Effective Use of the Temperaments in Education and Discipline

So far we have looked at the four-fold human being and had an introduction to the temperaments.  Today we are going to peek at HOW to use the temperaments as an ally in education and discipline.  As I have said in the first two parts to this post, this information was presented to our homeschooling group at a wonderful workshop on the temperaments given by our Waldorf Handwork teacher, Ms. Judy Forster.  She is so knowledgeable and wonderful. We are so lucky to have her as part of our group! 

So to start, a quick common question is something like this:  “Yes, I read all the descriptions of the temperaments and I still don’t know what temperament my child is.”

Yes, sometimes it is hard to tell.  It is easy to confuse the predominant temperament of a developmental stage for an individual temperament.  I have heard Waldorf teachers say typically two temperament predominate.

So, Ms. Forster gave us a tip that one place to garner an idea regarding your child’s temperament is in looking at how they approach handwork,   A choleric child will want to be done first with their handwork, and will make mistakes along the way because they are going so fast because they HAVE to be done first.  A sanguine child may have lots of holes in their loose knitting because they got distracted or were too busy talking, and are content to know that maybe the fairies will come and fix it later.  A melancholic child will take their handwork very seriously, they will be extremely detail-oriented  and will rip a piece of knitting apart for the one stitch that was off that that the handwork teacher  told them was okay to leave alone (but they can’t, so then they have to rip it all out when the teacher is not looking).  Their knitting is usually tight.  The phlegmatic child is hard to get going on anything, but once they get going, it is either hard for them to stop – they may end up knitting a rug-sized piece of something when the project was supposed to be small because they just couldn’t stop – or they may just be steady and be done first (much to the chagrin of the choleric child).   Those examples came  from Judy Forster, our wonderful and knowledgeable Handwork teacher.  Please see her Etsy shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/mamajudes

Here is an example from me.  I think the temperaments show in how your child deals with  social challenges.  For example, the choleric will be telling everyone what to do, what is fair and not fair, and may end up flying into a rage that they feel immensely sorry about later.  A sanguine child will know who said what and who gets along with who and will be flitting around like a butterfly and taking in everything that every person does.  A melancholic child will figure no one will like them, no one will pick them, and they think that  if they do get picked they will end up with a challenge (ie, disaster) that  no one else in the world has faced.  A phlegmatic child will spend most of the time eating and warming up and getting ready to participate, and by the time they are ready to join in, it will be time to go home.

Hope that gives you all some ideas!  Anyway, on to how to work with these temperaments most effectively!  People act as if our goal should be to eradicate the temperament that the child displays, but that is not the case.  All the temperaments have good things about them; perhaps the case is more how to balance and harmonize (which for most people will not completely happen until they are in their 30s), and also how to use the temperaments as an ally in parenting and education.

CHOLERIC:  Choleric children are actually  really fair and they have big hearts, so appealing to the choleric in that way helps. I once was friends with a very choleric little guy who would break everything.  When he came to my house, I always said something like, “You know, I love how strong you are and you are so fast!  I have this pile of ten oranges and I was wondering if you could squeeze them all by hand so we could have juice for snack.”  Worked beautifully.

When a choleric rages and breaks something, if the child is between 7 and 9, I would wait until the next day to talk to them about it.  Usually by that time they are so regretful they have punished themselves more than you ever possibly could.  The worst thing to do would be to get wrapped up in their anger personally.  You must be the wall for them to bounce off of. 

SANGUINE:  Interrupt their work and give them little tasks to do before they take off and interrupt their own work.  You are in charge of the interruption during homeschool, for example.  You need something delivered to a neighbor, you need the tomato plants watered, the dog needs something, whatever.  If you keep interrupting them, they will finally settle down to work!  Work on building up their endurance in this way – the first week interrupt their work so many times a hour and then the second week drop the number of interruptions and then keep lengthening the time that they are focused on a task.

Also, sanguine children love beauty, so be beautiful!  Put flowers in your schoolroom, wear something beautiful.  They will notice.  It will captivate them.  This is also a good way to work on this temperament if you are not naturally drawn to beauty in your daily life..say if you are predominately melancholic and pre-occupied with worry.  :)

MELANCHOLIC:  Melancholic children have great sympathy, so appealing to what you really need and what obstacles you have yourself your day and if the child could just do “X” how helpful that would be.  I think the other place to work with melancholics is through story telling regarding perfectionism.  Donna Simmons has a good example of a story for a melancholic in her First Grade Syllabus, and there are many more examples out there.

