Question: How do you implement non-punitive parenting [and whole-life unschooling]?

Remember so long ago when I wrote a primer on non-punitive parenting? That got a fair number of shares on Facebook as well as several emails, tweets, and comments that asked for more information or follow up.

But, I had a hard time thinking of how to write another piece for many reasons. One, I wasn’t sure if I should write to parents-to-be (who may be more open-minded to such ideas), or write to those who’d already had bad experiences or results from mainstream parenting strategies (in other words, who could use some help, but already had specific problems developed between themselves, their children, and other adults – the latter class who may or may not be supportive of non-coercive/manipulative/authoritative strategies). And really, that last little bit is crucial. Assisting families out of harmful patterns and (seemingly) complicated impasses is often best done with specifics discussed, and at length. To that end, I am always willing to respond to emails and assist anyone as best I can (kelly AT hogaboom DOT org). I do this writing and work for no other reason than I am passionate and I want to help families live in harmony, freedom, and with intelligence and respect.

Fortunately, a reader and Twitter friend gave me a few direct questions about her specific situation and I was able to write her. After the first bit of our exchange I asked her permission to publish her query and my response, as I thought it might help other readers (please remember anything written to me is considered fair game for publishing, although if you have any specific objections let me know as I am often wont to honor them). So here’s a scenario-specific followup.

***

This is Sandi, @5and1 from twitter. I’ve seen you link some really interesting things about non-punitive parenting and unschooling and I’d really like to learn more. I’ve looked a bit on your website but if you have other resources I’d love to read them.

A bit about my family. I have four year old boy/girl twins. We co-slept for a year and a half, and I nursed them for almost two and a half years so I’m used to being labelled as a hippie by my friends and family. My kids are whip smart but have room to grow socially. They have been in preschool for a year and are really excited to start back again.

We don’t spank but we do do time outs. I am realizing that they are not effective so I’m trying what I call time ins. The kids have to sit with me and once they are able to we talk about what has happened. But. Even that is not always effective. I am way more shouty than I care to admit. I never thought I’d be this kind of parent. I know that it could be a lot worse but I see that there is loads of room for me to improve.

So what has worked for you and your family in terms of non-punitive parenting? How have you implemented unschooling?

Thank you for the generous offer to give me more information!

Hello Sandi!

I think it is wonderful that you’re seeing the limitations of punitive, authoritarian, manipulative, and/or coercive parenting. Many if not most adults are quite sure these strategies are necessary, and very fearful that if they were to abandon them for something else the results for parent and child would be horrific or at the very least, highly uncomfortable and inconvenient.

My kids are “well-behaved” (whatever that means! – I only report what many grownups tell me, here), literate and life-skills proficient, social, intelligent, strong, loving, empathetic, self-directed (now there’s a value you won’t see most school environs fostering or supporting in a meaningful way) and this is all despite the many many times I’ve fallen well-short of my ideals and been quite ungentle – and resorted to punitive or authoritarian strategies. I too was for a long time able to report “I never thought I’d be this kind of parent”. This was made confusing by many factors, especially considering that before I had children, I’d never been a violent person or rather, had not considered myself one. It was a very discouraging revelation to find out I was, or had that potential as a parent. But I have resolutely used my experiences to delve deeper into the roots of my story and my inner states of spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as developing and writing with a critical eye towards the narratives society purports – which are often quite harmful. The results are pretty good, in that we’re a happy family as far as I can tell, my kids are thriving without school or authoritarian/authoritative edifices, they tell me I am a wonderful parent, and I am committed to further improvement, god willing.

So as for being a “shouty” parent, or behaving in ways you never thought you would – welcome to the human race. I have not met a parent/carer who would claim perfection in the ideals they wish to live out, although I have met some who seem not to examine their own behaviors very closely, nor evidence corrections. I never want to sit back and justify my bad behavior or poor strategies, and leave it at that. I want to, and do, pick myself up, apologize, strive to do better through mentors and/or spiritual practice or whatever works. Sometimes I think I will never get it “right” but – that’s okay. The days I think, in so many words, I’m doing so awesome at this gig!, and compare myself favorably to other parents (ugh, yes, I do this sometimes), I’m usually overlooking something and I am definitely suffering from major cases of Ego and Denial! Usually these spates are followed by me having a massive and inappropriate blowup at my children.

