ht_Preventable3D_100908_mn

Responding to Imminent Danger: Physical & Emotional Threat

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In a separate post, I discussed the difference between the terms “listen” & “comply”.  Toward the end of my thoughts, I ventured into the ever present, “But what if there is a reason my kid HAS to do what I’ve said, like, oh say, to keep him from plunging 1000′ to his death!”.

Rather than addressing this very important aspect of compliance in the same vein as the value of respecting a request, communicating expected compliance, and discovering what it really is to “listen” all in one, very long winded dissertation… I figured I’d split them up a bit.

From the previous post… continuing –
…That said, there are instances when the adult cannot fully articulate the entire phrase, including something along the lines of “compliance is expected”.  These sort of instances might be when walking in the city and or parking lot and the child is suddenly in some sort of danger.  In times like this, the adult often cannot sputter out much more than a “STOP” or other imperative in time, and the child’s safety depends on compliance. I’ll discuss this in a separate post.   This is when the sound of the adult’s voice, and the tone that is used (that being of imminent danger – the adult is responding out of fear and the kid can hear it, the urgency and importance, in the adult’s voice) is all that is required for the child to comply.

If the parent has established this foundation (their interactions and expectations being worthy of the child’s trust) and level of respect with the child from the beginning (whether from birth or whenever the child comes under the protection and guidance of said adult), they are in a positive position to provide the consistency and stability necessary that in a situation of threat/safety, the child will interpret accordingly and, if they are developmentally capable, respond appropriately. This is giving the benefit of the doubt to the child and his/her intelligence.. but it’s one that the adult has developed from their end and so is reliable; the adult is comfortable and so is the child.  Given, however, humans do not always behave predictably, so I would encourage the parent to be within reach of physically sparing your child harm, in the event they don’t process your words as you need them to.

AND IF THEY DON’T (process correctly), after the danger has passed, please simply reiterate to them what happened in a flat and respecting tone, reiterate your command and the value of their response having matched, and move on (unless they want to talk about it).  Don’t rub it in, don’t demean or diminish. And don’t think this is your chance (while the body is on heightened alert) to teach a lesson… as it will be one delivered and received with an association of fear.

___________________________________________________________

When my little one was just learning to walk, I took her to the park one day.  At this point (she was not quite 10 months old), she knew many signs that we used to communicate to her.  She didn’t start signing much back until a few months later, but she understood them.  She also understood an expansive list of verbally communicated words.  (We so often do not give enough credit of comprehension to our littlest ones until something happens to forces us to realize just exactly how much they are absorbing and processing.) 

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We were walking, hand in hand, just a few feet from our home over to the park (across the street).  I had stopped to grab the mail and releasing her palm for a moment, reached into the box to retrieve the letters.  In a matter of less than two seconds, she’d decided to explore at full speed and, after somehow traversing the curb (didn’t know she could do that yet), she proceeded into the cul-de-sac, dangerously close to the through street.

Now, mind you, I was within reach of grabbing her back and protecting her, but I decided to use my voice instead.  (I’m not sure I actually made a conscious decision either, but that’s what ended up as my response.) I instructed her to stop walking and stand still.  She turned to my face, stopped and stood still, reached out her hand and said, “Mama, come.” 

From that day on, my trust in her intelligence grew and grew, as has my trust in my own regard for her and the value of it.  So, again, while I wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on a little one to process your verbal instruction sufficiently to prevent harm, there is a really good chance they will if you have set up a foundation for them to draw upon, even unconsciously.

__________________________________________________

Why do you think we are sometimes compelled to scold or punish our kids when they do something (or don’t do something) that causes us to fear for their safety? What exactly is going on there in the adult’s mind and response systems?

Also, what connections might be drawn between parents who respond immediately to infant’s cries, and a baby/toddler/young one responding immediately to the parent’s communiations?

For additional reading on this topic, please visit Dangerous Situations

Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

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From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offense of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

I Had Always Just Assumed I’d Spank My Children – One Mom’s Journey to Seeing

This is, quite possibly, the most eloquently written composition on this subject (specifically the Biblical aspect of the subject) that I have ever read.

This woman has two subsequent related posts, of which I will address in separate posts here.  But start with this.. just read and sit with it for the time it chooses to leave you its essence.

