Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself”

This is a fantastic book by Dr. Louise Hart with lots of solid advice for creating a peaceful and productive family life.  You can see back posts regarding Chapters 1-10; today we are looking at Chapter 11, which is entitled, “Parenting Leadership Styles.” One of the very first blog posts I wrote in 2008 back when I started writing was about gentle discipline as authentic leadership, so I was excited to delve into this chapter.

The chapter begins with asking the basic question:

  • Were you raised by tyrants?
  • Were you raised by not being raised?
  • Were you raised by leaders who balanced their powers with freedom and caring?

In an autocratic (tyrannical) parenting style, children often want to be told what to do because they are trying to avoid punishment and they want to please their parents. Children raised in this style often lack a sense of personal responsibility and distrust their own feelings.  They may be compliant or they may become rebellious and defiant over time.

In a permissive parenting style, parents give up any power at all and may be checked out due to substance abuse problems, their own baggage and woundedness, illness, or disinterest. In these families, because there are no rules, children don’t learn any boundaries at all, have trouble with limits, feel they have the right to do whatever it is that they wish, or may take on a role reversal with the parents.  They may eventually become violent toward their parents or seek out highly structured groups as an adult.

In a democractic leadership style, everyone’s needs in the family are considered important. Parents offer choices and treat their children as capable beings who can make decisions. They teach children how to take responsibility.  They provide structure.  Children learn to respect rules and become responsible, and how to become capable.

Some families have a mix of styles between parents – one may be very permissive and the other very autocratic and rigid.  This happens frequently, but by realizing this and talking about this, even by employing family meetings, different choices can be made.

When children are small, we have to assume control and provide boundaries and as children grow, we can provide a framework for freedom with responsibiity and good choices at the forefront.  We provide a sense of teamwork and empowerment. In Appendix C of this book there is a helpful table summarizing the information in this chapter.

More to come!

Blessings and love,



Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Yourself and Your Child”

How is everyone doing reading along in this fabulous book?  We are up to Chapters 9 and 10, and these are great chapters.

Chapter 9 is entitled, “Parenting Responses That Affect Self-Esteem” and it gives a number of different scenarios with responses from a nurturing parent, a structured parent, a marshmallow parent, and a criticizing parent.  I think this could be really helpful to parents new to different developmental stages.  If you are curious about the differences in these responses, I refer you to the scenarios but in a nutshell:

Nurturing Responses – based on respect, love, support, encourages self-responsibility, parents help children, children are seen as having capacity to grow and succeed, warm

Structuring Responses – also based on respect, but offer more set limits and sometimes demands a performance outcome; expects children to be capable and responsible.  This kind of response can work well WITH a nurturing response.

Marshmallow Responses – grants freedom but doesn’t make a child accountable or responsible.  It sounds supportive, but in reality views children as inadequate and incapable.  It blames others, or the situation for a problem.  Views children as fragile.

Criticizing Responses – based on disrespect, ridicule, blaming, fault finding, comparing, labeling.  Humor is often cruel, touch is not warm but instead punishing.

What style do you use the most?  The good news is that it is possible to change your response style!  You can catch your children being good, you can find the things they are doing right, you can give up blaming and fault finding.  Mistakes can be fixed, and children can learn responsibility!  

Chapter 10 is about parents being leaders.  I love this, as it was one of the first topics I ever blogged about when I started this blog 10 YEARS ago!  So, if we are going to be leaders, we need

1- Vision, direction, goals.

2- We need to communicate our vision, direction, goals.

3.  We need to keep focused

4. – We need to consider the needs of others  – we are team as a family!  This is the FIRST place that children learn teamwork.  Team sports are awesome, but the family is the first team!

5. – Support the progress – support over the obstacles.

6.- Expect success!

If you are a REACTIVE parent, you are reacting, usually with threats, force, criticism, humiliation, ridicule, punishment.  We can, instead, be proactive!  What are the biggest sticking points for the day?  How could thing flow smoother?  What is our big vision as a family and how are we communicating that?  If you want to see more, here is a post I wrote some time ago about writing a Family Mission Statement.  Pages 93-94 of this book also talk about crafting a vision of a Winning Family.

