Back to Basics: How To “Do” Gentle Discipline


Please excuse all the hiccups my computer is having…something is very wrong with my keyboard…..

So, in our last “back to basics” post, we looked at how to develop a framework in order to look at guiding our children  in a loving way.  Another post that may help stimulate some thought on this topic is this back post regarding how parents view children as “defiant”.  You can find that post here:

When using gentle discipline, the question becomes what tools does one use to guide?  Here is a handy list of things to think about!

1. Your Own Inner Work/Physical State.  If you are exhausted, running ragged, not going to bed, not eating well, not exercising, not dressing yourself and looking pretty, I can almost guarantee that things on the home front will not be going well.  Please, please, step back from everything outside your family and home for a week and get your house in order as much as you can, go to sleep when your babies go to sleep, arrange some help (yes, you must ask! I know how hard that is, but people love you and it gives people a chance to give to you!).  You must have something to give to your children, and that starts with you.  There are many, many posts on here regarding parenting exhaustion and parenting burn-out and what to do.  Please use the search engine on this blog with those terms and see what comes up that resonates with you.

2.  Attachment and connection are key.  This is why I write so much about attachment on this blog.  We have recently been going chapter by chapter through the book “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate, and perhaps that will give you some background and inspiration.

How do you connect with a young child?  A young child is in  their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart.  Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable.  I have written several posts on the “love languages” of children that you can go back to and look at.  What is the love language of your child?  Do you know?  How do you use this EVERY DAY to help you?

Your relationship with this child is what carries the discipline. Please do not use “discipline” as an excuse to squash your child’s will and personality.  Understand your child’s temperament and use that to help and guide you.

Use your words like the pearls that they are!

3.  Imitation Rahima Baldwin Dancy says this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “If you want to teach a certain behavior to your child, one of the best ways is to actually do it in front of (or with) him.  This demands that we as adults get up and actually do something, rather than giving the child orders or directions.”

4.  Humor – Lots of parents take parenting very seriously.  But please don’t take every word that comes out of your small child ‘s mouth so seriously and feel whatever they say is in deep need of serious explanation and weight. 


Distraction – this is a viable tool for all children under 7, and even children that are 7 or 8  can still be fairly distractible.  However, this takes creativity in the heat of the moment to think of an appropriate distraction.  Distraction is not a bribe; it is a way to change to scene to your advantage.

Distraction can also show itself by changing the environment.  Some children just need to be outside when they are upset!

6.  Using your words to paint a picture in the consciousness of your small child under the age of 7.   This is a Waldorf tool that is very useful with small children.  Instead of pulling children into their heads and into a thought-decision kind of process, try using phrases that paint a picture instead.  This can be anything from “Turn that siren down!” for a noisy little one or “Hop like a bunny over here for some food.”  You are re-directing behavior into something more positive through the images that arise from these types of phrases.  For those interested in more about pictorial imagery, please do see Donna Simmons’ bookstore and look under her audio downloads for her CD entitled, “Talking Pictorially” at    There is also mention of this with examples on the free Christopherus Audio Download about Waldorf Education as a therapeutic education.

I have written an entire post on this subject here: 

And here is a post regarding talking to the seven and eight-year-old:  

7.  On the subject of words, try limited choices, less words or no words at all – Sometimes just a look suffices more than a hundred words.  Try just helping your child get into their coat while you sing a song that you usually sing when you go outside.  Try just handing your child their toothbrush after their bath instead of a whole book about the necessity of dental hygiene. 

8.  Time-in.  According to Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting,

“Sometimes parents are advised to use a time-out instead of spanking their kids – as though these were the only two options available. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means. If we were forced to choose one over the other, then, sure time-outs are preferable to spankings. For that matter, spanking kids is preferable to shooting them, but that’s not much of an argument for spanking.”  -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 65-66.

“Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 26-27.

So, consider the value of time-in instead.  Some families have a place where adults and children can sit together until they all calm down, some mothers just have their child sit near them while they do some sort of rhythmical work.

9.  Ignoring –yup, you heard me right.  The Gesell Institute books routinely recommend turning a blind eye to some of your child’s behaviors if it is not hurting others or themselves (or just driving you plain crazy!).  There are times to draw a line in the sand, but if you nit-pick every behavior, you are on the verge of demanding, and not commanding as an Authentic Leader.

10.  Physical follow-through – If you say something to a small child, you should expect to have to physically  help them follow through.  You should expect to have to physically hold an upset child if they need it.  The physicality of life with a small child is always there – hugs, kisses, a lap to sit on and help to do things as needed.  The child’s respect and dignity always needs to be respected, so you need to be calm when you are following through, but please remember a young child under 7 is probably not going to function well on verbal directives alone.

Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to authority that is expressed only through the spoken word without being accompanied by actions. With the preschool age child, you need to correct and demonstrate again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it.  Their memories simply aren’t that mature yet.”

11. RESTITUTION – How does the child make this right?  No moralizing, no lecture, just what ACTION can they take to make it right?  Do this AFTER a time-in, after everyone has calmed down!

11.  FREEZE!  One of the best tools in parenting is learning to take that quick pause in your mind’s eye and ask yourself if what you are about to do is going to help your child be the adult they were meant to be; is it going to escalate or de-escalate the situation, is it going to teach your child something or is it just a moment of anger for you that will pass?

Many blessings,


Back to Basics: The Framework for Gentle Discipline

This month we are headed “Back to Basics” in honor of The Parenting Passageway’s birthday.  We will be taking a look at the hallmarks of peaceful family life:  ourselves and our framework toward the family, children and gentle discipline, the environment in which we live, rhythm and moving into looking at the holistic child and education.  This promises to be a renewing month!

So, to kick us off, here is one of the first posts I ever wrote on gentle discipline (October 2008), updated for today!


From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.”  THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, published by La Leche League International.


“In practice, gentle discipline means making mistakes, working with your own anger, and growing as a person.”  (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, pageXXii).

“We would like to think that children learn the civilizing virtues- caring, compassion, consideration- simply by our good example, but most children need a little more than that. A clear definition of acceptable behavior, our expectation that they can meet the standard, and periodic guidance when they stray- all of these are necessary…..Guiding our children-lovingly-is an important part of caring for them and helping them to be loving and lovable to people within our families and beyond.” (THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 256-7, Seventh Revised Edition).

“Gentle discipline means, quite simply, placing empathy and respect at the very center of your parenting.”  (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 3).

Okay, quick!  When I say the phrase, “Gentle Discipline” what comes into your mind – the first thing? No censoring!  For many of us, gentle discipline equates with permissiveness and the thought of a Kids Gone Wild Video!  For others of us, gentle discipline equates with being the parent, who, for lack of better phrasing, is the “valium parent” –you know, the parent who never raises their voice, the parent who is always calm and composed.  “Okay, you just pierced your little brother’s nose with a screwdriver in the garage?  Okaaaay, maybe next time you should ask before you do that!”

Maybe some of us are sad when we hear this phrase, because we would like to not be yelling at our children, or hitting our children, but we are not sure what other tools we have in our toolbox to use.

What if I told you I see gentle discipline in a completely different light?

Many parents equate discipline to punishment.  My Webster’s Dictionary defines discipline some other ways, including as “instruction”; “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”.  I love the idea of discipline being a way to guide or lead a child. There are consequences to the behaviors we choose as individuals, but many times we punish children for being in a developmentally normal state.

Eda LeShan, in her wonderful article, “Please Don’t Hit Your Kids”, published in Mothering Magazine in Spring of 1996, writes:  “We actually tend to hit children who are behaving normally.  A two year old bites because he doesn’t yet know better ways to deal with problems.  A five year old steals crayons at school because five is too young to control the impulse to take what she wants when she wants it.  A 10 year old lies about having joined some friends in teasing a newcomer at school, since at this age it’s normal to want social approval more than fairness.  It takes many years to learn self-restraint.  This is not a crime.  And making children feel guilty and bad doesn’t solve the problem.  What is called for is help in making retribution, having adults explain why such behavior must be overcome.”

Guiding with loving firmness.  THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 257 states: “Discipline is a much maligned word, often associated with punishment and deprivation. Yet discipline actually refers to the guidance which we as parents lovingly give our children to help them do the right things for the right reasons- to help them grow into secure, happy, and loving persons able to step out in to the world with confidence in their own ability to succeed in whatever they set out to do.”

“Bear in mind that to say children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from, and these are assets you bring to the child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 11).

So, there is another oft-maligned word that  I believe needs to be attached to the idea of discipline as a way to guide a child – and that word is AUTHORITY.  Authority is a word that leaves a bad taste in many parents’ mouths.  “Authority?  We don’t need any of that here!  Our home is not a police state!”

Well, when I looked up authority in my Webster’s Dictionary, it said that authority is “a citation from a book or file used in defense or support”, “a decision taken as a precedent”, or finally, “power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.”   Influencing my child’s behavior is part of my job as a parent, but I felt it did not get across everything I wanted to say in this situation.  Then I noticed that authority and the word a few entries above, authentic, share the same root.  The dictionary says that authentic is “authoritative” and “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to fact of reality:TRUSTWORTHY.”

So, perhaps you could view your path in gentle discipline as a way to authentically guide your child.  You, as a trustworthy, authoritative guide. You, providing loving boundaries that will guide your child toward being a healthy adult.