The other key to a melancholic child is to just listen and to feel truly compassionate.  The child truly feels these things do not happen to anyone else on earth,  ever in the history of mankind…So listening, and then perhaps sharing something similar from your own childhood.  The melancholic child will be most interested in stories where the hero overcomes enormous hardship.  :)

PHLEGMATIC:  To me, this group is the hardest.  They will sit like small little lumps for quite some time.  Our handwork teacher recommends ignoring that they are even there for a time being (which is hard without a classroom of children  to carry, I find).  Some of them will be motivated to do something if it has to be done before snack time comes.   I think rhythm is  a great help to the phlegmatic because transitions can often be hard.   When they say they are “bored”, give them full permission to be with their boredom. Encourage it.  :) 

The other thing I learned at the temperament workshop is that Fourth  Grade, when children are ten and obviously after the nine-year-change, is when one starts to see “Extraverted” and “Introverted” categories of these temperaments….So, for example, an “introverted melancholic” may be a child to watch closely in the school years for obvious reasons. 

The other little note I thought of is that if you feel you are predominately one way or the other way, what could you do to enliven the other temperaments within you?

Many blessings,


Children Who Slap Faces And Other Fun Behaviors

(This is the tabloid edition of The Parenting Passageway today, you know, kind of like, Men Who Do Terrible Things And The Women Who Love Them or something like that…)

Let’s see…the fun behavior of the toddler…I am sure you all can help me out here with the behaviors and challenges!   Some of these  behaviors keep coming up over and over here when I asked for feedback regarding discipline challenges and also in My Real Life from mothers in my local area, so I thought I would address them here with a few suggestions and you can take what resonates with you.  Pick and choose, add your own creative ideas!  There is No One Answer, the Right Answer is the One That Works For Your Family!  Seriously!  As long as it is gentle and keeps to the boundary, then there you go!  Check out the toddler discipline posts under the Baby/Toddler header, several of those posts literally have every discipline situation that could come up with a toddler.

Here is a re-cap of some of the ones mothers have been asking about recently (but please do go look at the back posts!):


  • Set child down if you are holding them.
  • Turn it into a “high-five”
  • Tell the child that hurts and show them how you would like to be touched instead.
  • Watch out for signs child is getting frustrated in order to prevent  and use your tools of movement and channeling into work and help to move on
  • Know this phase is limited usually once the toddler  has more speech
  • Know this may take 500 times!
  • What would work best for your family?  Your ideas here: 

Running away at the park or other public places: 

  • Limit outings for right now. Sorry about that!
  • Bring a second adult who can help you corral your children
  • Many parents have a natural consequence in place, such as if you run away, we immediately leave the park.  However, a child younger than four and a half or five  may really not understand that very well.   
  • Do errands at night or another time without the toddler.
  • Practice holding hands and looking for cars at all times.  Have a verse or rhyme that goes with the holding hands/looking.
  • What would work best for your family??  Your ideas here:

Child is stuck on a  “bad word”:

Sitting Still:

  • Figure about three to five minutes for every year of the child’s age, and really look  at your child.  Are they a “mature” acting three or four year old, or rather immature?  That will give you a clue as to what might be a realistic expectation.
  • Bring something with you to do for the small child.  Make up a special little “Sunday bag” for church, let them bring a stuffed animal or doll with them. 
  • Practice times of sitting quietly at home for a story, thirty seconds before you light the candle for dinner, thirty second in silence after you say the blessing over the meal..
  • What would work best for your family?  Your ideas here:

Hitting, Kicking:

Ah, no one’s favorite.

