Mindful Parenting : Gentle Discipline Part One

Today, I wanted to look more closely into the concept of “Gentle Disciple“, “Simple Discipline“, “Loving Authority” or “Respectful Discipline“. I think this subject is often a sticky web of mixed concepts and expectations, including strands from our own childhood, inconsistent societal expectations, cultural overlays and personal expectations. Through this three-part series I will attempt to piece together what Gentle Discipline is, why it’s important and most of all- how we can strive to consistently use it in our homes. A lot of my research on this subject is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, Kim John Payne, Magda Gerber, Janet Lansbury, Joseph Chilton Pearce, John Holt, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Alfie Kohn, to name a few.


Part One- What is Gentle Discipline?

The word ‘discipline’ comes from the latin discipulus. Discere is from the latin ‘to learn’. Pullus  refers to a pupil or student. It is interesting to note that pupils (students) and pupils (the small black part of our eyes) come from the same latin root- pupa which means doll (think of puppets).

Self-knowledge can be obtained only by looking into the mind and virtue of the soul, which is the diviner part of a man, as we see our own image in another’s eye. And if we do not know ourselves, we cannot know what belongs to ourselves or belongs to others. – From Plato’s Alcibiades.

With this etymological background in mind, I believe that discipline does not infer just the guiding or teaching of an other, but begins with the Self.

Gentle Discipline begins with the parent

  • For me, mindful parenting means taking responsibility for and being fully present with our own feelings and actions and modelling this awareness to our children. This definition indicates a certain level of self-awareness and self-control over our moment-to-moment reactions
  • We as parents need to be inwardly clear with what we expect and why we expect it so that when we do create an expectation we have the resolve to follow through so that this expectation is met

Gentle Discipline moves beyond punishment and reward systems

  • Punishment and rage break the child’s will, the capacity to overcome obstacles and explore the unknown, which is learning itself. They will leave him or her with no self-confidence, no faith in themselves and they will fumble or retreat at every little difficulty of challenge“. – Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Studies have shown that punishment and reward systems are detrimental to a child’s healthy emotional and cognitive development
  • Instead, we as parents should aim to use appreciative and descriptive praise and learn to rely only on natural consequences

Gentle Discipline requires follow through

  • Language affects a child’s mind – focus on what you want to have happen instead of what you don’t want. Avoid negatives such as “Don’t hit your brother” and replace them with positive guidance such as “We use gentle hands” or for the older child, “Please be gentle”.
  • A useful parenting affirmation is: “My word is gold. I will walk my talk, I will follow through, I will consider before I speak” If we know we can’t follow through or realize we don’t care that much- don’t make idle threats!

Gentle Discipline is unique for each child

  • Recognizing that what works for one child will have no effect on another is important. We are all unique and come to this world with differing temperaments and personalities. Even when we’re in the same family our environment and the way we perceive it is completely individual.
  • As a family unit, yes there are some boundaries that need to be met by all of us. But within those boundaries there can be creative freedom and interpretation.

Gentle Discipline requires forgiveness, unconditional love for both your child and yourself

  • Holding grudges or resentments is never helpful or productive. Do not focus on past emotions and conflicts – instead focus on the current conflict or challenge that you are facing now.
  • Before bed, go through your  “bad day” in your mind. Review each moment, where you were triggered and ask yourself why. Reflect on this and then the hardest part- let it go!
  • “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher

If you find some time to do some inner work this week, it might be helpful for you to explore (and journal) what discipline means to you. When and how does it work in your home? When do you have trouble with it? And diving even deeper into self-inquiry: Why might that area be challenging for you?

We would all be honoured to hear your thoughts if you’d be courageous enough to share.

Book Club : Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

I am so excited for the next book in our Book Club series: Kim John Payne’s Simplicity Parenting.

In a world where childhood seems to be flooded with too much, too fast and too soon, Payne helps parents clear the path towards a simpler, more connected and whole-hearted family life. After reading this book parents will feel empowered and ready to declutter playspaces, establish stronger home rhythms, cut down on screen-time and most of all to slow down and prioritize meaningful moments with their children. Most remarkably, the book is truly applicable to all families regardless of their diverse faiths, backgrounds and values. It is completely free from dogma and instead, offers practical and adaptable advice to all.

