“Discipline Without Distress: Chapter 6: Your Child Is Unique: All the factors that affect discipline”

We are still plugging away through this book, do see the back posts on each chapter.  Amazon has this book for sale here:  http://www.amazon.com/Discipline-Without-Distress-responsible-punishment/dp/0978050908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264905764&sr=8-1

Today we are looking at the chapter that talks about the influences on discipline from  your child.

First up is the idea of developmental milestones and stages.  For those of you who regularly follow this blog, you know I am big into this.  Characteristics of ages three to nine are now on this blog, you can use the search engine to look up ages.  I am working on posts for the one-month-old through age two and a half as we speak, so eventually every age from birth until the nine-year-change will be represented on here and I hope that will really help many, many parents. 

Judy Arnall points out that once children reach a new stage, they can regress backward to a previous stage until they move forward again.  Parents can often view this as “misbehavior” or that the child is “just doing this to annoy me; they know better” when in reality they are getting used to this new stage and learning. 

The author addressed temperament, and how the intensity of temperament is what often counts.  I personally think that temperament, at least the traditional view of temperament, is often highly charged and read into by parents.  I know that offends some of  you, and I am sorry for that, but in my personal experience and in my observation of hanging around the attachment parenting community for a long time now, I think that we should put less “labels” on it all and focus on meeting a child’s behaviors where they are.  Sensitive children do need lots of understanding, but so do all children.  All children, even so-called “easy-going” children go through days where their behavior is more challenging and they need help and guidance and connection and warmth.  Part of the personal development and inner work in parenting is learning to be calm during these times, to help guide the child, to meet the child with warmth and understanding and connection. 

My problem with the labels (and I have said this before in my post on the older child with “high needs”)  is that they have a way of not disappearing as the child grows – once a “high-needs baby” then a “high-needs child” then a “high-needs dramatic teenager”.  Yes, there are those personality traits associated in much of the attachment parenting literature (persistence, sensitivity, adaptability, intensity, regularity, activity level, first reaction, mood), and everyone does have these traits to different degrees, but what a boring world it would be if we were all easy-going!  Sometimes I just feel that “high needs   I know some will totally disagree with this, I  just want to challenge parents to meet their babies and children where they are, without labels  and judging and just meet them with love.  You can use the search engine to find more posts about the “high-needs” baby and child and older child.

One thing the author does mention, which I think is totally true, is that some children are more distractible than others, and how sometimes a child who is sensitive to noise and other stimuli end up with massive temper tantrums.  Judy Arnall  puts this under the label of the “highly spirited child”.  One other thing she points out about this type of child is that rhythm, warmth, rest/sleep, physical contact, is very important for this type of child.  These are the things that Steiner saw as important for every child, and I find it interesting,  this intersection of attachment parenting and Waldorf parenting (again!)

The author talks about allowing spirited children to have their whole range of emotions, but again, I think this is important for all children. I feel that yes, some may have more intense demonstrations of emotion that last longer, but all children have emotion! In younger children, the emotions are more undifferentiated (most small children when upset just feel “bad” for example, if you ask them), and the ability to verbalize emotions increases with age and maturity.  In this chapter, the author  talks about the need for the spirited child to have boundaries that cover the important things and not to “battle” over smaller things – this is something I advocate for dealing with all children. 

Moving along!

The author tackles maturation and birth order. The birth order section was interesting to me, birth order always is. 

She recommends for the oldest to give privileges with age, to be careful of their mothering or fathering tendencies and do not put them in charge of siblings all of the time, encourage fun and spontaneity, reinforce that mistakes are okay.  For middle-born children, she recommends encouraging help with chores, asking their advice and avoiding comparisons, put them in the number one position at times and to give them some new things instead of hand-me-downs for everything.  For youngest children she recommends giving chores and responsibility, encouraging independence, and not doing less for them than you did for your oldest.  For only children, she recommends  giving lots of opportunities to develop friendships (okay, as an only child I take a bit of offense here.  Why is that all people seem to think that only children are spoiled brats and need to learn to share?  I have actually had people say to me, “Wow, you don’t act like an only child!”  I guess that is a  nice compliment in a back-handed way?! Hahaha.)  She also recommends for the only child letting them find things to do when they are bored, encouraging sharing and problem-solving skills for conflicts, and doing your best to avoid discussing adult problems and concerns with them (which I recommend for all small children under the age of 7).

She talks about the new baby-toddler syndrome (you know, where your three and four year old seem so big now that there is a baby in the house?)  The author talks about learning styles and multiples intelligences with their implications for discipline, and gender differences.  For a further look, do see back posts on the Elium’s “Raising a Daughter” and “Raising A Son.”  Excellent books as well on this.  She also discusses personality traits, love languages, sensitive children, and brain development milestones.

The brain development milestones is a section I think should be required reading for parents.  I believe today too many parents think their small child has the reasoning capability of an adult, which they strongly rely on in discipline.  This is a faulty view based upon the biology of the child.  The author here goes into every age and what they really do or don’t understand.  Here are just  a few examples, get the book to see all of them!