So, you asked about my family. My kids are 7 and 9. Raising them as we have, they are very adept at handling themselves in many situations I notice schooled kids, parented in mainstream and authoritarian fashion, tend to be less competent with. They also seem very happy, well-rested, well-fed, and physically and “academically” active (the latter: they read, study, teach themselves skills and world science, do math etc. on their own). The factors I’d say contribue to our successes (such as they are):

1. a knowledge and acceptance that to live the way we wanted required financial sacrifice (specifically, of a fulltime income),

2. a partner who is in as complete agreement with these principles as is possible or likely in another human being, and who is as committed as I to our role as parents, and our passion to sort out problems when they arise (I don’t think a partner is necessary to so-called whole-life unschool, but if you have one that is in disagreement with these parenting values and practices, this can add some complexity),

3. freedom and autonomy given the children as much as they request (example: today the kids know they can choose school if they ever want to try it out),

4. complete inclusion of the children as to how the family runs itself and why, and a regarded voice in all decisions.

When it comes to freedom and autonomy for children as well as their vote, my main regard is safety as is age- and child-appropriate on a case by case basis. It seems to me safety concerns take a more active role when a child is very little. But in raising kids the ways we have, it is incredible to me how adroitly they master concepts of personal safety and how quickly they are to take suggestions, directions, and/or advice from a parent who they’ve come to trust via their own experience, and trust at a deep level.

By the way, I have realized that “time ins” can be tricky too, because we may still be forcing our will on our children. If children respond well to “time ins”, use them! But I suppose if pressed to comment I would say it’s better if kids are immediately removed from hurting one another, or humanely separated if need be, in a non-punitive nor angry fashion. Then each child should be loved up or given attention to in whatever way seems best, making sure your OWN needs are as reasonably met as possible before doing so (learning to meet one’s own needs, with regularity, is a challenge but well-worth the effort). Later in the day when things are calm a brief, age- and child-appropriate approach to conversation may be introduced, but watch and see how interested, if at all, the kids are in this. The separation, whereby you keep the kids safe, and respond with calmness as to whatever need they may have (food, attention, a quiet space, a LOUD ROWDY space, whatever it is), and later discussion with your partner or mentor as to the children’s possible deeper needs, is probably the most effective treatment in the long term. Over time kids will trust you to keep them safe while not trying to direct their feelings, actions, thoughts, etc. This in turn gives them room to develop better strategies and participate in family life in a more self-authored and likely more helpful way.

Obviously what I describe above, especially for young children, is time-intensive and means being able at any moment to put your work on the back burner. I just want to acknowledge this, because few adults seem to give primary carers respect for this aspect of a difficult job! This time-intensive nature was a fact of parenting my young children, but I will add that so soon the kids grow and need so much less physical constancy – and also that I miss the intimacy of my infant and toddler years, and in no way regret the efforts I put in during those times.

And on that note – your children are young enough they likely can’t be left unsupervised for much time at all. You also mentioned on Twitter that you work out of the home. I don’t know if you have a partner and if he/she is interested in the tenets of whole life unschooling, or life learning, or whatever label we’re calling it. All of these listed factors matter. However, I am convinced no matter what our particular circumstances are we can always move away from harmful practices towards ones that better reflect our ideals. So please do write more, with specifics, if you want to, and I will respond as best I can, keeping in mind that for some situations I do not have first-hand experience (for instance: raising twins).

If I had young children and was unable to have a partner at home, I’d probably seek out care for the kids in a less academically-inclined school – like a Waldorf or an outdoor preschool (however, in my opinion it is likely better to have the kids with kind and loving adults than prescribe to a specific type of educational model, so the type of preschool etc. is less important than the leaders/directors/teachers). Alternatively, I might seek out someone such as myself, a person at-home with other kids, who could care for yours in a way you and the children would be happy with. Finally, I might also consider committing to a life where one partner can be at home, if he/she can do so with a willing spirit (and I can speak to how exciting it is!). I might also consider living on student loans or some other form of assistance for those early years. These are all deeply personal decisions, especially that of working in-home without pay nor status, and I will say there is a phenomenal lack of support for kid-care work should you or partner choose it, or should you seek to have it personalized. Just things to be aware of, because my experience is that in having my children out of mainstream school/daycare structures I am often asked, basically, to explain or justify myself! *grin*

If you have any questions or desire clarifications please let me know. Realize also I am only a person raising my children and (to a lesser extent) other children around me. I have no professional qualifications that make me an expert on much of anything. I am passionate about these ideals and happy with the way we live – but I am human and fallible and have many lessons to learn. I write and share like I do because of how many adults have requested it, and how many have told me it has helped them.

