Discipline Questions

(this entry has been adapted from my Waldorf_At_Home yahoo group)
The topic of discipline in Waldorf circles can seem elusive – this is mainly because discipline as such is rarely talked about. Rather, discipline is understood as something which arises quite naturally out of a right understanding of children and of  the ability of the adult – whether parent or teacher – to create the forms necessary to support the growing child. With a right understanding and right forms, discipline "problems" rarely, if ever, arise.
Now, don’t get me wrong – this isn’t to say everything flows perfectly once the above is achieved – but, honest to god, in my many, many years of experience in and out of Waldorf schools with 100’s of children,  I know that this really is so. If one has a picture of discipline as a right relationship between adult and child, then, although children will certainly test, push limits and do all the other wonderful things they must do to understand the world, it just isn’t a problem.
So what am I talking about? Well, number one issue to address is the inner work of the adults involved – and for homeschoolers, that’s us parents. What unresolved issues do we have, what buttons do we hide which our children always find? How are we about issues like anger, control, loss, spontaneity, routine? What is the picture we carry of the growing child – and not just of our individual son or daughter? What role do we see as the mother’s role?
I believe absolutely 100% that parents need to be really clear in how they understand their roles as parents and as teachers and what they understand the developing child needs. I think parents need to understand the importance of how they create their family rhythms – or what the consequences are of not doing this. Is it really so important to take the baby out past his bedtime so I can go to that meeting?  Is it pushing my child’s limits to take him to the zoo before we go out tonight for a meal? Who says 3 year olds should be expected to be able to join in Circle Time at a nursery or coop meeting? Can a 6 year old really be expected to keep his room clean on the basis of verbal instructions? Do the television shows my 10 year old watches have any effect on his behavior? Is my 14 year old old enough to make choices about all the important areas of her life?
Again – who am I – the mother or father – and who is this person, my child? What is our relationship? Are we democratic in our family – or has this child come to learn, to be within my circle of strength and compassion so he can grow within that circle, encompassed by its security until he is ready to strike out on his own and use his voice and his choices meaningfully? What is the gesture of each stage of childhood and how must I, the parent adapt and change to create that gesture and meet the needs of my growing child?
Do I have any answers to these questions? Oh yes, I have many (!) as those of you who have read my books, consulted with me and/or attended my workshops know! I have decided, though, in this brief (well, I meant to be brief!) e-mail, just to pose a few questions – some of which just don’t occur to people. But I think by considering some of these questions, by figuring out one’s own relationship to what is behind these questions, then one can start to discover what one understands 
about the basis of waldorf education.

Posted on December 11, 2005 in Family Life and Parenting

  • stephanie schantz says:

    i am hostessing a parent evening for my home kindy all about discipline (including rhythm and speaking with children, the role of the parent, logical and natural consequences–what and when…)
    if you have any inspirational ideas on how to make this event very lively and meaningful, please share.
    thank you!

  • donna simmons says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    Well, one thing many leaders of Waldorf childcare initiatives do on parent evenings is to make a simple craft with the parents or do some watercolor painting. The idea is that they pretend they are the children and you the teacher – and you “teach” them as you would the children – via imitation and doing rather than instruction. You would let the story you told, the song or verse you shared carry the adults into your craft or painting circle in the same way you work with the children. And just let the adults experience what it means to enliven their imaginations and to imitate in this way – they will gain many insights into what you are doing that way!
    Feel free to print out excerpts from my books or website for them as handouts – as long as you credit it to me and send them my way if they are interested, that works for me. Bear in mind that my audio downloads in the pre-k child, kindergarten, discipline etc are as relevant to parents of children who will be going to school as to those who homeschool.
    Do share any other inspiration here if you like – and anyone else is most welcome to chime in!

  • Kate says:

    Hello, I am a Nanny who has recently joined a family that “thinks” they want their children raised in the “Waldorf” way…I am just not sure they know what the “Waldorf Way” really is?????
    The children are split between two homes and two different ways of being with the children…Mom is fun, fun, fun…as long as she can write her books….The Dad is fun but has some higher expectations in boundries and the children learning how to pick up a little and behave a bit more respectfully towards the world they need to live in…
    Although I have a degree in Human Growth and Development and Child Phychology I have not been educated in Waldorf practices…(and now I am feeling the need)
    From what I have learned this morning the main premis is consistancy, respect and freedom of choice…but I don’t see where boundries and disapline come in??? I can tell in the short three weeks I have been working for this family that the five year old son is very sinsitive to his needs and feelings, but no one elses and has little or no respect for boundries, me or his little sister. The three year old little girl is sweet, very smart but struggles with vision and speech delays. It sometimes feels as though she has learned to exagerate her struggles to get more attention…they both compete for attention more than any of the children I have been a Nanny for in the last 20 years of being a Mother of two and a Nanny. (I expect children to compete for attention I just want them to learn positive ways to do so)
    Although I have looked up several articals, each one I have read evades the issue… I am concerned that the parents have misunderstood the real Waldorf Pholosophy and just let their children do what ever they want, even at the expence of others….the real heart braker is this results in none of the other children we come across at parks and the like wanting to play with them because they push, boss the other children around. What ever the case my style of reward and conciquence has no effect and there is little support from the parents. As a Nanny I really take pride in helping the children I care for to be happy and successful in the world around them. Is there any quick answers and/or books that anyone might recomend for me and the parents…..I am writing from my families home and would be so greatful if these suggestions would be e-mailed to me at my e-mail address; kiser1331@msn.com

  • Anna says:

    today my three year old locked me out of the house. He had my one year old in there with him. It was cold out, my keys were in the house. I talked calmly at first. Then I sat and I waited. I found a blanket, wrapped myself in it. I tried to explain that it was cold. I started to get a bit heated, so I banged on the door, used my stern voice. He looked at me with defiance and shook his head “No”. I sat again. What can I do, there was no answer. Half an hour went by, I watched them through the window, the sat some more. I heard the baby cry, hard. Something was wrong. I couldn’t see him anymore. I started to panic. I ran around the house, I couldn’t see them. I could still hear the baby crying. I broke a window. I got in, and grabbed my three year old and put him in his room. Without a word. My one year old had gotten his foot stuck in an exercise machine in the storage room.
    I don’t know how to discipline my three year old.
    Tips please

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