Disobedience Doesn’t Exist in Our House

Yes, that is what I said.  Disobedience doesn’t exist in our house.. and yes there is a child in our house. You don’t believe me.  I know. I’ll explain.

By definition, obedience is as follows:

 

1. The act of obeying, or the state of being obedient; compliance with that which is required by authority; subjection to rightful restraint or control. Government must compel the obedience of individuals.

 

2. Words or actions denoting submission to authority; dutifulness.

 

3. A following; a body of adherents; as, the Roman Catholic obedience, or the whole body of persons who submit to the authority of the pope.

Do I hope my child will grant me what I ask of her?
Do I want her to behave in a way consistent with what I have (hopefully) shown her as considerate behavior?
Am I of the opinion that I should attempt to maintain harmony by exhibiting healthy boundaries and giving her the necessary tools, from the moment of birth, to enable her to interact in her environment with ease?

Yes.

Do I expect obedience? No.
Do I expect compliance? When necessary for safety or sanity, only.
Will I routinely explain my reasons behind the expectations, boundaries, guidance, and requests? With every sentence I speak, with every expectation or request I communicate, I do indeed offer the “rest of the story” for her to ponder and become aware of.

Why do I do this? First, because it is what I would hope of another person causing the same constraints to come over me. Second, I believe my choice to provide her full, detailed explanations of her world gives her the opportunity and option to ascertain for herself what she will take in.  Therefore, even in compliance, she exercises her free will. It is in this honoring of her autonomy, she will build her self esteem, increase her intelligence, and improve her emotional confidence and stability. If she does not choose compliance when necessary, she will, by default, still increase her wisdom, improve her ability to interact on an emotional plane, and will, in fact, build her confidence and self image… and if she refuses, she’ll learn she must substantiate that choice with reasons within her own mind that compel her opposition.

She also learns that her actions always have a result. If her choice results in a situation where she must build her patience, she gains.  If her choice engages others, she will observe their responses and the result is she grows. If her choice results in the need for her to tend to an effort, she develops focus and stamina – and in all likelihood, enhances her imagination powers.

We have chosen to walk alongside our child, as a partner and guide when useful, and encouraging her to grow within the parameters of her own determining.  We believe that a human choosing compassion, respect, consideration, and generosity has much value.

Retelling here, a story that illustrates the value of not causing blind obedience to be the driving force in your home.   Let’s take a look at the massacre in My Lai, Vietnam.This horrifying display of blind submission resulted in the slaughter of an entire village in Vietnam; nearly 500 people were killed.

 

The troops sent into the village were expecting a battalion of Vietcong forces but were instead presented with a village of women, elderly men, and children. The company had been previously instructed to kill anyone they encountered and proceeded to do so, with a few lapses in their blind faith.   The leader of the company, an inexperienced captain by the name Calley, was later tried for the murder of 107 unarmed civilians. He blamed his actions on the blind compliance that members of the United States forces are expected to give their superior officers. He described the concept as a ‘shoot first, complain later’ process. His actions, although explicitly illegal by the law of the United States service, seemed completely appropriate to him. He was merely obeying a senior officer, an action repeatedly drilled into the heads of American troops.

 

Our education system is not far off in requiring and thereby creating humans who do not think for themselves.  Children are conditioned not to question the authorities, the routine, the expectations, or the assignments they are given. They are expected to blindly accept that ‘adults know best’. This typical shepherd leading the sheep routine results in a completely disinterested society and a youth that is inactive and dependent.

So, how is it that we have no disobedience in our house? Because there is no opportunity for it to occur: obedience is not an expectation.  My daughter has the space to choose her path, and her parents hold the willingness to allow her the space to experience the results of those choices.  It’s not about who’s boss and who is inferior in our home.  It’s not a hierarchy here.  It’s about mutual respect, love, and exploration of life.  It’s growing in courage, confidence, and stability… It’s trusting the process.

As she grows, we will grow with her.  Through communication and empathic awareness, we will all experience and develop, and the results of choices we each make will shape us. We will continue to impart the value of compliance in certain scenarios, where the cause for compliance, and the result of compliance is positive, rooted in respect, and brings enhancement to one’s life.  We will also communicate the value of knowing oneself, by demonstrating the value we hold independently for ourselves.  Believing and asserting that each of us, and our perspectives, is equally worthy.  And imparting, with great hope, a deep sense of discernment for what is just, what is honorable, and above all, what is compassionate.

The resounding benefit is simple:  Regardless of her choices, she learns, and her wisdom increases. So does ours.

Ostracism in Action

What follows is an exercise in ostracism, for the purpose of contemplation on the part of anyone who chooses to read on.  My only request is that you read the entire post before you form your conclusion.

These are a series of comments/responses from the post found here.

I wrote the original post it in such a way to cause an impassioned response specifically from people who don’t understand or believe there is harm in using “timeouts” as punishment, or even contemplative time.  (Contemplative time is not harmful, and it does not look like a timeout.)  Seems as though my approach has been rather successful so far, based upon all the commentary today.  I’m glad you guys are talking!
It is a given that I believe anyone who strikes their child deserves a giant do the same thing to them, without a moment’s hesitation.  I believe the same is true for someone who uses ostracism to try to get a point across to their kid.  They deserve a unified ignore session by those they wish to be included by.

The exercise shown in this exchange goes to demonstrate the topic in question rather effectively. Please know that my harsh tone is not to ridicule or offend the woman to whom I am speaking, but to illustrate a point, by allowing someone else to do it for me.

– To the woman in the exchange, I regret that you have been negatively effected through this.  I hope we can, in the future, have intelligent and thoughtful, compassion conversation. However, if you choose otherwise, I will respect your decision.

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2010/09/15 at 7:57 pm – In reply to original post (link is shown above)

I can see a lot of your points…however, I don’t feel timeout is that bad. We use it with our 2 1/2 year old daughter only for more severe things…hitting, biting. It is very rare she is in time out. However, we don’t yell or scream we simply say, “Bummer, no ______ , time out) Then right after Time out we say, “Time out is over, I love you!” and we move on. She hasn’t seemed effected by it negatively at all and like I said, it is rare that she is in time out. I don’t see it as ignoring her…I see it has her taking a couple of minutes to think about her choices and why they were poor ones.

That’s a bummer that you disagree and don’t choose to review science, or the entire practice, as your daughter experiences it. Tell you what, I suggest you take a few moments, think about things a bit, and when I think you have had enough time to really understand within yourself something that you seem to not at the moment, I’ll continue. Until then, I won’t be responding, nor will I allow anyone else to.

Review science???? Why spanking is better than time out???? First, you need to respect other peoples’ views and discipline as long as they are creating well rounded kids, who respect everyone, are friendly, treat everyone equally, and are raised with great values. If I see parents who do this…I don’t question their discipline procedures. For kids who are disrespectful, mean, etc. I would question that. You can’t judge….my daughter is one of the happiest kids I know and I’m not the only one who thinks that….So her minimal time outs have not had a negative effect on her! Keep an open mind! I would never spank her…even though I was spanked…there are other, better ways to discipline!


2010/09/15 at 8:44 pm | In reply to Lauren Raymond.

That took you 14 minutes. You are not happy with me, are you? I should now say, I suppose, I have decided (by the fact that I approved your response) that you have had enough time to think about what I have imposed upon you to think about. And, I’ll add that I hope you have a better idea now of what you think, and how you’ll act next time. I respect you! And I see nothing wrong with making you take a couple of minutes to think about your choices and why, in my opinion, they are poor ones.

Pissed, aren’t you.

I dismissed you. I singled you out, disapproved, and decided that your thoughts, comments, and existence was such that I could assign and judge your value.

You still haven’t reviewed the science behind the brain’s response to time outs. But that’s ok, because, unlike your daughter, I cannot force you to do anything. I can isolate and reject you, and I can tell you what you do is wrong, but you’re an adult so, I have no power over you. Or do I? Again, you’re pissed at me.


2010/09/15 at 9:01 pm | In reply to Angie.

Yeah, I was pissed b/c you are judging me based on not knowing me and what my situation is and how I raise and discipline my daughter. I’m proud of my husband and I, we are on the same page with raising and disciplining our daughter and we are bringing up a very well-rounded, respectful, happy child! Now do you have power over me??? No. Am I pissed again? No… I realize what you are doing. I respect you and your thoughts and like hearing other people’s thoughts, ideas, research etc, even if I don’t agree with all of it!

