“Discipline Without Distress”, Chapter Five

(This is such a valuable chapter, focusing on parental anger and how to handle anger in children.  Here is a brief summary of the chapter and some of the tips and some of my thoughts; I encourage you to get the book and read it for yourself.  It is a keeper for the bookshelf, and  covers ages from babyhood through teenagers, so you can use it for many years).

Onto the post:

Ah, you all thought I forgot about this!  I did summaries of the first four chapters, and yes, we are going to finish the book! (You can find summaries of the first four chapters of this book if you use the little search bar and type in “discipline without distress”).    This chapter is entitled, “Good Parents Feel Angry:  Separate Your Anger From Your Discipline”.

Judy Arnall writes,” We need to take responsibility of our actions when we are angry.  Discipline means having the vision to see the long-term picture and keep things in balance.  A Chinese proverb teaches, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” It’s so much easier to watch what we say in anger than to apologize and try to make amends.”

She lists the reasons parents becomes angry; it is a long list but at the top of the list is “My child doesn’t listen to me”, which, of course, really means “My child doesn’t do as I ask.”  (Their hearing is fine!)

She adds to list anger caused not by the child, but by things going on with US.  Alcohol, stress, our own needs not being met, low tolerance of normal childhood behaviors (remember ALL those posts I did on “realistic expectations” for each age up to age 8??!)

Anger is healthy, it is normal, but the author points out the goal should be to solve a problem.  It alerts us to change, she writes.  Marshall Rosenberg of Nonviolent Communication writes how anger is a sign our needs are not being met. 

Judy Arnall’s method of managing anger is based on the acronym ANGER.  A=Accept it, N=Neutralize it, G=Get Away, E=Examine why, R=Resolve and problem-solve.

She goes through all these steps in this chapter.  There are pages of “calm-down tools” for the adult (that could also work for children).  She talks candidly about avoiding child-time outs when the parent is angry (and if you read this blog, you know I am not for child time-outs period.  I think they essentially teach the child nothing at all.  It does not solve the original problem in any way, shape or form.)

She writes, (and I agree 100 percent):  “When a parent sends a child to time-out, she feels stretched to the limit.  The parent feels upset because she is unable to control the child.  She needs a break from the child and has the power to send the child away.  When the child is gone, she can calm down and she feels more in control of herself, the child and the situation.  It SEEMS to be working.  Parents lose it because they believe they are supposed to be in control. Control is illusionary.  There is no such thing as control when another human being is mixed in the equation. Children have their own control.  The appearance of control is only maintained by our power as long as the children are little.  It’s easier to take a time-out yourself  than to force another person in time-out.”

There is a whole list of ways a parent can take a time-out for themselves even if their child is standing there.  She also has great tips for breaking the yelling habit.

The next section of this chapter is all about dealing with an angry child.  She writes, “We don’t have many role models of adults handling children’s anger.  Most often, we handle it the way our parents handled it.”

She details the ways children express anger: Babies with red faces and crying and grunts of protest; toddlers and preschoolers with hitting, screaming, yelling, crying, tantrums, throwing things, stomping feet; for middle childhood teasing, sarcasm, bullying, hitting, yelling, crying, throwing things, withdrawal and a sulky attitude and for teenagers sulking, teasing, sarcasm, hitting, yelling, throwing things, depression, withdrawal and other things under the heading of “attitude”.  Typically by age 10 or 12, she writes, a child can begin to handle anger without hitting or throwing things.

Children can get frustrated and angry from not having their needs met, by a parent who has completely unrealistic expectations for the age their child is (or the child’s developmental level is my added thought), feeling they have been treated unfairly, etc.

Carrie here:  As the parent, you are not responsible for your child’s feelings.  This can be such a hard thing to not want to own.  We listen to our child’s feelings, but the feeling does not belong to us to solve.  If your child is bored, sad, angry, happy – that belongs to the child.  You can have a rhythm, you can have a calm house and some children are still going to be more wild or more negative or whatever than other children of the same age (even accounting for those realistic expectations for their age!).  The only thing you can control is you.

