Renewal: Commit Yourself to Gentle Discipline

During this forty days of renewal,  re-commit yourself to gentle discipline!

Look  at your child as this small being who has a completely different consciousness than an adult and work with that child to guide that child and leave everyone’s dignity intact.  Small  children really don’t look at things the same way that you do as an adult, because they do not have logical reasoning.  No matter how verbal they are, they still have a different consciousness than you do as an adult if they are small. 

You are the leader, the guide, on this journey because you have more years of living.    Commit yourself to looking at discipline as guiding instead of punishing.  You are trying to raise a capable, responsible, loving, compassionate adult.  Please do not give them a childhood that lands them distanced from you, please do not give them a childhood where they feel badly for being a child and being immature and making mistakes because that is what all children are and that is what all children do.

Think of connection and attachment as your number one key to discipline.  There are going to be rough spots, places of disequilbrium as your child grows.   Your child is not you, your child is not the psychological extension of you, and this can be painful as your child grows.  But please don’t mistake the fact that a child can have their own mind, their own will, as something that is horrible that should be broken.  You are there to guide and work with this child, not to break this child!

Here are your helpers in the guiding of a small child under the age of six: (these are in no special order).

1. Connection and attachment

2.  A good rhythm with lots of outside time – hours of outside time a day!

3.  A healthy diet and rest and sleep.

4.  Low stimulation

5.  Less words on your part,  more action, more imaginative phrasing than just a direct verbal command.  I wrote a post on using your words like a paintbrush to paint a picture just a few days ago:

6.  Having the child make restitution for their mistakes if it is fixable

7.  Having realistic expectations for the child’s age.

8.  Warmth toward this child on your part – the more the child is acting out of sorts, the more you need to connect with this child.

9.  The setting of boundaries that are not movable. You can still be gentle and set a boundary.  They are going to push against the rhythm, against the boundary,  and you can still be gentle.

10.  A parental time-out when you need it.

11. Time-in when they need it.  There are quite a few posts on this blog about time-in. 

12.  You taking care of yourself!  A frazzled mommy cannot effectively and gently guide their small child.  Take a breather and slow down. 

13.  The ability to forgive yourself and start over the next minute if you need to.  It is never too late to start over, to collect your child and connect to your child. 

What would you add to this list?  Leave a comment in the box below!

Many blessings,


Peaceful Guiding of Children

There are several steps to peaceful guidance of small children.

1.  It is important to  work hard at connection with these children during happy and joyful times.  Connection that is built up over time, and connection that is built in the moment of crisis are both needed. 

2.  It is important to attempt to guide from a place of understanding of developmental stages.  Many parents try to guide from emotion (ie, anger, yelling) or guide from a place of reasoning and extra explanations and such so the child will essentially agree with them regarding discipline and the action taken by the parent.  Neither is effective.  Guidance from place of developmental understanding and other tools are necessary.

3.  It helps to be working on yourself, and also to understand your own family culture.  Try this back post for help:

4.  Boundaries are important!  Children need to learn how to function in society. What are the boundaries in your home? What are the rules?  It should not be all willy-nilly!  It matters what boundaries you set, so think about them and set them in confidence and love!

5.  The needs of ALL the family members matter!  The rhythm of your day, bedtimes, mealtimes, etc have to work for EVERYONE.  You are the designer of your family life and if something is NOT working, you must change it!

This is a brief summary of gentle discipline techniques according to age, up through age 8.   These are not all-inclusive lists, but just some things to get you started and thinking!

Children ages 1 -2:  Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, limited words, singing and verses and movement instead, avoid DIRECT commands because they will turn around and run the other way!  Don’t be afraid to pick your child up and move them.  Shape  the environment – don’t put all the toys out, etc.   Rest is important!  Getting the energy out is important!

Children aged 2:  Keep out of the home excursions very limited and simple.  Simple words (remember a child of 18 months is about at the “coat-hat-out” phase so a 2 year old is not too far ahead of this!  Do not provide choices about big things, esp at 2 and a half – they have a really hard time choosing and are likely to dissolve into a puddle of tears.  Have confidence, find your rhythm.  Do not expect two years to share! Shape the environment. Use imagination and fantasy for daily tasks, for changing activities.  Sideways, sideways, sideways instead of direct head on commands and demands.   Rest is important. 