  • You cannot let the child hurt you (or anyone else!).  If it is toward you, step away or hold the child if you can do it and be calm!  If the child is hitting someone else, they must come and be with you in a time-in. 
  • Connect with this child during other times in a warm way.  Are they feeling poorly physically or emotionally?  This does not excuse the behavior, but provides a clue as to what they need!
  • If this is occurring during play dates and such, please think strongly about whether or not your small child needs this social experience at this point.  You can see my take on social experiences for the four year old here:
  • Go back to your basics – rhythm, outside time, warm and nourishing meals.
  • If you need help dealing with hitting and kicking as part of a temper tantrum, please see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/
  • Here is a back post on boys and hitting:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/28/boys-under-age-7-and-hitting/
  • What would work best for your family?  Your ideas here:


Also no one’s favorite.

  • If it is biting at the breast, pull the baby close to you – this will block their nose and make them loosen the biting.  However, GIVE them something they CAN bite on.  A wet washcloth that you threw in the freezer works fine.  Biting is a normal behavior, it is just the object that the child is biting that makes it good or not good, so you don’t want to tell them never to bite!  If they are biting at the breast and it is usually toward the end of a feeding, try to catch them before the end and gently  remove  them from  the breast.
  • If the biting is generally part of just being aggressive, try this outside resource regarding the types of biters and such:   http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/linda_passmark.html
  • Never bite a child for biting!  That does not help.
  • Remain as calm as possible.  It is no fun when your toddler or preschooler bites another child over a toy, and it is not fun when your child is the one who was bit, but these things do happen and one must be calm. 
  • If your child is in a biting phase, think carefully about your child’s level of frustration with social outings.  :)  If you frequently read this blog, you know where I stand on that!  The whole “playdate” thing really should not apply to children under the age of four and a half, but that is just my opinion.  :) Take what works for you and your family.


Hope these ideas help your family think of what would work best for you in these situations.

Many blessings,


Renewal: Rhythm

So, we will be taking these forty days between Easter and Ascension as our time to discuss all things related to the renewal of your life and your family culture.  For today, I want to circle back around to rhythm.

I think many Waldorf homeschoolers are feeling this sense of renewal regarding rhythm!    Melisa Nielsen had a lovely post here about “Rhythm Or Routine”: http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2010/04/rhythm-or-routine.html .   Everything she says is right on!  I especially liked the part where Melisa talks about developing our own will enough to STAY HOME.  When you have children under the age of eight, it is important that you firmly entrench children in the home.  It is important that they learn how to create their own play and fun at home instead of relying on going, going, going, to stimulate themselves and to change their emotions.

In a family, there is a daily rhythm, a weekly rhythm, and a yearly rhythm.  This is there whether you create it or not, so I feel it is worth it to take an intentional look at these areas along with parenting.

The yearly rhythm is celebrated through the festivals of the year and is seen as a yearly process of in-breath and out-breath. How you implement this is up to you, I find it lovely to celebrate with the liturgical year of our church.

For a weekly rhythm, one must decide how many days a week one is going to go outside of your home/yard/neighborhood (because even if we stay home we still go outside for many hours a day!).  This is important for small children, to be home,  and it is also important in homeschooling once you reach the grades..  If you are interested in homeschooling, I would say it is very difficult, if not impossible,  to throw homeschooling on top of a completely chaotic flow of events to the day, and also on top of a chaotic house that is cluttered and dirty.  No, your home does not have to be perfect, we actually live in our houses because we are home!  However, keeping the house up and running is part of the rhythm to it all, and in order to do that, we have to be home.  We need to plan when to get groceries, what to cook,  when to do laundry, when to run errands,  so that not everything is completely last minute.  Therefore, it is never too early, nor too late,  to create a bit of an order or flow that suits your family life.

For a small child, the weekly rhythm includes what PRACTICAL work takes place when and planning on your part regarding HOW they may be included.  In cleaning, can they scrub the bathtub whilst taking a bath?  Can they manually grind a cup of flour to add to more flour to bake bread?  Can they use water to clean the sidewalk whilst you plant flowers? 

For a daily rhythm, this is where one needs to think about the flow of the day for times of in-breath and times of out-breath.  For example, when will rest and meal times will be, and when bedtimes and awake times will be?  If the baby needs a nap, will they sleep in a sling?  If you put them to sleep in a room, where will your older children be and what will they be doing?  When are the outside times and when is it time to tell a story?

But most importantly, how will you show reverence and the sacred parts of life throughout these rhythms of life?  When will there be singing and joy, when will there be silence, when will there be time to go outside and look at one small bug or bird and listen and feel the wind?  Reverence and gratitude is the thread that winds itself through all of these yearly, weekly, and daily rhythms. 

