this age. Saying that my younger daughter is coming up to 7 years and is also very challenging and grumpy with me right now, but that is another developmental story!
In Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, Payne refers to prolonged periods of challenging behaviour as Soul Fever and they tend to reoccur at various developmental milestones. At these times, he recommends cutting back on commitments, simplifying routines and staying close, just like you would do with a real fever. The child’s behaviour shows they are struggling and we must stop and listen to them. Often we hope things will just go away, but in my experience, if I don’t pay attention, things escalate or bad habits form.
Age seven and half to nine was a very peaceful period with my eldest daughter . She started venturing out into the world more and was really a joy to have around. Since turning nine in October, things changed quite rapidly. Of course she is still a joy a lot of the time, but the fact is that our children are growing up and away from us and that creates mixed feelings for them and for you. They crave closeness but then push you away with their rudeness. They feel much remorse afterwards, but it is out of their control. It is like a taste of the adolescence to come. I have been told that around the age of ten, things settle down for a while; the fears and the unreasonable behaviour, and the child really seems to take a leap forward in their development and independence. They need more privacy from siblings and their parents and become more helpful and self motivated allegedly. I will keep you posted on that one… My children are very sensitive and feel things deeply, so I feel great relief that they are in a Steiner (Waldorf ) school that can nurture them through all their developmental transitions (with a wonderful curriculum that is perfectly suited to the age they are at) and my reading books on the subject has helped me to comprehend their development better too so I can be more understanding.
A developmental book I read regularly is Phases of Childhood by Bernard C J Lievegood. I have also read two books on the subject of the 9 year change that were recommended by our teacher: I am different from you by Peter Selg and Encountering the Self by Hermann Koepke which are based on Rudolph Steiner’s observations of children at 9 and 10 years and those of Waldorf class teachers. They are very enlightening to read and have helped me to understand my daughter’s behaviour and prepared me for what was to come i.e. the emotional outbursts and many evenings upstairs with her trying to calm her down and distract her with silly stories so she can get to sleep.
It is important not to belittle their feelings because to them they are real; the thought there is something sinister under the bed; the tears about Christmas being over; the fear that their parents will die; it is all so real and so intense for them. It is a shame this is not generally understood in the mainstream, as we could be more understanding and help our children through this time better. We all know the challenges of adolescence, but it is written that if we can help our children through this particular developmental stage successfully, then they won’t have to do it even more intensely in adolescence. I will keep you posted ! I certainly have a daughter with very intense feelings, so for her, things may be more heightened than for other children her age, but one way or another all children go through the Rubicon and we would do well to help them and be aware of the need to retreat a bit during this time.
At challenging times in parenting, I try to make sure I get more sleep, a better routine, and boost myself with meditation, walking and small pockets of time for myself. It helps me to feel more grounded, happier and to be more present for my children. If I don’t do it, things get on top of me easily and my parenting goes downhill.
One thing that always helps me when I have met challenges with my children over the years is to remind myself of the old adage this too shall pass. That is one thing i have definitely learnt as a parent. Things are always changing and moving on. I need to have faith that all is as it should be right now, that all is well. It is.