Children ages 3 and 4:  Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out,  limited words and explanation, singing and verses and movement instead.  Let some of the behaviors go and ignore instead of trying to address every single thing. 

Children ages 5 and 6:   Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, limited words but more pointed phrases regarding behavior, verses, this is a time when children say things like “You’re not the boss of me!”  “no I won’t do that!”  “Make me do that!”  Calm down, and don’t respond in an angry manner.  You are the one shaping the situation, not them.  Be calm!

Children ages 7 and 8:  Connection, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, simple explanations, distraction still works to a limited extent. 7 year olds have a really, really hard time stopping to do what they are doing to do what you asked, so you can warn them in advance if that helps, and give them TIME to complete a task. 

Peaceful days in March and many blessings,


“I Bet Ma and Pa Ingalls Never Had This Problem!”

Some mothers have said to me :  why did  Mary and Laura Ingalls seemed to pretty much always do what they were told?  And they never really “talked back” either!  What was the secret of Ma and Pa Ingalls and what are we doing wrong?!

Kim John Payne says that this question actually came up when he spoke, and at first he didn’t know what to say….And then he realized the answer was quite simple:  Pa Ingalls didn’t say too much, so when he did say something, he was listened to by the children!  You can read about this in the book “Simplicity Parenting” (the review is here:)

Personally, I think there were other factors as well…..Read on!

First of all, I think in our society we equate talking small children to death as a sign of respect.   We believe we are providing dignity to the young child, giving them a voice, when in fact we are giving them choices, options and a give and take way beyond their years and developmental level.  Why is singing to our child, or giving our children a strong rhythm not seen as a measure of respect for where they are in our country? 

Second of all, we seem to think that the more peer interaction a child has, the better off a child will be.  They then become peer-oriented and peer-dependent at an early age.  Gordon Neufeld addresses this beautifully in his book, “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Matter More Than Peers”, available here:      ..I am re-reading this right now, and it spoke to me when my children were very small, and it speaks to me now that my children are a bit bigger but still small.  It should be required reading in this country, where we seem to think it is normal to send a two-year-old off to “school”.  It baffles me that separation from the family, the pressure for an adult day, the academic foisting on small children has changed so much in the generations since World War Two

Third of all, the reason our children don’t listen is that we talk WAY too much and we give them WAY too much insight into how we make decisions instead of just telling them the decision!  We don’t listen enough, and then when we do listen and “factor” this into our decision-making, we prattle on through all the adult choices, all the adult reasoning (and this three or four-year old is listening, and unfortunately, they really don’t see our decision-making process as such I am afraid) and I think it comes off as not being decisive to them simply because they cannot process this adult reasoning pattern. 

So what can we do?

Connect with your children!  Connect with them in the morning!  Connect with them during the day!  How do we connect?  Hold them, laugh with them, sing to them, play with them.  LOVE them, delight in them!  Stop separating them from you when they do something not right – love them and guide them through it!  Have them make restitution, that means much more than sending them off to sit in a chair!  Have them own the problem and fix the problem, and leave their dignity intact!

Listen more and talk less!  Here:   and here:

Go through the decision-making process in your head, not out loud.  Say what you mean and do what you say.  This is called  INTEGRITY, and this is  a good thing to model for small children so they will grow up to be people of integrity.

Have confidence.  It continually amazes me that in this day and age, there is so much complete MIS-information about the small child, the baby.  I have heard parents say their five-month old is “manipulating them” or their one’-year-old is “defiant”.  What??!!  This is wishful thinking, folks!  See back posts on defiance in the small child here:

Develop yourself and have a PLAN for how to improve your parenting.  What is your plan for becoming the parent you want to be?  In business or in your career, you might have had a goal, but you also would have made a plan to get there!  Make a commitment, write it down – what needs to happen in your home and how will you get there? Enlist a friend to keep you accountable!

Many blessings,


PS see the many interesting comments below…some of them focused on the physical punishment part of the Ingalls family….hard for many of us to fathom and painful to read…Steiner talks about the evolution of humanity and human consciousness and how we really don’t understand the consciousness of another time and place because we are different now…something to that effect.  Very interesting stuff, but for the sake of this post I wasn’t really focused on that end of it, more the communications end of it, but thanks for your comments!  It’s just that a lot of  mothers bring up Ma and Pa Ingalls and their listening children…that’s all, nothing really deeper than that!  :)

“I Don’t Like My Child Right Now”

That’s okay.  Loving your child doesn’t always mean you like their behavior. However, I think feeling that way is a good sign something needs to be different (and before you jump in and say, yes, my child needs to do “X” to make that happen!), please read on for a few encouraging words.