Many blessings during these forty days of renewal,


Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. :)

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,


“Discipline For Preschoolers 3-5 Years”: “Discipline Without Distress”

We have followed the anthroposophical book “Tapestries” on this blog, which is a look at the seven-year cycles through the adult life span, and we are slowly making our way through this book.  I want to finish this book up as I would like to move forward to our new book soon!  Stay tuned for a surprise announcement as to what that next book will be!

Judy Arnall kicks off this chapter by reminding us of the world of the preschooler.  Children this age: are  learning about reality versus fantasy (although I would argue that elements of that fantasy world hang on strongly until the nine-year change; how many six and seven year olds still believe in Santa; how many still have that innate ability to feel one with nature?  But I digress..);   are having experiences with the natural consequences of their behavior:are  becoming aware of power and are  learning about that by engaging in power struggles (please do NOT confuse this with willful manipulation or defiance!  If you need a primer on “defiance” in the under seven crowd please see this post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/ ); beginning to learn about socially acceptable behavior; beginning to learn about rules (Carrie’s note: the knowledge of right and wrong really begins at about age five and it is just beginning; your three and four year olds  still don’t have a great grasp on it all!); are engaging in fantasy play and may have imaginary friends and such; may lie as a result of wishful thinking and fantasy but NOT MALICE (remember, four year olds are Master Boasters and Exaggerators, not liars! :))

She runs through the developmental milestones for age three (here are posts on this blog about that: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/peaceful-life-with-a-three-year-old/   and this one: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/18/three-year-old-behavior-challenges/   and realistic expectations for a three year old here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/28/realistic-expectations-day-number-ten-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/).  She mentions improved appetite, using a fork (although I know many a four year old who would rather eat with their hands :)), very, very active; may drop afternoon nap, can take off all clothes and put on simple clothes; imitates speech of others, can peddle a tricycle.  Judy mentions a three year old can play cooperatively with children. I disagree, unless there are other adults to model off of and hold that space  or older children about to help carry it all. There is a reason school used to start around age five!   She mentions children this age  are beginning to express feelings with words, that three year olds are egocentric in thought and action with some empathy beginning to develop, anxious to please, accepts self as an individual.  The author also writes that no logical reasoning is present, a child this age believes inanimate objects are real, and  that “mythical and magical explanations are readily accepted for natural phenomena”, attention span is about fifteen minutes. 

For the four and five year old milestones, she notes such things as proficient with fork, spoon and cup (and again, I know many four and five year olds who would be  very content to eat with their fingers :)); no naps but sleeps 12 hours at night; very active with skipping and hopping on one foot; can throw overhand, can ride a scooter or two wheeled bike with training wheels (and some can ride a bike without training wheels as well is my note); hates to lose games, beginning of sex identification; has beginning emotions tied to social interaction with others such as guilt, insecurity, envy, confidence, humility; begins to respect simple rules (Carrie’s note is that four is the height of many out of bounds behavior, see the defiance post!); tensional outlets can be high, very honest and blunt; don’t really understand cause and effect at all; asks many questions about everything; beginning to distinguish between edible and non-edible substances; sentences are three and four words long; memory is rote and must start from the beginning to remember items in their order such as numbers or song verses; often confuses sequences of events; attention span is about 20 minutes.  Judy Arnall writes, “Does not recognize limits.  Just beginning to learn them.”  “Learning self-control but takes much practice.”  For further information about the four year old, see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/08/discipline-for-the-four-year-old/  and for the five-year-old see here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/    

She writes an UNHELPFUL parenting behavior is “Expecting more reason, understanding, and logic at this stage.  Not within the child’s capacity yet.”  Ways to parent helpfully for a child of this age include responding to questions simply, teaching and modeling appropriate behavior, talking about a limit (and I would add along with physical re-direction; words alone are not going to do it!); having predictable routines and rituals; nurturing child through touch, words, actions, feelings; parental self-care and all the helpful behaviors she listed in the babies and toddlers chapters.

