“Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapter 16

This is entitled, “Discipline That Does Not Divide” and starts off by stating that “Imposing order on a child’s behavior is one of the greatest challenges of parenting.  How do we control a child who can’t control himself?  How do we get a child to do something she does not want to do?  How do we stop a child from attacking a sibling?  How do we handle a child who resists our directions?”

The authors go on to state that behavioral approaches with artificial consequences, imposed sanctions, and withdrawal of privileges are adversarial and there are other effective ways of changing a child’s behavior.  After all, discipline itself is about teaching, self-control, rules not just punishment. 

The authors say we must start with ourselves as parents.  “Our ability to manage a child effectively is very much an outcome of our capacity to manage ourselves.”  I agree with this, and have talked extensively about this on this blog.  However, I wish the authors had also pointed out right here that children are developmentally immature and children do pull out things that parents do not demonstrate.  They do say several paragraphs later that “It is not our children’s fault that they are born uncivilized, immature; that their impulses rule them or that they fall short of our expectations.  The discipline for parents is to work only in the context of connection.”  So I guess they do sort of mention what I had hoped, but I wish they had provided some good examples so parents don’t feel like failures in modeling behaviors when their children do things that children just do!

The authors go on to list seven principles of natural discipline that the authors outline in this chapter:

1.  Use connection, not separation, to bring a child into line.  You all know how much I hate time-out, so this section is right up my alley.  Connect before you correct.  Breathe before you connect would be what I would add here.  Take a moment and pull yourself together before you react.  Smile

2. When problems occur, work the relationship, not the incident.  This section addresses what I call “dog training”  as applied to children:  ie, if we don’t correct the behavior immediately, right now, then our children will obviously grow up to be Great Delinquents In Life.

I think this is true, that a sideways approach can work but again, I wish there more examples for parents here of what needs to be handled right away and directly and what could use a sideways approach.  I also think this section could be mistaken for “you don’t need to do anything”.  Understanding developmental phases is really important, but boundaries are still there whether the behavior is associated with development or not.  What development gives you is the right tools to use in conjunction with connection and your own inner work as a parent.

3.  When Things Aren’t working for the child, draw out the tears instead of trying to teach a lesson.  They don’t mean to draw tears by doing something to the child, but how it is necessary to present things firmly and to not justify, explain, reason it all away and sometimes that makes the child upset and causes tears.  “Your sister said no.”  “I can’t let you do that.”  This may very well draw tears, but you still have to be lovingly firm.  Boundaries! 

Not sure I really liked the wording of this section, but I guess it does underscore the important place that sadness and anger does have and how it is not beneficial to shield our children from being sad or angry by over-explaining and not enforcing any boundaries at all.

4.  Solicit good intentions instead of demanding good behavior.  Provide something for the child to hang on to that gets them going in the direction you want – ask for their help, redirect, garner cooperation, with older children share your own values.  For an older child (I would say over twelve for some of these statements), they have such statements in this section as the parent saying, “I’m always proud of myself when I can feel frustrated without insulting anyone.  I think you’re old enough to try it now.  What do you think?  Are you willing to work on it?”  This section is thought- provoking and worth a read.

5.  Draw out the mixed feelings instead of trying to stop impulsive behavior.  “Trying to stop impulsive behavior is like standing in front of a freight train and commanding it to stop.  When a child’s behavior is driven by instinct and emotion, there is little chance of imposing order through confrontation and barking commands.”  Isn’t that truth?  The authors talk about neuropyschologists who have uncovered that much of a child’s responses are driven by instinct and emotion, not from conscious decision making.  (Which is what I have said time and time again in this space!  See the back post on defiance, it is ever popular!)  The authors talk about how to use mixed feelings to bring order out.  Again, I think this tactic is  for much older children.

6.  When dealing with an impulsive child, try scripting the desired behavior instead of demanding maturity.  “Children who have trouble with self-control also lack the ability to recognize the impact of their behavior or to anticipate consequences.  They are incapable of thinking twice before acting or of appreciating how their actions affect other people.”    We help our children by providing cues with models.  “Many kinds of behavior can be scripted:  fairness, helping, sharing, co-operation, conversation, gentleness, consideration, getting along.”