  • Please, please work hard to connect with this child in a warm and loving way.  Plan to just “be” together, no agendas, no judging, just observing.  Play with your child, tickle your child, love your child.  If a child is in a difficult developmental stage or the family is going through stress and changes and this is being reflected in the child’s behavior, he or she needs your support and love and warmth to get through it.  You are the adult, and you must be that wall the child can bounce off of, see the boundary that is still there and that you are still  there even if they fall apart.  You really can do this!   Connect, connect, connect – connect when everyone is falling apart.  Try the book “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen if you need some ideas for incorporating play or humor into your parenting.  
  • Gather some support for yourself!  Find some friends who have children around the same ages, call your local La Leche League Leader (did you all know that one of the philosophical tenets of La Leche League is around loving guidance – these Leaders do know about positive discipline!), call your local Attachment Parenting Leader, go to some meetings from these groups about loving guidance and gentle discipline.  But, please, please, please, do NOT talk about your child’s behavior in front of them!  They hear everything you say and take it to heart!  Try to get your support without them in ear-shot!
  • What are the non-negotiable things in your house?  What can you be flexible about?  Are you being creative enough and using humor or are you just being the hammer that comes down?  Are you spending time with your child and enjoying them and  not just saying things to them about how to behave? What does your Family Mission Statement say?  What is important in your family, and does this behavior affect that?
  • Are you getting your tank filled?  How are things between you and your spouse?  What stress are you under, and is that coming out in how you are handling your child?  In times of stress, humor with discipline situations is sometimes the first thing to go!  Make a date to get some time ALONE and some time with your spouse as well…..  It can make a huge difference in your parenting.
  • Do you have realistic expectations for yourself?  It is very hard to work outside the home, homeschool, do this and that and be a great parent.  Are you putting way too much pressure on yourself?  What will happen if you are not perfect?  There is no perfect, there just is being there in the moment.   
  • Are you putting way too much thought around this?  If you ignored a few things, really picked the essential things that had to happen, what would change for you and your child?  If this is your first child, do you think you would be paying so much attention to this if you had two or three other children to look after at the same time? It is harder with your first child when you go through these developmental stages because you have never been through it and you are still creating your family’s culture.  I know mothers who looked back and told me they were way too hard on their first child, and expected way too much!   Maybe this child needs less spotlight on the negative, and more spotlight on the positive.  At the same time, you cannot count it a good day if your child doesn’t melt down, throw a fit, etc.  That is just what kids do.  You can be calm through it; your point is to love and guide and help your child, not look at this situation as a black mark on your day.  You are teaching your child how to deal with life, with conflict, with the fact that there are some things that have to stand, and what to do when we make a mistake. 
  • Do you have realistic expectations for the age of the child?  There are many, many posts about that on this blog.  Remember how very, very small the under-7 child is.  Four is a great age for sitting on laps, and five is just a step up from that.  Six is an age of so-called “rebellion” as noted in traditional childhood resources, but an age where a more pointed statement can be used to guide behavior.  Seven is inward, eight is outward and enthusiastic and nine is the beginning of the separation of the child from the world, realizing that he is not his family, he is not the tree or the rock.  He is I.  A powerful and confusing time! 
  • How much outside time is this child getting?  The behavior is much better when the child has a release for all that energy.  Two to four hours outside per day(or more!) is about right for a small child, depending on the weather conditions and their energy level.  I remember years with  my oldest where I felt as if we essentially lived outside for the whole year!
  • Are you using the right tactics?  Saying something over and over does not make it happen.  Usually the first thing a child says after you announce, “It’s time to…” is “NO!  I am not doing that!”  That is why, to me, it is so better  to have a strong rhythm, to use yourself doing what you want the child to do first, to employ humor, and with small children you simply cannot be afraid to touch them, move them, carry them, hold them.  They often need your gentle hands to help them.  It is part of life with wee ones.  They don’t need a lecture or a book on the subject that they tune out after the first sentence. 

Here is also a back post to help you out:

Many blessings,


Where Do I Start With Gentle Discipline?