_________


To conclude this post, with respect being shown to this
woman’s value and autonomy,
I will address a couple of her remarks,
in the voice of direct response.

__________________________________________________
“Review science???? Why spanking is better than time out????”
I wonder if you have not read the post in its entirety, or perhaps have not understood the content.
“First, you need to respect other peoples’ views and discipline as long as they are creating well rounded kids, who respect everyone, are friendly, treat everyone equally, and are raised with great values. If I see parents who do this…I don’t question their discipline procedures.”
In response, I respectfully will say that the only thing I have to do is accept that every legal resident of my country has the right to hold, promote, and change their views.  I do not have to tolerate, condone, or allow abuse.  Our society thinks mutilating a boy’s genitals is just fine.  A really good amount of our society thinks striking a child is just fine.  You don’t.  Neither do I.  But you think isolating and rejecting a child, in the name of a timeout (because it works and doesn’t seem to directly cause any damage) is also fine, as does the majority if our society.  I do not.  Our society as a whole follows itself around and around, afraid to detour or step out of line.  Why is this?  Refer to the definition of ostracism, and look at it from a reverse point of view.
There are a few of us out there that step out of the collectively determined appropriate line, almost continually.  Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not even something we’re aware we’ve done.  We’re not damaging others by doing so, except those that are in need of our following and blind acceptance and approval.  We damage their egos. They are the people who most often retaliate with nonsense and declaration of war.
But, contrary to your point of view of me, I do respect the fact that everyone has his/her own view.  And I hold that very quality with high regards.  In fact, I appreciate those that will speak openly about their views the most. However, my criteria in judging whether a parent is succeeding is different than yours.  And you feel as though I have attacked you simply because of how I chose to not just agree with your decision to voice your opinion.  Admittedly, I took it a few steps further and allowed the natural course of conflict to develop in effort to demonstrate the very interplay to which I am most assertively speaking against when it comes to how it is used with children.
“…as long as they are creating well rounded kids, who respect everyone, are friendly, treat everyone equally, and are raised with great values. If I see parents who do this…I don’t question their discipline procedures.”
My criteria is not based on the generally accepted methods our society uses to determine whether a human is a good person.  Nor, do I use the criteria that if the child doesn’t offend me by their behavior, and appears to be generally respectful and properly functioning, given what I happen to get to observe in a public or even semi-private setting, that the parent is not abusing the child.  My criteria is that the child is raised in an environment that is not harming, not destructive, and does not produce a child who is<em> unwhole </em>or damaged in even the slightest way.  I do not judge a parent’s effectiveness or assign a degree of “good” based upon the child. I judge the parent based upon the actions and decisions of the parent.

Given: Society will kill my ideal – a wholly, undamaged child who grows to a complete and unharmed adult.  But in my home, my child will never experience the insecurity, uncertainty, or lack of my utmost respect for their existence.
Even when I am angry, I will never isolate or reject my child so she can “think about what she’s done wrong”.  I will work with her to understand her motives, and work with her (that means use words and conversation, body language and compassion) so that she understands my responses.  If, however, she goes off on her own, to spend time alone by her own choice,  I will not prevent it – which goes back to respecting her autonomy and value.
“First, you need to respect other peoples’ views and discipline as long as they are creating well rounded kids, who respect everyone, are friendly, treat everyone equally, and are raised with great values. If I see parents who do this…  I don’t question their discipline procedures. For kids who are disrespectful, mean, etc. I would question that.”
Again, I don’t judge anything based upon the child. I don’t impose myself or my beliefs either. However, if asked, I will respond with the information and education I have. And if given a chance to demonstrate, I welcome people watch that education in action with my own child.
“You can’t judge….my daughter is one of the happiest kids I know and I’m not the only one who thinks that….”
Actually, I can judge; I have a fairly well developed sense of discernment. What I think you want to tell me here is that you are angry and offended and feel as though I have passed judgment upon you.  In other words, by my actions, you feel like I have asserted that I am somehow superior to you.  I would be just as pissed if someone tried to do that to me.  But what might not be so apparent is that instead of asserting a superiority, I just got in your face, as an equally intelligent and capable person.
Instead of being wishywashy, going with the accepted norm,  and allowing you to speak and not responding in turn,  I responded in a manner that is very similar to what our society forces upon its children routinely, in the name of good parenting and good child rearing.  Our society even goes so far to promote this method as the most humane, most considerate, and most concerned with the welfare of the child.
If you think about it, that exact same mantra was propagated across the planet, by well meaning, upright peoples with excellent values, only the context was to spank, to segregate, and to subjugate the female gender – just in the last few generations.  The masses bought the blah then, and they buy it now.  But science quietly presses on, discovering and sharing with those who wish to educate and inform themselves.   – Again I refer to Mr. Roddenberry… may he rest in peace.  😉

“Yeah, I was pissed b/c you are judging me based on not knowing me and what my situation is and how I raise and discipline my daughter. I’m proud of my husband and I, we are on the same page with raising and disciplining our daughter and we are bringing up a very well-rounded, respectful, happy child! Now do you have power over me??? No. Am I pissed again? No… I realize what you are doing. I respect you and your thoughts and like hearing other people’s thoughts, ideas, research etc, even if I don’t agree with all of it!”

I am not actually judging you.  I have questioned you.

I have spoken against something you feel is just fine and you have taken it personally.  This is a reasonable response.  But I wonder if you might be interested in substantiating your chosen belief and actions, as not being harmful, in response to my assertion that it is, in fact harmful and damaging.

I am happy that you are satisfied with your choices, that your husband and you concur (which makes it a lot easier, definitely), and that you believe your daughter is being properly cared for.  However, I still do not approve of, nor condone the use of ostracism or any form of manipulation or abuse.  That’s the funny thing about abuse… we all know it causes damage, but we use it in so many different ways that often it is hard to pinpoint or even recognize, until much, much later.

No, I do not know you or your daughter, but I don’t need to either.  What I do know is that you use this method, you think it’s just fine, you are willing to defend it in theory (hopefully you’ll substantiate, as mentioned), and that you don’t like it when I turn the method around and you are the target.

Your blog describes an episode of your daughter hitting you.  That same post has your description of your assigned consequence, which was one that she was given a choice to allow to occur.  She continued hitting you, thereby choosing to test whether you would follow through (the consequence was your refusal to read her a story before bed, as is the routine).  Then, after enforcing your threat, you left her alone to cry. Your post indicates her father intervened by showing her security, love, and affection.  She accepted his comforting, accepted the consequence of her action, and everyone got some sleep.
S O U R C E

  • My question is, why you allowed her to cry alone, after executing her consequence.
  • My other question concerns why she was hitting you in the first place.

_____________________________________________________________

If there is anything to understand about me, it is that I do not function on the approval of a collective.  I also don’t take anything for fact just because multiple people will “agree” it must be fact.  Proof is one thing, opinion is quite another.
That said, I choose my beliefs, actions, and values based upon fact, knowledge, and experience.
I invite your solid responses.  And if any of you are interested in discovering what can be an option for raising a child without damaging them, by any form of abuse, I encourage you to begin to follow the threads related to the alternative ideas I will start presenting, as I compose them with some resemblance of logic and coherence.

My best to all of you.

Instead of “Timeouts”, Try a “Hold Everything”

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Never punitive.  Never diminutive.


Purpose: Re-establish Calm, Cooperation, Harmony

For everyone.

Please go read this and this (you’ll see how they align)

In our house, we do not spank, nor do we incorporate isolation, refusal, ignoring, or “timeouts”.

Our daughter doesn’t just do whatever she wants either; when her preferences are damaging, interfering, or otherwise not in her best interest, we intercept.

If behaviors, attitudes, or actions become a concern, the first thing we use is assessment of why (what is the cause) they became a concern.  Then we employ understanding, followed by patience and compassion.  If necessary, we use a Hold Everything (this means the grownups too), and then we activate our resolution and/or solution superpowers.

 

I want to introduce you to what our house calls PAWS.

  • (Pause – to recreate harmony and re-establish calm and cooperation.  Pause to remember to respect, to honor, to approve, to admire… Pause to stop anger response, frustration, impatience, aggravation. Pause to remember the most important thing in whatever has caused the need to pause in the first place – the life on center stage – child, adult, dog, turtle.)

