“We only see clearly with the heart” – or how parents become educational artists

By Andrea Unser, May 2013

Bringing up a child appears to many parents today to be a task which is hardly to be managed. Physical and psychological neglect, refusal to go to school, increasing violence among children and young people – this is what confronts us in the media each day. Endless shelves could be filled with the self-help books on “Bringing up children”. Education gurus make their way through the talk shows. While one lot demand greater strictness and disciplin, others call for a return to an idealised version of family and society.

© Charlotte Fischer

In Waldorf education we refer to education as an art. The concept of “art” stands for a particular, outstanding skill. An artist needs knowledge, practice and the ability to observe precisely in order to start working intuitively. Mothers and fathers keep practicing, hour by hour, day by day over many years. But despite all the practice, parents rarely see themselves as educational artists. They do not trust their own perceptions and intuition, tend to hold fast to educational prescriptions and let themselves be unsettled by all the different theories about bringing up a child. 

Reverence for the child

Mothers and fathers become educational artists by looking with reverence at their child. Remember how you held your child in your arms for the first time? You looked at the tiny fingers and toes, the eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

In doing so, you were aware of every tiny movement and there was no thought of “I hope she sleeps through soon” or “she’ll certainly have to go to university”. Rather, you wondered: “Who are you?”, “What question are you asking of the world and how can we help you to find your place in it?”, “What can we do so that you can grow up to be healthy and happy?” When you do that, the child experiences the alert interest of the parents and feels: “I’m welcome here.” Anyone who looks at their child in this way thus creates the basis for all art of education. The love which parents feel for their children becomes a daily experience.

Joshua and Maria

Joshua, four months old, never stops crying. That is why the parents carry the boy in the baby sling a lot, take plenty of time when changing his nappies and do not permit outside interruption as far as possible. That is the only way he will calm down.

They do not let themselves be put off by advice from friends and relatives not to spoil the boy too much. They can feel that their child needs protection and close physical contact.

Joshua’s birth did not go without complications. A life-threatening illness of the mother meant that he was born by emergency Caesarean section. From the beginning Joshua has only relaxed in the arms of his mother or father. “He appears like a little bird which has fallen out of its nest.” This thought guides the action of the parents and they build a secure nest for their child.

Maria has been enthusiastically attending kindergarten in the last three months. Painting, singing, finger games and stories – she absorbs everything and takes part in all the activities with great delight and eagerness. But the afternoons at home are becoming more and more difficult. Although she has an afternoon sleep, she cries frequently and playing with her siblings or the neighbour’s children always ends in arguments. She likes best playing on her own. Her mother feels Maria’s need for quiet so that she can come to terms with all the experiences from kindergarten. She arranges with the kindergarten teacher that Maria can always stay at home on a Friday, thus giving her a long, restful weekend. In the afternoons, her mother ensures that Maria has time and space for herself despite her siblings.

Being at eye level

Joshua’s and Maria’s parents empathise with the situation of their children and get down to eye level with them. Thus they “know” what their children really need and can act in the right way in each situation.

But family life is frequently not like that. We do not understand the behaviour of our children and have no explanation when they becomes stubborn, sad or anxious. We feel unable to cope. Particularly in phases in which our children take us to the limits of what we can cope with, we frequently react out of the situation. We no longer perceive the real needs of the children and their inner conflicts remain hidden to us. Thus family life becomes increasingly difficult. It is at this point that parents very often doubt their educational “artistry”. Conversations with people who feel connected with the child can be a great help at such a point and give valuable insights.

Help from the other side

But there is also help for parents from another side, namely from the child’s angel. At night, children return to the protective embrace of their angel where they receive comfort and strength. The angel “knows” the destiny of the child and we can lay the child’s futur in the angel’s hands.

But how can we trust this destiny if we feel that we have lost contact with our child and only any longer perceive the child’s errors, weaknesses and shortcomings?

Picture your child, create as immediate an image as you can. The colour of the hair and eyes, the shape of the face... How does he move? Imagine him laughing loudly full of joy or crying with sadness. How does he lie in bed, relaxed and snuggled tightly into his blanket or does he clench his little fists? Does he breath quietly and regularly?

Perhaps the anger of the day will rise up in you, perhaps you will remember a funny occurrence. After a while you will become aware of how much this little person really means to you and it is as if you saw your child for the first time. You are filled with thankfulness, reverence and love. Your anger and your own helplessness no longer stand in the foreground but your concern for your child. Your question: “How can I help you to find your path?”

Suddenly “the scales will  fall from your eyes” as to why your class 4 child no longer wants to go to school. A picture will arise in you which shows your rebellious 14-year-old daughter running around “like a headless chicken”. You feel the strength within you to cope with the rebelliousness of your 14-year-old and to communicate clarity and firmness to her.

The angel of the child impacts on our everyday lives with such images, ideas and inspiration. The latter cannot be forced, and help and advice do not always come straight away. Sometimes we wake up in the morning and “know” the next step to take. Sometimes we can wrestle with a problem for days or weeks and the solution presents itself in the middle of an everyday situation. Yet confidence and trust in the destiny of our child grow irrespective of that. Instead of the feeling “what is to become of that child?”, the assertion “he will find and follow his path” grows in meaning. Our children experience comfort and strength through their guardian angel in the night and our intuitive knowledge arises from the same source. If we endeavour to look at our child in a loving and non-judgemental way, marked by gratitude and reverence, we prepare the way for help from the angel.

We cannot read up on such help. Such help is given to us as a gift and turns us into educational artists who accompany their children on their path into life with knowledge, practice and intuition.


No comments

Add comment

* - required field