Whew, several folks have asked this and this is such a big subject to even attempt to cover in one post, but I will try.  I think actually the first thing to start with is to give yourself permission to be learning, to be human, to be imperfect.  I find that when parents start to learn about gentle discipline, they feel as if they did everything wrong in the past and feel guilty.  Please don’t.  You were doing the best you could at the time with the information you had and that is where you were in your parenting journey. I congratulate you for making a commitment to move forward and toward parenting in a different way, perhaps in even  a more mindful way than before.

The second thing, I think, is to explore what gentle discipline brings up for you.  Does it bring forth fears that there will be no boundaries for your child?   Does it seem as if you have no tools to replace yelling at your child?  Does it seem like you chronically lose your temper with your child, and you aren’t sure how gentle discipline is going to help? I think these are things to explore and think about.

Third, look at how you view the small child.  If your view of the child is that the small child is a miniature adult, that they think and rationalize and intellectualize things the way you do, that all they need is information and to be treated by you the way you would want to be treated, then I would say you probably will be disappointed.  Not because children are “bad” or “defiant”, but because they are learning!  It takes a lot of effort and repetition to guide a child!  Yes, children need to be treated with dignity and respect and warmth and love; they deserve this and they will imitate what you do!  Actions speak louder than words!  However, a small child, to me at least, has a completely different consciousness than an adult and I think you need different tools to access this and guide this rather than just your voice.  How many times do you say the same thing to your child over and over and over?  Try something different, try movement and physically guiding and fantasy and play and humor and less words and you may be surprised at how well that works!

Fourth, how well do you know traditional developmental stages?  Each stage has different things that come to light from both traditional viewpoints and anthroposophic viewpoints.  If you know, in general, what the ages of disequilibium are and how that typically manifests, it really helps.  If you know realistically what age a child typically starts to dress themselves or pick  up their rooms, that helps.  I find realistic expectations are often  a strong key to controlling parental anger.  Are you creating a battle with your child in your mind over things that should not be battles? 

Fifth, it is not just about your child; it is about you.  Parenting will make you stretch and grow in so many ways; it is like a yoga pose you cannot move out of sometimes!    What kind of baggage are you carrying around from your own childhood and are you trying to check it into your child’s luggage?  How is anger and other negative emotions dealt with in your home?  How are you and your partner?  How is the rhythm of your home- is that a help or a hindrance in guiding your child?  How much outside time are you getting?  Is the tone of your home generally warm and calm or chaotic or cold?  How is your attitude?  Where is your own inner work?  Is your house a visually cluttered place with too many things?  Where is the beauty?

If you look on this blog, you just might find a few things to start you down a different path.

Hope that helps!

Many blessings,


The Right Tools in Parenting

This morning as I was preparing breakfast, the two bigger kids (ages 8 and 5)  wanted to build a train track, but the chest of train tracks was in their little brother’s room, and since I had a crying baby I couldn’t lift it and bring it out to the spot they wanted to build the train track on.  Therefore, the oldest decided she could not wait for me to get the train tracks and she would do it little by little herself. After one trip into the bedroom to get tracks, she started saying, “But (little sister) NEVER helps!  She never does ANYTHING to clean up or help!  I guess I will do it all by myself!” and started yelling at her little sister to help her.  In return, her little sister, who just turned five two weeks ago, promptly did a great version of “NANAABOOBOO” and started with the wonderful name-calling that every four and early five year old seems to know how to do.

I actually felt amused, because it provided me this great moment of epiphany:  My oldest was using the wrong tools to try to get her little sister to help!  First of all, yelling at someone never works; second of all, even asking and reasoning with a four or five year old to help is not going to work because they are moving beings not reasoning beings; and third of all, every four or five year old is going to react to being yelled at by their sibling with a version of “nanaabooboo” because that is their level of maturity.

So stop to think!  How many times do we use the WRONG tools in parenting?  When you go to discipline a child, do you ever stop to think if this tool that you are about to use is the right one for the age of your child?  Do you understand where your child is developmentally? 

Or are you flying about with no tools?  Reacting by yelling is essentially flying without a toolbox.  Yelling typically results from frustration, so double check if your expectations are truly in line with your child’s age.  Are they?

The younger child did end up helping her big sister get out the train tracks.  I gave the older one ownership of the problem (she could have waited for me to help her or she could do it herself happily or she could turn it into a game and involve  the younger one in carrying the tracks).   I guided the older one when she got stuck in frustration, and helped involve the younger one.  This is the job of a parent; it is not to say “work it out” until you are certain they have the tools to “work it out”.

