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