A closing thought from page 94:  “If you live your life from your highest values, you will bring peace and compassion to your family, community, and world.”

The change begins with us!  Please leave me a comment and if you have a link to your Family Mission Statement, I would love to read it!

Blessings and love,

Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself”

(For those of you following along with this book study, we are on Chapters 7 and 8 today).

Chapter 7 opens with this statement, which I love so much:

Everyone is born with a full deck of capabilities – physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional.  We need to learn to play them well in order to become healthy, fully functioning adults.

The author goes on to write:

In our society we learn that certain feelings are approriate and fitting for males, others for females.  But emotions are neither masculine nor feminine; emotions are human.  We need to experience a full range of feeling to be fully human.  When this does not happen, we unconciously may pass on our own emotional limitations to our children.

What emotions are you allowed to express in your family?  What about in your childhood? All feelings are okay, all actions are not.  Was that something you were ever taught?  How do you teach this to your children?

This chapter gives strategies for dealing with feelings – accepting and acknowledging, intervening at the level of the thought or the behavior or granting the wish in fantasy. This chapter goes through all the different emotions – trust, guilt and shame, grief, anger, resentment, forgiveness,  gratitude, and then coping skills and ways to handle all of these emotions.  It is a lovely chapter, probably the one I have loved the most in this book!

Chapter 8  talks about The Power of Words. The way we speak to our children breathes life into them (or despair).  This chapter talks about ‘killer statments” (things one should never say); “crooked communication” where things sound positive first but really are quite negative and damaging, and then self-esteem builders.

The author also talks about the use of “thank yous” and how this simple phrase helps to relieve burnout and makes one feel appreciated, especially is one is praised not just for the final outcome, but for the effort.

When we say negative words to our children, we can correct them. We can apologize; we can say that we would like to say that differently or that we would like to take it back.  This helps in the phase of switching over to stopping so much criticism of our children and our family members.  Increasing appreciation, compliments, and support only helps improve the entire family atmosphere.

Blessings and love,



Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself”

For those of you following along with our book study, we are looking at Chapters Five and Six today.  This is an incredible book by Dr. Louise Hart that I feel gets at many of the issues affecting parents and how they discipline their children today.

Chapter Five begins with the baggage that many of us lived through – the era of “children should be seen and not heard.”  Dr. Hart points out that with this style of parenting, many children were “deprived of the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions and to gain confidence in their own abilities.  Many of them came to believe that what they had to say wasn’t important, that they weren’t important, or even that no one cared about them.”

I personally think this may have led to some of the present problems I see with the number of narcissists on the rise.  If it was never about them when they were children and there was a severe lack of attachment, and everything was shut down communication-wise as they grew older, I think perhaps many of these people never received the guidance or ideas as to how to integrate into a family grouping.  Of course, some people withstood this and grew up to be amazing, sensitive and fabulous communicators.  The author points out she didn’t feel really listened to until she was seventeen years old, and then by a friend, not her family.  That just seems a shame!

“Real listening expresses interest and caring.  It is a powerful and intimate experience that enhances self-esteen and friendship.” Parts of listening are listed on page 35-36  in my book and I urge you to look at this list.   Good communication also involves taking turns (so no interrupting or going completely off the topic in order to be an effective communicator on either side), and it involves giving feedback.  It involves practice to really be able to communicate in this way!

Chapter Six is about asking and refusal skills, and talks about the three simple ways people to try to get what they want:

Monster Ways – shouting, venting anger, hitting, manipulating, intimidating others.

Mouse Ways – crying, whining, begging, pouting, hinting, hoping someone will read your mind.

The author points out that stereotypically, males are taught aggressive ways of communicating and females are taught a very passive way of communicating.  I am so happy about this generation of parenting, because I think the parents that are teaching communication skills to their children are teaching their girls and boys assertive communication skills.  It involves knowing what you want and asking for what you want, with a timing that is SENSITIVE to the other people in the household or group (the last part may be the most  left out part when we teach our children).

