“Discipline Without Distress”: Chapter One

This book by author Judy Arnall  is fairly new, published in 2007, and is a great read for those of you new to guiding your child in a gentle way, and also for those of you who are experienced with gentle discipline techniques.  I will be going through this book chapter by chapter on this blog, so I hope you get your own copy and follow along!

This book is based upon the following five cornerstones:  (from the Preface)

1. Teach, not hurt.

2.  Stay with your “no” and honor your word

3.  Look for the feeling or need (NOF) behind the behavior.

4.   Separate your anger from your discipline.

5.  Be the person you want them to be.

Chapter One is entitled, “The Purpose of Discipline:  Teach, not hurt.”  The author outlines the way life has changed since we all grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s and why some of the “old” discipline techniques do not have the same impact today.  She talks about the importance about building connections with our children as children these days are often separate from the family and have ready access to technology and other things that can be difficult for parents to police.  She also points out that in general spanking is a less-accepted tool socially and we need things to replace this!  She talks about how children need parents who will help them solve their problems, not punish them.

(Carrie’s Note:  As homeschoolers, we may feel this does not apply to us as much because we are generally with our children, but I feel these are still  important concepts for all families today in an age where the extended family no longer seems to exist.    You may also be wondering from a Waldorf perspective how “solving their problems” applies to Waldorf children under the age of 14 or so – when more logical reasoning comes in- and I say hang in there with me and I will show you how this can be a helpful framework for you, the parent to work from, even if you do not use all the words with your child!  Read on!)

The author talks about the six things children needs for connected parenting:

Time (Quantity time, not necessarily quality time)


Guidance in a positive way

Kindness – I have a whole post on my blog about this important subject here:https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/03/kindness-in-your-home/ 


Self Care for Parents – which I have also talked about here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/06/making-yourself-a-priority-in-the-parenting-equation/

The author talks extensively about why we should give up punishments, and how punishments do not work to deter “bad” behavior.  I will not review all those points here, you will find this on pages 15-18.

She talks about the goals of discipline (remember my view of discipline as Authentic Leadership!https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/  and also here https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/20/getting-past-fear/  )- to teach the child to build life-long character building skills, such as responsibility, empathy , problem-solving and self-control; to protect the child; to instill our parental values (do you know what these are?  If not, consider looking at this post here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/08/creating-a-family-mission-statement/) and to teach the child how to become a healthy, productive adult in society.

She talks about the role of the parent – all you jellyfish out there, listen up!!- as being a protector, a source of knowledge and experience in a democratic parenting style, an influence, a detective,  a structure provider (yes, my little jellyfish I know you are wincing now!), and a limit and rule making facilitator and negotiator.  Parents are also the provider of needs – not just physical needs, but for the emotional needs of children for warmth, and security.  Waldorf parents I feel really excel in this area!  Parents are also nurturers.

More about Chapter One in a bit,


3 thoughts on ““Discipline Without Distress”: Chapter One

  1. Hi Carrie, I am just now reading this book and have been reading your summaries as well. I don’t know if you will see this comment since your article was posted last year, but I thought I’d write anyhow. I am wondering how you responded to or interpreted the author’s opinion of technology and children. It is the only thing in the book thus far that has concerned me. I am wondering if my relationship with my children has been affected by the judgments I have made about allowing technology. There have been so many things that we have had to say no to, from socializing with friends who play video games to birthday and Christmas gifts that they have asked for. Perhaps I have compromised our relationship by being disrespectful of their desires. It is increasingly hard as our older son, 12, begins to explore the computer for a few minutes every week and the younger ones do nothing but gather around and watch. Every playmate comes to our house with their own cell phone, which often becomes a toy, nothing better than a video game and even the digital camera my 12 year old was given is used as a game and a distraction from reality. So, my reply is a bit lengthy, but I really appreciate this book right now for me and the ideas it has raised. Thank you for your thoughts and for sparking this conversation between so many wonderful mothers! Yours, Sarah

    • Hi Sarah! Yes, it is hard…my husband works for a major technological company and technology is all around in friend’s homes, etc. All the children my daughter knows outside of our Waldorf circle that are her age have cell phones, iPads, own computers, have all watched all kinds of movies and such…It is hard…I think the teen years is sort of the age one starts navigating these issues though. Responsible use of technology is important for teenagers. Here is a post from over at Christopherus that provides some concrete examples: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2007/02/computers_when.html
      Does that help?
      Many blessings,

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