____________________________________________________________

Perspective (a spontaneous shift in viewing portal, not only in complexity and understanding, but in physical height and life experience)

Attention (purposed focus)

Wait (observe. reflect. observe)

Solve (resolve and grow)

Think on that for a few.

Natural Consequence, Example One

Unedited – my kiddo woke up before I could… I will later tonight if I can.

___

Sometimes a natural consequence is one that occurs beyond our control, due to physics.

Sometimes, in my opinion, a natural consequence is one that I effect for my child, but that is wholly associated with the cause of the resulting effect.

In a previous post, I discussed a child’s actions that were concerning his father -> Read Here
These two particular incidents, and my suggestion of a parental response, fit into the Parent Derived Natural Consequence category.

Here’s an example of physics at play:  Joseph, if you carelessly put the dishes away, you may discover what will happen.  Joseph continues to haphazardly put the dishes away and he drops a plate.  Lucky for him, the floor is only wood instead of tile, but the unfortunate thing is that on its way to the floor (physics-gravity), it somehow twists just enough that instead of landing in a manner that just ends in a thud, it triggers a release of energy known as a bang, that results in the splitting in two (or four) of the material that once was a single piece, otherwise referred to as a plate.

Sucks to be Joseph… jeez, he probably could have thrown the plate on the grown and it would have landed just fine, but nooooo, it accidentally “mishandled” it just so that instead, there is now a huge mess and no longer useful plate to put away.

ENTER MOM

Scenario one:  Mom is irritated, starts telling Joseph that if he’d listened to her in the first place, which he already knows, that this wouldn’t have happened.  So, now he feels dumb for letting it happen, knows he’s going to be further demeaned by some sort of punishment for not being more careful in the first place, and he’s gained his mother’s disapproval yet again.

Some children will cry because they are grieved at both the loss of the approval, but also the failure they perceive is theirs.

Some children will laugh and defy as a response to the disapproval and impressed failure to “do as told” to “prevent problems”.

Some children will be compelled to make reparations.  This is guilt.  The concern here is how far the parent decides to let the guilt be used – in other words, they see a way to manipulate, er… that’s more politically correctly termed “teach a lesson”.

Scenario two: Mom hears the crash.  Waits.  Child either begins to clean up or starts calling for mom.  This depends on how the same situation has been handled before, and on the child’s personality.

Mom enters the kitchen a moment or two after the crash (a younger child will need you sooner to prevent injury).  But she comes quietly, not in judgement or disapproval, but understanding.  She knows what the law of gravity is. She knows that we, as a human race on planet earth, are stuck with this reality.

If child is already attempting to clean up, mom must ascertain the safety of this.  If it’s not safe, mom must intervene.  If child is capable of cleaning up the mess, mom just allows it and makes a note to come after the child is finished and make sure no shards of glass are left anywhere.  – This, by the way, is either the child who is terrified of the parent’s response, or, hopefully, the child who is wholly valued and respected, and is therefore confident enough to reason that he wasn’t quite attentive enough, which resulted in gravity winning, and well, now there is a mess and so to prevent anyone from getting hurt, it needs to be tended to.  No guilt, though there might be some grief, especially if the broken item was of special meaning to someone and the child is aware of it.  No disapproval imposed… by outside forces.  And hopefully, the child is whole and confident, so while they may tell themselves to be more careful next time, they don’t take a hit to their “value”, nor do they hit it themselves.  No humiliation.  No failure.  Just physics.

Now, if the child is, for whatever reason, not attempting to clean up the mess himself, the mother can initiate the process as follows:

“Hum… Looks like we better get to work cleaning this up before someone gets hurt.  I will pick up the pieces if you will go get the broom.”  The glass might hurt the child, so the parent is preventing injury, but the child is still actively involved in assisting.

Child returns with broom, mom encourages “Joseph” to start sweeping in an area that is safe, as she continues to work on removing potential harm.  Child is contributing, and building his confidence in his ability to resolve the concern he allowed gravity to cause.

Once everything is cleaned up – Mom tells child, “Great! Looks like it’s all clean.”  AND THEN LEAVES the area and says nothing more about the incident. Period. Like as in doesn’t ever mention, unless the child brings it up in the future.  If there are still more dishes to be put away, the mother also doesn’t mention this to the child.  She waits.. gives the child the credit that he is intelligent enough to see that there are more dishes to finish.   – Now let’s say he goes ahead on his own and finishes the task.  Great.  Nothing more is said, except if the mother knows he needs reinforcement.  If so, she still waits and unless he initiates, the most she says is something like, “Thanks for taking care of the dishes.  I appreciate you.”

However, if the child is shaken, or perhaps not entirely driven to be responsible without encouragement (like how I said that??), then the mother is put into the position of refocusing.  Again, she waits.  She observes.  Wait = Observe.

Child abandons task and goes to play.  Mother notices.  An hour later, mother reminds child, “Joseph, I noticed there are still dishes in the dishwasher waiting for your attention.”

Joseph’s reply will range all across the board.  Mother simply affirms his response with, “ok”.

That looks like this –

Joseph:  “I know, but I don’t want to do them anymore.”
Mother: “Ok.” – Now wait, don’t walk away, just stay silent.  Give Joseph a chance to explain himself.  Pretend you are having this conversation with another adult.  If he doesn’t begin explaining, prod, a little, but with respect. “Joseph, you don’t want to do any more?”  Keep the look on your face neutral but inquisitive. Don’t lace your words with a tone and motive.  He knows.

Joseph: “Yeah, I don’t want to.”
Mother: “Can you help me understand why you don’t want to?”
Joseph: “I’m worried I will drop more.”  (This is what a confident child will say.  A child who knows he is respected and treated as a valuable member of the family.  A child who doesn’t know he holds his mother’s respect will be defiant and simply state that he has better stuff to do, or insist it’s just a preference.)

If the child is concerned over a repeat failure, the mother can offer her approval and encouragement by stating that if it happens again, we’ll just clean it up again.  If appropriate and beneficial for the CHILD, the mother might also offer a little advice in the form of a trick… NEVER stating that if the child were just “more careful” (or whatever other version of that concept) that it won’t happen again.  Why never state this?  Because no matter how careful you, as an adult, are, eventually gravity will get the better of even you!  Don’t pretend it won’t, and don’t expect your kid to agree to be bound by that double standard either.

Advice in the form of a trick:  “You know Joseph, when I put the dishes away, I’m worried I might drop them too.  So, I give each one a name as I pick them up.  Then, I keep my eye on it from the moment my finger first touches the plate until it’s safely where it belongs.  Then, when I’m all done, I try to remember the names so that next time I see that same plate, I won’t have to wonder what I named it.”

Result

Child is upheld, child is respected, child is approved of
Dishes get done, even if it takes the rest of the day
Child has a new game, and it keeps him focused on his task, which hopefully decreases the chance of gravity winning

Now, there is only one additional note to make here.  In the event that you have a kiddo that hasn’t had the luxury of the high level of your respect and admiration, and doesn’t thrive in his autonomy and self worth…. OR you have a kiddo that is just not into the task for his own purposes (that being it’s boring, he has other stuff that he enjoys more, etc), you’re going to need to use a bit of parental control to make sure the task is completed and the child respects the value of his contribution.

Here’s my suggestion… and it requires patience, tolerance, foresight, and effort on the part of the parent.
Let’s say the child just outright opposes and does not finish the task of emptying the dishwasher.
Ok, this isn’t a problem.  Yes, it annoys you (mom/dad) because it means you will have to do it and the child won’t gain the good from completing it.  But that’s not all that’s going on…

Mother:  “Joseph, I noticed there are some dishes still waiting for you in the dishwasher.”
Joseph: “I don’t want to do anymore.”  – Go through the reasoning and get to just that – kid doesn’t want to comply.
Mother: “Ok Joseph, I’ll take care of them now then.”  Say nothing more, walk away and go do the dishes right then.  It will take you 2 minutes.  Just do it.  Be quiet.  Wait. Observe.  Don’t pass judgement and don’t resent or become annoyed at your kid.

If Joseph shows up to finish before you complete the task, simply thank him for his willingness to take care of the task (don’t go into helping you out, chipping in, whatever else, just focus on the task, as if it is itself worth valuing), walk away and let him.

