Irritation Points for Parents of Children Birth – Age 4

(This post today is geared toward attachment parenting and gentle discipline, but of course my Waldorf influences come out a bit!)

One of my favorite gentle discipline books is the book “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” by Becky Bailey.  She writes in this book about the concept of “irritation points” – you know, those lovable and quirky behaviors that after awhile become not so lovable and quirky…

from Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline

Well, first of all, we need to begin with you.  You are the parent and it all starts with you.  This is by Becky Bailey, page 219

“Here are the warning signs, that you as the adult and grown-up are equating MISBEHAVIOR with DISRESPECT. If parents equate misbehavior with disrespect, they definitely set themselves up to be irritated by typical developmental issues.

These are the warning signs for parents:

– You act like a nut. You scream, shout, threaten, bargain, plead, beg, spank, bribe or cry.

– -You focus on what is wrong and what your child is NOT doing

– -You attribute negative intent to your child

– You blame your child for your upset and try to make her feel bad through guilt, fear, use of force. You refuse to own your own upset.

– You forget the Power of Acceptance (this moment is as it is) and think:

– “This child should know better than this.”

– “I shouldn’t have to give constant reminders. She ought to be able to {fill in the blank}

– “I shouldn’t have to tell her again. She should do what I say when I say it.”

– You become alarmed and wonder, what happened? What have I done wrong to make my child act like this {forgetting the Power of Free Will}? How can a delightful child one month become a monster the next? If she’s this bad now, what will her teen be like?”

(Carrie’s note:  These could be signs you need a break, a parental time-out, more sleep and better nutrition for yourself.  Have life-lines available – a friend who you can call when you are just ready to lose it, someone you can talk to if you need that or just gather everyone up and head outside if that is possible and calming to everyone.  You cannot solve your child’s behavior challenges when you are not in charge of your own behavior!)

Irritation Points from Becky Bailey, all in her book, “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.”

INFANCY: The First Year of Life – Irritation Points

-Failed communication

-Face exploration

-Biting or pinching

TODDLERS: The Second Year of Life – Irritation Points

-Anger and frustration

-Temper tantrums –Becky Bailey says,  “If you can stay calm during a toddler temper tantrum, you have half the problem solved – yours.”

-Negative oppositional behavior

-Impulsive behavior


-Aggressive behavior

-Nothing seems right

-Endless rituals and love of repetition

PRESCHOOLERS: Ages Three to Five – Irritation Points

Becky Bailey says, “A key developmental task faced by all preschoolers is to acquire power and an identity.”

-The simplest event or routine may trigger total rebellion

– Your child may be shy one minute and impossibly bossy the next.


-They may begin to swear and to use elimination swear words

-They exaggerate and brag

-They tend to be aggressive with friends and siblings

-They hate for mom to talk on the phone

-They do not do what they are told to do

-When they know an action is wrong, they may do it anyway.

-They are gloriously funny and love the ridiculous…but they ask lots of questions. (the average four-year old asks 400 questions a day!)

This is a really wonderful, gentle book for parenting.  This is not a Waldorf book, but does have so many truths and practicalities in it!

Reading something like this, or the Gesell Institute Books (“Your One-Year-Old”, “Your Two-Year-Old”, etc) sometimes provides parents a great deal of relief just to know that these behaviors are common!

Waldorf would look at these situations in terms of starting with the parent and what the child is seeing to imitate, keeping to a rhythm with plenty of home-cooked meals of whole, warming foods, warm bed with lots of sleep, not many activities outside of the home (in fact, I would venture to say children under the age of 5 really need no activities outside of the home), plenty of fresh air and time outside in nature, storytelling of simple stories, plenty of opportunity to help with daily chores.  A Waldorf parent and teacher has great respect, warmth and delight for the child, and a great deal of understanding and empathy for the child’s feelings.

I am currently piecing together a post on three-year-old behaviors and challenges from some questions mothers have asked me, and if you would like to leave an “irritation point” that is challenging you, in the comment section, I would be happy to address it!



3 thoughts on “Irritation Points for Parents of Children Birth – Age 4

  1. My three year old has gotten to lying. I did not have this with my oldest at this age, so I am wondering if it is a three year old behavior and how to address it at this age.
    This is my first reply and I want to thank you for your insightful posts. They have given me much to ponder and apply to my family.

  2. Pingback: Discipline for the Four-Year-Old « The Parenting Passageway

  3. tormenting the house pet? (mild degree, but still….) we are all about rhythm, outdoor time, staying home, simple stories, housework, helping with housework, lots of time with farm animals… and still mommy goes crazy on occasion!

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