How can you be an authentic parent today, building connection and warmth with your child to guide them effectively into the adult you would like them to be?  What kind of adult do you want them to be?  What values does your family hold most dear and how do you SHOW that in action to your children?

Many blessings,


Time-in, Time-out

(I had a lovely mother email me about time-in versus time-out and she bore the brunt of listening to some off-the-top-of-my-head musings, so I just wanted to thank her for inspiring this post…Hopefully this post is my coherent than my initial ramblings…)

Time-in is still getting a lot of press around parenting circles in the United States this summer.  To me, the traditional version of “time-out” complete with naughty chair and one minute for every year of the child’s age is the equivalent of emotional spanking.  You can read what I have written about time-out here:  and here:  and here: 

I also have just a common-sense kind of beef with time-out:  if your child is that calm that they can go and sit in a chair to “think”, then they probably could have been addressed with other methods of positive discipline to guide them.  I am all for helping to  guide children.  Try some different ideas than time-out here in this post:

The opposite end of this spectrum is that when children are not calm and they are falling apart, this is not a teachable moment.  If you need a time-out as a parent, I am all for that.  However, for the child end of this equation, if your child is so upset and they are melting, how is sending them with their overwhelming feelings to sit in a chair going to help them make the most of this opportunity to learn? Please look at that “More About Time-In For Tinies” post listed above for some tips on handling meltdowns!

I also find that Americans and the Brits are really the only groups where time-out seems to come up at all.  So I think there is a strong cultural component that is influencing the use of time-in in parenting in this country. 

That being said, some people are saying some things about time-out that I wanted to bring out.  In the book “Attached At The Heart”, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, founders of Attachment Parenting International, argue that “time –out” should be re-defined:  “We would like to take back this term, remembering its original intention:  stopping the activity, taking a break, and coming back with renewed perspective.  Keeping this in mind helps parents work on their relationship with their child, rather than focusing on the child’s behavior, and make efforts that strengthen the parent-child connection.”

Some people have argued that time-in is not much of a deterrent toward changing behavior.  What time-in gives a child is the chance to connect.  Time-in is not a punitive strategy;  it is a strategy toward making a teachable moment happen and calming everyone down.  Lawrence Cohen, PhD and author of “Playful Parenting”, has a whole section in this book entitled, “ Choose A “Meeting On the Couch”  Over a “Time-Out” (page 234).  I would encourage everyone to read this book, and this section in particular as he talks about time-outs were supposed to be a humane alternative to hitting children and have now ended up as the ultimate tool of positive discipline but that time-outs “enforce isolation on children who are probably already feeling isolated and disconnected.”  He goes on to talk about how one COULD use time-out in a better way:   1.  By inserting yourself into a child’s play when things are ramping up and play with the child(ren) (to me, this is like the way I say “Hold The Space”  This may work well for sibling fighting!  You could say “Time-out!  I am going to play with you all now too!”  2.  Providing a time-out for YOURSELF (which I am all for!) or 3.  Giving children a cozy place they can go to and calm down in when they choose to go there, for however long they choose to stay there (I find this can work for children coming up on 9, but that many small children just do not understand the concept of being by themselves to calm down; they need your help!)

He also talks about how punishment gets a child’s attention, but how our goal should be to get a child’s attention  in order to connect with that child, not to scare them, not to show them “who is boss”.  To me, every single thing you do and say and construct within the rhythm and environment of your home should be modeling how a calm and compassionate adult functions and lives; not punishment!  My nine-year-old said to me tonight, “Mommy, how did grown-ups get to be so smart about everything?”  She is surrounded by smart, confident, wonderful and caring adults in our neighborhood, our church, through our friends.  These are authentic, real people, not people who pretend to like children and grit their teeth and smile.  She is impressed with these people, and so am I!  She doesn’t need punishment to get attention or to figure out that adults know things; she sees this modeled each and every day!  Keep your eye on your ultimate vision for your children as laid out in your Family Mission Statement and the gentle tools that are appropriate for your child’s age in order to guide them!  If you need help understanding your child’s development stage by age, please do see the posts on the one-year-old, the two-year-old, the three-year-old, etc, all the way through age nine on this blog, and go back to those posts on the Family Mission Statement if you need help there. 

I like this quote from Lawrence Cohen’s book (please do see his website here: – there is now an AUDIO version of his book out, for that I am excited!  I have the book, but I could envision listening to the audio version in my car, etc.)…  He writes, “We are often reluctant to give out love to people who have been bad, even when it’s what they need.  I have always liked the poem by Edwin Markham, which A.S. Neill quotes in the beginning of his book Freedom—Not Licensel:

He drew a circle that shut me out -

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!”