THE MOST IMPORTANT DISCIPLINE TOOL FOR THIS AGE ( I would say outside of CONNECTION) is the ability to set a boundary and stay with that boundary.  You must honor your words, you must have thought things through ahead of time, and if you agree to do something, you must do it.  Judy does mention, “Again, at this age, use as few words as possible.”  (page 248). This backs up my view that we work with the BODIES of small children.    The author advocates choices; I would say many children do not do well with choices at this age and become frustrated as they pick something and then want the other thing, etc.  Please do think about what works for your child.  “Tell your children exactly what specific descriptive behavior you expect.”  I would add, SHOW THEM, do it WITH them.  This is important.  Judy Arnall advocates asking reflective questions; I think less questions for this age group actually.  The author talks about how changing the environment, so effective for younger ages, still works wonders for this age group.  Other helpful tools mentioned include parental time-outs, being polite and firm and kind, picking your battles and giving positive feedback.  There are other tools the author mentions, but I picked those out to highlight. 

Modeling is very important!  Judy Arnall writes, “Watch especially how you treat other people, from your partner all the way to the grocery clerk who gave you the wrong change.  Your children are picking up tone of voice, words, actions, and reactions, and they will copy them.”  “Modeling is such a powerful force, that it’s included as a tool in all age categories.  In fact, if all parents did was model correct behavior and didn’t correct their child on any negative behavior, children would be keen to learn how to behave properly in society, based on how the adults act.” Love this!

There is so much more in this chapter, including a checklist of natural consequences, a discussion regarding preschoolers and self-control, power struggles, how to nurture your child’s creativity, stages of play and how friendship evolves, timeless toys for all age groups, strategies to prepare your child for the arrival of a new baby, remedies for sibling rivalry, how to resolve issues without resentment, manners, chores or allowances or both?,  building a healthy self-esteem.

This is a great chapter, pick what resonates with you.  Parent with COURAGE!  You can do this!  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/05/parenting-with-courage/

Moving along to the six to twelve year old!

Many blessings,


The Number Two Way To Discipline A Child

The number two way to discipline a child under the age of 7 (and older!)  is by having the child make restitution.  Not when everyone is upset, not when everyone is crying, not when everyone is angry.  That is when you need CONNECTION first (see this post regarding connection: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/22/the-number-one-way-to-discipline-a-child/ )  But, after, everyone has calmed down, then you sit down and take up a paper and crayons and draw.  And when the child comes to see what you are doing you can quietly say (but NO GUILT! NO LECTURES! NO BOOK ABOUT THE INCIDENT!)  “I am drawing a picture for your sister because she was very sad earlier.”    Or quietly start to fix that toy and when the child comes you say, “Could you help me glue this part?  I am fixing this for your brother.”

I think this technique would work well for children that are about four or four and a half up.  For children younger than that, really they need the connection part most and as they grow older they will learn about restitution.  Of course, they can help hold an ice pack or watch you fix something though.

The point is, though, first SPACE….everyone needs to calm down.  I am against time-out for children, unless you want to take a time-out for yourself.  Nothing can be accomplished when everyone is yelling and screaming and you must be calm in  order to guide and to teach.  Then, connection.  Take that sobbing child on your lap, hold that child.  The boundary is NOT changing, the boundary is still there, but the connection is there.  The child is adapting to the boundary. (If the boundary keeps adapting to them, they are learning nothing).  Then later, when things are better, make the restitution.

Those are the keys you need for success and for guiding.  Our goal is to raise wonderful adults, not to punish a small child over an incident they will not remember years from now.  But over time, it will become engrained in them to approach conflict with a means to  provide space, to connect and to problem-solve.

Many blessings,


The Number One Way to Discipline A Child

….is through connection and attachment, not through separation.  This is why threats, time-outs, and other traditional discipline methods fail.

Attachment and connection with your child is the number one way to guide a child.  You can sure  hold them when they cry because Grandma can’t come to dinner.  You can sure hold them as they learn it is hard sometimes to share.  You can help them adapt, but you cannot help them if you send them into a time-out.  You are not changing the realities of life, you are not  changing the boundary, but you are recognizing the very human struggle that goes into learning something.  You are  recognizing  the strong bond between the child and the parent. 

How do you connect?  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.

