The Soul of Discipline Post 3 (by Elizabeth Wells)

Writing about The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance – From Toddlers to Teens, by Kim John Payne, M. Ed., I am reminded of how wonderful the parent-child relationship can be.

But even the best relationship is tested during the teenage years, and Payne’s corresponding third phase, The Guide.


The emerging young adult is developing and refining his critical thinking skills on his way to independence. While this is the successful end-goal of parenting (to raise healthy, mature, thoughtful adults), Payne acknowledges the tension and friction caused when the young mind is on this “lowest rung on the ladder of self-discovery.”  

Payne begins this section of the book as he did the other two. The orienting of parents/grandparents to this age is especially appreciated because teens can seem the most confounding. Differences between what can appear as selfish behavior may really be difficult introspection or emotional development. Additionally, revisiting the many forces pushing in on teens helps to better understand the many real influences figuring in their development and decision-making processes.

This phase has both parent and child working with choices and is far more collaborative. Payne’s suggested focus for parents in the third phase, The Guide, is “Let’s figure out how to stay close to your hopes and aims.”  

One of the Guide’s primary jobs is to help the teen create a real image of what she wants to do with her life. These hopes and dreams become a destination of sorts in life’s journey. These become the rails between which good and bad choices can be measured – “Does this move me closer to or away from my hopes and dreams?”

Supporting Choices and Anticipating Consequences is one of the subtitles in this chapter. Reading it reminded me of times my husband and I talked to our then teenage children and asked them what they saw as their choices and what they saw as each potential consequence, good and/or bad, of whatever they were contemplating.

While not every action afforded this kind of conversation, we were especially grateful when it did. Besides helping them to hone their critical and creative thinking skills, we were offered glimpses of their maturing psyche.

Another reason I appreciate this book is its realism. Payne offers simple and practical suggestions for calm parenting. Several that we had either used directly or some variation that we stumbled on by dumb luck before reading his book are effective.

But life rarely goes by a book! And while our children are adults who have children of their own, we wondered, what could we use from this on grand-tweens?

We found it in Part Four. Titled, “The Rescue Package: Taking the Pulse,” it seemed tailor-made for us or anyone who happens upon this resource when their child(ren) have passed prior phases.

Again, practical suggestions abound. Boundaries are the focus for Payne’s rescue package. Understanding why they are important and what is appropriate are the foundational blocks.

His approach in the rescue package removes age from the phases and offers how parents can navigate between the three phases, as needed, while minimizing angst. A good understanding of material in each of the three phases’ sections is enormously helpful.

Overall, I thought this was a great book. Payne’s voice is always positive and real. His suggestions practical and helpful.

Reframing the word discipline is huge! When thought of as an opportunity to help a child or grandchild orient themselves to the world, discipline becomes an incredibly positive activity. 

Close Menu