21 December 2023 by Julie Behnken
What I call “Waldorf-inspired parenting” is based on the ideas and writings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and founder of Waldorf education. It’s called “Waldorf” because in 1919, Emil Molt, the manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory in Stuttgart, Germany, asked Rudolf Steiner to create a new kind of school for his child and the children of the factory workers. In the devastated culture of post-WWI Europe, Waldorf education was created for healing.
As a parent and former early childhood teacher, I find that what Steiner says about education and teaching applies to parenting, and so do the practical, developmental theories of Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber (that are often included in Waldorf early childhood teacher training).
As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher and the most important figure in their life and development. And our world today needs healing.
Today’s “default” parenting tends to be pressured and frazzled, overwhelming and overstimulating, too connected to mobile devices (where it’s hard to escape ugliness, negativity, and conflicting “truths”) but disconnected from real relationships, care, and support. For the child AND the parents.
Where is the foundation for healthy child development and thriving families in a changing world? Some of the ways Waldorf-inspired parenting can help build that foundation are described below.
Acknowledging the spiritual/cosmic aspect of human life:
- As spiritual souls, we choose to be born into a body, at a particular time, to our chosen parents, bringing in gifts from the spiritual world, and gradually “incarnating” down into the physical body.
- Rudolf Steiner spoke of the 3-fold human being – body, soul, and spirit – who develops through forces of willing, feeling, and thinking.
What you can do as the parent
- The inner work of the parent – who you ARE – is so important.
- Children learn through imitation; and strive to be worthy of their imitation.
- Connect to your child with respect. Do “with” your child rather than “to” them. All those diaper changes, feedings, baths, etc., are opportunities for meaningful connection with and participation (and varying levels) from your child.
- Slow down. Observe. Give them time.
What children need to thrive
- Protection of their open, unfiltered senses (such as consciously limited media exposure).
- Freedom of movement and time for uninterrupted play, and to just “be” (even as newborns).
- Open-ended, imaginative toys.
- Connection to nature.
- Love, warmth, authenticity, beauty, goodness, and truth.
By allowing our child’s experience of earthy life to be gentler and naturally unfolding, we build a solid, connected relationship with them, they can more easily develop into the unique soul they came here to be, and our parenting can be more embodied with ease, intention, and flow.
When we change the way we parent children, we change the world.
Julie Behnken, the owner of StarSong Postpartum and Beyond, believes that we can change the world through parenting our children and is no stranger when it comes to raising healthy, thriving children who embody their true selves.
As a certified Early Childhood specialist with a Master’s in women’s studies, she combines Waldorf-inspired parenting with Human Design to help new parents consciously prepare for parenthood and meet their child’s unique needs. She owned and operated a Waldorf-inspired home child care program for over a decade and has 20 years of her own parenting skills, so she has a deep understanding of caring for little humans to help them grow from a solid foundation.
In Human Design, Julie is a sacral Manifesting Generator, and astrologically, she is a Cancer sun, Cancer rising, Taurus moon.