The relationship with this child is what carries the discipline.  Help your child to learn and to grow; you are raising a child to become an adult of brilliance.

Peaceful guiding,


HELP! My Children Don’t Listen!

This is such a common complaint that I hear from parents.  Of course, what parents mean when they say, “My child doesn’t listen” is really “My child is not obeying me or doing what I asked.”

Some mothers will say, “Well, Carrie, I asked Jimmy to put his coat on four times and he just runs away”  or “Samson won’t let me brush his teeth.”  Some small children can tell you exactly WHY they shouldn’t do something, like hitting or biting someone, but then they turn right around and do it anyway!


Let’s return back to some basics with small children:

1.  Return yourself to a peaceful state of mind, and realize that this issue is going to have to be dealt with in a repetitive manner in about the same tone you would use to say, “Could you please pass me the pepper?”  Try to erase the notion that you and your child are on opposite sides here, and foster the notion that this is a situation that you are going to help and guide and support and love your child through.  Try this back post on anger:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

Try and connect with your child and cultivate that warmth, that love, that joy and that delight in that child during times when things like this are not happening.  Try to go in at night and see your child for as small and innocent as they really are, and meditate or pray over them.  It really does help!  Connection is THE most important and primary ingredient of guiding a child – connection in the moment BEFORE you ask the child something, connection in HOW you ask it, connection at other times throughout the day.  CONNECTION is the key.  Try “Connection Parenting” by Pam Leo for help and also Gordon Neufeld’s “Hold On To Your Kids!” for further information.

2.  Think through the situation and what is underneath it.  Don’t ask them, but just think!  For example,  for not wanting to put a coat on, is it not wanting to leave, is it that there is no rhythm built in to when we leave the house and the child is in the middle of playing, is it that the child is being silly and needs  to get some energy out?  Mind you, none of these are excuses for behavior.  It is just sort of probing the waters and seeing what other things are going on. It may help you adjust some things so things flow more smoothly.

3.  Can you use less commands?  Can you start the activity? For example, if you just go to the bathroom and start brushing your teeth and when your child follows you into the bathroom can you just hand them a toothbrush?  Hum a song.  If they run away, can you just wait a moment and then calmly try again?  Not by calling them, but maybe by  finding them under the bed and  calmly and gently  pulling them out, carrying them to the bathroom with a funny accented voice that The Tooth Investigator must check your teeth,etc.  Can you put on your coat and then help your child into theirs with a song?  Not by screaming out, time to get your coat on Jimmy! from the bottom of the stairs.  Go up and get Jimmy!  And be flexible – can Jimmy put his coat on in the car?  When you get there?

Check what tools for gentle discipline you have in your tool belt:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/29/top-10-must-have-tools-for-gentle-discipline/

Can you shift them into fantasy or creative movement?

And you might be thinking,  that’s great Carrie for situations where I can be flexible, but my little one hitting or biting is not a flexible situation!  You are right!  Which leads us to…..

4.  Understanding that even if a child understands why not to do something, they don’t have the impulse control of an adult.  Restitution is most important in  the cases of biting, hitting, breaking a sibling’s toy.  “Janie was sad when you bit her.” (to a three year old and up aged child).  “Let’s draw her a beautiful picture together.”

Also, divorce the offending body part from the child –divorcing  the mouth, the hands, the feet -  from the child who will take the “You bad child, you hurt your sister!” into incredible self-awareness and shame because they are still small themselves.  Try, “Uh-oh, your hands forgot what they were doing!  Come and use those hands for peeling these potatoes for dinner!”  “Your feet forgot what they were doing!  Come and kick this ball!”  But never leave the restitution part out, the fact you are moving the energy of the mouth, the hands, the feet into practical work in no way makes up for the harm they caused by biting or hitting someone else.  Restitution is key.

Also, I do think in cases of siblings hitting or biting siblings, the child needs your connection and your love outside of the times of hitting or biting or whatnot.  Do they get time alone with you?  This is important as children grow.  Are all your children melding into one family unit of “The Children” or are there times alone with each of them, and times for each of them to be alone with Daddy as well?

Just a few thoughts today on these challenging discipline situations.



More About Holding The Space

We have been having a conversation about this over at Donna Simmons’ forum, and it has raised many important questions about this concept.  Several great threads have popped up about holding the space, please do come join us!