If Joseph shows up too late and you’ve already finished, simply tell him as much.  “Joseph, I have completed it.”  Say nothing more.  He gets the point.  Trust me.  He’s not stupid.  You don’t need to add insult. He needs your respect.  He gets the point.  (Keep reading – don’t tell me that well yeah, he gets the point, that being that if he doesn’t want to do something he can just refuse and mom will do it for him.)

If Joseph doesn’t show at all, fine.  Complete the task yourself.  Say nothing to him.  Don’t resent, don’t reject, and don’t allow him to feel your disapproval at any point.

Make plans for that night’s dinner to be something Joseph really, really likes.  Include courses in the meal that go together, but omit one of them.  For instance, make macaroni and cheese with ham and apples on the side.  Omit the cheese (use butter so it’s palatable, but don’t make it as “good” as normal).

DINNER TIME

Everyone sits down, your partner knows what’s going on, but other children do not.  Everyone, including Joseph begins eating.  Someone states that the macaroni tastes different, like it doesn’t have enough cheese.

Mother:  “Well, it doesn’t actually have enough cheese because I didn’t have enough time left after taking care of emptying the dishwasher today to give to cutting up enough cheese for our dinner tonight.”  Older kid, “Oh come on, it only takes three minutes to empty the dishwasher!”  Mother, “Well, yes I know, and Joseph started it and so today it only took me two minutes.  It also only takes two minutes to cut up the appropriate amount of cheese, but I allocated those two minutes to the dishwasher instead.”  (NOT I had to allocate, I ‘did’ – chose to – simple fact.. NO DIGS at the kid that caused all this – don’t point fingers, ever. And don’t omit so that the opportunity for someone else to opens up. No passive retaliation here.)

Say nothing more about it.  If the kids complain about the taste, agree with them.  Don’t apologize, don’t lay blame, just agree.

Takes a lot of work… I know. But by doing that work, you’ll grow a whole, confident, capable, and responsible child into an adult that will hopefully continue the work in is own life.

 

Either the consequences of the act will be enough, or they won’t be- and then a parent’s job becomes to modify the environment or provide supervision until the fascination with the forbidden thing ends.

Punitive Timeouts & Spanking: Equally Damaging

As you read this, if you are unaccustomed to my beliefs or written tone and rhythm, please go here first.  Then, as you read, keep Ken’s comments in mind.

I am in a state of aggravation, spurred by injustice, impossible scenarios, no sleep, trepidation over the damage I may be causing my child with all this transition (moving, traveling), and struggling through a significant crevasse between my husband and I.  Right now, I am not whole.  I am torn in two, with a thread of goo left dangling in between. Please forgive my attempt at coping by using sarcasm instead of sheer wit and completely pure communication.  I’m jaded and in protective mode right now… and as if life isn’t large enough as it is at the moment, I have found myself being expected to conform or defend some of my core beliefs to some very real and large, tangible people (outside my home’s walls, but not far from them).  One of the topics is the use of timeouts.

Somehow, me saying that timeouts are torture in my opinion isn’t enough to get the various people to which I refer above to leave me alone.

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What is the point of a time out?

From the adult’s perspective, if we’re honest, first and foremost, hopefully the answer to that question is to insist a child realize they have evoked your disapproval by their actions and behaviors.  Second, to be completely honest, it is to give the adult a moment’s peace, during which they do not have to contend with the child’s behaviors and actions that are causing frustration.

We accomplish our task by forcing our child to endure rejection, isolation, and dehumanizing “space to think”, which if they had managed to “think” in the first place, they would never have allowed themselves to be forced into the position they found themselves in – the experience of ostracism by a trusted, loved, care giver.

Below you will find links to subsequent posts as I complete them related to the subject, picked apart concept for concept, and sometimes sentence for sentence.  I hope you will summon your curiosity and continue the learning process, open your mind to your child’s world view, and soften your heart so that a greater knowledge and understanding might enter your parenting and the future health of your child (and you).

Too spiritual, mystical, out-there talk??

Ok, here’s the same thing without the flowers and fairies:  Timeouts cause the brain to sense physical pain because it is in fact, a deliberate action of forced isolation, rejection, and detachment, even at the most “dutiful and appropriate” level. What’s worse, that isolation, rejection, and detachment is being forced upon a child powerless to prevent it by the very entity that is supposed to represent a safe, secure, and protected place/person (be it a parent, teacher, etc).

The betrayal, on multiple levels, is astounding and horrifying.

It’s real.

Don’t believe me?

Try this: Cause those around you to purposely ignore your presence, the other adults you see as valuable for one reason or another, in your daily life. Now, make it so you cannot stop their lack of or refusal to acknowledge you (otherwise known as “removal of positive reinforcement”) until you conform to their will and wishes, or until you regain their approval in some way (if you are capable).  Tell me this is not damaging.  Tell me this doesn’t hurt you. Tell me that it doesn’t make you squirm, angry, resentful, vengeful, and ultimately needy.  I dare you to try.

Now, take that one step further and view the same scenario through the eyes of an under/undeveloped child, inexperienced in social and emotional behavior patterns, still forming a fundamental sense of self and confidence, not capable of fully understanding why, or what they have done to loose the approval of others that resulted in this forced rejection and isolation. (May bet is that if you use timeouts, or spanking for that matter, you do not fully disclose pertinent thoughts to your child, as that might just give them too much knowledge to use against you at some point, so there is a good chance that the child is not fully aware of all aspects of their infraction.)

My take?  Smacking a child may possibly cause less scarring than using timeouts/ostracism, and you all know what I think about using violence and spanking, smacking, hitting, whipping, or using any sort of like action – that being to strike, in any manner.   The reason is simple: Spanking causes humiliation, fear, and physical pain.  Ostracism causes all the same, in addition to a loss of perceived self value, loss of approval, pain of rejection, fear of isolation, and the prevention of remedy (while they sit there thinking about what they’ve done, they are effectively prevented from generating a resolution or remedy).  The amount of psychological scarring and damage is doubled.

Please understand that if I am made aware of your choice to hit your child, and you’re within arm’s reach of me, I will hit you in the exact manner and force you used on them.  And then… maybe I’ll ignore you after, just to make sure you get the full effect of the devaluing and dismissal.

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Ok, here we go……

I have had parents tell me that using timeouts is an excellent option for them, it gets great results.  I cringe.. if you understand anything about me, you know that first and foremost, I believe it paramount that we raise our children with intelligence, the ability to reason and understand their world, respect for their world (this includes those who are in a position to care and provide for them), and a curiosity to explore, develop, and learn.  THE moment I hear a parent tell me that they’ve figured out a system to manipulate their child, for the sake of their own will and desire, regardless of why or what, I start to ache for their little one.  Then, I find out they hit them (ok, spank – really, show me what the physical action of a spanking is, now repeat the action with the same force using the same tool either against a piece of foam like the kind you use in the base of a fake plant, or a brick wall if you’re brave and dumb enough.  It’s the same action as hitting, and when the object makes contact, let’s see what happens).  OR I find out they faithfully don’t spank, “would never dream of it, that’s awful and abusive”, but oh yes, they definitely use timeouts, otherwise known as rejection, which includes the transmission of obvious disapproval, and then of course the torturous forced isolation aspect.  Yes, that’s a great solution.

That same parent, in their next breath, ridicules their child passively, dishonors their child’s autonomy and dignity by speaking about them as if they are less, and typically though standing right there, the parent behaves as if the child is not in the room. Then, as if to redeem themselves in the face of, well, my face, which is typically by then contorted and unable to hide the pain it feels due to the unavoidable sense of compassion and dismay I feel for the child, they begin to offer semi-relevant praise “about” their child, that they sort of direct through their child in hopes that I’ll buy it and encourage them that they’re really a great parent after all.  All the while, their child is standing there knowing full well that the praise is empty, that it has a hitch or some sort of catch and they’ll hear about it as soon as I’m not in the room, and that their parent will insist they acknowledge the efforts and praise offered, as if it is an obligation for the child to also validate the parent, as the parent insisted I do.

But I don’t. And to date, only one parent has stood their ground long enough to start asking me why I won’t buy into their ploy and help them feel good about themselves, so that their kid is forced to do the same thing… Only one parent has ever had the courage to question my refusal to help them make their child feel inferior, of course that’s not really what they want, they just want to be superior.

