“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,