One of the most interesting concerns to me, though, was a question that came up regarding if holding the space was somehow not authentic, and how do children learn about emotion and managing emotion if not from us? I started thinking that the corollary to this is sort of:   If we do all this inner work, then we will be calm all the time, right?

I love this!  To me, “holding the space”  does not mean we have The Valium House and we are deadened to the world.  You are holding the space for your child, the most intimate thing in your life outside of your partner, because you are the adult and you want to help your child. You may very well be angry, but you are stopping to try to hold your reactions in check so you don’t do something you will regret.  You are also doing this so you don’t pass on your baggage and check it into your child’s luggage! So maybe you go outside for a moment and come back if that is safe. Maybe you breathe. Essentially you are trying to take that moment to try not to be sucked into laying down on the floor and having a temper tantrum  yourself next to your two year old.  It is not at all about being a Valium Parent,  it is about being authentic and genuine but also dependable. The child will learn they can push for a boundary against you and you will not crumple to the floor and then the child develops themselves even further.

Holding the space also means you can rise above your own feelings in a way to be constructive. You can show the child how to fix it, how to make things better. You can show your child what to DO with those angry feelings. That is the important thing. When an emotion threatens to topple you into the abyss, how do you regain yourself and how do you make it better? That is the part the child needs to see, and because they live in their bodies, they need to know through movement and action, the doing, not in this reasoning talk that many parenting  books want to use. That comes at later ages!

Children under 7 DO have emotions! Of course!   I like how Kim John Payne describes it in his book “Simplicity Parenting“, how small children have just this pool of undifferentiated emotion and if you do venture to ask them how they feel they generally will say “bad”. They really don’t have that same consciousness to it that we do, but it is okay to describe what you see in the moment.  Sometimes when a child is upset or angry, we want so badly to fix it and sometimes the child just needs to feel it.  A touch, a look, can all be supportive.  Words cannot dam the flood!  Warmth on the level of the soul!  That is healing!

Again though, showing what one can do with these strong emotions  to transform it, to make things better is important.   We often want this sense of utopia for our children – peaceful, no conflict.  I think the best thing though is to show how to transform conflict  into something constructive, without a big speech about it.  Or even just seeing how we cry and move on.  How do you let go of things?  Can you show that?

Life with little ones is in the doing, and with the doing comes the power of transformation and potential for healing.

(Part of this post I originally wrote for a thread on the Waldorf At Home Forum, but it has been somewhat transformed like strong authentic emotions  :))



More About Time-In for Tinies

I cannot stand time out for small children.  You can see some back posts related to that discussion here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/23/discipline-without-distress-chapter-four/    and here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/why-should-i-consider-time-in-instead/  

I am all for a ‘time-out” for the mother if the mother needs it to pull herself together though, so please don’t misinterpret the fact that I do think both parties need some time to pull themselves together.  However, dragging a  child in the heat of the moment to sit in a chair for one minute for each year of age seems to not accomplish much.  A child is not going to  think like an adult, and sit there and reflect on what has happened and how they can make it better.    (I am also all for objects going into time-out!  “Hmm, I see those scissors chasing your sister’s braids around the room.  I think they need a break!”  :))

Someone recently commented to me though, that “time-in” didn’t seem to work very well either ; trying to hold a kicking and thrashing child who is trying to hit for time-in just doesn’t work well.

You are correct, dear reader, and I hear mothers everywhere sighing relief at this notion.  Thank you for bringing it up because I have more to say!

Some children do not respond well to any sort of “containment” when they are upset.  What this situation sounds like is more of “How does one handle a temper tantrum?”

So here are Carrie’s Rules For Handling Temper Tantrums in all their glory, and please do take what resonates with you. Every child is different and you know your child best! 

1.  You must be calm yourself and  not lay down on the floor next to your child and have a temper tantrum.  Collect yourself and breathe!  Take your own time-out if you need to!   You must be the warm and friendly wall your child can bounce off of, because your child is scared and doesn’t want to be out of control. 