Still not convinced?  I am all for boundaries!  You can still be gentle and have boundaries.  You can still love your child and keep boundaries.  In fact, I think if you truly love your child, there MUST be boundaries.    But I am also all for understanding a child’s developmental stage and working with that in a positive way.  As Barbara Coloroso, author of “Kids Are Worth It!  Giving the Gift of Inner Discipline” says regarding discipline:  Leave your child’s dignity intact. 

Help your children by guiding them with LOVE.

Many blessings,


Celebrating Children Who Say “No!”

Sometimes we can smile with a small toddler as they reach for something in an obvious gesture of embrace but are still saying “no”. However, in general, many parents frequently feel frustrated when small children start using the word “no” (and yes, I do know this is because your precious one has said “no” literally 800 times today!).  It also seems as a society we rarely celebrate our older preschoolers or older children being able to say “no” to us .

No really can be a cause for celebration if you look at it in the right way.  Why do I say this?  The word “no” is a true expression of My Own Will.  Without the ability to say no, there are no boundaries between Me and Other.  And boundaries are something that can really serve your children well when they are adults!

I am reading this interesting book called “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  This book was published in 1992, so perhaps some of you have already read this.  One of the points in this book is that the word “no” is a basic word we use to set boundaries in our lives, and boundaries can help us as adults answer such questions as how can I set limits and still be a loving person, how do I answer people who would like my time/money/love/energy, how do we set boundaries without feeling guilty.  Anyway, I don’t agree with everything in this book, but it is worth a look if this is an area that is challenging for you!

I also like what Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears say in their book, “The Discipline Book:  How to Have A Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten”:  “Saying no is important for a child’s development, for establishing his identity as an individual.  This is not defiance or a rejection of your authority.  Some parents feel they cannot tolerate any nos at all from their children, thinking that to permit this would undermine their authority.  They wind up curtailing an important process of self-emergence:  Children have to experiment with  where their mother leaves off and where they begin.  Parents can learn to respect individual wishes and still stay in charge and maintain limits.  The boundaries of selfhood will be weak if the self gets no exercise.  As your child gets older, the ability to get along with peers in certain situations (stealing, cheating, drugs, and so on) will depend on her ability to say no.” (page 67)

I have also seen the opposite:  mothers who rarely say no to anything.  Saying no is not negative; I have written about “The Power of A Well-Placed No” here for your reading pleasure:

So how can we as parents better embrace and respond to when our children say “no”? 

1. For small children, do look at what is behind the “no” a child is saying.  Maybe the no is really I don’t want to go to bed (but I really am tired).  Maybe the no is I don’t want to stop playing to go to the bathroom.  Maybe the no is something else.  So being able to look behind the no to see what is the true need or want is important, and will help everyone get their needs met.

2.  Give small children your time to help transition, and have a rhythm to things.  If small children are engaged in something, give them time to switch gears with your help.  Songs and verses for these  transition points are helpful here.  A rhythm is also helpful because then a child knows what comes after what every day. 

3.  If there is a natural consequence for a child not doing something, then  you must follow through.  I know everyone is going to write and ask for examples of this, but really this is variable family to family and also depends upon the age of the child.   Perhaps an example would be with a child who won’t wear a coat to go outside on a freezing cold day.  No coat, no outside.  When the coat goes on, the child can go outside. 

4.  Please don’t let your child’s resistance to something make you doubt yourself.  Your child is not choosing to get cavities just because they don’t want to brush their teeth.  I don’t mean this to give an excuse for some really authoritarian parenting, but I do want you to feel empowered that you do know something about what your child needs!

5.  Recognize that older children say “no” in different ways, such as the famous “You’re mean!” “You’re not the boss of me!” or things to sidetrack the whole original issue. Less words and a calm tone can be helpful here.  Don’t get sidetracked and feel as if you have to verbally respond to everything your child is saying.   Love your child, be warm, but stay the course.

Many blessings,


“Discipline Without Distress” – The Last Chapter!

Well, we did it – we are now on the last chapter of “Discipline Without Distress” by Judy Arnall and ready to move on to our new book, “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.  You can order it through Amazon here:

Let’s finish this book up!  This last chapter is entitled, “Technology Without Distress: Educate, Not Ban.”   Despite the title of this chapter, the author makes a great case for the fact that babies, toddlers, and school-aged children do best with hands-on learning and have no need for technology in the Early Years and Early Grades (see for yourself on  pages 368-371).

Judy Arnall writes in the beginning of the chapter about how we are currently in a generation gap due to technology.  She equates things such as instant messaging to book discussions thirty years ago, the internet to encyclopedias, books, microfiche thirty years ago.  She notes that “of all the electronic devices designed to make adult and children’s lives easier, computer and video games, as well as instant messaging and the internet, are the major concerns of disciplining and parenting.”

Her first topic to tackle is one of safety on the Internet and how to discuss this with children, how to talk about the fact that what one says in email and on the Internet is permanent (including photographs and video).  I think one could also add that the computer should be in a public place of the house, and that there should be ways to block certain content of the Internet.