____________________________________

Grace

January 8, 2011 by discipleshipmothering

My Letter to Focus on the Family

Hi,

I am a long time listener and supporter of Focus on the Family. From the time I was a teenager, I listened to and from school and college, collecting much wisdom for the path ahead of me. A strange thing for a teen to do, I guess. But, I truly love the Lord, and wanted His best for my future. I hold a high respect for Dr. James Dobson and his marriage advice. I’ve been very happily married for almost ten years.

However, when I had my first child, Dr.Dobson’s advice nearly broke my heart. I’d always assumed I’d spank, and followed his advice for my spirited 2 year old. I cannot express to you in words how wrong it felt. The spirit of God was convicting me, and this precious son, whom I’d nursed for 21 months, and had continued a very close, in-synch relationship with, even through the addition o a new baby, when he was 28 mos….become afraid and distrustful of me. Not only that, it wasn’t working to improve his behavior. He fit the bill for “strong-willed”, certainly. But, could he be beyond hope, since the very method tailored to his personality wasn’t working?

With much prayer, my husband and I began to research other discipline methods. I came across gentlechristianmothers.com in my search, and discovered some very eye-opening statements about Biblical discipline.

Out son is now 4 yrs old. We are complimented often, at church, by family and friends, and even by strangers, on how happy and well-behaved our children seem. Life is not perfect, and he’s not a perfect child. But, we are a much more peaceful, loving family since learning to discipline with the Grace of Jesus.

What I see lacking on your website is acknowledgement that these verses in Proverbs may not mean what we think they mean. You can do the research yourself and find that there are many reasons to doubt that these are commands to hit children. More than likely, they are wise principles for being a constant source of authority for our children. The OT has many things to say that are covered under grace. Another good example is the treatment of women caught in adultery. We all know how Jesus chose to react. This should be the ultimate example, among many in the NT, of how to apply grace.

I write this because the advice from Dr. Dobson about strong willed children is at worse, very dangerous advice for new parents. And, at the very least, it is impractical and unecessary. I say dangerous because it’s using God’s Word to convince parents they must hit their children. I believe there are FAR more Biblical principles we can apply to child discipline, besides a few commonly misunderstood proverbs, written by a king who ended his life in such disgrace against God, and was held with such irreverence by his own sons  (Solomon). Let’s instead apply the wisdom of Christ, Himself.  How did He disciple? How did He view children? What principles of love, forgiveness, reproof, and correction can we glean from the NT church?

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind completely about spanking. It is so ingrained in our culture, most people don’t think twice about NOT doing it, as I once thought. However, I hope my letter will at least open the eyes of Focus on the Family and it’s wide-spread influence, to impact the world with Christ’s love.

My husband and I have experienced a total life change, and it has not been easy in the face of criticism. But, thus far, it has been one of the best decisions of our young life. It is my prayer that one day, Dr. Dobson will realize his mistake and change his heart on this subject.

Many Prayers,
(My Real Name)

I’ll keep you posted if I receive a reply.

 

Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.

 


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offence of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.

 


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

Conveniently Artificial

From my FACEBOOK comment…. Continued here – and rather oddly placed in this blog, but the concept here is much farther reaching than its content alone.

Try this on – A society that in general, and as a whole, for as many years as is well documented, views women as inferior.  Why? My guess is it all stems from the survival of the fittest instinct that runs rampant, especially in males, and women are in a position where they need the physical efforts of men, especially while pregnant.   Could a society void of men survive?  From purely a physical survival standpoint, minus reproduction, yes.  Would it be more work for all women? Yes.  My guess is after a few generations, the women would adapt and their bodies would be bigger, to support the physical demands of the absent male bodies.

Wet nurses were a necessity in the event that the mother died, was too ill to produce milk, or… absent.

 

Now the rest of it…

I heard an argument once that a woman was disgusted by the thought of having another woman’s breast feeding her baby.  Science defeats this theory, given the woman tends to hygiene.  She could eat terribly, but hydrate properly, and her body would still come up with something capable of nourishing and sustaining, maybe even benefiting the infant.  You know what? In the south, women discovered something, their slaves made wonderful nannies. So wonderful that many women would force the slave to stop tending to their own babies so that they could nurse the master’s infants.  Boy, it was good that formula had already been invented because in the rare event that a slave was solo and didn’t have another slave to nurse her baby, while she was off nursing the master’s baby, the slave’s baby would die.  Perhaps preferable to many slaves, but as the slave’s status followed the mother, not favorable to the slaveholder.

“Make babies!”  The slaves were ordered to.

“But nourish my baby!”

Why?