I think the other work for you is to figure out your own “triggers” – does the house being a disaster set you off?  Being hurried?  Not having food or a menu plan going on so you are stressed around dinner time?  If you can figure out your stress triggers, then you can solve it and put a plan in place to make your house a calmer, happier place. 

Judy Arnall’s tips for reducing your child’s anger include using tools of solving problems, having realistic expectations for your child’s age (she is singing my song here!), avoiding hitting because that just shows that hitting  is what we do when we are angry, not to isolate the child if that makes them more angry, not comparing children, listening to your child’s frustration if they can verbalize it without interrupting.  She goes through her ANGER acronym approach for helping children manage their anger. 

She talks about “negating phrases”, which I especially liked because you hear them so much:  “Stop making a fuss”  “It’s no big deal”  “Can’t you be nice?”  “Nice little boys (or girls) don’t act that way.” “You don’t really feel that way.” “What’s wrong with you?”  “You are so ungrateful!” and many more.  It is a sobering list to read and think about how many times we hear parents talk this way to their child. 

The tongue is a powerful ally in parenting but it can also be a terrible weapon.  It is an area where many of us need to learn to be able to relax into silence ourselves, to smile or pat a child on the back, to just breathe a minute before we say something we will completely regret later on.

She has a whole section on temper tantrums, which are most common between the ages of  one and three and a half (although really, a teenager who is running around slamming doors to me is having a temper tantrum of sorts.  Do they ever totally disappear?)  But at any rate, this part of the chapter has tips and techniques for dealing with tantrums.  I do disagree with the author that a way to prevent power struggle temper tantrums is to “give lots of choices”.  I find most small children under 9 are much happier and less prone to tantrums if all the decision-making is not on their shoulders for what they should wear, eat, do.  Time-out is a very ineffective way of dealing with a temper tantrum.

She does detail how to move a tantruming toddler, how to get a tantruming toddler into a car seat (I personally have found it just best to breathe and wait a minute or minutes and not force a child into a car seat as hard as it can be to wait), how to deal with the “spirited child’’s temper tantrums, how to handle public misbehavior (and her number one tip is to have realistic expectations!  A toddler is not going to sit through going out to dinner!), what to do with the older angry child, and what to do about apologies. 

Carrie here:  The trick with temper tantrums is that YOU must remain calm.  YOU must be the rock in the swiftly moving stream! You must show your child how to have self-control!  Let this practice of developing your own inner self-control be YOUR inner work!

The very last part of the chapter involves “Counteracting Parent Stress” and she addresses fatigue and how to deal with it, how to get time for yourself in five, twenty, two hour increments; she has a section for couples and encouragement for spending time together, de-cluttering your life, the cleanliness of your home, and helping children play independently.  For facilitating children’s play she talks about unplugging the TV and other media and packing away many toys, leaving out unstructured play materials.  Sounds Waldorf to me!

Anyway, if gentle parenting and not spanking are new paths for you in you this New Year, I encourage you to check out this book.  I don’t agree with every single thing in it, but it sure would be a good place to start!

Here’s the link:  http://www.amazon.com/Discipline-Without-Distress-responsible-punishment/dp/0978050908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262460572&sr=8-1

Much love,



“Discipline Without Distress: Chapter Four”

t So, I am continuing to slowly work my way through the book “Discipline Without Distress” by Judy Arnall.  Today is Chapter Four:  “Punishments and Bribes Don’t Work:  Look for the need or feeling under the behavior.”

The author starts out with a statement about punishments:  “Punishments are used more for the person giving them than the person receiving them.  They are meant to fill a need in the person who was wronged, or in the case of parents, who perceive the wrongdoing and are in charge of teaching the child that what he did was wrong.”

She goes on to write, “Punishments often impede the learning process.  Children become immersed in their anger, fear, and hurt and don’t often get the lesson.  Or the lesson they take away is that they can’t communicate with their parents.”

