“Discipline Without Distress” -Finishing Up Chapter One

So, we are finishing up Chapter One…This has been an interesting, thought-provoking chapter for me personally. 

On page 38, the author lays out “The Golden Rules About Rules”.  She writes that the rule must work for the individual person and the unique situation.  I kind of like this, because it points out that parental consistency is not always easy, that we are fallible, that sometimes when we are completely off-center the tiniest things drive us insane, and we are feeling well and centered, sometimes we handle even the big things with ease…….

Okay, but then I have a problem with the next section.  She goes on to talk about “The Participatory Rule Theory” (everyone that is affected by the rule should help make the rule)  and uses an example of a rule of food in the playroom that is negotiated in her house every day.  A main area of dispute involves a toddler with a sippy cup of grape juice, a white carpet and who is watching the child (mother versus father versus babysitter).    However, then the author goes on to talk about that fact that “(Parents) may state the children can have some input into the discussion, but the parents need to make the final decision and rules.  This seldom considers the child’s needs.  A power struggle might ensue.  Of course, decisions and rule-making is an age-appropriate idea. A two-year-old will not make too many rules.  A nine-year-old certainly can.”  She talks about how a parent may seek input for rules from a child when the child is rebelling or balking against a rule.

Okay, so here is my problem.  The example she gave regarding food involved a small child who would spill grape juice even with the aid of a sippy cup.  This is obviously a small child, trying her best not to spill with a spill-proof cup.  How does this example relate to the facts the author provided that a nine-year-old is in a better position to “make rules” (which I really don’t like that phrasing much either!) rather than a two-year-old?

I think this is one area where Waldorf parenting is truly advantageous.  Rhythm carries so much of this little kind of thing.  We eat at the table together for all meals and snacks.  There really is no question of eating and carrying things around because it just doesn’t even come up.  At the point when this comes up, the children are likely to be much older and more responsible and then you can have a discussion.  Rhythm really helps out gentle discipline!

I also had an issue with this statement that “the final decision and rules seldom consider a child’s needs.”  I think parents can consider a child’s needs and also set rules that work for the whole family – it is about the needs of the whole family, not just one child!  Or am I just being completely and utterly grouchy today and reading this wrong?  I am thinking especially of my under 7 parents and children here……The needs of everyone in the family counts, not just one child.  That child’s true needs do count!  Absolutely!  Is there more than one way to meet that need though?  Is walking around on a white carpet with a cup full of grape juice a true need?  Again, sorry to be so grouchy!  Maybe it was just the example for me.

The author does talk briefly about routines, traditions, rituals, habits building security in the child, the  fact that every child is different and has unique needs and how we truly are different parents in some ways for each child because of birth order and how we as parents mellow out with time.  True, true.

The next section I did really like in many respects.  It is a section entitled, “The Golden Rules About Parenting With A Partner.”    The author discusses the fallacy of the “United Front” and how parents react differently to different things because they are different people, that children are able to handle different things of doing things, and how it is okay for parents to disagree.

I think we all can acknowledge the truth of these things.  However, I believe that being parents involves coming to as much as a common ground as possible without our small children being present.   I think this is important for a sense of security for the small child.  Judy Arnall points out that sometimes we can support one another without being completely united, as in , “this is important to my partner, my partner’s feelings are important to me, so yes, I think you need to do this.”  I agree with this.  Again, yes, it is important to model for children how to resolve conflict, how to come to agreement, but I am not certain that is work for the under –7 crowd.  I think a 8 or 9 year old naturally can figure this out much better, and much quicker and can learn this process in a tenth of the time it takes a 3-year-old.  For me, understanding the developmental stages of childhood are truly important and worth the investment and a three-year-old should not be treated in the same fashion as a ten-year-old.

At any rate, this chapter ends with many suggestions for peaceful partnering including modeling and not nagging or criticizing your partner in front of the children, which I agree is so important.  The author has some great points regarding when parents are divorced or separated and combining two families. 

All in all, thoughtful reading and I hope you all are following along!  If you have a local La Leche League group or Attachment Parenting group, this book may be available in their lending libraries.

Thanks for reading,


2 thoughts on ““Discipline Without Distress” -Finishing Up Chapter One

  1. Uh, I can meet my child’s needs for a drink at the same time that I preserve the carpet. It’s called “we drink in the kitchen.” And “a power struggle might ensue” only if I let it.

    I think people get a bit off track when they try to “empower” small children. It’s up to us as parents to take responsibility for meeting the child’s needs and relating to them in an age-appropriate way, but not to make them equal partners in the decisions.

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