“For it is only in warmth that a living being can grow and flourish.”
The Warmth of the Nest and a Feeling of Security
We never again find the feeling of security and protection that we experienced in the womb. Immersed in the warm amniotic fluid, a child grows surrounded by the ovular membranes and the overall envelope provided by the womb. Before birth, we experience closeness, warmth, and well-defined shelter… and a state of timelessness.
Once born, we leave these natural enclosures, becoming exposed and without protection in the wider world. Parents are now called on to replace those lost envelopes, by providing the child with a nest. But everyone concerned needs to find time to do this. Being born is like moving into a new home. It takes a while to feel really at home, with everything in its right place. For many weeks, one has first to bring the house into order, before one gradually explores the wider environment.
Similarly, children need time to become familiar with their new situation and to feel at home in their body. They need our help to feel warm and safe. Precisely at this early stage in life, they lose much of their own warmth through the still open fontanel. That is why they feel protected by warm clothing and a small cap on the head, like a chick that needs warmth and so snuggles almost entirely under its mother hen. For it is only in warmth that a living being can grow and flourish.
Children need the constant bodily presence and warm attention of their parents, who provide the feeling of being protected and sheltered. They are reassured by their parents’ faces, as they begin to recognize those who regularly lean towards them. They gradually become used to the rhythm of day and night. The constant attention paid to them by people who care for them and their activities creates a sense of security and protection: through personal care, meal preparation, regular meal times, housework and walks.
When children begin to discover their environment and conquer the space that surrounds them, one can observe that with every step they take away from us, they must ensure that we are still there. If the distance is too great, they always seek refuge in the arms or on the lap of an adult. Adaptation to the environment must also occur slowly. In the mother's body, there was always a natural limit. Now it is our responsibility to provide that from outside: playpens and door gates in the house, holding hands in the street, protection that gives children a sense of themselves. But a determined and caring "no" can also bring children to themselves.
Setting limits with love
Children need to experience the world, but they should not be forever on an adventure: they need a protected setting, some inwardness. If in the early years of life children experience clear limitations, provided with love, this is an initial step in education that enables them to address later life with confidence and assurance.
Monika Kiel-Hinrichsen. Waldorf teacher and specialist educator.
Monika Kiel-Hinrichsen, Warum Kinder trotzen, Urachhaus, 2013 (‘Why children do not listen.’ Editions Aethera.)