2.  You must not be so, so, so connected toward trying to get the child to stop.  The child is in a flood of emotion, a torrent of emotion, and sometimes all that can happen at first is that the emotions must come out.  And because a three or four year old is tiny (a good age for sitting on laps!), the emotion comes out in this “immature” way of a temper tantrum (although, seriously, isn’t an adult slamming a door or putting their fist down on a table the equivalent of an adult temper tantrum?)   Aletha Solter writes about this torrent of emotion here:  http://www.awareparenting.com/tantrums.htm  I don’t always agree with everything she says, but I think many of her points are valid. 

3.  Move the child if the child is hurting your property or you or himself.  I like outside on the grass if it is possible to get there.  More on this below.

What can you do if your child is hitting you and kicking you?  You move, of course, but I do know some children that need to be held even through their hitting and kicking and such.  Only you can determine what works best for your child and what brings your child peace at that moment.  My own children never liked being held during a temper tantrum, at least not until some of the torrent of emotion was released.

Outside can be a safer place if you have grass.

4. The best thing often to do is to be nearby but also doing something repetitive, like folding something, etc.    I know that sounds awful, and  I am not suggesting you completely ignore your child, but a little bit of not looking is okay if you know your child can’t hurt himself or herself.  The rationale here is to provide the child some reassurance that Mommy is still here, Mommy loves you, and the rhythm and beauty of life are right here and even though you don’t feel well right now, you will feel better in a minute.  That is what must be in your very gesture and in your very soul, your belief that this will be okay in a moment,  as you are nearby and ready to help. 

Some children do respond well if they are having a giant temper tantrum and all eyes are on them and a parent tries to rub their back, but I have known many who really did just need to crawl under the table and get it out.  No shame in that, but you are not allowed to talk them through it all and intrude on it if they just need to get it out! 

I know this is different than what many mainstream parenting articles say, but I am only telling you what has worked for me and for so many of the families I have worked with and observed.  Telling Johnny in the middle of this torrent of emotion, “You are sad because you wanted a cookie and it’s near dinner time and you can’t have a cookie but maybe you can have a cookie later…”  just doesn’t seem helpful for the moment.  Johnny can’t even hear  you right now as emotion pours out of every pore.

We can be so uncomfortable with our children’s tears or anger, but why?  These are emotions that are every bit as valid as happiness and joy.  They are not our emotions either, we are separate from our child.

4. When things subside a bit, perhaps then you can gently rub a child’s back, hold the child and rock and connect through touch with not so many words.  This is the time-in part – instead of sending your child away for a “time out”, connect with that beautiful and small child and have a time-in.

5.  Some children who have very long temper tantrums and who can’t seem to come out of it themselves well may need to be scooped up and you both go outside.  Sometimes it just seems that change in scenery, soft grass, makes the world a better place.  You stay nearby too!  Some children do need your physical help to come back into themselves, and so only you can experiment with holding your child at what point during the temper tantrum. 

Some children who are at the edge of being done with a temper tantrum but not ready to be held or looked at do well with you telling a story to your dog, to your plant, to your fish (just not directly to your child, LOL).  I used to tell a lot of stories to our giant Leonberger about when she was a puppy and then the child would chime in (eventually) with this or that…

Changing the scene can be important in public as well.  Be prepared to abandon your shopping cart if you are out, or be okay with going out to the car or yard if you are at a friend’s house or whathave you.

6. Once the temper tantrum is over, get your child something to eat!  Their blood sugar will be low.

7.  You  don’t need to go back and verbally re-hash with your child what caused the tantrum, unless there is something the child needs to do to make restitution.  It seems as though many tantrums are over things that are actually small and happen because the child is tired, hungry, thirsty, over-stimulated.  The hunger, thirst, over-stimulation is the NEED that needs to be fixed, the NEED underneath the behavior.  Unfortunately, you cannot fix it in the middle of the torrent of emotion.

8.   If your child is a consistent temper tantrum mess, check out the physical and emotional things going on…. Getting molars?  Getting sick? Getting enough sleep?  Napping enough?  Going too many places?  Parents stressed?  Family life changes?  Are they eating enough?  That is your job to figure out.  Parenting is always a bit of detective work!

Tantrums will eventually calm down, some children seem to have the height of them at ages 3 or 4 (some at age 2)….Like so many other things in parenting, this too shall pass. 

Hope that helps,  please take what resonates with you!