The slaveholder was busy being a society woman, with her many slaves to show off among other things… but tell me, with the horrible opinion and assumed inferiority of slaves, why did these female slave masters assume the milk that came out of those brown breasts was safe for their baby’s little white mouths?  I suspect it was the same thing we know today, and instinct is what it is – breast milk is just that, and the baby needs it.  If it comes out of a breast, it is liquid gold, and it is what new life needs.

So, that takes us into the previous century, when a new reason became apparent for substitute human milk.  As Kate stated above – women joined the war effort.  As equals?  No.  Not only were they not given the same recognition and compensation as the males who were exerting just as much effort as the females, but the females had an extra burden to carry, that of motherhood.  While the men were off chasing their anger and proving their self righteousness, the women were obligated to support that game, tried to insist on equal recognition when it wasn’t automatically given, and managed to keep having and caring for the offspring that was continually created due to human nature running its course.

Were wet nurses in existence during the world wars of the early 20th century?  Yes, especially where there were enough women not stuck in a factory to provide for such a luxury. But, with the advent of society and/or, in stark contrast, families that settled themselves on land in the west that was annexed for their use, wetnurses became much less common.  Though some of those “settling” families saw fit to “employ” indigenous women to supply this crucial aspect of early life… much like the women in the south who turned to their slave’s breasts.

Enter mid-century, the silently tumultuous and oppressed 50’s, where, after centuries, women suddenly found their voices. Unfortunately for them, in the face of no equal respect for their contribution to humanity, yet in their need to demand appropriate recognition and compensation for their efforts and contributions, they went about forcing the issue the only way they could see how.  They decided that to prove they were not inferior to a man, they had to behave like men – like the very 1/2 of society that had managed to collectively raise itself into a stupor of superiority – at least those that came from the European influence (other regions as well).

Well, if a woman has to behave like a man to be considered as superior as man, there are a few things that happen (and that don’t).  First, she has to be capable of doing and managing the exact same situations that a man is capable of.  Funny how the men throughout history, have never had to prove the same the opposite direction – though I see some indication that may happen in the near future.

Second, while women conducted themselves during the day in the same environment that the men were in, those environments were not conducive for their children. Women couldn’t assemble or type very well while holding a baby at the breast, or chasing a toddler.  Men couldn’t assemble, type, or have adult conversations while chasing toddlers either.  Women seem to have the conversation ability a bit better figured out… while chasing 10 toddlers. Sort of.

See, when we forget how valuable each of our unique contributions are, we have to compensate to survive.  Instead of working together, which some societies still actually manage to succeed at (though few and rare), we tear each other apart.  And in so doing, the most helpless of our society suffer the most.

My life is a bit of a paradox in that I spent  my 20’s functioning in a career where I did manage and accomplish the exact same tasks and situations that my male co-workers did.  And when I discovered I was being paid less than my lateral male associates, I caused the situation to be remedied.

I have always taken a stand for “equality”, but not until the recent years have my eyes been open.  I no longer see women needing to demand equal consideration and recognition with most men, but they are now waging this battle among themselves.  I also now see men being diminished systematically by the very women (and their daughters) that took the only route they could come up with to make a difference in how they were treated. Albeit a sad route.

We are such an intelligent creature, are we not.

Now, in my 30’s, as a mother who has to routinely stand up for myself because somehow the work I do raising my daughter is viewed as something less than a career worth recognizing (let alone, the most crucial in the continuance of the species), I am starting to see a bigger picture.  Originally, it was men vs women, but now, more and more, I experience women vs women.  And in the process, we have shrunken the men to the point where many of them won’t even lift a finger to help us because they know we’ll criticize and belittle them for doing so.  This is not what was supposed to happen.

The fact is, that in order for a woman to work somewhere that doesn’t include her nursing child be with her continually, the child must take second chair.  Whether this means with formula, bottles of breast milk that the mother regularly manages to pump, a wetnurse, daycare, or some other solution, a substitute for mom must be acquired, on all fronts, while mom is away being comparable to the men and other women.

I develop websites.  I teach English to foreigners. I taught teens to drive for 6 years.  I teach music – multiple instruments.  I am a musician and artist.  I am a teacher – and now I independently educate my daughter.  I have been a nanny.  I have been a manager of others.  I have been a technician and responsible for lots of important (to those I worked with) stuff.  I write.  I speak publicly.  Someday I may run for office.  I am crunchy, advocate for animals, and try to protect our natural environment.

I am a wife, a soul mate that is a partner 100% and then some.  I am a mother, who believed in the strength of her body, the abilities of her body to naturally function, and believes in respect and wholly loving her child.