In her section regarding “Games, Games, Games….What’s the Difference?” the author equates an adult getting a scrapbook kit or golf clubs and being told you can only scrapbook or  play for one hour on Saturdays.  She writes, “You are probably feeling disappointed, angry, and frustrated at the limitation, especially in spite of this whole new world opened to you.  This is probably how a child feels for the first time she experiences a computer or video game.”

I personally think this makes a great case for introducing technology later rather  than sooner.   I think that small children especially can have a rather “more”-ness about them with rather poor self-control as this is part and parcel of being a child.  Adults can be like this as well, but hopefully an adult can temper the “more” they want and look to themselves for happiness, for creativity.  I am not certain video games provide a helpful teaching tool for that, especially after all my research on boys and how boys can become easily “visually addicted”.  I will refer you to Don and Jeanne Elium’s “Raising A Son” for more regarding this. 

Judy Arnall cites the good things about gaming, including academic benefits, life skill benefits, and socialization benefits.  She talks about the need for moderation and considers if her teenagers are involved in other activities that it is all working out okay, and she advocates for a balanced life.

I personally feel most of the suggestions in this chapter, especially the section on gaming, was aimed more at teenagers (except for the pages 368-371 listed above) than smaller children.  However, one certainly is seeing a big push for computers and games for small children in pre-school and kindergarten and certainly in the elementary school years, at least here in the United States.

Judy Arnall admits she has a “pro-gaming” stance.  For the other side of this argument, I will direct you all to this post from the Alliance For Childhood:

Please share with other mothers how you handle media (TV, computers and gaming) in your homes along with the ages of your children.  Help other mothers make informed decisions for their families.

And please do look for the first post in our next book study!

Many blessings,


The Power of a Well-Placed No

As attached parents, we often act as if we are afraid to say the word, “No.” We become good at structuring our homes so we don’t have to say “no” all the time to our babies and toddlers.  This is a good thing.   For the preschooler, we become masters of using fantasy and movement to re-direct a child.  We use distraction. We pull out every tool in our toolbox….

But sometimes a child needs to hear a well-placed “no”.

As adults, we know that life often hands us a “no” that is not couched in any other terms. We are  living in a society where parents are scooping in to rescue older children who have been dealt “no’s” through consequences.  Parents who are trying to have the school pass a child who needs to fail.  Parents who are so emotionally invested in their children that they need to detach a bit and let a “no” settle on their child, even if it means their child is not going to pass a grade, not make the team, not gain admittance to that college program. 

What are your non-negotiable “no’s” and why do you feel badly saying this word?  “No” is not a bad word!

Yes, we try to offer what a child can do along with the no. Yes, we try to leave the heart and spirit of the child open and not crush them with this powerful word.   But I strongly feel that not every “no” needs to be followed by this.  Sometimes just “no” is truly enough.

If you are a loving parent, please accept that “no” can sometimes be the most loving thing that you can say, and that we are doing a disservice to our children if they do not hear a few well-placed, loving  “no’s” from an early age.

Many blessings today,


Stages of Discipline for Boys

Let’s wrap up our series of posts about raising good men.  I  like this quote:  “Without a seasoned heart connection between parents and sons, the teenage years feel like wartime…..The balancing of limit-setting and parent-son relationships begins at a boy’s birth.  The father who waits to become alive in the family until his son is a teenager and making trouble puts himself at a great disadvantage; he will have little effect with his son.  If he starts “laying down the law” the son can just leave.  A thirteen-year-old can live for days by going from one friend’s house to another.”

Discipline, as I have written about time and time again, begins with CONNECTION:

Here are some ideas for discipline and general parenting through age 12.  Please do take what resonates with you and leave the rest behind.

Ideas For Birth- Age 7

  • Closeness and connection through breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, warmth, and lots of time together lay a great foundation for this attachment and connection that becomes the foundation of discipline.
  • Protection of the senses is very important. I have written so much about this on this blog that I am not going to go into all of that here; the other issue to consider is how we deal with a boy’s feeling/emotional life.  It is important to not let your own baggage, your own sense of worry and anxiousness and inadequacies color how you present the world to your child.  Work through your own stuff and you will be a much better parent. 
  • We always need to remember that small children view things much differently than an adult does.  Small children under the age of 7 have an entirely different consciousness. 
  • How will you supervise and structure the day of your small son?  A four and five year old little boy especially needs structure and a way to get physical energy out – they will most likely need to do this first thing in the morning and again in the afternoon.  Life will not go smoothly without this!
  • Boys need to know the rules of your family and they need you to be kind, fair and calm. 

