Tools for Gentle Discipline: Day Number 19 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

This series is almost done!  I can’t believe it, can you all? Hopefully you gained a few insights, a little inspiration, to carry you forward in your parenting. 

Today we are going to talk about a difficult topic for many of us:  the use of gentle discipline.  Children need to function in this world, with other people.  The question becomes how we gently bring them into ways that will assist them in connecting with other people, how to teach them compassion and how to be kind, and what behaviors are accepted in our society.

One of the main things that seems difficult for many parents these days is setting boundaries in a gentle manner.  It seems difficult for many parents to see their child as separate from themselves.  Your child is not you!  They have different feelings about things than you, different ways of looking at things…and it is up to you, the parent, to help guide your child.

Do you have boundaries for yourself?  If you personally do not have any boundaries, it is going to be difficult for you to teach your children to have boundaries in a gentle way.  The culmination of all of the twelve senses in Waldorf parenting and education is the Sense of Individuality, of I and Thou.  This does not fully develop until the later teen and early twenties, but the foundation of this sense is being laid with your children right now.  And this is a sense that many children need assistance with; some children are crawling on top of their parents’ heads (I have literally seen this), some children are so far away and distant.  This is an area with the explosion of sensory processing disorders in children that we are seeing more and  more difficulties with.

If we set boundaries, how do we do it gently?  Children under the age of 7 do not need direct consciousness brought to the occasion, (although six-year-olds can do with more direct statements), but here are some other tools:

  1. Humor
  2. Rhythm
  3. Finding the need beneath the behavior (without asking your three or four year old – you really can probably figure out if they are hungry or tired)!
  4. Structuring your environment
  5. Modeling what you want your child to imitate
  6. Movement of the body
  7. Fantasy and imagination and pictorial imagery when you speak to your child
  8. “Time- in”   – see this post:
  9. Singing and verses
  10. Doing things together
  11. Being right near your child and assisting what needs to be done
  12. Having a space to draw, throw a ball, etc. to diffuse emotion
  13. Plenty of outside time (yes, this is a disciplinary tool!)
  14. Distraction!
  15. Looking for the positive intent behind your child’s behavior
  16. Finding the good to praise
  17. Holding your child and loving them
  18. Filling up the child’s “love language” or emotional bank account before things go crazy!

I am sure many of you can think of so many things to add to this list!

Use your quiet confidence as to what is right in gentle strength,



5 thoughts on “Tools for Gentle Discipline: Day Number 19 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

  1. Hi Carrie,
    My name is Laura, I am mummy to dd, 4 and ds 1 in Cork, Ireland. I am new to waldorf and I really love all of your beautiful and valuable information. I feel I have already implemented so mnay positive changes to our childrens lives thanks to your kind guidance.
    I am very interested in the idea of ‘time-in’ that you mentioned here, but I was wondering what advice you have regarding how to deal with your child when they are behaving negatively (snatching/ hitting/ slapping…) another child? How do you effectively stop these situations and how do you deal with that behaviour? In the past we ahve always used time out fter a warning, but as you say it’s perhaps not the best method, especially with younger children.
    Thank you so much and I can’t wait to hear more!

    • Hi Laura!! Welcome from Ireland!! I am not sure if you mean your four-year-old and your one-year-old or your four-year-old and friends…My main thought for a four-year-old is prevention. Many four year olds don’t do well socially due to the agressiveness you mentioned, so my thought is to limit social outings and to keep it to one other playmate in a structured time where the adults are modeling taking turns and such in an activity before free play begins and to keep play times short.
      Hitting and slapping of another child is common at this age, but hopefully by keeping things structured and short, you will alleviate much of that. I think the other thing is to be very vigilant and in tune with your child, unfortunately not a great social time for you with other mommies…:) If you can catch things before it escalates, then you can distract. After the fact, you can pay attention to the child who was hurt and later at home you could have your child draw a picture or do something nice for the child who was hurt. No guilt trips on your child though, just simple restitution for age 4.
      With a younger sibling, you just have to know that with a four-year-old and a one-year-old, that one-year-old needs your protection and you must be right there to supervise so if you cannot give them your total attention, perhaps your one-year-old could be in a sling.
      Children do not have much sense of right and wrong until about age five, so at four this is just starting to emerge. They really cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes or reason about the whole thing at that age, so prevention really is the best start. Connection in the form of a time-in because usually the child is overwhelmed by his or her own emotions and has not a clue what to do with it and then it comes out as something physical because the four-year-old lives in the body, not the head.
      If you are used to giving a verbal warning and not physically there to move the child, redirect the behavior, then the child most likely is not processing it very well, so getting used to being very gentle and able to physically move the child away from the situation before it all goes wrong – lets hop over here like bunnies, while you take the child’s hand and literally move them away from the situation may resolve it all better..
      Welcome again and thanks for reading!

  2. Hi Carrie,
    I found your blog a month or two ago. I love reading your inspiring words. I am embarking on my own 20 day commitment with my 3.5yr old and 8 month old on my own often neglected blog Thanks again for the inspirational ideas and thoughts.


  3. Hi Carrie,

    I would love to interview you on my weekly Blog Talk Radio program, Inside Out Mama. I am a mom and a parent coach and I love the Waldorf philosophy. You are so knowledgeable, it would be a joy to have you share insights about parenting the young child – I would let you choose your topic. If you’re interested please contact me and I can share further how it can work.

    Warmly, Raelee

  4. Pingback: Hybrid Rasta Mama: Mindful Mothering Challenge # 16 - The Results

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