Thank you for your query!

LOL J/K!

Friday links! You thought I’d forgotten? No way.

Patterns By Figgys, Sewing For Boys

From my little world: the book by Figgy’s is out, and I am so pleased! I spent a lot of time pattern-testing, giving feedback, searching for typos, and of course my little kiddos and husband were involved as well (Nels is featured in the pages of this lovely book and he is SO CUTE)! But my family’s involvement and efforts as compared to that of the authors is nothing. Karen and Shelly worked their asses off on this project. I can honestly say if you or someone you know wants some great patterns for kiddos infant to size 6/7, this book (which includes all patterns) is a wonderful investment.

First and best thing coming to mind this week: creative refutions of gay marriage protest signs. SO GOOD!

The Gay Agenda

Next: David Walliams swims the Thames. One more reason to be so in love with him.

I want to own a dress. OK, I own one dress (a light black cotton affair wonderful for the summer, and gifted me by the lovely Karen). This is the second dress I want to own. I recognized the dress and the movie right away – from a viewing many, many years ago. I have almost half the price tag saved up! We’ll see if that doesn’t get derailed by stuff like groceries or tacos.

Art: The Moody Nest. I like it.

Make: a digital camera more rugged. Very cool!

Birth Matters – And So Do Mothers and Kids by Wendy Priesnitz. Both mainstream culture and mainstream feminism exclude many groups – Ms. Priesnitz speaks eloquently to a more mature feminism. I’m ready for it, just wish more feminists were too!

To Those Who Call Me An Unparent at Demand Euphoria. This was cathartic to read! I have no idea if I parent like Vickie or not, as I’ve not read more than three posts on her blog – although you could certainly label us “radical unschoolers”. I do hear, from the rest of the world, ALL SORTS OF PREDICTIONS at how awful kids will be if they’re raised with X, Y, or Z (or without A, B, and C) – and I raise my kids these supposedly-terrible ways, and my kids are turning out awesome. I think what’s most important is people are prepared to engage their minds and hearts and listen long enough to understand where the other party is coming from. This includes parenting “debates”.

So, most y’all know I’m bisexual but I tend to be kinda closet-y about it in the real world. This article speaks to many reasons why (although, unlike the author, I would claim I have a lot of straight privilege even though I’m not straight).

Via Zoie on Twitter, and posted at Dandelion Roars: Permission Granted.

Two good films I recently watched:

Fish Tank (2009). Whaddya know, a film with a 15 year old female protagonist that does it soooooo right. Jarvis & Fassbender were incredible. Some truly harrowing moments but stick with it regardless (available on Netflix Instant).

Handsome Harry (2009). I liked this less than other films exploring similar themes, but Jamey Sheridan was fantastic and so were many moments in the film (also on Netflix Instant, if you haven’t figured out this is our only “television”).

Speaking of movies. Here is a film that is likely going to be a TURDÉ of high order. & yet I know I will still see it anyway. (shameface).

Finally, enjoy the sexy-mc-sexiness mashup, which kind of also makes me feel a little sick.

much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread

NOT THE BEESNOT THE BEES

One of my favorite things about my life these days is time with my kids as well as other children. Recently when I had a few extra in tow a friend I ran into in town said I must have a lot of patience. I thought about it and it is true, I’ve learned to relate well with children, not just “good kids” or kids from “good families” (wtf people mean by that, it’s a careless thing to say at best), but with the kids that have problems or bully or are deceitful or angry or passive aggressive or plain ol’ aggressive or whatever. I genuinely like kids, probably a teensy bit more than I like grownups, but I’m learning to like adults a lot too. I only wish I had a bigger car and more money and I’d have a lot of them, the kids, around as much as possible.