We also need to teach children to ask questions when they don’t know the answers or understand.  This is especially important in tweens and teens that believe they know all the answers, and therefore have no need to ask more deeply. This is especially important to teach childen who have special needs, so they can advocate for themselves the older they get, but I think it is important for all children.

The other side of this asking, though, is the answer.  If someone is consistently wishy-washy and without boundaries, that can also be frustrating.  In this age of teaching children to say “no” to various things, we also need to be on the lookout for ourselves as to what we need to say “no” to as well.  “No” is a perfect word all by itself, and parents have to be able to say “no” in order to set boundaries for children.  If you can’t say no to things without couching it with a paragraph, why?  What negativity does no mean to you? How you say no makes a difference, of course, but no is important as it helps us develop our own freedom, our own power, our own control, our own self-definition.   A simple no in parenting works better than threats (“I’m going to do x if you don’t stop y.”)  How much better is just “No!  You may not do that!”   The flip side of this is that if you are saying “no” all the time, then perhaps you need help with your environment, your support network, your own baggage.  If your toddler is touching everything in the house, and it’s a constant “no”, maybe you need to re-evaluate what kinds of things are out in your house for a toddler to get into.  If you say “no” to every request from everyone, maybe you need some support.  If you can’t say “no” at all, maybe you need to explore why you can’t.

Next up, dealing with feelings!    It’s a great chapter full of insight.


Review: “The Roadmap To Literacy: A Guide To Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 1-3”

I know many of you  who read my blog homeschool and have been patiently waiting for a review of this extensive book (606 pages in oversized paperback form) and wondering if it is worth your money to buy this as a literacy guide for your homeschool.  Others of you are wondering if it is only good for a school setting, and still others of you are wondering if it is true enough to anthroposophic education indications for you to want to use it.  I will attempt to share my perspective on this work, and hope it will help you in your discernment as the expert teacher in your homeschool or school setting.

The format, as mentioned above, is 606 pages in oversized paperback form.  It is heavy and not the easiest thing to carry around in a basket for portability and reading on the go, but it certainly has so much information to share.  The book is essentially divided into six sections and 15 appendices, along with a glossary and bibliography.  The bibliography includes some of the most up to date studies on the teaching of language arts, and cross references topics through varying mainstream and Waldorf literature.   One thing I appreciated about this was it is simple to find sections you want to read and not feel as if you have to read it from beginning to end (although that is what I did).  I think this book would be a great book study amongst homeschool teaching parents or among lower elementary faculty staff at a school.

The first section involves background information regarding teaching reading, and begins with an experience many of us can relate to in our own teaching – once the letters are introduced in first grade, the sounds mastered, CVC words tackled, and the silent (“wizard”) E who can change words — what does one teach?  The authors mention that in their experience, Waldorf Schools are losing students due to lack of concrete language arts teaching and that up to 30-50 percent of students are being recommended for remedial work in the language arts.    This section talks about the stages of learning the English language and its three layers, which is very different from Rudolf Steiner’s native German.  It also gives background as to the historical development of the English language and how students recapitulate this historical development as they learn to read and write in English through the development of writing, phonological awareness, the first alphabet, the development of written conventions, and the development of reading.  It also looks at “The Roadmap to Literacy” way of learning to write and read – the phases include emergent, phonemic awareness, pattern, syllable phase, Latin/Greek phase. These are not grade correlations, but phases students go through in learning and each phase is broken into thirds.  This may seem overly complicated to some of you who have children who just picked up writing, spelling, and reading effortlessly, but I can assure you as a homeschooling parent whose children may not be picking up these things so readily, these phases can help identify what you can and should be doing in academic practice in order to  help your child move forward with reading.