The parent that asked me why it was that it seemed as though I appeared to think they were full of shit, is the same parent that an hour later broke down in front of their child, crying, while sitting on the floor in front of the child, begging the child to forgive him for his arrogance, sense of entitlement, and gross oversight of the true value of his child.  The child responded with compassion and bewilderment, and didn’t say much.

The two left that night, together, connected in a way they’d never been, with a mutual respect present that was brand new.  The child admired the parent, though he was confused and didn’t seem very trusting or certain of the situation.  The parent discovered the immense worth and complexity of his child, and found that he too held a high level of admiration for the child, it had just been hiding under the surface for years – 9 years to be exact (the child was 10 years old).

I heard from this father about a month ago, his child is now 12.  This father is still struggling with allowing himself to truly acknowledge and respect his child’s autonomy and worth. He is driven to seek reasons and actions that justify him feeling and thinking this way, before he demonstrates this belief to his child.

We talked about this concern and the father indicated that he, himself, held a deep resentment toward his own parents and other care givers for never allowing him to feel as though he was a legitimate and useful contributor, simply because he was nothing more than a child.  He grew up assuming that all children were nothing more than something to be dealt with, tolerated until they’re grown, appreciated for what they do that pleases the adult (and in truth, mimics the adult’s preferences), but not too highly appreciated lest the child become arrogant… it goes on and on.

It’s a simple point of attributing a lessor worth and diminished degree of legitimacy to a person, simply because of their age.  We, as a human race, do this to each other based on ethnicity, language, religion, wealth, and gender. We’d be truly crazy hypocrites if we didn’t do the same thing because of age too. Come on, really.. we’re not that dumb, are we?

The positive side the father reported, however, was that his child and he shared a mutual respect for each other, and instead of punishment for error, the father had learned to use logic, reason, natural consequence, and give his child room to error, room to disagree, room to explore and discover, room to question and seek guidance – instead of shoving it down the child’s throat, and room to return respect and admiration for the father that can so deeply love, if he allows himself to be that vulnerable.

The real catch is, this father changed not only the dynamics of his relationship with his then pre-teen child, but that decision affected his relationship with the child’s mother immensely and brought the two parents back together in a mutual love and respect that neither had ever experienced in their former relationship together. Now, each member of this family knows they are valued, appreciated for who they are and what they think, admired for their efforts and dedication, and respected because they are, not because of what they do or don’t. Love found a place to call home and it took root. And this kid, let me tell you, is one emotionally healthy, intelligent, and confident kid, with a boatload of personal integrity and ability to demonstrate compassion and dedication like none I’ve recently seen or known, of the same age.

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Now, to discuss specifically the harm and damage that is the actual result of using a timeout punishment system – quite possibly the most poignant and intelligent perspective I have ever come across regarding the use of timeouts:

What you probably didn’t realize is that the silent treatment is a form of ostracism. When someone is ostracized it affects the part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. Do you know what the anterior cingulate cortex does?

The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that detects pain. When you give someone the silent treatment you are causing that person physical pain. Simply by ignoring someone else’s existence you can inflict pain on them. This is what the ever popular “time out” with a child is so effective. The child feels ostracized, therefore is feeling pain even though no physical pain was inflicted on them, and therefor they want to behave so they don’t have to feel that way again.

The silent treatment can be a very destructive behavior when it involves personal relationships. Let’s say with a husband and wife for instance. The silent treatment breeds bitterness on both ends and it borders on emotional abuse… I’m not making that up to be dramatic. That’s what “they” say.

S O U R C E

Then, we take a look at this from another angle –

Numb to the pain

It turns out that “hurt feelings” may be a more valid term than most of us think. Research by Williams suggests that ostracism triggers the same area of the brain that’s active when we feel physical pain. He and his colleagues used FMRI to examine what happened in the brain when people played several versions of “Cyberball”: Participants were either included in the game, excluded having been told their computer wasn’t hooked into the network, or intentionally excluded.

Each time participants felt excluded—even when it was unintentional—the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex lit up, according to findings published in Science (Vol. 302, No. 5643). This area is well-known for being part of the brain’s pain detection system, says Williams. Participants also reported feeling emotional pain.

Williams’s findings make sense from an evolutionary perspective, argue Leary and Geoff MacDonald, PhD, in a 2005Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 131, No. 2) article. They propose that social pain piggybacks on nerve pathways in the brain originally laid out for physical pain. The two now share many of the same pathways, resulting in similar responses to the two seemingly disparate phenomena, they say. It makes sense, says Leary, a Duke University professor of psychology, because social rejection and pain serve the same purpose—alerting an organism to a potentially life-threatening risk.

It may also support a counterintuitive theory proposed by Baumeister and his colleagues: that social rejection leads initially to emotional numbness. They have conducted studies in which they tell participants that based on a psychological evaluation they will end up alone later in life. They’ve found that the participants’ behaviors are affected by the news, but their moods aren’t. Baumeister compares this emotional numbing with the analgesic effect that can happen after an injury. We don’t feel pain until we’ve gotten to safety. This same pathway, he argues, may cause emotional numbness after rejection to allow the brain to begin to cope with the pain before it sets in. In fact, in a series of studies, Baumeister and colleagues find that after rejection, not only are people emotionally numb, but their threshold for physical pain increases.

Williams agrees that emotional numbness can happen. In qualitative interviews he conducted with victims of long-term ostracism, many people described their trouble engaging emotionally. However, he says, it’s not clear yet when or under what conditions people feel numbness versus pain.

Rejection’s link to aggression

Regardless, it’s clear from the research that ostracism and rejection have very real consequences. Williams’s student Lisa Zadro, PhD, now at the University of Sydney in Australia, interviewed 50 people who were either ostracized or perpetrators of ostracism. Those who’d been ostracized reported depression, eating disorders, promiscuity disorders and even attempted suicide. Almost all said that they would have preferred physical abuse to ostracism.

S O U R C E

In fact, long-term rejection can have disastrous consequences in the form of anger and aggression. Leary examined cases of school shootings and found that as many as 80 percent of shooters suffered from prolonged peer rejection. These are, of course, only correlations, but many lab studies support the idea that rejection can lead to aggression.

“There seems to be a failure of self-regulation in people who feel rejected,” says Baumeister. “And this allows a shift toward anti-social and aggressive behavior.”

But aggression is only one reaction people can have, says Williams. He and others find that people may also become more socially attentive in an attempt to win approval. Aggression, he argues, is more likely to occur when people have lost a sense of control. They use aggression to reassert themselves—a motivation that becomes more salient than any desire to be liked.

If you use timeouts, any chance you see the correlation here with either the aggressive response, or the opposing passive response? Do I need to draw to connect the dots or can you?

… on his first day, I witnessed the teacher giving a 4 yo boy a time-out for grabbing a toy from another child. They made him go and sit by himself on a chair away from the other kids and told him to “think about what he had done”. Then they eventually led him back to the group, and said, “next time you want a toy, you will use your…” and he said right on queu, “…words”. So obviously this is not the first time it has happened. I was just shocked. I was told in my tour they didn’t use time-outs. Apparently they do. They didn’t speak meanly, they were calm, but everyone was staring and I felt bad for him. I felt he was humiliated a little, ostracized, singled out.

S O U R C E Go read the rest of this.  The article is a bit choppy, but insightful.

Research suggests that ostracism is an effective form of controlling contranormative behaviors, punishing deviance, and increasing in-group cohesion (Alexander 1986; Barner-Barry, 1986; Basso, 1972; Boehm, 1986; Mahdi, 1986). For example ostracism is still one of the more common methods used to discipline young children, by parents and teachers alike. The issue of enforcing time outs, in schools and special education programs alike, has been discussed at length by social psychologists. The common denominator of most forms of time-out is the reduction of social attention. But this can be carried out in a number of ways, from physically relocating the child to a time-out room, to systematically ignoring the child who remains the same social environment (Brooks, Perry, & Hingerty, 1992; Heron, 1987). It has yet to be determined as to whether time-outs are a beneficial form of discipline.

S O U R C E


Note #2 – the ancient Greece part – I added a bit of something to the definition.

os·tra·cism
–noun

1.

exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance,privileges,friendship, etc.

2.