When I contemplate this it’s actually kind of incredible. I still believe children are kinda routinely squashed in home and schools and institutions, squashed in just about every way you can squash someone, and they usually have to move out from authoritarian paradigms when they come to our place. And it works out really really well actually because I can just address stuff head-on and kids are fucking smart. So even “bad kids” (whatever, I could write more on this but won’t for now), I haven’t so far often been at a loss.

But what’s more incredible still is to contemplate my own nature. I grew up first of all, not being classified as a Patient person. At all. I would never call myself Patient even today. I also grew up believing/being told that kids were kind of a drag, they were messy and annoying and uncouth and unsophisticated and stressful to be around and not perceptive nor moral et cetera (so of course, my job growing up was to shed these traits or at least hide them). Today I realize I believe none of these things about children at all, and I like nothing more than having kids and young people around.

I have this fantasy that’s grown within me recently that a friend or someone local would take their kids out of school and entrust the kids to my care while the parents worked. Of course the parents involved would have to be totally on board with the way we do things around here, I mean really a model of trust and non-coercion. And it’s late because we’ve been up working and playing hard, so I’ll just put it plainly: it’s not even like I think of this as a vocation or “labor” I should be paid for, it’s like many parent/carers wouldn’t be willing (or able) to put forth the money for the groceries and just goofing-off money or whatever for their kids to have the life we live daily – and perhaps more relevantly, really many parents aren’t able to trust the process of kids growing outside institutionalization. I know this is silly but I wish I could afford to feed and care for more of them. Then I think my kids are going to grow up and we won’t get the opportunity to share this kind of living on a regular basis. Phoenix and Nels don’t complain for a lack of friends or activities, it’s really just something I am starting to long for but feel I have no ability to enact – and am not really sure of my motives in any case.

But – tonight we had a bonfire and roasting marshmallows and music and goofing off and ringtone downloads and wrestling and a lot of joking around and teenagers over until way past curfew. It was fucking great.

In bits and pieces I get to have this tribe, and it’s always lovely when I do.

Coffee Shop, 3 Out Of 4

***

I forgot to mention, yesterday Phoenix became angry with me and slammed the door – unfortunately, catching her own finger and hurting it horribly. Even though we immediately iced the injury for quite some time, by morning her nailbed was black and the end of the finger was painfully swollen. She told me yesterday she didn’t need the Emergency Room (contemplating both the trouble of going at that particular time, and the cost to our family), but today we went to the doctors’ where I came to realize she had made a good choice in electing to do so. The injury was bad enough to require treatment – specifically, trephination with an electric cauterizing lance, and that is as bad as one might think it is. At her request I held and kissed her forehead as her tender finger’s-end was cleaned with iodine (which hurt badly enough, I could see), then her nail was lanced three times as the doctor tried to relieve the pressure and finally blood spurted out then was squeezed out for a few minutes by the physician. Phoenix cried hot tears and wailed softly but did not scream nor move or waver; it was quite horrid and beautiful at the same time to watch her cope. She elected not to take pain medicine after, but over the next hour I saw her relief and I saw her come back to her old self.

So now in the car heading home in the sunshine (Nels spent the visit in the waiting room, talking with younger babies and children and their carers) I tell my daughter, “Phoenix, at one point you said you couldn’t take the pain but you did take it. You elected that treatment and you coped all by yourself.” She tells me, “I didn’t cope by myself, I had you with me.” I say Yes but, it wasn’t me that had to go through the pain. She replies: But you had to watch your child in pain. That must be so hard. And she cries again, silent tears, but for me this time. Empathy.

I feed the children and bring them home and to their father and their friends. I am curiously drained by the past hours of my daughter’s pain and anxiety. She had also felt a fair bit of guilt over hurting herself and this troubles me as well – but I know this is her path, today, however much a part I have been instrumental in it. She holds my hand and I think to myself how glad I am for our closeness, how I wouldn’t want things any other way.

It’s like I awoke from a dream, parts of it quite desperate and lost, to realize that through all my mistakes and difficulties I held onto some shred of decency and did an okay job in mothering. So far. And I hope to still improve. I am amazed at these children I live with and what they are able to cope with, who they evidence themselves to be, and what they do and do not need from me. Today my daughter took the lead and she was wiser than I, but I also have cause to believe I helped her in the right way.

