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.

One Kid Spared.

In March of this year (2010), I began this blog.  I honestly expected a very limited audience and wrote primarily out of my own need to purge.  However, within the first week, 400 people had viewed the site.  A month later, Google was indexing the blog and that 400 a week sprang up to 400 a day.

9 months later, we have surpassed 5000 readers a week – on average there are 300 unique views of at least one entry per day.  Most of these viewers don’t stop at just one entry either.

What does this mean?  Perhaps it means that there is a chance that a few children are going to sleep tonight with a little less fear in the hearts, and fewer bruises on their body and soul.  Maybe it means a few less children will grow up damaged.  For these children, perhaps love and respect, honor and safety will prevail, and what could be worth more?

To date, I have received confirmation of 7 families who no longer choose to harm their children in the name of discipline and order.  To me, this is amazing and is all the incentive I need to keep writing. Confirmed means they communicate with me either via comments or direct email and our conversations include their choice to stop punishing and harming their children, in favor of raising them with love, respect, and admiration. They are actively choosing to stop damaging their kids, stop heaping guilt upon themselves due to the constant struggle and failure following the Pearls (etc..) brings, and stop hurting the little ones that hold our future, in the name of anything (order, good parenting, God).  These families are relearning how to be parents, how to be children, how to be a family that loves openly and encourages life and childhood to thrive genuinely and freely.

You keep me going.

The hope that even one child might no longer suffer under the damage and abuse is THE reason I write.  That which I experience personally when I actually learn that my hope has taken the shape of reality for one of these kids is beyond words.

We Have a House Again…

We finally, finally closed on the house yesterday.  Life can now begin to normalize.

I haven’t the energy today to give many details, but will soon.  And please forgive me if this is a bit scattered.  I don’t have much in the way of focus to give my writing right now, but need to try, for my own sake if nothing else.

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One of the topics I hope to begin writing on (the list is growing, I know) is the growth, stress, difficulty, and healing this entire journey has provided for us.  It’s extensive.  But one area most applicable to this blog is how the entire adventure has affected my daughter.  She is now almost three, and yesterday she learned that she is going to have yet another new place to live.  I can’t get into the specifics right now, but want to say a little about why I am so happy we have managed to establish the sort of relationship we have with our kiddo.

When her Papa told her about the house yesterday, he did so in a manner of excitement and happiness.  She didn’t respond like he thought she would.  Her response was one of fear, dread, anxiety, and tears.  We both flew into action to try to comfort and ease her concerns, but it didn’t help.  So, I shifted gears and instead of trying to “make it ok”, through her tears I spoke to her as I would another close friend.  The parent to child dynamics took a back seat for a few moments, while I simply told her the facts.

She quieted her tears enough to hear me… I explained that we now have two houses. I explained that we still had our existing house (she calls it our “TaosHouse”) and that we now also had a new house to play in.  She insisted that we needed to go to our “hotel home” (this is her safe place, nothing there scared her).  I told her we may spend a little more time in a hotel home, but that we would have all our stuff (ran through the list of items she has mentioned, like her purple bed, etc) in our new house in just a couple of days.

I spoke to her in a direct & connected manner, and as an equal.  She is not quite three.  She understands me completely and there is no speaking down or minimizing when we speak with her.  I can level with her, share with her, and interact with her authentically and with mutual respect and equality.  I don’t choose to be the authoritarian, the babysitter, or the “parent” that uses strict regimen, discipline, punishment, and constant harping. Our relationship wasn’t set up this way and such dynamics are unwelcome by both kid and parents.

We co-exist.

She learns, I learn.

She explores, I guide.

She asks, I answer.  I ask, she answers.

We feel, we love, we strive for harmony.  We have challenging days sometimes too; I call her out on her difficult mood, she holds my nose to the ground when I’m grumpy. I know life isn’t always harmonious, really… take a look at the last 16 weeks… BUT we keep harmony and happiness as our goal and we usually sit in the calm and contentedness that this goal provides.

Does she throw a fit sometimes? Yes.
Do I?  Uh-huh.
Is she annoying some times?  Yep.
Does she think I’m just plain frustrating? Yes
Am I impatient sometimes?  That too.

We communicate to each other how our choices affect one another.  The resulting two-way communication is generally sufficient to restore harmony.  I try to find tangible ways of explaining feelings to her, seeking harmony, respect, and happy interaction in the future.

And in the situations where I have unfortunately given in to my own weakness and insisted on my will instead of asking for her cooperation and working with her to achieve harmony, the result is my deep regret.  Behaving this way never makes anything better for any of us. I may get what I want, but I also get a whole bunch of what I don’t want.  I lose her trust in me as her “mama” and turn into just another mom.  In those moments, I lose her respect as a result of my choice to demonstrate a disrespect toward her. We lose our harmonious, peaceful environment, and either petulance or dark melancholy sets in.  BUT, ALAS, I GOT COMPLIANCE.

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My daughter, at 2, understands so much.  She is fully aware, even when I wish she were not.  Especially when I wish she were not… when I desperately wish I could spare her our reality.   Yet, she is not a task, a chore, or something to be conquered. She is what I choose to give my energy to, she is so much.

 

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!

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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.

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“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.

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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.)

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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.

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