Yelling and blaming and spewing frustration at your child are not parenting tools, even though we have all been there and done these things.  Be easy with yourself, and forgive yourself for these things that are reactions and not guiding.   Being a gentle parent is so important, but luckily our children give us many chances to show better sides of ourselves!

Remember movement, games, reasonable expectations, a cheerful attitude on your part, restitution on the child’s part if something did not go well.  There are wonderful tools for a wonderful future adult.

Much love,


Discipline for the Four-Year-Old

Challenges with the four-year-old has come up on three separate lists I am on, so I tried to round up some helpful posts for you all:

The ever-popular “defiance” post:

Gentle Discipline:

“Command, Don’t Demand” – not sure why the permalink says what it says:

A good read for many of you trying to replace another parenting style with gentle discipline:

Here are some very specific to the four-year-old:

Scroll down to the end for some tips of how to handle the four-year-old year:



Favorite Books For Gentle Discipline

Specifically Regarding Anger:

  • “When Anger Hurts Your Kids” by Mckay, Fanning, Paleg and Landis
  • “love and anger the parental dilemma” by Nancy Samalin with Catherine Whitney

Under Age 9:

  • WALDORF:  “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
  • WALDORF:  “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge
  • WALDORF:  “Heaven On Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer, although I cannot recommend the references to time-out.  Those of you who read this blog know I oppose time-out.  Many parents do love this book though!
  • WALDORF:  “You’re Not The Boss of Me!  Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” available through
  • WALDORF:  Donna Simmons’ Audio Downloads  on “The Changing Face Of Discipline” and also “Talking Pictorially and Living Actively with Your Young Child” – can be found here:
  • WALDORF“The Challenge of The Will” by Margret Meyerkort and Rudi Lissau
  • DEVELOPMENTAL:  For understanding realistic expectations for each age, I still like The Gesell Institute books “Your One-Year-Old” “Your Two-Year-Old” etc.  They are available at many libraries and are also easily picked up used.
  • DEVELOPMENTAL/LOVING GUIDANCE:  “Mothering Your Nursing Toddler”  by Norma Bumgarner
  • ATTACHMENT PARENTING:  “Attached At The Heart”  by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker (one chapter of discipline)
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  La Leche League’s “Adventures in Gentle Discipline” –this also has a part about time out as mentioned by parents, which I oppose.    The voices of many mothers are throughout this book, so you will have to pick through what resonates with you.  Particularly if you are also a Waldorf family, the “talk talk talk” of some of the families with their tiny children  may not resonate with you!  There is however, a good section as to what “gentle discipline” is and isn’t in the beginning of the book.  A good place to start if you are new to gentle discipline and equate it in your head with children having no boundaries (which is NOT what it is!)
  • ATTACHMENT PARENTING:  “Connection Parenting”  by Pam Leo
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Easy To Love, Difficult To Discipline”  by Becky Bailey
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Discipline Without Distress” by Judy Arnall – you can search through this blog for chapter summaries of this book, not all strategies in this book are compatible with a Waldorf approach but overall a helpful book
  • And may I ever so humbly recommend this blog?:)

Over Age 9:

  • WALDORF:  Specific to the Nine-Year-Old Change:  Donna Simmons’s Audio Downloads on Third Grade and also “The Changing Face of Discipline for ages 9 and up”
  • WALDORF:  Specific to the Nine-Year-Old Change:  “Encountering the Self” by Hermann Koepke
  • GENERAL PARENTING:  “Hold On to Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Kids Are Worth It!” by Barbara Coloroso.  Has some good examples of how to “hold the space” in it. 
  •  GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Loving Your Child Is Not Enough:  Positive Discipline That Works” by Nancy Samalin with Martha Moraghan Jablow
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Raising Your Spirited Child” and “Kids, Parents and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka  (I put these here because the strategies essentially involve emotion coaching and I feel that is better for an older child).