AGE 8- AGE 12:  Suggestions for parenting:

  • You must be involved, because “the boy is no longer satisfied with free play.  He wants to go further, to master physical challenges, make things, and build with a goal in mind.  He requires more parental involvement in planning, supervising, and providing opportunities at home and in the world that help him develop the skills he craves.” – from “Raising A Son” by Rick Johnson
  • Positive role models are very important!
  • Help your son experience success and the value of persistence in learning.  Help boys sample lots of different kinds of skills so they can find their own talents and abilities.    Music lessons, carpentry, drama are all important for this age. 
  • Boys of this age CRAVE time with their fathers and still need their mothers.
  • Boys of this age are working on building up their self-esteem, and how they deal with relationships.  Help them.
  • Children of this age are still impulsive and don’t think things through, so they still need rules that are fair and boundaries to help them.
  • Sexuality is now a topic of interest, so  think how you would like to approach this. There was just a great discussion about this topic over on Melisa Nielsen’s Yahoo!Group at .  Please do join in!

Many blessings,


Raising Healthy Boys

I mentioned in my last blog post (  the importance of a father or other positive male role models in raising boys into successful manhood.  Rick Johnson has a great quote in his book, “That’s My Son”:

Manhood and fatherhood are learned behaviors.  Boys are visual creatures and learn by observing.  By watching how men react in certain situations, what they say, and how they solve problems, boys learn to become men.  Boys need to be instructed at an early age to take on their manly responsibility.  They need to develop a leadership style that appears both noble to men and endearing to women rather than dominant or abusive.  They need to understand a masculine vision of what a real man is.  They need a code of conduct teaching them how a real man lives his life.”

I have written on this blog before about the difference between mothering and fathering, and the importance of both (see: )   .  If you are in a situation where you are a single parent or your child’s father is uninvolved, Rick Johnson, suggests looking at Boy Scouts of America (and yes, I know there are varying opinions about Boy Scouts), Little League and soccer, and male teachers. He also suggests attending things with your son in which men are involved, such as sporting games, etc.

To understand the role of older men in nurturing boys better, I like how authors Don and Jeanne Elium outline the progression of maternal attachment to entering the world of men in their book, “Raising A Son”.  They talk about the importance of fathers being involved with their son even though a small child is primarily attached to the mother during the early years.  They write, “The father who is active with his son in the early years is making a huge investment for the future.”  They note through culture that boys are frequently begin subconscious separation from their mothers around the age of three. 

The psychological identification of boys with their Father begins somewhere between the years of five and eight.  The Eliums write that this does not mean a boy no longer wants, needs or wants attention from his mothers, but that the child often experiences a “push-pull” relationship with their mother and that the boys are often craving a relationship with their fathers.  Rick Johnson pinpoints the ages of around five and adolescence as times where mothers and sons experience challenges as a boy tries to head toward manhood.  Mothers must not take this push and pull personally!

Around the age of nine can often come a time where the young boy is challenging authority more and really needs copious amounts of time with other positive adult males.  At this time, the boy’s relationship with his mother must be expanded and transformed.  The Eliums write that “Boys have to be pulled into the responsibilities of the adult male world with compassion, firmness and father-love……From Dad the son learns not only about his male body, but about the masculine workings of the mind, soul, and spirit.”

John Eldredge, author of “Wild at Heart”  says that “The idea, widely held in our culture, is that the aggressive nature of boys is inherently bad, and we have to make them into something more like girls.”  Indeed, this idea of “shaping behavior” comes up frequently.  Christina Hoff Summers talks about how boys do not need to be “ pathologized” and that whilst aggression and such needs to be channeled into constructive ways, we are forgetting that some of these exact traits are what contributes goodness to society.

What the Eliums bring up is that we often ignore the soul of the boy as he transforms into a man.  Author Rick Johnson argues that boys, and later men, have needs to have significance in their lives and to have a cause to fight for.  I have written time and time again on this blog about children having chores and contributing to the family so there is something bigger than just themselves.  I have written time and time again about the need for children to see spiritual ideas in ACTION, so they see there is something bigger than themselves in both the spiritual realm and also in the sense of community.  Boys also  crave heroes, and stories about our founding fathers, pioneers, frontiersman, soldiers, athletes for boys ages 7 and up really can be helpful.

It is important that mothers let their boys take risks; that they understand that getting physically hurt to a boy frequently just means they need to try again; that taking risks and attaining success is an important part of developing into manhood.  Johnson says, “A man’s role in life often requires him to persist in the face of adversity.”  Boys do need guidance, but smothering love and over-protectiveness does not help.  The Eliums describe boys as needing parents who are courageous and who can set firm and appropriate boundaries for their sons based upon complete connection and lots of time spent together.

Lots more to say in the next post.

Live big and love your children!