The author has a long list of problems against punishments on page 99 of this book, which would make a handy list to copy and put up somewhere as a reminder to yourself!  She also talks about “time-out” (which you all know I despise completely if you have been reading my blog for any length of time) as the most confusing and overused discipline method to come out of the last two decades.  She looks at both the advantages and disadvantages of time-out and the disadvantage list is much, much longer than the advantages list.

She writes, “Generally, parents want children to have appropriate time-out behavior such as being quiet, reflective, and still. They are supposed to behave that way for a certain amount of time.  That is very hard because the time a time-out is most often prescribed is when a child is out of control emotionally.  Their inability to calm down sufficiently enough to take a time-out can ire parents.  Both parties are now in a power struggle and are very angry.”   The only time-out I recommend is if YOU, the PARENT, needs to gain control of yourself.  Time-out is a tool for the PARENT, but not the child. 

Like myself, the author recommends TIME-IN.  Time-in is a calm-down strategy and does not leave the child to figure out how to handle out his or her flood of emotions without any help or guidance. 

The author than goes through the problems with spanking.  I am happy to go through this list if someone needs this help – just leave a comment  in the comment box and I will happily write a post on spanking.  There are also some posts about “no spanking” available by clicking on the tag in the tags section. 

YELLING is a habit many mothers seem to have.  Yelling loses its effectiveness over time and can be very threatening to young children and also encourages children to yell back at you!  Grounding, withdrawal of privileges, the use of “logical consequences”, lecturing, threats, blaming and shaming, withholding love and affection, withholding money or allowances, extra chore assignment, sarcasm and name-calling and scolding and correcting are all also addressed.   Bribery is also addressed.

One tool to think about using is ENCOURAGEMENT.  Sometimes we point out so many critical things about our child with no encouragement at all.  “If someone corrected us 18 times in an hour, I think we might explode at that person.  Yet, the effects on children go unseen for many days, months, and sometimes years.” 

The author’s suggestion is to stop giving negative attention to the behavior in the form of a correction and to start noticing every tiny little thing the child does “right”.  She even suggests filling up a bag with 25 marbles and carrying it around and each time you notice something positive, take a marble out and put them in a container.  If you correct, put a marble back in your bag that you are carrying around. 

This is a list of why children “misbehave”, what need might underlie this behavior. 

  • Hunger, poor diet or food allergies.
  • Not enough sleep.
  • Boredom.
  • Over-active – children need to expand energy every two hours.
  • Illness or health problem
  • Developmental changes
  • Needs more social activities.
  • Needs less social activities.
  • Hormonal changes in puberty. 
  • Feeling contrary
  • Over-stimulated
  • Watches too much violence
  • Over-scheduled.
  • Unrealistic expectations!  Young children do not get “logic”!
  • Rule following is inconsistent in the family.
  • Not enough positive attention.
  • Feelings are negated by family members.
  • Not staying with “NO” consistently and therefore the child does not realize No means No.
  • Too rigid of rules ( I think this often goes back to unrealistic expectations).
  • Too many transitions (May go back to over-scheduled)
  • Not enough control or choices, especially for those age 9 and above. 
  • Conflicts are not solved with mutual respect
  • Stress due to job loss, divorce, move, holidays, etc.
  • Insecurities
  • Labeling children in such a way it becomes a big self-fulfilling prophecy (This is a MAJOR PET PEEVE OF MINE!)

A great chapter to read yourself!  I hope everyone is following along!

Happy thinking,


“Discipline Without Distress”: Chapter 3 “Discipline, Not Punishment”

This chapter talks about the differences between discipline and punishment.  Punishment means to hurt by causing physical, emotional or social pain whereas discipline means to teach. 

I like this quote:  “Punishment disconnects parent and child.  It also produces anger, resentment, retaliation, fear, submission or passive aggression in the child.  It produces  guilt, remorse, and inconsistency of action in the parent because no one likes to see their child suffer for very long.  Discipline, on the other hand, is respectful, caring, and gives attention to the relationship.  Discipline does not intentionally hurt.  Both sides are left feeling connected.”

