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Posted by on Jun 7, 2012 in Life | 3 comments

Parenting without discipline?

Parenting without discipline?

A fellow mammy shared this video with me today, and I found it fascinating, so had to share it here. In the video Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, shares her philosophy of parenting. She turns widely accepted ideas of disciplining children or controlling their behaviour on their heads, and proposes instead a discipline-free approach, teaching children to want to be good of their own free will, rather than forcing them to behave in a prescribed manner.

You can find the video here on YouTube: Well Behaved Children without Discipline with Naomi Aldort

I don’t buy into her entire message, because I think she places too much blame on the parent when a child acts out or misbehaves. But her advice certainly gave me some food for thought. I definitely fall into the trap of over-dramatising things when attempting to validate them for Little Man. “Oh no, your ice-cream melted. Are you very sad?” Maybe next time, I’ll just try leaving it at “Your ice-cream melted.” instead and see how he reacts. I’m guessing that it doesn’t matter what I say, because when you’re two and a half and your ice-cream melts, there are bound to be tears!

We started using the naughty step when Little Man was about 20 months old, and it has been quite effective for us. We don’t use it in a “time out” manner as such – what I mean is, we don’t set a specific amount of time for Little Man to sit on the step. If he is doing something bold, we warn him that if he repeats that action, he will have to go to the step. And if he does, we send him straight to the step. Out he goes to sit on the bottom of the stairs, and after a short time one or other of us follows him out to sit beside him and talk about what’s just happened. We talk about what he did, and why he did it. And many times, either Charlie or I will end up apologising for our own behaviour as well. So for example, if Little Man hit me, but he did it in response to me not responding to him while he was trying to get my attention, I’d apologise for ignoring him, and then he’d apologise for hitting me. And I think that’s the key to why this is a successful approach in our house. Anyone can be wrong and anyone can apologise, and there is no shame in that because we all make mistakes and mess up sometimes. And then we always have a cuddle and make sure everyone is friends again.

To me, that’s quite different to the naughty step or time out scenario that Naomi describes, where the time out is used as a punishment tool only, and not as a resolution tool. But perhaps that’s just me not being willing to change a technique that is currently working for us. 🙂

What do you think of Naomi’s advice?

PS – thanks Andrea for sharing the video.


  1. I used the narrative/less emotional style of reaction described by Aldort in reflection of our daughter’s frustration from when she was 2 years old until she was about 5. It was a change in my parenting influenced directly by Aldort’s work, especially given that it was presented in the book by a child psychologist and I thought it was then a new angle in psychological development that I was unfamiliar with.

    It didn’t help with our daughter, almost never de-escalating and reassuring as it did in the examples in the book and how Aldort and others describe it working.

    Instead of helping our daughter find connection and emotional regulation, her tantrums increased in scale and she would focus her rage on me and what she perceived as my lack of true empathy. I can tell you that I worked very hard on getting this method right and that I truly had wells of deep empathy for our child and her frustrations. Now that she is 7, our daughter clearly tells me that she finds the technique dispassionate. Just recently our daughter said, “It’s like you’re saying the words but you don’t care about me at all.”

    I don’t think this method works for every child in every situation, and I don’t think it is the parent’s fault if it doesn’t. It might be worth trying out, but it doesn’t represent current trends in developmental psychology, as Aldort now clarifies in a small paragraph at the Amazon page for the book, “The Ph.D. by the author’s name in this book is an error. Naomi Aldort has no degree in psychology. Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves is a parenting self-help book with ideas developed by the author based on her own studies and experience. The error will be corrected in future printings of the book.”

    I think that if attuned parents find that this method helps their children, then they are likely to be making a healthy choice and implementation. However, if attuned parents suspect this method is making things worse or that something else would be more appropriate, there are many other styles to consider. I have found the work of Marhall Rosenberg, John Gottman, and Daniel Siegel to be helpful in my parenting as I endeavor to support our daughters emotional experience and developing regulation. Our daughter has told us that when she has these tantrums, she doesn’t know why and she wants our help calming down. I suspect she felt this way at age 2 as well, but wasn’t able to communicate such and my reliance on Aldort’s methods against my intuition didn’t help her to gain the emotional mastery she was looking for. Now we try methods like grounding using the 5 senses, putting limits on emotional rages (including time, targets, and language/physical expression), and telling and re-telling the story of the frustration from her perspective. Things are getting better, but she is maturing as well.

    • Thanks so much for sharing luckychrm – it’s fascinating to read about this parenting technique from someone who put it into practice.

      We tried it a few times over the past week, but it just doesn’t work for us. There’s definitely some merit to validating the child’s experience by stating what has happened, but I found when Little Man was really upset, it was a lot more helpful to ask him if he was feeling sad, angry, frustrated, etc. Once he had explained how he was feeling, then he seemed to get the validation that’s described in the video.

      Thanks again for such an insightful response.
      Lisa | recently posted..Doolin 2012: Where we stayedMy Profile

      • You are very welcome. I could talk at length about our daughter’s reactions to the verbal validation attempts we made. Most of them went like this from age 2-5:

        She’s frustrated and maybe crying because some blocks fell down. I say warmly while cuddling her, “Those blocks fell down and that’s frustrating.” Her crying escalates and I query, “Are you feeling sad that that happened?” “NO!” she screams, “It’s not a feeling, I am sad!” “Ok,” I offer, “Would you like some help to build it again?” “NO!” she screams again, “You have to do it for me!” By this time she is maybe pushing hard against me in the cuddle, kicking her legs around to knock over more blocks, and screaming truly loudly. Typically, for several years, she would not ask for help, only demand that I do things for her. She would also strike out at me in a way that crossed our limits, but usually didn’t actually hurt me.

        We don’t use time-out in any recognizable form in our household, and particularly don’t isolate our child when she is in a rage, because we want to help her to learn emotional regulation within the context of our relationships. Learning about how to recognize and recover from emotional flooding (Gottman) and identify and describe subtle emotions versus “feelings” that are really disguised desires for other people’s behaviours (Rosenberg) had brought some change into these scenarios, but as I said in my first comment- she is 7 now, and I think maturity is bringing most of the change for her.

        I did some reading about temperament differences among people, and found strong similarity between our daughter and the profile for a Highly Sensitive Child. Maybe some children feel connected when you describe their frustrations, and I found this method helped to bring validation and calm when I worked in childcare. But in the context of the profoundly close relationship I have with our daughter, it seemed to bring the opposite. Proponents of this method online and in my parenting community would say, “Congratulations! Now she knows her relationship with you is so stable that she is free to show you her truly worst feelings without risking your withdrawal of love.” However, going further down that road just brought more demanding and rages from her that were untenable in daily life.

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