Boys, Boys, Boys

Let’s talk about raising boys for a few days!  For those of you raising daughters, I did a few posts specific to fathers and daughters here:  and here:

Here is another one:

For this topic of raising boys, I really like the book (once again!) by Don and Jeanine Elium entitled “Raising A Son: Parents and the Making of A Healthy Man”.  You can find this book here:

My husband and I also recently read “That’s My Son:  How Moms Can Influence Boys To Become Men of Character” by Rick Johnson.  This is a quick read, and very interesting.   My husband and I really enjoyed this one.   You can find this book here:

I was wondering what mothers out there are finding most challenging about raising boys?  I would love to hear from you, please do leave me a comment in the comment box!  

Boys are wonderful.  I happen to very much love a little boy who grew up to be a terrific man.  :)  But, the question for many parents of boys seems to exactly be “how to raise a good man.”  After all, the statistics regarding boys quoted in Rick Johnson’s “That’s My Son” are rather dire:

  • Boys are six times more likely than girls to have learning disorders
  • Boys are three times more likely to be drug addicted
  • Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed as emotionally disturbed
  • Boys are twelve times more likely to commit murder
  • Boys have a 50 percent greater risk of dying in a car accident
  • Boys are five times more likely to commit suicide
  • Young boys are seven times more likely to be admitted to mental hospitals and juvenile institutions than girls of the same age/socioeconomic background
  • Boys are twice as likely as girls to have autism and six times as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Boys stutter more than girls and are diagnosed with more speech disorders than girls
  • Boys are more likely to have birth defects, mental retardation and even genetic diseases.

When boys seem to have so much stacked against them, how can we go about raising a good man?

I think one of the first places to start is to understand what makes a boy tick.  Physically, boys are different than girls.

For example, a boy or a man uses mainly one hemisphere of the brain at a time.  Women’s brains have a larger corpus collosum that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, so we tend to use both.  This may account for differences in perceiving emotion and multi-tasking.

Males have less serotonin than females and  have up to twenty times more testosterone.  Testosterone is a cause of more dominant behavior, and also causes more muscle growth and hair.  Males are bigger, faster, stronger.  Rick Johnson writes:   “Due to higher levels of testosterone, males tend to act out in times of stress.  Females tend to become withdrawn in similar circumstances.  In stressful situations (during their parents’ divorce, for instance), adolescent males often become angry and aggressive, getting into trouble and acting act, whereas adolescent females are more prone to becoming depressed and withdrawn.”   Males also have a larger amygdala, the portion of the brain that orders the adrenal glands and other glands into action during times of stress.  This also contributes to increased dominance as compared to females.

But this is just the physical side, and we know that people are more than just their physical bodies.  Males *typically* are better at math, science, spatial relations, logic and reasoning as shown by brain scans. 

The Eliums write in “Raising A Son”:  “…a man tends to fix problems first and consider his relationship with his spouse or partner later, whereas most women consider the relationship in the solution.  Men tend to focus on one problem or task at a time (as at a bull’s-eye on a target) and see any other occurrences in their lives as distractions to ignore.”   Men tend to take in less sensory input from their environment and have shorter overall attention spans than females.

Competition, rules and order are more important to boys.   Clear, firm but loving guidance is really important to boys.  In Chapter One of “Raising A Son”, the authors point out that boys want to know things.  They want to know who is the boss, what the rules are, and are you going to enforce the rules.  “To have a strong relationship with a boy, you have to be the boss, and a very kind one.  Only set rules that you can enforce, and always enforce them.  Then you have the basis for the relationship.  From here comes respect, and more importantly, trust.  Then you can be kind, he’ll listen, and he knows that you are on his side.”

Obviously, all children, boys included, are developed through biology, psychology,  culture, the unique and individual “I” that every person has.   However, firm, kind, consistent are words that have come up over and over in the literature I have researched in dealing with the guidance of boys.  Some of you have wonderful boys who may not have needed this approach, but most of the literature seems to support these traits in raising boys. 

The other thing that has come up over and over and over in my research is that boys need a man mentor.  A woman just cannot teach a boy to be a man.  Positive male role models are extremely important in a boy’s life.  Typically a boy starts identifying more with their fathers than their mothers around the age of five.  It is important that fathers have an active relationship with their sons.   This does not mean that mother is no longer important, or the tie to mothers must be severed, but that the relationship of a boy to other men is important in learning how to be a good man.  The Eliums point out in their book that “Ancient peoples wisely anticipated the first show of testosterone’s power.  When boys became unruly, hard to handle, aggressive, and difficult, community members knew the time was ripe. It was time to make a boy into a man.”

Lots more to say, but will stop there tonight.  Thoughts?

