Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Four


Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.   I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning.  I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.

In Part Two,  we focused on birth through age 4.  In Part Three we looked at ages five and six.    The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.

Birth through age  four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world.  The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” not as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality.  Ages five and six also sees the same  importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue.  However, play and social experiences now expands during these years, (although some children will not blossom into truly enjoying other children until the six/seven year transformation).  Play is the main theme for these years, and also a  look at the willing gesture involved in roles, power, and control.   If you would like to see more about the five and six year old, please see Part Three of this series:

Today we enter the realm of the seven and eight year old;  two ages of contrast for most children.  Descriptions of these two ages include the following from the “Your Seven Year Old” by Ames and Haber: Seven-year-olds normally do cry at any, every, or even no provocation.  Seven tends to be a quiet, withdrawn, pensive,  and in some even a rather gloomy age – certainly when compared to vigorous, aggressive, demanding Six or expansive, outgoing, ready-for-anything Eight.”  From “Your Eight Year Old”, also by Ames and Haber:  “Eight’s performance is often only mediocre, and his notion of other people’s standards is extremely high.  This discrepancy lead to tears and temporary unhappiness, at times; or Eight may boast and alibi to make up for what he can do and what he would like to do…..While Eight is hard on himself, he is also hard on others.  He can be quarrelsome and aggressive toward people, particularly Mother.”

Although there are  many differences between these two ages, I think there are common tools to use in the gentle guiding of the seven and eight year old:

Know that the mother-child relationship at these ages can be really mixed up, embroiled, and many times everything is taken out on you as a mother.  A seven year old may be all complaints and gloom and  misery, many times. An eight-year-old is often highly possessive of his or her mother and often requires a mother’s full attention and demands a lot of her, but yet is often very resistant to Mother.  The level of communication often required by children of both of these ages is often intense.    Be calm and try not get too entangled in it all.

Speech can be a volatile issue at this age for parents.  At  age seven, violent speech and thought are fairly typical.  At age eight, lying and belligerence is also fairly typical.  Again, don’t get too caught up.  Be calm, and do let natural consequences take its course.  Reduce your orders, commands, and verbal questioning to a bare minimum.  If you ask something to be done, you probably will have to be right there to see that it is done.

Protection is still very important.  Abstract thinking has not yet really unfolded.  Seven and eight year olds are still little.  Do you remember back to first and second grade?  Stop overtalking things to death and offering too many choices and activities. An eight-year-old especially will be accident prone, get stomachaches if something is upsetting and will get headaches if overexcited. More is less for these ages. 

Play is still so important.  Seven-year-olds often are very inventive and creative in their play, and are forging into board games, collecting, magic tricks, jumping rope, roller skating, and games involving a ball.  Eight year old girls may still love to play with dolls;  cooking, models, trains, paper dolls, collecting, and all manner of gross motor activities are still highlights of play.

Be on your child’s side by setting boundaries and following through.  The foundation you lay at these ages is important for the nine-year change.


Many blessings,

6 thoughts on “Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Four

  1. Can you say more about the last one, “Be on your child’s side by setting boundaries and following through”? Do you mean in regards to schedule?

    • Talia…well, rhythm is really in the realm of the adult…by boundaries I mean more of dealing with the inappropriate language, following through with what you ask a youngster to do in the house, sibling conflict, etc.

  2. Lovely post! I found the part about the mother-child relationship very interesting. Most of it actually. I’ll come back to this when my kids are older 🙂

  3. My oldest just turned 8, and we have definitely been experiencing the mother/child dynamics you mentioned. She has become possessive, wants time alone with me, and very snugly and affectionate. Yet, she can be super cruel with her attitude, looks, and words when she is with her friends, or overtired, or just in a mood because her favorite dress isn’t clean. It’s so interesting, and I feel caught between the ‘ho-hum’ and “Ummm…I don’t think so miss!”

    • yes my daughter really bothers me. I decided to search because I thought I was me. she is 71/2 very mature but demanding and moody. I am a single mom try to educate my daughter the best I can.

  4. Hello Carrie,

    I would love to hear your thoughts on our particular situation. I have an artistic 8-year old who wakes up every morning with an agenda – she’s got plans for creating, for organizing, for DOING. However, these are not usually matching up to our homeschooling plans for the day. I’m struggling with whether I “hold the space” with her so she can flex her artistic muscles as much as she’d like, or if I should lay down the law and require that all “schooly” things be done before she can work on her own projects. It’s really a matter of unschooling vs following a set plan, and with her there seems to be nothing in the middle. If I were the unschooling type, this wouldn’t be a problem at all! BTW, she is the middle child of five, and we are coming to Waldorf late in the game…my older two daughters are 12 and 14 and pretty firmly entrenched in the Charlotte Mason method, and my youngest two little boys (5 and 2) are obviously not schooling at all yet. But plan to transition our lifestyle to a more Waldorf style with the three youngest kids, including the eight-year old. Luckily we have a nice rhythm at home, we do lots outside, we’ve always had a strong slant toward nature and the arts, and the kids only read living books for their learning. Also BTW, this is not really a “new” issue with my 8-year old; she has always resisted sitting down and doing a few lesson type activities.

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