Every day you meet your child’s spiritual and emotional needs—you just don’t know it. In this accessible and comforting book, J.L. Shattuck provides insight into your child’s earliest rituals.

Product Code: 5483
ISBN: 9781558969063
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Skinner House Books
Size: 7 x 5
Published Date: 09/05/2023
Availability:In stock
Price: $16.00

Every day you meet your child’s spiritual and emotional needs—you just don’t know it. In this short, accessible, and comforting book, expert J.L. Shattuck provides insight into your child’s earliest rituals.

Have you ever wondered why your toddler will only drink from a specific cup, or only eat if you turn mealtime into a game? Have you ever found yourself following along with—and maybe even enjoying—your child’s increasingly elaborate bedtime routines?

In The Tending Years: Understanding Your Child’s Earliest Rituals, J.L. Shattuck argues that these behaviors are not just habits but rituals—patterns of behavior young children naturally develop to reassure themselves they are safe and loved. Shattuck draws on child developmental theory and more than two decades of experience as a teacher, religious educator, and parent to explore the spiritual roots of this behavior. She demonstrates how adults and young children instinctively work together to support each other’s growth during this unique developmental period.

Unlike parenting books that ask you to change the way you interact with your child, this easy-to-read volume details the ways in which you’re already tending to your child’s needs and offers inspiration and support to help you through the preschool years and beyond.

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Part One: Nourish
1. Curiosity
2. Companionship
3. Replenishment

Part Two: Delight
4. Narration
5. Improvisation
6. Immersion

Part Three: Rest
7. Presence
8. Consistency
9. Peace

Suggested Reading

Over my more than twenty years of working with young children, first as a classroom teacher, then as a childcare provider, and finally as both a religious educator and a mom, I’ve presided over thousands of meals with dozens of kids: in homes and in restaurants, in waiting rooms and church social halls and the back seats of cars, on buses and beaches and picnic blankets. During roughly half those meals, some amount of food was consumed. During the other half . . . well. If you’ve ever shared more than one meal with a preschooler, you know that not all of them result in the kind of nourishment we adults might have in mind. As in the examples above, many of them ended in tears.

Situations like these can leave caregivers feeling frustrated, disappointed, and powerless. We know we are called to feed the children we love and we take this responsibility seriously, doing everything in our power to make sure they receive the nutrition they need to grow and thrive. For some of us, this is a particularly hard and complicated job. Food deserts and tight grocery budgets may restrict our ability to provide the food we would like to provide in the amounts we would wish. Medical or developmental concerns may make it more difficult for a child to absorb nourishment. And even if we don’t have economic or medical reasons to feel anxious about providing adequate nutrition, it’s likely we still do, and when the kids we love don’t eat the way we think they should, we struggle.

I’ve been there, and if you’re reading this, you probably have too. But over the years I’ve begun to wonder: what if the behavior that so frustrates us at meals could encourage us instead? What if the sometimes frustrating behaviors of the preschoolers we love could actually help us give them the kind of spiritual teaching that would strengthen their relationships with us, with their communities, and with themselves?

During the tending years, I believe kids seek to connect with us at meals through three hidden spiritual practices—curiosity, companionship, and replenishment—that help us grow into the supportive guides they crave. Because these requests to connect are commonly behavioral and not verbal, they are often difficult for caregivers to recognize and understand, even as we respond to them (and we do respond to them, even if we don’t realize it!). The chapters in this section will introduce you to various aspects of each hidden practice: where it comes from, how the preschoolers you care for might ask you to engage with it, and the ways you are already doing the spiritual teaching they need.

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