Payne is a consultant and trainer to more than 230 US independent and public schools, he has been a school counselor, adult educator, consultant, researcher and educator for almost thirty years, as well as a private family counselor for more than fifteen. He is the Director of the Simplicity Project and together he and his team have trained over a thousand Simplicity Parenting Coaches worldwide. Payne is also the Founding Director of The Center for Social Sustainability, an organization that trains teachers, parents and students in the Three Stream Process (this link is an example of how the Three Streams is used by schools).

I will be reviewing and discussing Simplicity Parenting chapter by chapter over the coming weeks and I would love for you to read along. You could request a copy from your local library or local Waldorf/Steiner Book Centre or purchase one here or here. Although I will share a chapter summary each week I cannot recommend enough that you get your hands on your own copy and read along with me. I have had my copy for years now and it is dog-earred, highlighted and very well loved. Everytime I return to it, I take something new away. I so look forward to connecting with you and discussing each chapter in the comments section below.

DISCLOSURE: This journal entry contains a link to Amazon.ca. Meagan from Whole Family Rhythms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca. Thank you for your support.


Simple Preparations for Valentine’s Day

valentinesfairyLike many celebrations today, Valentine’s Day has become increasingly focused on the consumeristic aspect of the holiday: presents, gifts, cards and sweets.  But the one word that always come to mind when we think of Valentine’s Day is LOVE. Some other values that carry the Valentine spirit and that you might like to honour during your celebration are: selflessness, devotion, adoration, friendship, courage, loyalty, hope and faith.

Including a simple craft and or story that highlights some of these virtues can be a lovely way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your young children. We have made a fragrant batch of Valentine’s Day saltdough for many years now. You can find the recipe here.  A lovely Valentine’s Day story for young children is Somebody Loves you Mr. Hatch. For older children, the book Saint Valentine gives a bit of historical reference to the holiday.The most important part of a family’s Valentine Celebration involves expressing adoration to those you love either in words or through simple loving gestures.

For the smallest members of the family this expression could come in the form of having a Valentine’s Day dinner and going around the table and expressing one thing we love, admire or appreciate about each of our family members. Other ways to bring this gesture of love to the family are through acts of kindness- siblings helping siblings (making someone’s bed, reading them a book or drawing them a picture).

Finally, we can also express our love is through prayer, verse or meditation together- either around the table before a meal or perhaps before tucking littles ones into bed and saying goodnight.

Because the word ‘God’ does not resonate authentically in our family, (although the words: Soul, Spirit, Sparkle, Light, Love, Magic, the Divine and the Universe do), I often replace the word ‘GOD’ in traditional prayers or verses with the word ‘LOVE’ or the words, ‘the DIVINE’. Rudolf Steiner wrote many beautiful prayers for adults and children in his day. One prayer that particularly touches me is called, “Prayer for Little Children who Themselves Already Pray”.


I have replaced the word God with Love in this prayer and this little edit seems to befit Valentine’s Day just perfectly.


 Adaptation of

“Prayer for Little Children who Themselves Already Pray”

by Rudolf Steiner

From my head to my feet

I am the image of Love*.

From my heart to my hands

I feel the breath of Love*.

When I speak with my mouth

I follow Love’s* will.

When I behold Love*

Everywhere in mother, father,

In all dear people,

In beast and flower,

In tree and stone,

Nothing brings fear,

But love to all

That is around me.

* Where there is a * the original prayer reads ‘God’, not ‘Love’.


I hope this post provides some food for thought while you prepare for your Valentine’s Day together. If you have any other traditions you’d like to share we’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

DISCLOSURE: This journal entry contains a link to Amazon.ca. Meagan from Whole Family Rhythms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca. Thank you for your support.

Book Club : Sanctuaries of Childhood Chapter Eight

Today I will be summarizing and discussing the final and eighth chapter of Shea Darian’s book, Sanctuaries of Childhood: Nurturing a Child’s Spiritual Life. The book is written for parents or caregivers who are looking for inspirational ideas on how to nurture spirituality (non-denominational and all-encompassing) within themselves and their children. I will share a chapter summary… read more

Connection does not Always Equate to Happiness

I’m focusing on the word Connection today. I speak a lot here about doing inner work, finding moments of connectedness with your children and trying to remain present and in the moment. And I really wanted to clarify something:   Having a connected moment with your child does not always mean that in that moment you are both… read more