Section Two is regarding Waldorf methodologies in language arts instruction and includes sections on the teacher and student as authors, the developmental approach of hands, heart, and head; school readiness; teaching from the image; working with stories; the literature curriculum; inhale and exhale – the role of breathing in a lesson; from the whole to the parts; using the power of sleep; working with the temperaments; the four fold human being; eurythmy and form drawing; home visits and working with the spiritual world.  This is the section that really will help those worried that this book may be too much or not true enough to Steiner’s indications.  As a physical therapist, I would have liked a more extensive and remedial kind of section regarding school readiness, but I also feel this is covered in many separate available resources.  There is an introduction to the “Sacred Nothings” of Waldorf Education – did Steiner really say that, or is this a tradition that has been developed in the Waldorf Schools?  Does it serve the student in front of us? There is a section on main lesson blocks/main lessons versus practice blocks, which is something I feel nearly NO Waldorf curriculum on the market makes distinction or provides nearly enough in terms of WHAT specifically to practice, again, especially for those students really needing direct instruction.  As a homeschooling mother, when I first read this section about practice, I felt a little intimidated as I have a limited amount of time to work with each child after main lesson period, but  as I got past that feeling it also stirred in me once again this idea of combinbing main lessons and combining practice sessions. It helped ignite some ideas in me as to how I would want to structure something differently in my own homeschool and in general how to pay better attention to practice.

Section Three covers fifteen aspects of language arts, including teaching the alphabet and the sounds of the alphabet, long and short vowel sounds, points of articulation, the sound of the letter “a”, the archetypal vowels and the eurythmy gestures, and when and how to introduce lower case letters.  Then it goes through BLOCK by BLOCK for first grade as to what exactly to teach in terms of letters, images, when you can teach two consonants at a time, how to introduce vowels, and fun games for practice.  This will not be an open and go thing for those of you searching though – you will still need to pick the images and stories, but it will provide a scope and sequence for teaching.  There is a section on handwriting and include when to switch to pencils, whether or not to use lined paper, how to teach handwriting and how to practice (and how to help struggling students). The third  and fourth part of this section works on encoding and decoding, how to segment and manipulate phonemes, and therefore this covers a large part of Section Three. Many of the techniques employed here and in the spelling section are ones I see employed in Orton-Gillingham type programs, but I think that is actually a good thing for those students needing specific instruction.  Many homeschoolers have found themselves having to teach main lesson work and use an OG type program for their struggling student because none of the resources on the Waldorf  market were specific enough for instruction.

There are sub-sections on symbol imagery and sight words, along with ideas for benchmarks in a school classroom.  There is a section on concept imagery and how to work with comprehension, including steps to sequential retelling, factual recall, HOTS questions, free renderings, curriculum connections for those in third grade and up. I think these are things that many homeschooling parents do naturally, but again, are often in short supply in any Waldorf curriculum on the market.  The last sections involve spelling, diction, and grammar.  The grammar section is very extensive, including fifty-two pages or so. Vocabulary and “kid writing” (often seen in mainstream sources but I have never seen mentioned in Waldorf resources) is also covered. Composition writing for grades two and three are also covered.  The last section covers reading – everything from teaching reading  (choral, guided, class reading) in the different phases of language arts development, how to differentiate instruction for those in a classroom, how to create an independent reading program, when and how to do book reports, how to practice, and how to assess your student.

Section Four covers phonics rules, and includes a lot of information for students who are struggling and how to help them. Thirty three phonics rules are covered by the end of third grade, with the idea that prefixes and suffixes will be taughts in grades four through six.

Section Five is the planning section and covers how to create block rotations, how to select curriculum materials, how to make block plans, how to make daily lesson plans.  If I was just starting to plan, I might turn and read this section first.   Then the section is broken up by grade (grades 1-3_ and offers examples of main lesson blocks, daily lesson plans, how to create nature stories and more.   I personally find it hard to read and decipher other’s lesson plans, but I think this section could be very helpful to many homeschooling parents who would like to see a layout.

Section Six involves assessment and remediation.  This includes informal assessments (homeschoolers are very familiar with this!), progress monitoring assessments, outcome assessments, and diagnostic assessments. Interpreting percentiles and information about standardized tests are also included. There are benchmarks included in the book, which in general I think move faster than most of us do in a home environment, but I am not sure this pace or scope isn’t something to think about in our teaching.  This beauty of homeschooling is that we can look at the child in front of us and adjust as to what we feel is right for our student.

