“I Bet Ma and Pa Ingalls Never Had This Problem!”

Some mothers have said to me :  why did  Mary and Laura Ingalls seemed to pretty much always do what they were told?  And they never really “talked back” either!  What was the secret of Ma and Pa Ingalls and what are we doing wrong?!

Kim John Payne says that this question actually came up when he spoke, and at first he didn’t know what to say….And then he realized the answer was quite simple:  Pa Ingalls didn’t say too much, so when he did say something, he was listened to by the children!  You can read about this in the book “Simplicity Parenting” (the review is here:) https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/26/favorite-waldorf-resource-2-simplicity-parenting-using-the-extraordinary-power-of-less-to-raise-calmer-happier-and-more-secure-kids-by-kim-john-payne-and-lisa-ross/

Personally, I think there were other factors as well…..Read on!

First of all, I think in our society we equate talking small children to death as a sign of respect.   We believe we are providing dignity to the young child, giving them a voice, when in fact we are giving them choices, options and a give and take way beyond their years and developmental level.  Why is singing to our child, or giving our children a strong rhythm not seen as a measure of respect for where they are in our country? 

Second of all, we seem to think that the more peer interaction a child has, the better off a child will be.  They then become peer-oriented and peer-dependent at an early age.  Gordon Neufeld addresses this beautifully in his book, “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Matter More Than Peers”, available here:http://www.amazon.com/Hold-Your-Kids-Parents-Matter/dp/0375760288/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267010344&sr=1-1      ..I am re-reading this right now, and it spoke to me when my children were very small, and it speaks to me now that my children are a bit bigger but still small.  It should be required reading in this country, where we seem to think it is normal to send a two-year-old off to “school”.  It baffles me that separation from the family, the pressure for an adult day, the academic foisting on small children has changed so much in the generations since World War Two

Third of all, the reason our children don’t listen is that we talk WAY too much and we give them WAY too much insight into how we make decisions instead of just telling them the decision!  We don’t listen enough, and then when we do listen and “factor” this into our decision-making, we prattle on through all the adult choices, all the adult reasoning (and this three or four-year old is listening, and unfortunately, they really don’t see our decision-making process as such I am afraid) and I think it comes off as not being decisive to them simply because they cannot process this adult reasoning pattern. 

So what can we do?

Connect with your children!  Connect with them in the morning!  Connect with them during the day!  How do we connect?  Hold them, laugh with them, sing to them, play with them.  LOVE them, delight in them!  Stop separating them from you when they do something not right – love them and guide them through it!  Have them make restitution, that means much more than sending them off to sit in a chair!  Have them own the problem and fix the problem, and leave their dignity intact!

Listen more and talk less!  Here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/04/a-mouthodometer/   and here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/

Go through the decision-making process in your head, not out loud.  Say what you mean and do what you say.  This is called  INTEGRITY, and this is  a good thing to model for small children so they will grow up to be people of integrity.

Have confidence.  It continually amazes me that in this day and age, there is so much complete MIS-information about the small child, the baby.  I have heard parents say their five-month old is “manipulating them” or their one’-year-old is “defiant”.  What??!!  This is wishful thinking, folks!  See back posts on defiance in the small child here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

Develop yourself and have a PLAN for how to improve your parenting.  What is your plan for becoming the parent you want to be?  In business or in your career, you might have had a goal, but you also would have made a plan to get there!  Make a commitment, write it down – what needs to happen in your home and how will you get there? Enlist a friend to keep you accountable!

Many blessings,


PS see the many interesting comments below…some of them focused on the physical punishment part of the Ingalls family….hard for many of us to fathom and painful to read…Steiner talks about the evolution of humanity and human consciousness and how we really don’t understand the consciousness of another time and place because we are different now…something to that effect.  Very interesting stuff, but for the sake of this post I wasn’t really focused on that end of it, more the communications end of it, but thanks for your comments!  It’s just that a lot of  mothers bring up Ma and Pa Ingalls and their listening children…that’s all, nothing really deeper than that!  🙂

14 thoughts on ““I Bet Ma and Pa Ingalls Never Had This Problem!”

  1. Sadly, our past choices dictate that we do have hire child care and nothing has made me sadder. 😦 It was also how I was raised after a certain age.

    Some of us don’t have the same flexibility to stay home and care for our children…maybe we shouldn’t have them…I don’t know…I’m very conflicted about this.

    We did send our small daughter to “school” until she was around 2…now we have a nanny 3x a week, and I work 4 10 hour days so that I can say home one day with my daughter (and the entire weekend) and my husband works saturday so he can stay home with her on wed.