There’s not much more I’d want to report, really.

Present

do you like horses

ridikkulous

A letter from Mohandas Ghandi to Hitler. I do not joke. Hey, those without Google+, can you see this link, or do I need to correct it?

Film review: excellence, excellence at Tiger Beatdown re: American Psycho (the book and film); also, some “Crazy Bitches” from seminal films of my childhood, offered up at Bitch Media. Finally: Tropes vs. Women: The Mystical Pregnancy from Feminist Frequency. #w00t

This Is Not an Onion Parody of How Fox News Would Cover Obama’s Birthday

Weight Stigma – Why it hurts… by Janet Zimmerman

I submit this piece in rebuttal to the many who think self-shaming (and other-shaming) are necessary or productive forces with regard to “health” (meaning, weight/size). The science is in (and has been and continues to support the fact that): weight/size stigma leads to more weight fluctuation, long-term weight gain, disordered eating, and low self-esteem. As a parent and someone who works with and sees a lot of kids on a daily basis – and loves these children deeply (“fat shaming for four year olds”, just the most recent piece in the blogosphere), I – frankly – want the cycle to end.

But, I always have to laugh about studies on social justice issues – because people will continue to believe their bias in the face of any evidence, and I know this. If science doesn’t convince my dear reader, I’d ask you to look deep into your heart and ask if shame and guilt and fighting with ourselves (and others) has ever brought you true, lasting, happy, healthy change – while keeping you present for, caring of, and compassionate towards others.

I’ll wait.

Meanwhile! Make: Indestructible Capri Sun Wallets

Fake logos from the movies! This? Is so incredibly cool. Your favorite?

Reviewed at Bantam Street: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962). Classic! And one of my first exposures to “MST3K”; I’d love to see “Elvira’s Movie Macabre” version.

Pretty: “Auntie Peggy Has Departed”, an art installation

I was asked what “snorgling” means. Here’s a definition. And here is a tutorial:

 
The table of contents for the next Life Learning Magazine. I seriously cannot wait, especially for Couture and Swindler’s pieces.

Finally: last night Amber, Jasmine & I were tasked with coming up with band names for Ralph & co, re: his latest music project. Here are some he rejected (probably representing about …. 25% of our silly assery):

Assquatch (also, sadly, already taken and… all kinds of horrible)
Muffintops
Vulva
Grassbacks
Marble Smugglers
Summer’s Eve
Angeltits
Vagzilla
Shit On A Shingle
Pap Schmear
Duck Lips
Snakelight (these latter three were from our gynecological-exam inspirations)
Shart Week*
Showboat Pork N Beans

do you like horses

* Ralph later corrected me: It’s Shart Weak.

We cannot control the evil tongues of others; but a good life enables us to disregard them

Outdoors

I am not as strong spiritually as others may think. Case in point, it is still alarming for me to hear adults’ negative opinions of our lifestyle through the commentary of these grownups’ children. This can’t be avoided, really, for a lot of reasons – one of which is our lifestyle and parenting philosophies are different than many families – and many people respond to perceived challenges with attitudes and positions of fear, judgment, or anger. Also, many families struggle with a variety of issues and doubtless lash out; they are truly in some sense miserable enough to do so. I can understand this on a cognitive level, but try telling my heart it’s all Okay.

For me, who I am today, the friend or “friend” who is unsupportive or speaks ill of my family is a painful party to consider. Given my weakness, I would rather they just ignore me than shit-talk, back-talk, or judge. And this is made all the more odd as I have little or nothing to hide and life is good in our home. It’s something about others harboring Hate, however tiny, directed at myself (or perceived as such), that makes me feel about a quarter-inch tall. As I told a couple friends earlier tonight, its’ not the subject matter itself at all. When it comes to living without compulsory schooling, even the familiar and repetitive questions by strangers (“But what about socialization?”*) seem at least direct and (usually but not always) put forth in good faith. It’s something else to consider a friend actively holding a resentment.

But the occasional times I receive a negative bit of gossip, or hear our life and our parenting drug through the muck, my response shows me I haven’t yet learned the lesson – you know, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” And I note as well I’m not sure what special privilege I seem to think I deserve that I should be immune to people’s Assery.