I think this is a major point; in Waldorf parenting we talk about how if you start out thinking you versus child in your head that you have already lost.  The magical and sacred connection between a child and a caring adult is broken, and no good teaching or imitative example for the child to follow can come from that. 

This chapter also talks about the difference between praise and encouragement and how encouragement is what one gives another during the process, and how praise is given at the end of a project.  Praise is frequently a judgment of the child, and in a way a kind of bribe as the child must “earn” the praise by doing the “right” thing (which is judged by the parent).  Encouragement, on the other hand, is something you can give a child that is not doing well, a child who is making mistakes, a child who needs to feel accepted and capable. 

The author talks about “overindulgent children.”  She mentions in this quote:  “Overindulgent children are ones not embraced in love, caring, and  nurturing their feelings.  They are not picked up when they cry as babies and don’t have anyone to acknowledge their feelings or care about what they think as children.  They are undernourished in caring, love and attention, and over-nourished in consumer goods.”  The author goes on to paint a very specific picture of what a overindulged child looks like, and what an overindulgent parent looks like.    This involves the whole concept of boundaries, which is something that Donna Simmons of www.christopherushomeschool.org talks about with frequency. 

The reality is that parents and other family members do have needs, and it is okay to teach your child that other people have needs!  Setting limits can be for the safety, health and sanity of all family members. 

The author writes, “The essential component of setting limits is sometimes we have to say “no” to our child’s request.  True discipline is not about making a child do what he is told, making a child come when called, or making a child keep his room clean.  It’s about helping him to be an interdependent person in charge of his future.  It’s about raising him to respect other people and to be responsible and caring also to himself.” 

She goes on to write, “Somehow, we expect our children to accept our “no” with pleasantness and  politeness, which is pretty  unrealistic when we can’t even muster that as adults!  The key is to stay calm after you say “no”.  You are dealing with a child’s anger.  You’re modeling self-control and self-discipline and that will go a long way in teaching a child to handle theirs.”

Children are  often verbally corrected many times a day, and the author points out that “no” can lose its impact.  Save your “no” for the big things, and let your rhythm carry the day.  Save your “no” for the things your family has decided is important in your family mission statement. 

Till next time,


“Discipline Without Distress”: Chapter Two

This chapter starts with these sentences:  “Anyone who has ever home schooled their children discovered that 24 hours a day means 24 hours.  The parent and child spend a lot of time together.  When I home schooled my children, their world was interlocked with mine.  We couldn’t spend that much time being mad at each other.  We had to learn to get along much more than the average family, who are apart for large amounts of time.  It was the same with the siblings.  Why spend the time fighting?  Instead, we put effort into building our relationship.”

Judy Arnall talks about no matter how wonderful your relationship is when things are going well, what counts is how family members communicate with one another when things are not going well.  I whole-heartedly agree.  This is importantIt is easy to be a great parent when things are going well, but harder to be centered and peaceful if your child is melting down, runs away from you in a parking lot, or is having a temper tantrum in the store.

The author makes a list of things that make up a relationship built on respect, honesty, equal rights, fairness, sharing feelings, taking responsibility and good communication.  She has eight pages of ideas for building bonds within the family, which range from anything from camping together to sharing feelings to  eating family meals together.

One “family builder” that she mentions which I so agree with is to make your family relationship your priority.  She writes, “Say “no” more often.  Most people value family life as their first priority but then take on too many outside commitments and over schedule their children in outside activities.  That leaves no time for family life.”  How many of you have found this to be so very true?  I have!

The author then goes on to address the discipline myths that interfere with building the bond, and in that section she talks about how children do not need punishment, but need opportunity for making amends.  This is a hallmark of Waldorf parenting as well.  She also de-bunks the myth of time-out, which I also agree with as the young child does not have the logical capacity to sit there and “think about what they did” and “reflect on how they would do it differently.”  The child has a completely different consciousness than an adult.