This section does talks about the student who is slow to learn to read and how many of these students need help in critical early learning skills.  This is a hard one for homeschoolers, as many of us have had children who read late and did fine (but many of us also had children who read late and were NOT doing fine and ended up with visual convergence issues that were unidentified, or dyslexia or other challenges that impacted learning).  It would be my hope that if a parent teacher was exploring this book due to a child having difficulties learning how to read, that this would provide them some basis as to when to intervene and how. There are assessments for first, second, and third grade printed right in this book. One of the last sections is working with remedial issues and includes such things as remediating environmental factors, reflexes, physical and psychological capabilities, sensory -cognitive functions and more. It also talks about the remedial therapies used in Waldorf Schools, including the extra lesson, therapeutic eurythmy, pedagogical stories, and child study.  There is an entire section on dyslexia and suggests if identified early, intensive work is needed to build phonemic awareness and intensive, structured daily phonic teaching is needed and that this instruction should begin as soon as possible.  It also talks about Irlen Syndrome.  This is so refreshing to read about in a text geared toward Waldorf Schools, considering the number of emails I field regarding the Waldorf School setting and how dyslexia is approached.  

The appendices provide block plan templates that are detailed down to what skills are typically practiced in each block of first through third grade, what days to tell a story and what work to follow, and suggestions for practice sessions that should be taking place outside of main lessons.  It also has an appendix of sight words and listings of books for each grade and resources for the teacher, including form drawing.

A homeschooling parent might love this book if he or she has a child struggling with writing and reading, or if the homeschooling parent would like more guidance with what to teach after the intital introduction of phonetic sounds, word families, and sight words.  It will challenge you on your Sacred Nothings; I don’t think it will contradict anything you have read of Rudolf Steiner’s educational works which is important to all of us as homeschoolers as many of us study Steiner directly.    I think this book is an important one that proves we can address the archtypal path of reading and writing within a Waldorf context, but also addresses some clear ideas about scope, sequence, and skill progression that is often missing from other resources and also includes up to date information regarding some of the challenges to reading and writing that might not be as typical.  

It is a lot to read and digest; however you can skip around in the book and refer to different sections.  There is a suggested “how to use this book” section in the beginning as well that may be helpful.    The ideas for skill development are there, but it still may not be what some homeschooling mothers want in terms of “use this story to teach this phonics rule.”  You will still have planning to do , just like a Waldorf teacher in a school setting in order to implement this book, but you should understand more about why and what you are doing and how to do it!  The bibliography of works and studies cited is fourteen pages long and many of the citations are current, which is encouraging to see.

I think as a Waldorf homeschooling community, if we would like to see more targeted resources regarding specific language arts and mathematics skill progression, we should support more works from our experienced teachers.  I suggest you get a copy of this book and look at it and think about ordering it for your own teacher library.




Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem in Your Children and Yourself

Today we are diving into Chapters Three and Four.  If you are just picking up this book from your bookstore or library, there are back posts on the Preface and on Chapters One and Two.

“Negativity is so common that it seems normal in our culture.  Like pollution, it creeps into our homes and under our skin.” – Author Dr. Louise Hart, Chapter 3.

I love this chapter,  entitled, “Self- Esteem Protection Skills,” because it reinforces the rather constant battle I personally have with capturing negative thoughts or words or self-doubt myself, and also the outside exposure our children get regarding negative messages just from our culture.  This chapter points out that our self-esteem needs protection from all of these toxic things, and if we protect and nurture our children’s self-esteem, (I like the term self-confidence a lot and tend to use these two terms interchangeably as I read this book), then we end up spending less time putting ourselves back together after toxic events or emotions and can teach our chidren to do that, instead of learning adverse self-soothing behaviors such as using alcohol or drugs or food or avoidance.

Over two pages of strategies are listed in this chapter for dealing with negativity and toxicity.  I think what I am going to do is paint a little spot on our wall for “health and wellness” and go through some of these strategies each week with our children, who are now all (close to! next month!) nine and up. I feel nine is an age to start learning some of these strategies for life, and some of the strategies are ones that children aged nine could certainly learn and use, because they involve setting clear boundaries.