7.  When unable to change the child, try changing the child’s world.  The authors give some great examples, but also provide the caution that some parents use this technique to extreme lengths and remind us that this should never be used to the exclusion of the other six discipline methods mentioned.

Lastly, the authors point out that “the use of structure and routine is a powerful way of imposing order on a child’s world, and thus on the child’s behavior.” This was a traditional function of culture that is being eroded away.

Structures need to be created for meals and for bedtimes, for separations and reunions, for hygiene and putting things away, for family interaction and closeness, for practice and for homework, for emergent self-directed play and for creative solitude.  Good structures do not draw attention to themselves or the underlying agenda, they minimize bossing and coercion.”  Sounds like what Waldorf education says about the use of rhythm to me….

Interesting chapter!  Thoughts, comments from those of you reading along?

Many blessings,


8 thoughts on ““Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapter 16

  1. Thanks for the overview. We are teaching these principles of discipline to the foster parents in our therapeutic foster care program and wow, it really is some great information and useful language. I love the solicit the good intentions section-something so easy to forget in the moment of “disobedience.”

    We have talked about how our templates from our own childhood sometimes influences..well, often influences, how we discipline and that while we so so agree with many of Neufeld’s principles, in times of stress, fatigue, it is easy to fall back on the patterns we have and before you know it, we have sent our three year old to time out!!!

    Thanks for the review of this book. With your permission, could I print out your reviews of the chapters??

    Thanks Suzin

  2. Wow, I really needed this post this morning. I am having issues setting boundaries with my 13 year old daughter. Mostly though my issues are setting boundaries with her father with whom we co-parent. This post will help me clearly communicate to him what is best in setting limits and helping her grow up in a safe, nurturing environment.

    Thank you for sharing this wisdom.

  3. I really appreciate your comments about explaining, justifying and reasoning. It makes me feel like I’m not the only one on the planet who thinks this way! Personally, I think it’s the same as asking a child to be academic too early.
    I get the impression you weren’t as impressed with this chapter as the rest of the book, Carrie.

  4. You know, I have often thought that the book is directed toward parents of older children. Mine are 6 and 2 and, as a Waldorf homeschooling family, I just haven’t seen a lot of what the author’s discuss happening in our family. (perhaps I need to add, ‘yet’?) However, this chapter gives me something to chew on, which is great!! I also have the thought, Carrie, that I’d love to see you “in action”, as a parent with your children. This chapter brings that idea home to me. So, I wonder if it would work for you to bring in an example, now and then, of how you parent your kids in any given situation- what techniques do you employ, how did it go, what does it look like when you breathe before you connect, how do you connect, etc? I always think of your blog as my “professional development” fix, because you have such a lovely professional and theoretical tone to your posts, so I wonder what it would look like if you took a more personal approach now and then, to demonstrate your parenting in action…

    • Jennifer,
      You are so kind..I have successful and not so successful moments just like everyone else LOL 🙂
      Many blessings,

  5. I agree that the ‘solicit good intentions’ approach probably works better with older children. However, I am already practicing with my 2.5 year old son (e.g. “We’re going to go upstairs for your bath now. Your sister is already asleep. Do you think you can use a very quiet voice and quiet feet as we go up the stairs?”)

    I also use it as a reminder to MYSELF that my son’s intentions are almost never to be mischievous, disrespectful, etc. Pretty much all of his ‘bad’ behaviour is driven by curiosity, hunger, fatigue, etc. So, when I am feeling frustrated, I try to backtrack to look at the intention behind the behaviour, and remind myself that the intentions were good (or neutral, at the very least).

    I am finding that a modified time-out (where I take my son into another room and sit with him) to be a good tool so far. And it doesn’t feel so much like a punishment as a chance to re-set the situation and calm down (with my assistance.)

    I found this book really thought-provoking, but I also wished that the authors had provided more concrete examples of their principles.

  6. Pingback: What can child psychology teach us about teams and culture? – thinkingfeelingbeing.com

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