The other one in this section that I appreciated mention is the notion that children learn by watching how the world works.  Judy Arnall writes, “It’s more effective if children learn what is acceptable rather than what is unacceptable.  When we point things out to people, we give them the message they are stupid and can’t figure things out for themselves.  Children are intrinsic learners.  They will figure out what not to do if you show them what to do over and over again.  All criticism is negative, regardless of how “polite” it sounds.”

From a Waldorf parenting perspective, we think of less words and of modeling because children imitate what they see because they are a sensory being.  The notions discussed in this section of the book fit in well with that view-point.  Children learn self-control by watching YOU be self-controlled.  They learn how to be positive by YOU being positive. 

The author also mentions that there is no such thing as a parenting expert, that the expert on your child is YOU.  This is an interesting idea in this age of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dear Abby, support groups and everything else. 

There is more in this chapter, including a lengthy discussion of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and an entire section of the impact of feelings on behavior, and communication and problem-solving to build relationships. 

Lots of happy reading,


“Discipline Without Distress” -Finishing Up Chapter One

So, we are finishing up Chapter One…This has been an interesting, thought-provoking chapter for me personally. 

On page 38, the author lays out “The Golden Rules About Rules”.  She writes that the rule must work for the individual person and the unique situation.  I kind of like this, because it points out that parental consistency is not always easy, that we are fallible, that sometimes when we are completely off-center the tiniest things drive us insane, and we are feeling well and centered, sometimes we handle even the big things with ease…….

Okay, but then I have a problem with the next section.  She goes on to talk about “The Participatory Rule Theory” (everyone that is affected by the rule should help make the rule)  and uses an example of a rule of food in the playroom that is negotiated in her house every day.  A main area of dispute involves a toddler with a sippy cup of grape juice, a white carpet and who is watching the child (mother versus father versus babysitter).    However, then the author goes on to talk about that fact that “(Parents) may state the children can have some input into the discussion, but the parents need to make the final decision and rules.  This seldom considers the child’s needs.  A power struggle might ensue.  Of course, decisions and rule-making is an age-appropriate idea. A two-year-old will not make too many rules.  A nine-year-old certainly can.”  She talks about how a parent may seek input for rules from a child when the child is rebelling or balking against a rule.

Okay, so here is my problem.  The example she gave regarding food involved a small child who would spill grape juice even with the aid of a sippy cup.  This is obviously a small child, trying her best not to spill with a spill-proof cup.  How does this example relate to the facts the author provided that a nine-year-old is in a better position to “make rules” (which I really don’t like that phrasing much either!) rather than a two-year-old?

I think this is one area where Waldorf parenting is truly advantageous.  Rhythm carries so much of this little kind of thing.  We eat at the table together for all meals and snacks.  There really is no question of eating and carrying things around because it just doesn’t even come up.  At the point when this comes up, the children are likely to be much older and more responsible and then you can have a discussion.  Rhythm really helps out gentle discipline!

I also had an issue with this statement that “the final decision and rules seldom consider a child’s needs.”  I think parents can consider a child’s needs and also set rules that work for the whole family – it is about the needs of the whole family, not just one child!  Or am I just being completely and utterly grouchy today and reading this wrong?  I am thinking especially of my under 7 parents and children here……The needs of everyone in the family counts, not just one child.  That child’s true needs do count!  Absolutely!  Is there more than one way to meet that need though?  Is walking around on a white carpet with a cup full of grape juice a true need?  Again, sorry to be so grouchy!  Maybe it was just the example for me.

The author does talk briefly about routines, traditions, rituals, habits building security in the child, the  fact that every child is different and has unique needs and how we truly are different parents in some ways for each child because of birth order and how we as parents mellow out with time.  True, true.

The next section I did really like in many respects.  It is a section entitled, “The Golden Rules About Parenting With A Partner.”    The author discusses the fallacy of the “United Front” and how parents react differently to different things because they are different people, that children are able to handle different things of doing things, and how it is okay for parents to disagree.