We are all connected.

So, in my Utopian society, we respect our men for their strength, their ability to solve problems, their physical ability to lift things that would wreak havoc on my body if I did it.  We would appreciate men for their sensitivities, their attentiveness, their protective and loyal qualities, and their ability to remain childlike while carrying the weight of a man with many children to feed, at the same time.

In my Utopian society, we would honor our women for their ability to nurture life, comfort the weak, teach compassion, organize insurmountable orchestrations of accomplishment (while nourishing life, sometimes), and heal wounded souls.

Further, we would value our children and the future so much that we, as adults, would never do anything to retract, degrade, diminish, harm, or hurt them.  We would not even go so far as to settle for anything less than the most healthy, most positive, most productive, and most beneficial environments.  This, my friends, is why I like Star Trek.

Hitting our children is not a productive and positive solution for a happy childhood and happy, non-harmful adults.  We know this now. Neglect and surrogate care is not what the child needs.  We know this now, thank you chimpanzees.  Women are valuable and do not do well when beaten or oppressed.  We know this now.  Men are valuable and do not do well when not appreciated or diminished.  We know this now.

Preserved meats are damaging and we all know it now.  Chemically altered anything is potentially harmful.  We know it and are learning more and more daily.  Artificial anything has its consequences.  We are learning quickly.  Neglect and abuse of the environment is lunacy. Some of us are aware of this now.

Formula feeding is not as healthy as human milk and we all know it now. There are presumed safeties, and as many concerns for long term effects in using this artificial substance.  I dare you to prove my statement wrong.

I have a friend who cannot breastfeed; she has no breasts.  She is in her 30’s and has a baby.  She knows well about the known dangers and drawbacks of human milk substitute, as well as the many questions and concerns that are not yet fully understood or proven.  She has decided that her child is too valuable to settle for something artificial, so she has involved a couple of her friends and other acquaintances (now friends) in the task of providing her baby with human milk, until the baby itself no longer needs it (this may be a few years still).

One of the friends that supplies this woman human milk no longer nurses her own children – they have weaned themselves – but this woman still routinely pumps her milk and gives it to my friend’s family.  It’s an annoying and time consuming task sometimes (especially to those of us like me who couldn’t get a pump to work for much of anything), but to these people (both the women and the men who are very much involved) it is the only option as they refuse to settle for artificial, even if it is convenient.

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.

Working with Toddlers: Scene One

This morning my almost three year old found the “pupcake” pan.

Well, it was empty and therefore needing filling, and what better way to complete that task than to find a bunch of little things to sort into the empty cups!

We decided on rocks, as we have a large amount of them currently in what we are calling our backyard (that is all rock).

Bugs and I went out on a hunt for the most interesting, most lovely, most colorable rocks.  A few minutes later, she had a basket (actually it was Kevin’s nest – Kevin is her most favorite bird) full of “interesting treasure” to sort into the 18 or so cups awaiting her attention.

Two hours later, still interested in this activity, she decided to put all the rocks on the floor and declare the pan’s need to be empty, from there on, and for the rest of the day.  “It’s tired of the treasure rocks”, she explained.

Another 30 minutes or so, and about 1/2 dozen “oh!”, “ouch!”, and “yeeeawww’s!” later, I asked Bugs to clean up the rocks and told her that I’d help, and that my feet and knees just couldn’t take it anymore.  She was watching Oswald (the blue octopus) and sorta half way acknowledged me.

I muted the tv and asked her to tell me what she’d heard me communicate.  “Your knees and my treasure don’t have enough room for each other in this spot.”

A moment or two later, I knelt down next to where she was standing and started to pick up a few of the rocks. As I began, I said, “Bugs, are you going to help me pick up these rocks?”

“Yep!”, she chirped, while dropping to the floor to begin gathering.

We made it a game of “Bugs has amazing spy eyes that can see little, teeny rocks MUCH better than Mama;s eyes can”, and she found quite a few I missed, in fact.

Through this experience, she was able to become aware of the value of cleaning up after scattering the rocks everywhere.  She learned she has a great eye for noticing little things.  She also remembered that when she focuses on something, she succeeds at what she intends to accomplish.

She was happy to see the rocks had returned to their homes and felt no disappointment at the dismantling of her collection (is this encouraging a respect for the environment, at a very early and simple level?).

Win, Win, and Win. Can’t beat that.

The pan survived, and that’s a light house rock, by the way.

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.