Daily I evaluate the life we live: myself, our family, my friendships, my role as a citizen and friend to the world. I do the best I can with what I have. Pondering the pain I feel today, I am glad for something recent in my life: see, a while back it became obvious to me I needed to stop speaking ill of people, even when “safe” or near someone who would not dispute nor challenge this sort of behavior (or even someone who themselves would feel relief in a few moments of gossip, that delectable dish). This life is lived not to be “good”/”nice” nor to try to bargain karma, or even to be a good friend (although it does make me a better person), but to quit making myself Sick, because Sick indeed I have been. Even with my husband I counsel him to be cautious what we say, for our own sakes’ as well as that of our children who stand to learn our attitudes. Even in the privacy of our own home.

For much of my life I have not lived this way. Months ago I would not have thought this was a possible way to conduct myself, nor even relevant. But today it’s a major cornerstone of my life.

“Never speak disparagingly of others, but praise without distinction… Pollute not your tongues by speaking evil of another.”

I do take this seriously, as hard as I find to live it sometimes. I thank my life’s experience and my Higher Power for the lesson.

* More awesomesauce here.

Well, there was the bit that you missed where I distracted him with the cuddly monkey then I said “play time’s over” and I hit him in the head with the peace lily.

Friday linkage (my apologies I missed last week)! Short, but sweet:

Got Milk? Got Misogyny at Soc Images. The PMS thing is such crap. I’ve been pretty good at ignoring it much of my life. I find it terrifically interesting our culture holds that normal biological or physical processes of women are inherently flawed, scary, silly, unmentionable, gross – or all the above. I’m pretty much done with that, how ’bout you?

Oh and speaking on that – Tami Harris has some choice words on a few recent commercials which are almost unbelievable even as experienced by my tired-out leathery-psyche of anti-kyriarchal cynicism. Just: wow.

An Apology To Parents at PickleMeThis – now admittedly these sentiments seem like only the beginning of a greater understanding of adultism and attendant misogyny, but heck, it’s a good beginning. This entry seems a lot better off than I was for many years. I wish this person well and hope others find the words helpful.

This is over a year old; but I hadn’t shared it yet. You can read the text here. It’s well worth it.

 
New WA DUI law in effect. Anyone have any opinions? (Um, “Don’t Drink & Drive” not worth the effort to type it, so don’t, or your ass is modded).

I was also thinking – tangentially so – of my favorite film scenes involving drinking. I came up with a few. On the humor scale: Cary Grant in the beginning(ish) of North by Northwest comes to mind, as does Will Ferrell’s turn in Old School (the latter film I don’t exactly reccommend, although Juliette Lewis’ “I’m sooorrrrry” while blowing cigarette smoke is also choice!). On the awesome-in-a-drama/realistic way I’d cite the entire performance of Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (as I believe I’ve mentioned before), Paul Giamatti’s work in Sideways, and the family dinner scene in Half Nelson which makes me grit my teeth, it’s so perfect.

Teh Awesome: from one of my favorite thrillers. I would love to sponsor this one at the 7th Street!

Make: How-To: A Custom Pair of Tap Pants at CRAFT. I only own one dress but I’d like to own more. Why not have some funderwear for underneath? Instead of my usual cotton.

Make: Buttermilk Potato Salad by Martha Stewart. I made this for this week’s Conch and it was delicious!

Finally: “Red Light Bulb” by Madeline:

sewing curtains

so who doesn’t have a party to go to?

Well our party spirit is a little dampened. This morning we found out someone got ahold of Ralph’s account/credit info and cleaned us out. I mean CLEANED us out. So that was kind of fun! Ralph had to stop work early and make all these phone calls and stuff and I have no idea if we’ll get our monies back and get food and stuff! Wheee!

But nothing shall stop me from Friday’ing your ass up! Pull up a cup of joe and check the linkage!

***

Androcentrism: It’s Okay to Be a Boy, But Being a Girl… at SocImages makes valid points, plus I didn’t recognize who that was in drag at first. Pretty cool.

While we’re on the above-mentioned quote, please watch this Madonna video. MY FAVORITE PART of the video culminates at 02:49. P.S. So interesting this video got banned after the other violent shit male artists have pulled.