I think we all can acknowledge the truth of these things.  However, I believe that being parents involves coming to as much as a common ground as possible without our small children being present.   I think this is important for a sense of security for the small child.  Judy Arnall points out that sometimes we can support one another without being completely united, as in , “this is important to my partner, my partner’s feelings are important to me, so yes, I think you need to do this.”  I agree with this.  Again, yes, it is important to model for children how to resolve conflict, how to come to agreement, but I am not certain that is work for the under –7 crowd.  I think a 8 or 9 year old naturally can figure this out much better, and much quicker and can learn this process in a tenth of the time it takes a 3-year-old.  For me, understanding the developmental stages of childhood are truly important and worth the investment and a three-year-old should not be treated in the same fashion as a ten-year-old.

At any rate, this chapter ends with many suggestions for peaceful partnering including modeling and not nagging or criticizing your partner in front of the children, which I agree is so important.  The author has some great points regarding when parents are divorced or separated and combining two families. 

All in all, thoughtful reading and I hope you all are following along!  If you have a local La Leche League group or Attachment Parenting group, this book may be available in their lending libraries.

Thanks for reading,


“Discipline Without Distress”: Chapter One

This book by author Judy Arnall  is fairly new, published in 2007, and is a great read for those of you new to guiding your child in a gentle way, and also for those of you who are experienced with gentle discipline techniques.  I will be going through this book chapter by chapter on this blog, so I hope you get your own copy and follow along!

This book is based upon the following five cornerstones:  (from the Preface)

1. Teach, not hurt.

2.  Stay with your “no” and honor your word

3.  Look for the feeling or need (NOF) behind the behavior.

4.   Separate your anger from your discipline.

5.  Be the person you want them to be.

Chapter One is entitled, “The Purpose of Discipline:  Teach, not hurt.”  The author outlines the way life has changed since we all grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s and why some of the “old” discipline techniques do not have the same impact today.  She talks about the importance about building connections with our children as children these days are often separate from the family and have ready access to technology and other things that can be difficult for parents to police.  She also points out that in general spanking is a less-accepted tool socially and we need things to replace this!  She talks about how children need parents who will help them solve their problems, not punish them.

(Carrie’s Note:  As homeschoolers, we may feel this does not apply to us as much because we are generally with our children, but I feel these are still  important concepts for all families today in an age where the extended family no longer seems to exist.    You may also be wondering from a Waldorf perspective how “solving their problems” applies to Waldorf children under the age of 14 or so – when more logical reasoning comes in- and I say hang in there with me and I will show you how this can be a helpful framework for you, the parent to work from, even if you do not use all the words with your child!  Read on!)

The author talks about the six things children needs for connected parenting:

Time (Quantity time, not necessarily quality time)


Guidance in a positive way

Kindness – I have a whole post on my blog about this important subject here:https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/03/kindness-in-your-home/ 


Self Care for Parents – which I have also talked about here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/06/making-yourself-a-priority-in-the-parenting-equation/

The author talks extensively about why we should give up punishments, and how punishments do not work to deter “bad” behavior.  I will not review all those points here, you will find this on pages 15-18.

She talks about the goals of discipline (remember my view of discipline as Authentic Leadership!https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/  and also here https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/20/getting-past-fear/  )- to teach the child to build life-long character building skills, such as responsibility, empathy , problem-solving and self-control; to protect the child; to instill our parental values (do you know what these are?  If not, consider looking at this post here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/08/creating-a-family-mission-statement/) and to teach the child how to become a healthy, productive adult in society.

She talks about the role of the parent – all you jellyfish out there, listen up!!- as being a protector, a source of knowledge and experience in a democratic parenting style, an influence, a detective,  a structure provider (yes, my little jellyfish I know you are wincing now!), and a limit and rule making facilitator and negotiator.  Parents are also the provider of needs – not just physical needs, but for the emotional needs of children for warmth, and security.  Waldorf parents I feel really excel in this area!  Parents are also nurturers.

More about Chapter One in a bit,