  • A two-year-old does not understand time-out or what they did wrong or consequences and has no impulse control.  Also has really no memory – when Mommy is gone, Mommy is gone.
  • At five years old, most seem to understand “no” means “do not do that.”  They comply with requests less than half of the time.  They still may hit or kick when frustrated.
  • At six years old, the child cannot “multi-task”.   They can do simple chores one at a time.   They are starting to understand a bit more about what is dangerous, but often doesn’t understand why something is dangerous.
  • Seven years can sit still for half an hour to forty-five minutes; begins to know what is dangerous and why but will forget in the moment if preoccupied with something else
  • Eleven years – stops hitting other person when they are angry, can understand social implication of lying and swearing
  • Twelve years – can do chores without nagging or reminding
  • Twenty to twenty five years is when the frontal lobes are still developing (the frontal lobes control logical thinking and planning, understanding consequences).

I love things like this because they really prove and demonstrate how slowly children develop. 

The author remind us that children are ego-centric, loud, messy, can put themselves in dangerous situations, don’t know how to clean up, very active until about age 12 and need that balance of physical activity versus quiet activities, they are not time focused, they don’t know how loud they are, they are honest, they do things without thinking!

Does this description sound like any of the children in your life?

Love for today,


10 thoughts on ““Discipline Without Distress: Chapter 6: Your Child Is Unique: All the factors that affect discipline”

  1. This was, as usual, very thought provoking and interesting. Thankyou Carrie. I really need to keep reminding myself about the developmental stages and not expect too much.

    I also agree about the only child comment, as one myself I’ve always found it funny when people say that I don’t act like an only child!

  2. After your Chapter 5 review, I bought this book. Its WONDERFUL!! I am going through it slowly and trying to absorb it and trying to mirror its tone. It has been such a huge help. Thank you!!

  3. Just received the book and it will be the next one I start, hopefully this week. I am starting to see small changes here and there in my home. It seems that observing natural rhythms is helping to set a calmer tone.

    Hopefully this book will provide me ways to not give into my temper tantrums in dealing with my children’s. This morning we did not have a successful time of it. Again work in progress it seems.

  4. This was a wonderful post! I think it is buzz to label everyone and not think about just meeting the child – with love and also with discipline. My oldest is 13yo – he has ASD but first and foremost he is a child with needs and I strive to meet them WITHOUT the label. Sure there are things that happen and it crosses my mind or Erik’s when we go “is that *normal* or ASD?” Regardless though… he’s a boy with a need. There is a tendency to blame a lot on the label and over the years I have found that we have to push through the label to bring about the peace our son needs. It was his doctor that diagnosed him that said to me… “I don’t want to give your son a label, so I hope you won’t. My work just fits a peg in a hole, you are his mother. Feed him appropriately, limit his media exposure and love him.” He told me that is all mothers need to do… society has them thinking otherwise.

    Birth order is amazing to me too… I love to look at temperaments and birth order… so interesting to me – but again we must beware of the label and work toward balance.

    Great post as usual Carrie!


  5. Hi Carrie

    Thanks for the post.
    I have been feeling down for a few days after we attended a birthday party for a three year old (the same age as my oldest).
    I have observed the other 3-year olds who are all attending pre-school or daycare. And (I know I should not) compared to my littlies they seem so ‘mature’ they were able to play games, share toys and have conversations with the adults. The adults were able to have conversations and parented from their chairs.
    My children have been labeled ‘sensitive’ and ‘clinging’ and I have had a hard time convincing myself that the path I am on is the right one.
    So last night I spend a few hours reading the archives on your blog to reaffirm for myself why I am taking the difficult road and that it will be worthwhile in 20-25 years.
    I am new to Steiner philosophies and luckily my children are too young yet for me to have the pressure regarding the schooling option I choose – I don’t think I have what it takes to be a homeschooling Mama.
    Maybe this is a normal growth process, maybe I am mourning the loss of the ‘traditional western way’ of parenting and schooling, realizing that if I take this path we as a family will be different than our current friends and neighbors. I grew up being ‘different’ and I was trying hard to conform to what is the norm for my children, but I am realizing it is not necessarily the best.

    Thank you for the support offered all the way around the world, (and maybe I am in need of a community of like minded individuals closer to home.) I enjoyed reading the stages and being reminded how little 3-year olds really are, even if we as parents think they can understand reasoning.

  6. Carrie, Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful information. Lovely to receive reminders on the developmental ability of our children! 🙂 Thank you. I am very much looking forward to your early childhood posts on the two year old. Thank you so much again for all your words and time to post this nourishing information to us xxx

  7. Carrie,

    i just recently found your blog here and i have been devouring it. thanks for all the efforts to put out information about developmental stages. i think of myself as an intelligent and informed parent who knows a lot about child development, but somewhere in the last several years (and pregnancies and sleepless nights!) i have forgotten much of it. it’s good to be reminded that two year olds really don’t know what they should have done instead of hitting as a way to get a toy or that six year olds can’t multi task and do six different chores in a row without getting distracted.
    i actually found you by doing a google search for “rhythm and waldorf” and this is where i have started, following your exact advice with establishing basic rhythms. we’re three days into a new week and i see the value already.
    thanks also for challenging the labels. i have “sensitive” kids but have tired of thinking of them all this way when they are each so different…all kids do need respect and careful care and love.

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