Many blessings,


Gentle Parenting and Boundaries

I really like this quote by Gary Chapman, author of  “The Five Love Languages” and “Love As A Way of Life”.  He writes in the Foreward to Susie Larson’s wonderful book, “Growing Grateful Kids:  Teaching Them to Appreciate An Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places”:

“Children who are indulged by parents, given whatever they request and allowed to do whatever they desire, are likely to have major problems in establishing healthy adult relationships.  The absence of boundaries does not equip children for the real world.  These children will become “takers” rather than “givers”.  Consequently they fail to find the deep satisfaction that comes from genuinely loving others.”

Many times when parents ask me about gentle parenting, they are asking from one of two perspectives.  The first perspective is a perspective of guilt because they think they yell too much or are essentially too hard on their children.  Their household is not peaceful and they are frustrated with that and want things to change, but they are not sure how to change.  The second perspective parents ask me from is where gentle parenting is equated with no boundaries at all, and they are intrigued but  skeptical.

To me gentle parenting and boundaries involves several steps.  The first step is to get clear with yourself as to what the values and rules are for your family.  The second step is to figure out how you will hold this boundary in the moment, in a calm and unflappable way,  and what are the tools you will use to help your child (hint:  yelling is not a tool .  :))  And, what will you  do if you feel as if you cannot hold the boundary anymore but you know you need to for your child’s sake?  What is your plan?  Third, what does your child  learn from pushing against the boundary – what active ways do you have to help your child make restitution?

Let’s look at each step briefly:

First of all, gentle parenting starts with knowing yourself and what you model for your child through your ACTIONS.   You must have thoughts regarding what the most important things are in your life.  What are the values of your family and what are the rules of your house?  After those boundaries and  rules of the house are established in a Family Mission Statement, in your head, discussed with your spouse, then you must think through how to be consistent with those boundaries and what will happen when a child pushes against the boundary.  Will you be a wall that falls when they push against it (and this “falling” could be giving in or just falling apart and yelling or crying yourself!)…. or will you be solid and calm but not moveable?  Can you hold the boundary because of your love for the child and because you know this is what this child needs in order to grow up and be a wonderful adult? 

So, how will you hold the boundary in a calm way?  Many of us have what I call a ” breaking point”. What is yours?  Is it after your child has been on the floor screaming for over an  hour?  Is it your child hitting you?  Is it your child hitting the baby?  Is it running around the house?  How will you deal with your own breaking point?  We are all human, so what is your plan for when the breaking point occurs?

What does the child learn by pushing against the boundary?  In life, every decision has pros and cons and trade-offs and I think we need to with these small teachable moments.

Sometimes in gentle parenting we hear a lot of talk about “natural consequences”.   With children under the age of 5, they cannot think ahead to consequences at all.  I have one friend who told me once that small children who don’t want to brush their teeth are not choosing cavities.  She is correct, and I think we must be careful with the idea of “natural consequences” for very small children.   With a child under the age of 5, it really  is up to you to help your child meet the boundary that you have decided upon  by regulating the environment, the rhythm of eating and sleep, the amount of physical activity, the amount of supervision you are providing.  Even a  four or five-year-old left to their own devices is probably going to get into trouble left on their own for too long!  Remember, a child needs pretty constant checking in and supervision up to the age of 10 according to The Gesell Institute books.  Other tools include singing, fantasy and movement, your gentle hands, distraction and giving the child a job to do.  Perhaps your most important tool for the child is that of restitution.  The child will need your help with this, but it is important for a child to see how they can fix something instead of hearing a lecture about the problem.  Things like yelling and such on your part typically indicate you yourself have either no other tools in your toolbox or that you reached your breaking point and perhaps the behavior needed to change for the sanity of the family before it all got to that point. I have written quite a bit about anger and parenting, and feel those back posts could be of service to you.  The posts regarding self-care may also be helpful.

With a child of six, you have the above tools, plus you can add a few more choice and more pointed sentences about what we do where.  I direct you to the fine book, “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” as available through  Story-telling can become a fine way to assist your child in seeing the situation from a different persepctive.  I recommend Susan Parrow’s “Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour” as a reference. 

With a chid of seven and eight, now we are moving into even more of the why’s in simple terms.  Logical reasoning is not present, but as children approach nine, they do understand a bit more about what will happen when they do something.  Their responses are immature, often riddled with emotion, but they are learning.  Criticism will tear them down, as they cannot separate your criticism of their behavior from themselves, so do be careful to speak with your child simply when things are calm and to  help the child to make restitution.  Start empowering them to be able to think about fixing a problem rather than just hearing a lecture about the problem.    Children from nine to twelve are really in the beginning of the foundation years for character development as we know it, and the teenaged years even more so.  So much work for the parent to do!

The point is, though, that gentle parenting and boundaries do co-exist.  Parenting is hard and challenging work!  You have to love your child so much that you will put everything else aside when your child needs your help. In this way, they can learn to be a  good human being and how to live and work with other people of all ages. 

Live big and love your children,