What does discipline mean in an unschooling family?

After reading an article depicting radical unschoolers as poorly behaved, I decided to plan an article about "discipline." I wanted to include viewpoints from unschooling families about what discipline means in the unschooling context? How common conflicts are approached? Etc. How do you react/respond to situations such as big displays of emotion (aka tantrums), sharing, hair combing & other hygiene, keeping appointments, or anything else that comes to mind? What does "discipline" mean to you?

I went ahead and compiled an article: Do radical unschoolers discipline their children? . . . but I wouldn't mind receiving further responses, thoughts & feelings about the matter.

The article didn't end up addressing the details of discipline, because that's not so much the type of feedback I received. I get that, though, because in my own family relationships I don't respond to "typical" conflicts the same way each time. That's probably what makes topic difficult to discuss with regard to an unschooling way of life. Unless people already get it, they don't get it when we comfort a "misbehaving" child.

The discipline conversation was actually a bit difficult even with a bunch of unschoolers. Here are a couple of thoughts I added to the discussion, although mostly I stayed out of it.
If we interpret discipline in the conventional way, it doesn't make sense. When I hear "discipline," I know that most people mean "punishment," but that's not what it means in my family. It means "self-discipline," respect, courtesy, compassion, empathy, understanding, etc.

As far as unschooling vs radical unschooling, I know that some people make a distinction. For me there never has been one. The way I interpreted John Holt's writings, it didn't seem like he was separating academic learning from any other learning.

I didn't define discipline or use a different word because, for the purpose of the article, I'm looking for your definitions, thoughts, preferred words, etc. 
However, I'll share an example. I don't use the word "teach," but when I hear it, to me it means helping kids learn things. I don't use the word "discipline," but when I hear it, to me it means guidance by way of self-discipline, courtesy, respect, compassion, open communication, etc. 
When my 3-yr-old (or 10-yr-old) has a big emotional reaction (tantrum), I connect with my heart and go from there doing the best I can to meet everyone's needs. This isn't easy to explain. That's why I wanted to hear what other unschoolers think.
Feel free to post your thoughts about "discipline" in the comments area below, on the article, or in the related thread on my Unschooling Facebook Group.


  1. Where is the survey? How do we get to it?

  2. This is it. Go ahead and post your answers or thoughts here in the comment area.

  3. Thanks for this thorough reply. It's just what I was looking for.


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