Chapter Four, entitled, “I Know They Love Me, But I Don’t Feel It,” and talks about the two parts to communicating:  to send the message and to have the message received.  Many of us “knew” we were loved by our parents but many of us also didn’t really “feel” we were loved.   Loving a child does not necessarily mean the child feels loved.   There was a passage about fathers in this chapter, and how many fathers never felt loved themselves and worked long hours and had little contact with their children. I think this has improved since the time this book was published, but it brings up the point of what did we want from our own parents, and did we get?

This chapter also brings up an entire list of what does not communicate love, which includes a lack of boundaries and overpermissiveness, martyrdom, overprotection, material possessions, quantity time but without quality, and conditions.

So what communicates love to a child? Memories built on fun!, being with our children not just in the times when we have to do something for them, taking them seriously, really listening, using positive words and respect.

There is a wonderful exercise in the chapter to list twenty things that you love to do and note when you last did them  and every day try to do one of these things.  As you take care of yourself, then you can take amazing care of your children. If you do something you love this week and follow me on IG, please take a pic and use the hashtags #theparentingpassageway #winningfamily so we can all encourage each other!

Blessings and love,


Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem in Your Children and Yourself”

Chapters One and Two of this lovely book by Dr. Louise Hart is like a balm for the soul! The opening of chapter one talks about how the real work of parenting is often unsupported and undervalued.  Parenting is the most important job as what we do when our children are small often goes on to affect not only the child him or herself, but future generations.  The author points out we are influenced by our family, our culture, and the times we live in – but that the family can be the most important influence.

We have a choice as to what patterns we have learned and if we choose to repeat these patterns with our children.  We can rise above our old patterns, if only we can see them for what they are!  The author suggests taking a look at our own biographies – what made us feel loved or not loved, what was discipline like in the family in which you were raised, what helped you feel good or bad about yourself, how did the people in your family communicate? We can learn from our own biographies and heal our own woundedness.  We can do this in place of wounding our children.

Children imitate us, so let’s give them the models of how we think, how we love, what we value, how we problem- solve, how we resolve conflict.  We are teaching and modeling for our children all of the time!  If we don’t have new and productive patterns to give, then we must raise our own self-esteem in order to have this to give to our children.

In Chapter Two, the author talks about how we make healthy children from the inside out by valuing who the child is, what the child is, and accepting the child as they develop and grow.  We show them that we have self-worth and our own dignity.  We have the absolute right to be treated with self-respect, the right to be happy, the right to accept ourselves.   People with low self-esteem will try to prove themselves through what they do (possibly workaholics or bragging about accomplishments), what they have (materialism), what they know, how they perform in front of others, how they look, who they are friends with or married to.  These are external conditions!  People who seek approval or who are people pleasers are thinking of external value.  True self-esteem is based upon who we are.  We can cherish ourselves and who we are!

Children look up to us as adults and authority figures.  We reflect back to them what we “value” and see in them.  This becomes the basis for self-image for children, and influences their lives.  Children identify with labels given to them.  Our children are not broken; they don’t have deficits.  They are who they are, their strengths and their challenges.  Let us love them in joy. Self-esteem with children begins with bonding.  This early primary attachment through touching, rocking, cuddling, cooing, making eye contact, soothing, breastfeeding becomes the bonding for the future.  Love with complete acceptance is outside of daily behavior or “bad days”.

“Children have their own life force, their own opinions, dreams, and destinies.  The challenge of parenting is to allow and encourage children to be themselves while guiding, supporting, and celebrating their process of growth.  Successful parents not only love their children unconditionally, but also protect them, set limits, and assume as much responsibility as is necessary for the children’s age and developmental stage.” – page 13.  Such a great statement!  The limits and what we do for children should change with their age, and the letting go we do as children age into the upper teen years provides the basis for the older teenager’s self-confidence and self-worth.

There is a great self-esteem game to play at the end of Chapter Two – try it out!  This is such a tremendous book, please don’t miss out.  Grab a copy at your local library or through Amazon and follow along!