Over Age 12:

  • WALDORF:  Specific to the 12- Year -Old Change:  Hermann Koepke’s “On the Threshold of Adolescence”
  • WALDORF:  Also, several of Steiner’s works are now available for education and observation of the adolescent:
  • WALDORF:  “Between Form and Freedom” by Betty Staley
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Kids Are Worth It!”  by Barbara Coloroso
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Kids, Parents and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
  • GENTLE DISCIPLINE:  “Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids” by Naomi Drew
  • COMMUNCICATION:  “NonViolent Communication”  by Marshall Rosenberg (and to me, once your child hits 15 or so, why not attend a NVC Group together and practice?)
  • COMMUNICATION:  “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk” and “Liberated Parents, Liberated Children:  Your Guide To A Happier Family” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish


Let me be clear, one can certainly read the gentle discipline books for the older children when one’s child is younger and gleam things from them, but some of  the approaches are best saved for when your child is older!

And finally, some gentle books for the mother:

CHRISTIAN:  “The Power of A Positive Mother” by Karol Ladd

GENERAL/BUDDHIST: “Everyday Blessings:  The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting” by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

WALDORF/GENERAL:  “Mitten Strings for God:  Reflections For Mothers In A Hurry” by Katrina Kenison



No Replacement For Good Parenting

There is so much talk these days regarding the great lessons that team sports and other classes can teach a child.  My oldest child is eight now, and the question of outside activities is starting to come up; activities for learning how to get along in a group, work as a team within a group, and for the social end of things because  having friends and even a best friend is important at this age.

My husband and I were talking about this issue the other night, and he commented something very interesting to me.  He said, “Well, it seems as if many parents want to use these team sports and classes as a way to parent their children but in reality there is no substitute for good parenting.”


Scouting, team sports, karate, and all the many other activities a child could be doing  is a supplement, not the main course.  To many of you out there, you may be thinking, well, of course!  However, once a child is in school much of the day away from the home, and then in other classes or sports for part of the day, and then perhaps home with homework, there may be less time for parenting than one imagines.  The parent may possibly be shoved into the role of “time facilitator” or “manager of events”  for their child rather than “parent to help guide child through life in these teachable moments.” 

Good parenting takes quantity time.  If you and your child have a decreased amount of time together, chances are that there will be less teachable moments that come up.  You may  have to work harder at connection within the blur that is each day that rushes by. 

If your child is school-aged but still under the fifth or sixth grade level, I would advise you to seriously look at what commitments you and your child have outside of school and to think about limiting those engagements.

I think it is very important for school-aged children who are not homeschooling to have ample opportunity to actually be at home.  The younger school-aged child still needs to be firmly entrenched in the family.    It is also important that the school-aged child has plenty of time to work on practical life skills that tend to get squished out by homework and extracurricular activities.  Every child should be learning how to clean house, cook meals, grocery shop, sew, knit, fix things around the house and on the car as they get older, and garden.  Boys and girls alike!

Team sports, classes and other activities have their place for children, but let’s not confuse the lessons these activities teach with the necessity of good parenting.



A Few Fast Words Regarding “Defiance” In Children Under the Age of 6

Does this exist?

From a Waldorf perspective, children in the first seven year cycle are neither inherently good nor bad but learning.  They are not “defiant”; defiance implies a fully conscious knowing of right and wrong and choosing to do the opposite, wrong, thing.  Since in the land of Waldorf parenting we believe the first seven years are a dreamy state, a state where logical thought has not yet entered, a state where the child is one giant sense organ (an eye!) and just taking in sensory impressions without a filter, there can be no “defiance”. Many times the power struggles we create with our children are a result of our own lack of knowledge of developmental stages, not having the right tools to guide our child, our own inner issues at the moment and not as much to do with the child as we thought!

Of course a small child wants what they want when they want it.  This is part of the fact that the small child lives specifically within their bodies and within their WILL.  Remember, Waldorf is about willing, feeling, and thinking.  Thinking comes in much later.  A two-year-old  will push against forms that you create in rhythm; this is why the rhythm is for YOU if you have a child under the age of 6.  If your child does not want to participate in what is going on at the moment, you are still DOING it yourself and the child may or may not join in.  This is another reason to not “push” official “school” with a child of three or four; in the classroom environment there is a whole class with older children doing the same thing  to help hold the space but at home the child has perhaps no other age to carry them along.

As far as “not listening” which seems to be the most common compliant hooked into “defiance” (ie, I tell them something and they don’t do it) (and by the way, I hear this in the part of the country where I live starting with one-year-olds!  My one-year-old doesn’t listen!  They are so naughty!), a small child is not SUPPOSED to listen. 

Yes, re-read that for a moment.  You may think this is a very radical statement!