(in ancient Greece, and in most contemporary homes and schools where children spend their time, across the United States and other countries) temporary banishment of a citizen,decided upon bypopular vote.

Getting Away With It: Being Accountable To A Child


From “Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way”

by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

I’ve been teaching Nonviolent Communication to parents for 30 years. I would like to share some of the things that have been helpful to both myself and to the parents that I’ve worked with, and to share with you some insights I’ve had into the wonderful and challenging occupation of parenting.

I’d first like to call your attention to the danger of the word “child,” if we allow it to apply a different quality of respect than we would give to someone who is not labeled a child. Let me show you what I am referring to.

In parent workshops that I’ve done over the years, I’ve often started by dividing the group into two. I put one group in one room, and the other in a different room, and I give each group the task of writing down on a large paper a dialogue between themselves and another person in a conflict situation. I tell both groups what the conflict is. The
only difference is that I tell one group the other person is their child, and to the second group I say the other person is their neighbor.

Then we get back into a large group and we look at these different sheets of paper outlining the dialogue that the groups would have, in the one case thinking that the other person was their child, and in the other case, the neighbor. (And incidentally, I haven’t allowed the groups to discuss with the other group who the person was in their situation, so that both groups think that the situation is the same.)

After they’ve had a chance to scan the written dialogues of both groups, I ask them if they can see a difference in terms of the degree of respect and compassion that was demonstrated. Every time I’ve done this, the group that was working on the situation with the other person being a child was seen as being less respectful and compassionate in their communication than the group that saw the other person as a neighbor. This painfully reveals to the people in these groups how easy it is to dehumanize someone by the simple process of simply thinking of him or her as “our child.”

I had an experience one day that really heightened my awareness of the danger of thinking of people as children. This experience followed a weekend in which I had worked with two groups: a street gang and a police department. I was mediating between the two groups. There had been considerable violence between them, and they had asked
that I serve in the role of a mediator. After spending as much time as I did with them, dealing with the violence they had toward each other, I was exhausted. And as I was driving home afterwards, I told myself, I never want to be in the middle of another conflict for the rest of my life.

And of course, when I walked in my back door, my three children were fighting. I expressed my pain to them in a way that we advocate in Nonviolent Communication. I expressed how I was feeling, what my needs were, and what my requests were. I did it this way. I shouted, “When I hear all of this going on right now, I feel extremely tense! I have a real need for some peace and quiet after the weekend I’ve been through! So would you all be willing to give me that time and space?”

My oldest son looked at me and said, “Would you like to talk about it?” Now, at that moment, I dehumanized him in my thinking. Why? Because I said to myself, “How cute. Here’s a nine year old boy trying to help his father.” But take a closer look at how I was disregarding his offer because of his age, because I had him labeled as a child. Fortunately I saw that was going on in my head, and maybe I was able to see it more clearly because the work I had been doing between the street gang and the police showed me the danger of thinking of people in terms of labels instead of their humanness.

So instead of seeing him as a child and thinking to myself, “how cute,” I saw a human being who was reaching out to another human being in pain, and I said out loud, “Yes, I would like to talk about it.” And the three of them followed me into another room and listened while I opened up my heart to how painful it was to see that people could
come to a point of wanting to hurt one another simply because they hadn’t been trained to see the other person’s humanness. After talking about it for 45 minutes I felt wonderful, and as I recall we turned the stereo on and danced like fools for awhile.

So I’m not suggesting that we don’t use words like “child” as a shorthand way of letting people know that we’re talking about people of a certain age. I’m talking about when we allow labels like this to keep us from seeing the other person as a human being, in a way which leads us to dehumanize the other person because of the things our culture teaches us about “children.” Let me show you an extension of what I’m talking about, how the label child can lead us to behave in a way that’s quite unfortunate.

Having been educated, as I was, to think about parenting, I thought that it was the job of a parent to make children behave. You see, once you define yourself as an authority, a teacher or parent, in the culture that I was educated in, you then see it as your responsibility to make people that you label a “child” or a “student” behave in a
certain way.

I now see what a self-defeating objective this is, because I have learned that any time it’s our objective to get another person to behave in a certain way, people are likely to resist no matter what it is we’re asking for. This seems to be true whether the other person is 2 or 92 years of age.

This objective of getting what we want from other people, or getting them to do what we want them to do, threatens the autonomy of people, their right to choose what they want to do. And whenever people feel that they’re not free to choose what they want to do, they are likely to resist, even if they see the purpose in what we are asking and would ordinarily want to do it. So strong is our need to protect our autonomy, that if we see that someone has this single-mindedness of purpose, if they are acting like they think that they know what’s best for us and are not leaving it to us to make the choice of how we behave, it stimulates our resistance.

I’ll be forever grateful to my children for educating me about the limitations of the objective of getting other people to do what you want. They taught me that, first of all, I couldn’t make them do what I want. I couldn’t make them do anything. I couldn’t make them put a toy back in the toy box. I couldn’t make them make their bed. I couldn’t make them eat. Now, that was quite a humbling lesson for me as a parent, to learn about my powerless-ness, because somewhere I had gotten it into my mind that it was the job of a parent to make a child behave. And here were these young children teaching me this humbling lesson, that I couldn’t make them do anything. All I could do is make them wish they had.

And whenever I would be foolish enough to do that, that is, to make them wish they had, they taught me a second lesson about parenting and power that has proven very valuable to me over the years. And that lesson was that anytime I would make them wish they had, they would make me wish I hadn’t made them wish they had. Violence begets violence.

They taught me that any use of coercion on my part would invariably create resistance on their part, which could lead to an adversarial quality in the connection between us. I don’t want to have that quality of connection with any human being, but especially not with my children, those human beings that I’m closest to and taking responsibility for. So my children are the last people that I want to get into these coercive games of which punishment is a part.

Now this concept of punishment is strongly advocated by most parents. Studies indicate that about 80% of American parents firmly believe in corporal punishment of children. This is about the same percentage of the population who believes in capital punishment of criminals. So with such a high percentage of the population believing that punishment is justified and necessary in the education of children, I’ve had plenty of opportunity over the years to discuss this issue with parents, and I’m pleased with how people can be helped to see the limitations of any kind of punishment, if they’ll simply ask themselves two questions.

Question number one: What do you want the child to do differently? If we ask only that question, it can certainly seem that punishment sometimes works, because certainly through the threat of punishment or application of punishment, we can at times influence a child to do what we would like the child to do.

However, when we add a second question, it has been my experience that parents see that punishment never works. The second question is: What do we want the child’s reasons to be for acting as we would like them to act? It’s that question that helps us to see that punishment not only doesn’t work, but it gets in the way of our children doing things for reasons that we would like them to do them.

Since punishment is so frequently used and justified, parents can only imagine that the opposite of punishment is a kind of permissiveness in which we do nothing when children behave in ways that are not in harmony with our values. So therefore parents can think only, “If I don’t punish, then I give up my own values and just allow the child to do whatever he or she wants.” As I’ll be discussing below, there are other approaches besides permissiveness, that is, just letting people do whatever they want to do, or coercive tactics such as punishment. And while I’m at it, I’d like to suggest that reward is just as coercive as punishment. In both cases we are using power over people, controlling the environment in a way that tries to force people to behave in ways that we like. In that respect reward comes out of the same mode of thinking as punishment.

There is another approach besides doing nothing or using coercive tactics. It requires an awareness of the subtle but important difference between our objective being to get people to do what we want, which I’m not advocating, and instead being clear that our objective is to create the quality of connection necessary for everyone’s needs to get met.

It has been my experience, whether we are communicating with children or adults, that when we see the difference between these two objectives, and we are consciously not trying to get a person to do what we want, but trying to create a quality of mutual concern, a quality of mutual respect, a quality where both parties think that their needs matter and they are conscious that their needs and the other person’s well-being are interdependent—it is amazing how conflicts which otherwise seem unresolvable, are easily resolved.

Now, this kind of communication that is involved in creating the quality of connection necessary for everybody’s needs to get met is quite different from that communication used if we are using coercive forms of resolving differences with children. It requires a shift away from evaluating children in moralistic terms such as right/wrong, good/bad, to a language based on needs. We need to be able to tell children whether what they’re doing is in harmony with our needs, or in conflict with our needs, but to do it in a way that doesn’t stimulate guilt or shame on the child’s part. So it might require our saying to the child, “I’m scared when I see you hitting your brother, because I have a need for people in the family to be safe,” instead of, “It’s wrong to hit your brother.” Or it might require a shift away from saying, “You are lazy for not cleaning up your room,” to saying, “I feel frustrated when I see that the bed isn’t made, because I have a real need for support in keeping order in the house.”