Tracy Morgan: If My Son Was Gay, I’d Stab Him To Death; HA HA HA that Tracy Morgan! So funny! Hm, there’s not an emoticon I can think of to type how I really feel about this. … Anyway, here’s Wanda Sykes response to Chris Rock’s defense of Morgan, via Racialicious. Thank you Ms. Sykes.

Okay, moving on. Look, I totally enjoy FYeahSeamstressTiger on a lot of levels (for instance, as I believe I’ve made my position clear long ago [#7]):

sewing curtains

 
But the aggregate effect of the occasional snooty I-can-sew-so-well-and-you-totally-don’t-get-it leaves me cold.

h/t friend Dawn for this Cute little flash animation about how we’re gonna fuck things up. IS it flash? I don’t know. I just call everything that has that look, flash.

Bullying (30): How to stop parent bullying at ronitbaras.com. The “I need to think about it” technique? Kelly-Goddamned-Hogaboom needs to practice this one.

When Homeschooling is Blamed for Child Abuse by Laurie A. Couture. Sometimes I’ve wanted to write out what’s behind the many distinct eyerolls I experience when I hear child abuse blamed on homeschooling – because it’s just laughable. Ms. Couture’s article stands on it’s own merit, however. And the last bit:

“The vast majority of parents who allow their children to learn at home are passionate about their children, love them deeply and put them, their needs and their interests first. Child abuse is a tragedy that will continue as long as this culture supports power-over, punitive, subordinating ways of treating children. Unschooling and relaxed homeschooling are part of the solution!”

Yeah, that gives me the chills.

The Link between Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders by Kendra Sebelius (also known as @VoiceinRecovery on Twitter). Absolutely bleeding edge on progressive treatment for comorbidities more common than many people realize.

Yes, I put my name on the bone marrow donor registry but I kinda want to pee in fear thinking how awful it would be to donate. I’ve given plasma before so know the whole, suck the blood out and put it back in routine (COLD blood going back into one’s body, ugh!), but the needle in the pelvis bit sounds like the real picnic. ANYWAY, truly, if I can help in this way I hope to!

Make (or at least, read about the deliciousness): red currant jam from David Lebovitz’s blog. I am new to having him in my feed reader and I’m liking what I read. His points on complaining about red currant prices are pretty rad.

This week: I watched Norwegian indie film Troubled Water, and started Canadian television series “Due South” (spoilers in both links, obv). The former is elegantly-rendered grief porn, & I say give it a miss (despite a few merits). The latter is a lot of fun, altho’ it’s so unselfconsciously mid-nineties it actually might bog me down and I might not finish. But I can’t get enough Paul Gross, he’s like Cheez-It’s to me.

Quote of the Day
Every society honors its live conformists, and its dead troublemakers. ~ Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

Tweet of the Week
Kevin Murphy, participating in a Twitter hashtag game that many others were rather vile with. But in this case – MUCH LULZ

Did that go the way you thought it was gonna go? Nope.

Short(-ish) linkage for this Friday!

An interview of Willow Smith, from a half year ago. She’s a real treat to watch. The grownups involved in talking with her (more AT her) make me laugh while they flip their shit about how AMAZING she is (I also notice they’re giving her tons of advice – does she look like she needs it? Sheesh). She really is a great kid and I’ll bet we’ll see some wonderful things from her – most likely because her parents are taking good care of her. Incidentally the condescension and hate in the YouTube comments on the source vid reveal a lot about our adultist culture.

Make: thread sketching. I’ve been doing this (as you may or may not know). Not from this tutorial or anything, but I’m passing it along because it’s fun.

Bridesmaids: Death to the Chick Flick at the Stranger (h/t Paige for sending this on). Another good review, making some salient points such as:

“[A]m I really expected to swallow the phrase “These are smart, funny women”? Really? As though that’s a sentence worth writing down, let alone reproducing in poster form. Can you imagine a poster proclaiming “Movies with men in them don’t have to suck!” or a critic writing the phrase “These are smart, funny men!” No. Because that WOULDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE, BECAUSE PEOPLE TAKE MEN SERIOUSLY BY DEFAULT.”

“You Might Be Making a Mistake While Considering Homeschooling If…” at Parent at the Helm. Nice to have a reminder of some of the reflexive stereotypes – and the easy smack-down regarding all of them. I sometimes forget. This was a witty and laid-back piece.