Read it again.  Your 2, 3, 4, and yes even 5 year old is living in their BODY,  not in their head.  When you give them a “verbal command” and they have to go up into their head to process it, this is involving thinking, which is something Waldorf educators see children using as a dominant way to respond to an environment LATER.  It is NOT that small children do not think, it is NOT that they do not have thoughts, important thoughts!!,  but that they live in the moment, they have this will to do what they want without many overriding mechanisms at this point to slow things down. They are LEARNING.

From an attachment parenting perspective, we also do not look at the small child as being “defiant” or “naughty.”  We look at what the child might be feeling underneath the behavior being displayed.  We look at what we can modify in the environment.  We look at how we can calmly guide the child in the situation. 

We look at this in Waldorf as well, it is just in Waldorf we tend not to ask as many questions of the child because we feel words may not be the best way to communicate with the small child who is living in the BODY. We try to communicate through movement, through fantasy, through song and verse.  This changes as the child grows!  It does not last forever!

With both Waldorf and attachment parenting, we strive to look at NORMAL developmental behavior.  A three, four and five ear old, even a six-year-old may throw themselves on the floor, throw an object, scream and cry.  Dressing themselves with only a reminder comes in at the AVERAGE age of five.  If you are having trouble with a specific age, please, please use the tags sidebar and click on the age that is problematic right now to you:  the three-year-old, the-four-year-old, etc etc.  Four and six seem to be ages that give parents the MOST trouble.  There are many posts specifically geared to these ages.

If you feel you are having difficulty with changing your mindset from a punitive, punishment, my –child –is –wrong –and- I –am –right- mindset with a small child, this is not going to get you going anywhere great.  Here are some posts to help you!

and my personal favorite regarding how we create battlefields where we and our children are on opposite sides:

This is about realistic expectations for toddlers and includes the different disciplinary styles of families:

If you are still saying, well, but MY child does this and i have no tools, I urge you to call your local La Leche League Chapter or Attachment Parenting Chapter.  Many times the Leaders there can help you troubleshoot discipline issues and challenges over the phone and give helpful, gentle suggestions!  They may also have special meetings geared JUST to gentle discipline.

Gentle discipline does NOT mean not setting boundaries, but we try to do it in a way that respects the child’s developmental stage, keep the child’s dignity intact and guide the child.  Here are examples of ways to set limits for toddlers in gentle ways with consideration for the child:


THE FOUR YEAR OLD:   and this one:




and for the big picture, some tools:

We set boundaries, but many times we often deal with things indirectly!  Here is an example a mom sent in, and here is how I might have handled that:

(This is a four-year-old):  The situation was this: 

This morning, she wanted to sit in our car-daddy got in & drove away to work -she pitched a fit, threw a little car she was holding. I told her she may not throw her toys. So she threw a little soft toy she was holding with her other hand. So I told her to sit down right where she was. “i will not sit down’ hmmm. So I say, you may stay put until you sit down & carried on with the skipping game with her older sister. Eventually she sat down.

What was the feeling of the little girl?  Perhaps she wanted her daddy to stay home, perhaps she just wanted to play in the car but daddy needed to go right then, perhaps she just wanted to try out pretending to go to work with daddy.  Let’s attribute positive intent!

Maybe I would have said, “You really wanted to go to work today!  Did you know that even animals go to work?  Once upon a time, there was  a frog who really wanted to go to work too, but he couldn’t jump!  (take chalk and draw two lines, I assume this situation happened in the driveway or the garage to involve a car??).  Can you be a frog and show me how to hop over these two lines?”

Perhaps I would have said, “Oh, I see cars on the floor!  Maybe they need a road! “ and get out something to draw or build a road.

Perhaps I would have said, “Wow, I really could use your help! I can’t figure out how many times in a row your sister can skip!  Maybe we could count together?”

Perhaps she needed a snack and then we put the toy cars back in the garage together!

Those are just some examples of an indirect way to approach things; distraction is a very viable tool even up through age 7 and we often forget!  Restitution is also VERY important, but we cannot force restitution in the moment of flooding emotion, we must calm down and go back to it.  Forcing the child to do “X” when they are upset and you are upset is not a productive learning tool; a sincere opportunity exists for learning when the flooded moment has passed.  But this is still through action, not so many words!

Hope these thoughts are helpful and many blessings on your day as you become the peaceful parent you want to be!

Lots of love,