    Leaving in the morning is traumatic…but today was better as we sang a little song together before I went out the door (on your advice). I didn’t leave a sobbing toddler begging me not to leave (she loves her nanny and her papa…but she still doesn’t want me to leave)

    it’s all so very difficult and complicated…

    • Hhmm,,I wasn’t really thinking of working moms with the remark about t wo year olds going to school at all..I was actually thinking of the Tiger Woods situation and how it just seems in our society that of course a two year old should be doing something….. Rest easy Jennifer! Be easy on yourself! You are doing your best!
      Many blessings,

  2. I love Little House as much as the next Mama around here…but thought I should point out that Pa also hit his children as punishment…so perhaps Laura & Mary were also a wee bit afraid of him!

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I have been reading a lot of your posts lately trying to find insight for being home with my two year old and my 9 month old. I read what you write and it just seems to click with how I’ve been feeling inside about parenting, even though I haven’t been able to really word it. I am in dire need of having a daily rhythm and finding fun songs and movement activities for my very active son.

    Thanks for all your help!

  4. Well, they also spanked the kids pretty severely. Those parts were pretty traumatizing even to me reading the books.

    Not that I disagree with your points, but it makes you wonder how much was respect and how much was fear. There are many other good books (like the Percy Jackson series and dozens more) that show good parenting examples like what you have shown above where the children were not beaten.

    • Hi Desiree and others — yes, there are books that show good parents, but mothers frequently bring up this example (not really considering the physical punishment part), I guess because the Little House books are just part of American history. Steiner talks about how consciousness of humanity evolves over time and maybe that is why we can’t understand Cain and Abel, and this and that, and maybe not Little House, because we are in a different time and place…But I digress..

  5. I have been reading a lot on here lately and to be honest, the big challenge for me has been to understand how much is too much when it comes to talking to our children. I know that when I correct my children, I talk them to death (well really the eldest sadly.) Everything turns into a mini sermon… I can tell they are starting to tune me out and I hate that.
    But to tell you the truth I have a hard time understanding what I should do instead.
    DO you have an example for a conversation between a mother and her 6 year old.
    I know this is probably a silly question but I am stuck and I have been for a while.

    Thanks SO much Carrie!! Your posts are *always* SO helpful to me.

  6. I was reading a post where you said women nowadays who stay home with small children feel isolated. I think I feel isolated because I’ve been trying to follow your advice about staying at home with the kids (not always dragging them to things outside the home). I go to a women’s group on Wednesday (that I bring the kids to because they have a babysitter) and church on Sunday. Those are the only times I get out. My husband works and goes to school so he literally has no time to take the kids and let me have some time alone. He’s rarely ever home at all. He doesn’t “believe” any of the developmental Waldorf stuff so we can basically rule him out of the picture for now, to be to the point. Our situation won’t be like this forever. For now, however, I am a horrible mother. I scream and yell and say horrible things and sometimes spank my two and five year old. I also have a small baby so the burden is large and real. The closest family is five hours away and as a result of not going out much I have very few friends. I have absolutely NO friends who share my views on how I SHOULD be parenting. In my best moments I am a great person and mother (who isn’t, right?). How, in my unique situation, can I be my best self 95% of the time rather than 5% of the time?

  7. when my 2.9er asks after a tantrum “why was I just crying”

    what do I say lol…

    sometimes, I just say, “well, that’s a good question”

    or “I’m not sure”

    is this enough

    Shoudl I be saying “you were crying becuase you wanted papa’s calculator”

    if she has to ask…is the “moment” gone…

    I’m convinced these tantrums are a result of too many synapses firing all at once…or, as you say, hungry, tired, over stimulated etc.

    • Jennifer, That just cracks me up! So cute! “Why was I crying?” I am chuckling! I wouldn;t even go there, I would just smile or hug and be warm and loving and go snuggle or fix a snack or tell a story! 🙂 No need to re-hash.
      Yup, hungry, tired, overstimulated, all that!
      many , many blessings,
      Carrie 🙂

  8. Please continue your thoughtful, informative posts.

    There are always critics…..but you are presenting good material to think on and it is appreciated and a blessing 🙂

  9. I also think you have to remember, both when reading the Little House books and reading a blog, that there is a certain amount of editing of real life that goes on!

  10. I just discovered your blog and have been reading when I ought to go to bed. 🙂 I wanted to comment on this though because we live near Walnut Grove and our family is quite involved in the culture of Little House because of that.

    One thing you have to keep in mind is that LIW wrote those books YEARS after she lived them! She was fairly old when she started writing and I don’t think most of us look back to our childhoods and remember much of the day to day annoyances, especially those things that typically bother mothers more than children. 🙂 I think pride was involved too but more than that I think she also had an agenda of sorts, and part of that was to pass on the message that the way she was raised was the “proper” way and had good results.

    And sadly, I think the beatings played a part… But I think Kristie is absolutely right that self editing is huge!

  11. I wanted to point out that the LIW books are fiction, not autobiography, even though they are (loosely?) based on her life. If you look for them at a library, they are in the fiction section.

    However, you make great points!

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