This shift in language away from classifying children’s behavior in terms of right and wrong, and good and bad, to a language based on needs, is not easy for those of us who were educated by teachers and parents to think in moralistic judgments. It also requires an ability to be present to our children, and listen to them with empathy when they are in distress. This is not easy when we have been trained as parents to want to jump in and give advice, or to try to fix things.

So when I’m working with parents, we look at situations that are likely to arise where a child might say something like, “Nobody likes me.” When a child says something like that, I believe the child is needing an empathic kind of connection. And by that I mean a respectful understanding where the child feels that we are there and really hear what he or she is feeling and needing. Sometimes we can do this silently, just showing in our eyes that we are with their feelings of sadness, and their need for a different quality of connection with their friends. Or it could involve our saying out loud something like, “So it sounds like you’re really feeling sad, because you aren’t having very much fun with your friends.”

But many parents, defining their role as requiring them to make their children happy all the time, jump in when a child says something like that, and say things like, “Well, have you looked at what you’ve been doing that might have been driving your friends away?” Or they disagree with the child, saying, “Well, that’s not true. You’ve had friends in the past. I’m sure you’ll get more friends.” Or they give advice: “Maybe if you’d talk differently to your friends, your friends would like you more.”

What they don’t realize is that all human beings, when they’re in pain, need presence and empathy. They may want advice, but they want that after they’ve received the empathic connection. My own children have taught me the hard way that, “Dad, please withhold all advice unless you receive a request in writing from us signed by a notary.”

Many people believe that it’s more humane to use reward than punishment. But both of them I see as power over others, and Nonviolent Communication is based on power with people. And in power with people, we try to have influence not by how we can make people suffer if they don’t do what we want, or how we can reward them if they do. It’s a power based on mutual trust and respect, which makes people open to hearing each other and learning from each other, and to giving to one another willingly out of a desire to contribute to one another’s well being, rather than out of a fear of punishment or hope for a reward.

We get this kind of power, power with people, by being able to openly communicate our feelings and needs without in any way criticizing the other person. We do that by offering them what we would like from them in a way that is not heard as demanding or threatening. And as I have said, it also requires really hearing what other people are trying to communicate, showing an accurate understanding rather than quickly jumping in and giving advice, or trying to fix things.

For many parents, the way I’m talking about communicating is so different that they say, “Well, it just doesn’t seem natural to communicate that way.” At just the right time, I read something that Gandhi had written in which he said, “Don’t mix up that which is habitual with that which is natural.” Gandhi said that very often we’ve been trained to communicate and act in ways that are quite unnatural, but they are habitual in the sense that we have been trained for various reasons to do it that way in our culture. And that certainly rang true to me in the way that I was trained to communicate with children. The way I was trained to communicate by judging rightness and wrongness, goodness and badness, and the use of punishment was widely used and very easily became habitual for me as a parent. But I wouldn’t say that because something is habitual that it is natural.

I learned that it is much more natural for people to connect in a loving, respectful way, and to do things out of joy for each other, rather than using punishment and reward or blame and guilt as means of coercion. But such a transformation does require a good deal of consciousness and effort.

I can recall one time when I was transforming myself from a habitually judgmental way of communicating with my children to the way that I am now advocating. On the day I’m thinking of, my oldest son and I were having a conflict, and it was taking me quite awhile to communicate it in the way that I was choosing to, rather than the way that had become habitual. Almost everything that came into my mind originally was some coercive statement in the form of a judgment of him for saying what he did. So I had to stop and take a deep breath, and think of how to get more in touch with my needs, and how to get more in touch with his needs. And this was taking me awhile. And he was getting frustrated because he had a friend waiting for him outside, and he said, “Daddy, it’s taking you so long to talk.” And I said, “Let me tell you what I can say quickly: Do it my way or I’ll kick your butt.” He said, “Take your time, Dad. Take your time.”

So yes, I would rather take my time and come from an energy that I choose in communicating with my children, rather than habitually responding in a way that I have been trained to do, when it’s not really in harmony with my own values. Sadly, we will often get much more reinforcement from those around us for behaving in a punitive, judgmental way, than in a way that is respectful to our children.

I can recall one Thanksgiving dinner when I was doing my best to communicate with my youngest son in the way that I am advocating, and it was not easy, because he was testing me to the limits. But I was taking my time, taking deep breaths, trying to understand what his needs were, trying to understand my own needs so I could express them in a respectful way. Another member of the family, observing my conversation with my son, but who had been trained in a different way of communicating, reached over at one point and whispered in my ear, “If that was my child, he’d be sorry for what he was saying.”

I’ve talked to a lot of other parents who have had similar experiences who, when they are trying to relate in more human ways with their own children, instead of getting support, often get criticized. People can often mistake what I’m talking about as permissiveness or not giving children the direction they need, instead of understanding that it’s a different quality of direction. It’s a direction that comes from two parties trusting each other, rather than one party forcing his or her authority on another.

One of the most unfortunate results of making our objective to get our children to do what we want, rather than having our objective be for all of us to get what we want, is that eventually our children will be hearing a demand in whatever we are asking. And whenever people hear a demand, it’s hard for them to keep focus on the value of whatever is being requested, because, as I said earlier, it threatens their autonomy, and that’s a strong need that all people have. They want to be able to do something when they choose to do it, and not because they are forced to do it. As soon as a person hears a demand, it’s going to make any resolution that will get everybody’s needs met much harder to come by.


This is an excerpt from Raising Children Compassionately, by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. which is available from ourbookstore.© 2000 by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. &

Center for Nonviolent Communication

My Position

I’ve been giving some thought lately to asking for a raise. Trouble is, I can’t quite nail down a proper and fair dollar amount to request. My job’s description is longer than I can really articulate here… BUT I’d love your suggestions, especially those of you with more experience handling these matters. I’m just not sure what is best.

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Job Description, in no certain order and not likely very comprehensive or complete because I can’t really risk taking the time to write this – I’m going to get caught and then well, I need to keep my reputation and appearances up, ya know?

– Responsible for creating and growing a human.

– Responsible for giving birth, nurturing, and sustaining the life of that human.

– Responsible for the cognitive development, positive and appropriate environment for said development, and consistent reinforcement and encouragement of said human and his/her development – for a minimum of said human’s childhood and perhaps beyond into early adulthood.

– Responsible for maintaining the health and well being of another human(s). This means, I am required to know how to not only save their life in the case of an emergency, but preferably maintain a vigilant yet never intrusive protective forcefield around their extremely mobile existence in effort to prevent any injury, or perception of injury, both to their physical existence, but also the emotional aspect of their being.

– Responsible for delivering either personally or through an institution all of the necessary lessons required to provide the skills and knowledge needed for said human to survive independently. And, in effort to be eligible for a bonus, ever, I must also provide them such skills and knowledge that they not only survive, but thrive, happily.

– Position requires constant awareness, attention to EVERY detail, even the unspoken and barely perceived ones. Position also requires a wisdom often acquired through experience, often acknowledged only what is termed “intuition”, that is capable of not only predicting the future, but having foresight and hindsight simultaneously, and adapting this wisdom spontaneously in effort to make it applicable to the unique aspects of said human, who by the way will be adapting and modifying itself at a random, erratic, and often breakneck pace, for which my position is required to stay a minimum of two steps ahead of said changes. Should I not manage to keep up with the pace, but only match it, I will receive a rather serious reprimand and be expected to immediately step it up a few notches, never to slack again.

– Position requires the preparation of food, activities, and experiences consistent with the growth and development of said person. It is to my best advantage to not procrastinate, ever. Further, it is to my advantage to sleep only as absolutely enough as my body requires to function because otherwise, I will be playing catch up, constantly. The reason for this? Such preparations, whether they be mental or physical, are not feasible when the said human is awake and in need of my doting and selfless attentions. Therefore, I must be willing to sacrifice (knowing full well that this position would requires such a sacrifice, for the duration of the position) my sleep, my interests to a fair degree, (though if I am crafty and sly enough, I can attempt to integrate some of my interests into the activities and interests of the human(s) I am responsible for) and most importantly, the willingness to not only not have time to do with as I please, but the ability to not need that time either. This is a requirement that does somewhat decrease with tenure, but only slightly, and I must constantly use great wisdom and discretion with how much, where, and when I execute this “comp” time for my own benefit and rest.

