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March 03, 2010


K Frey

I appreciate the sentiments but I have to cringe when someone tells others what parenting "should" look like (a morning shopping SHOULD look more like this). Personally, when I'm shopping, I do some of both - some of the "bad mom" behaviors and some of your "good" ones. And I think I'm doing fine. I've also seen the "give choices" theory work absolutely beautifully when a child is reaching their limits and you just need a few minutes to finish what you are doing before stopping to respect that the child has reached his or her limit. Which is not to say that this method works best when used constantly throughout the day, but my point is that I don't consider it to be written off as all bad, all the time. Lastly, different parents and different children have different personalities. I'm a very externally-focused, outgoing, Type A person so I'm VERY talkative - pretty much all the time. Some children have more verbal personalities too. To force myself to not be "too" verbal with my daughter would not be respecting my own qualities and strengths as an individual. And if I can't use my own innate qualities and strengths, and in fact are told they are "wrong," I don't think my parenting would be very effective.


I enjoyed this post. Next time I am in the store I will surely be more attentive to my use of words- because I never really thought about being overly talkative (I am not by nature). I really like your reminder for us to slow down and not hurry, it is easy to fall into that mode sometimes. Your "inclusive not child centered" is something I greatly appreciate about the Waldorf philosophy and something I had not heard prior to my study of Waldorf. It validates my instincts as a mother when society tells me otherwise.


Thank you for the post. This is a great example for our 2.5 year-old boy. Is this what you would recommend for children under 7 in general? Do you having any other posts or ideas for engaging older children (7 and up) in shopping trips? When we go as a family or I shop with all of our boys, it can be challenging to maintain any kind of focus! Especially with the highly stimulating food-store environment (even at our natural foods store). When possible, I try to take them individually.


Hi Heather,

Here is a link to the blog index - have a look at the entries under the Early Years section - there should be some there that are helpful.


Thank you!


Donna, your description is wonderful. I know this concept made a difference in my daily life. My girls really relaxed when I stopped the "this or that" choice paradigm. It DID always seem hollow, kind of manipulative, anyway. They were slightly under five at the time.

It was after I had heard something that just really resonated with me; it was a Waldorf KG teacher of many years answering a question about this subject. I'm probably paraphrasing, but she put it something like this: "Although others may believe in offering young children freedom of choice, we in Waldorf education believe in giving young children freedom FROM choice."


I agree with K. Frey. This post made me smile and shake my head. I do love Waldorf education, but I don't like the judgments that many seem to have of snippets of time they know nothing about. We all are trying our BEST, and I do mean our very best. By the time our children are teenagers, perhaps we have muddled through and made mistakes, some of which turned out to be not-mistakes-at-all, if we are very lucky :) I firmly believe in some sort of divine intervention! How else could good people come from so many differing environments.

I am naturally a quiet person, unless riled, when I will state my point respectfully. I'd probably never be that person at the store. Yet, I've been criticized by many people (my mother-in-law, and others) for not talking enough with my children! Yet, my children are quite talkative, and have been since they were babies. Perhaps this is due to some other fault of mine? Perhaps their 'souls' have incarnated too quickly? I take this post as yet an example that mothers cannot win in our current culture. I'm sorry, the post I'm responding to is meant as an example of what not to be, but it seems disrespectful.

It seems like Waldorf has so very much to offer the world without the judgments! Please stop the judgments of other mothers! None of us can really understand the complexity and wonder we are entrusted with. I think if the job of motherhood were more respected, if the individuality and needs of children were respected by our culture, I think then that the world would be a much better place :)

I think the wool winding is wonderful, the organic plant-dyed wonderfulness of it all, the rhythm, the fables...but most important of all is the love we have for our children. Without the rest of Waldorf, with all the tiny *wrongs* of talking too much, or using plastic, or the occasional ungainly outburst our love wins the day for our children. So, heads up, moms. We aren't perfect, but in a way I think we are much more than perfect can ever be.



You articulated this commonplace interaction so well Donna. So often I want to be like the Old Woman in Goodnight Moon - you know, whispering "hush". We are so literal and data and results oriented we forget that parenting (and caregiving in general) is essentially a spiritual venture, not an intellectual one.

My husband made a similar remark the other day when we overheard two young moms discussing their experience with Teach Your Baby to Read videos. The children were 7 and 15 months. The 15 month old is still not able to walk independently and the other baby was in a baby seat with a bottle propped. We both felt it would have been ultimately more beneficial to have less words and more happy, physical activity.

Sumiyeh Haqtalab

Being phlegmatic, I can see the benefit of both arguments expressed in the article and the posts of readers. I think that the greatest validity of Donna's article comes when those well-meaning caretakers/parents do the overly verbal choice driven approach when they think that is what is expected of them as 'the right thing'. If parents like K Frey are naturally chattier, that will naturally bubble out, even when they exercise the discretion to have better verbal interactions, not more of them. I am chatty, but there were times when my children were that age and constantly verbally engaging themm was the 'right thing to do', that for the life of me I couldn't think of anything to say and was utterly content to just gaze into their content faces as they nursed.


As parents we need not to think of ourselves as world tour guides for our child. Instead we need to think of ourselves as earthbound guardian angels. We do not tell children what to think. We guard, protect, and gently enable our child's path to discovery of the world and himself by his own accord and definitions. How do we do this? By allowing the child experiences in things that interest them not by talking our child's ear off!

I believe the point is that MEANINGFUL verbal communication with children is important. However, when parents simple chatter to appease, to distract a child, or to fill in silence; the end result is demeaning to the child and impeding to the child's development. Why? For one, children don't need distraction they need opportunities to learn self-control. When a parent distracts a child they take away this learning opportunity from the child. How are children to learn how to cope with their feelings when the parent is always interrupting them? When a parent chatters to appease they ignore problem behavior and reward it with attention. When a parent chatters to fill in the silence, they are taking away "thinking time", reflection, and discovery from their child. Perhaps the child was quietly reflecting on the shiny red apple wondering how the apple tasted when mom decides to ask questions about lemons in the next booth. Now mom has replaced her will for that of her child's. Over time this child will learn that their will is less important and must be approved by mom. Meaningless chatter also can place serious doubts in the child's mind about the parent's self-confidence, authority and decision making skills."why can't mom decide on tonight's vegetable?" "am I in charge of dinners now?" "why does mom never make choices on her own" "who is the adult?" Now when a parent speaks to a child for point and purpose or genuine interest this involves the child, shows interest in the child as a person and contributor to family life, and demonstrates a reciprocal respect. As a teacher and expert in many pedagogies I can say from experience these simple reminders to parents:

1. Children are sense organs they can't filter out sensorial experiences like adults. This includes highly talkative adults who eventually sound like a TV running non-stop in the background.

2. Children are innocent by nature and therefore keen observers of humanity. They see through pretenses, acts, and false motivations that society has taught us adults to ignore. If you are asking your child a question that you really don't care the answer, your child will see through this! Talk about carrots because you want to share your passion with the child. Don't talk about carrots to pass the time.

3. Children understand and are capable of a great deal more than many adults give them credit for. Talk to children with respect and let thy words be counted!

4. Observe your child. Care about their interests. Enable them to discover and learn not by talking but by experiencing.

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