– Position requires I be an ambassador to adults and children alike, of all walks of life and backgrounds. I must stand in the middle and somehow strike a balance, instruct in the positive, teach without harping, and ultimately defend and protect the person(s) for which I am responsible. However, I cannot do so in a manner that in any way speaks to their own inadequacies or underdevelopment, for to do so would not only undermine all my efforts, but damage the human, perhaps irreparably. For this, I will be fired, I will be required to pay reparations for the duration of my natural life, and even then I will never ever atone completely for my error and carelessness. (This aspect of my responsibility is applicable universally, not just in the act of defense and/or protection, but in every breath I take, every thought I have, and every action I choose or allow to occur, whether in the presence of said human or not, because someone is always watching. Part of accepting this position is my willingness to give up my privacy and option to answer only to myself. Every mistake I make must be openly acknowledged, on multiple levels and to multiple others in management. And I must willing accept that at any time, any given mistake I make, may cause me to not only be dishonorably discharged, but will include a package of guilt I must accept and fully acknowledge, as the mistake could be one that causes eternal scarring. – I knew this going into the job, and assumed I’d just never make a mistake, or try VERY VERY hard not to, but then I discovered that I was second guessing myself. Guess what, that in and of itself was an offense which carried a heavy enough punishment (strife, emotional upheaval, and struggling of all kinds, some yet to be discovered) that I quickly learned it best to go with my gut, even if it ended up in disaster. After all, if disaster was eminent, at least I’d only be held accountable for causing it under a single pretense, instead of two or more.

– Position requires spending my own income to provide for the needs and desires of this human for which I am ultimately responsible for, until that human can appropriately take responsibility for themselves (something greatly determined by my own performance, I might add – a great motivator!)

– Position does not provide sick time, vacation time, or personal days. If such is desired, a substitute must be acquired for the duration of my absence. Additionally, when I return, I am responsible for re-establishing any lost balance, lost ground/progress, or generated instability, insecurity, or general malaise resulting from my absence and substitute. Question: Is vacation and time off worth the tripling of work that will await me when I return. Conclusion: Only if my life is in danger, and then only if I can’t perform my duties and functions safely and effectively.

I could go on, but my potty break is over (I don’t get smoke breaks, and lunch breaks are something of only myth and legend).

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So, what do you think? My current compensation, monetarily anyway is approximately $0k annually. I get kickbacks once in while, and my reward system is my choice to see for myself the fruits of my labor in the development and wonder found by simply observing the human for which I am responsible.

Additionally, I must remain confident and courageous in the face of adversity of all sorts. Of particular difficulty, I must face those who find it appropriate to question the validity of my position and my career choices. These individuals often use belittling tactics that are aimed at not only diminishing the position I hold, but devaluing me directly. It is assumed that I am an uneducated flunky who is incapable of holding a real job, so I resort to the cute title of Stay at Home Mom.

When faced with these individuals, I am forced to split myself in two, call upon an inner strength that rivals the wind, and not only defend my position, defend my education and abilities, defend my very worth and value as a contributor to society as a whole, but I must also do so while not letting the human for which I am responsible smell even a hint of my own pain or need. I must simultaneously uphold that human and never, for even a second, allow them to think they are an inconvenience or the source of difficulty.

I know I’m forgetting a lot; a side effect of pregnancy, toddler-hood, and well, my position in general. I suspect no one has actually read to this point, so it doesn’t matter, except to me. But you know, in case you are still reading, I realized something today…

I am responsible for the life of another human, who based upon my diligence will grow to be an adult who functions independently. This adult will directly and indirectly influence and impact the life and existence of every other human, animal, plant, and building on the planet we live on. Especially in our ever increasing global community, what they become as an adult will surely leave a mark, even the smallest one, a mark just the same.

What I do now affects you. And me, and Joe down the road, Sue across the state, Jack who lives on the next continent, and Jira who is on the other side of the planet. No wonder my position is one that is commonly dismissed and accepted as the only job that exists universally that isn’t a real job… If we actually stopped to swallow the immensity of the responsibility of this position, I fear we might all collectively faint.

Then who would keep the infant humans alive? There aren’t enough machines in existence to accomplish it, and it’s not like they can survive on their own.

So, if your position and career has some of the same responsibilities and required dedication, please let me know what you think I should ask for when I take my request for a raise to my management, or the federal government, whichever has the courage to show its face first.

And no, I did not edit this, as if I should have the sort of time to do something so trivial as to make myself look educated.

Adoption: Creating a Mini-Me!

My personal life struggles are great enough that I cannot write from the heart much of late. This is probably when I should write the most, at least about the topics I’m struggling with. However, those of you who write will understand when I say that, highly therapeutic or not, I just don’t have the energy.

So instead, I’ll work on debunking yet another article from NGJ.  Though, I must warn you, I may not debunk very effectively.

The quote below is of a comment/letter sent to the NGJ crew, and the response of Mrs. Pearl.  With a little editing by Mike, who we all know is the only reason her response has any value at all.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement right now, please email me privately so we can talk…

S O U R C E

Dear Pearls,
We adopted a child when he was just a baby. We now have several younger birth children. Our whole family enjoys camping and fishing except our oldest. He only likes sports. We have never had a TV or joined in games of this kind, but he will find a way to watch or play any chance he has, even to the point of lying. This causes an extreme breach between us. I have trouble forgiving him. What can we do to get him on the family team? How do we deal with a child who doesn’t want to be a part?

DEBI’S COMMON SENSE (WITH A LITTLE EDITING BY MIKE)
You want him to be a part of your team but you do not want to be part of his. You are assuming that talent and interest can be dictated—a grave mistake. YOU are the one making it an “adoption” problem. When you love someone, you want to see them fulfilled as a person—as the person they are, not the person you want them to be.

I concur. The submitter-parent is unaware of the damage they, themselves, are causing.  Such is the situation with so many parents, and adoptive parents.

The ironic thing here is how well this article and response from the Pearl clan illustrates their hypocrisy.
Here, this is stated, “You cannot, and should not, replace a person’s dreams with your own goals and desires.” And yet, in so many of their other articles, they are insisting on doing just this, but with enough of a twist that instead of ultimate control and power, it looks like love and nurture.

No, one should not attempt to replace or even interfere with the hopes and dreams of another, except where they might serve to encourage or assist that person in achieving them.

You cannot, and should not, replace a person’s dreams with your own goals and desires. If you like hunting or sports or mechanics, that is your heart, and it is fine for you, but if your son likes something different, you are the one who needs to sacrifice to aid him in the fulfillment of his dreams.

If you have read Created To Be His Help Meet, you know about the 3 kinds of men. Like God is three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, man was created in God’s IMAGE. Some men are Command men, some Steady, and some Visionary. Well, boys are little men. If you happen to have a Visionary, then you can be sure he will not be interested in sports or fishing. When you go fishing, he will be interested in building a dam to change the watercourse. If you take him to a sports game, he will be more interested in coming up with a new way to play the game. Boys need to grow up to be the men they were born to be. Help them be the best at WHO THEY ARE.

In this paragraph, in my opinion, the useful information starts and ends with the last three sentences, but mostly just the last two – children (not boys specifically) must be allowed to explore their world and become what they choose. To do anything else to force the person to become what you wish for them. This method does not improve their life.

I detect that you think there is some vanity or evil in your son’s interest. You are too religious even for God. Concentrate on building character in whatever pursuit your son chooses. It is wise to make available many options that are constructive and character building, but don’t think that in the end you can dictate interests. Buy yourself a baseball glove or soccer ball and take him to play. Stand by and cheer like it was the most exciting thing in the world. It is the only way you are going to win.

Ah, here we have what I suspect is Mr. Pearl’s voice…  “It’s the only way you are going to win.”

What is there, exactly, to win.  It’s not about winning, it’s about the positive development of a human, from birth to death.

It is indeed unwise to attempt to push your own agenda and interests on anyone, especially a child in your care.