“Parents keep child’s gender secret” at Parent Central. I had many people send or tweet me this. I’m sorry, but the whole thing seems pretty damned simple to me, which is, good for those parents (in all the brouhaha it’s interesting those who cry foul haven’t addressed the fact that many intersex people are born and exist and would report all kinds of damage as a result of others imposing sex and gender upon them). I will address these two sentences of the rather lengthy article, briefly:

“Friends said they were imposing their political and ideological values on a newborn. Most of all, people said they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders.”

Right. FIRST, who exactly imposes political and ideological ideals on newborns (and babies, and children) – specifically with regard to gender? Oh, like LOTS OF PEOPLE (and in some rather horrid ways). Second, parents/carers who support their children instead of supporting bully and bully culture, are super rad in my book.

Third, do people really and truly think there is any evidence that random internetty strangers, Faux News fools, and talky-faced “experts” care more about Storm than Storm’s parents and siblings do? Um. LULZ.

And, on the same subject, another excellent piece from a blog I think is rock-solid: Your Baby’s Gender is a Secret Too.

Two places you might consider donating:

Deb and her boy to LiG Conference. Yes, the conference is happening NOW, but you should totes throw her some cash anyway. Trips are expensive, and the cause is lovely.

and:

fund this: matthew shepard was my friend via Angry Asian Man

Quote of the day: Every society honors its live conformists, and its dead troublemakers. ~ Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

And this – well, you’ve probably seen it, but it’s pretty much a SOLID GOLD BABY:

kids at Ocean Crest, Ocean Shores

Non-Punitive Parenting: A Starting Primer

kids at Ocean Crest, Ocean Shores

This piece was written as a participatory exercise for The Great Spank Out. All comments on this post will be heavily moderated. No comments endorsing punitive parenting will be allowed through.

***

I’ve heard every rationalization for punitive parenting in the book, and then some.* I’ve heard that using these strategies doesn’t really hurt nor humiliate a child. I’ve heard Yeah, it hurts/humiliates, that’s the point, and it works well! I’ve heard “I was hit, and I’m fine” (about… a thousand times).

I’ve heard punishing/hitting/grounding/time-outs are necessary and if you don’t do them, you will absolutely end up with “spoiled, entitled brats”. I recently had a friend tell me he thinks something is wrong with my partner and I that we do not spank (hit) our kids as a parenting tool – although he grants my children are the first children he’s ever liked. He envies our family life but holds no hope he could raise children without violence. He explained to me his carers “beat the shit out of him” (his words), but it was for his own good; he lived in a dangerous and crime- and drug-laden neighborhood.

I bring up this anecdote because it is an elegant example at the more extreme end of this (common) worldview: “the world is tough and my kid needs to know about it. I’m going to help him learn early to keep him safe.”

Even adults who admit that “spanking” is just hitting, and that we should not do it, usually still maintaining we should absolutely exploit our power position to “mold” them. These adults hold that spanking is inhumane and/or child abuse, and instead advocate for so-called “gentle discipline” methods cited as time-outs, restriction/grounding, removal of privileges, lectures, etc.

I’m going to get down to brass tacks to state in my opinion there is little difference between the following: hitting (also called “spanking”, “swatting”, “smacking”, or “beating”, depending on your culture/family), yelling at, scolding/lecturing, grounding, removing toys/items as a lesson, and “natural and logical” consequences (crafted and applied at the discretion of the parent/carer in order to groom for desired behavior or eliminate undesired behavior).

On the flip side of the coin, praise and rewards are perfectly complimentary to this type of punitive/manipulative parenting schema – and those “carrot” (as opposed to “stick”) systems are relatively common too. In fact most parents who use time-outs, threats, removal of privileges, scarcity/reward system, rely on a lot of behavioral praise as well.

So I’d imagine some people are reading (if they’re still reading) with their jaws on the floor – or perhaps they’re sporting a sarcastic smirk. To skeptics it would seem I don’t hold there’s any way one is allowed to raise a child. Next you’ll be guessing my house is a loud, craven mess with children shouting at me at the top of their lungs, their mouths set in garish and sticky Kool-aid grimaces, and that these children are the terrors of the town, and I’m in “denial” about it all, and I’m Ruining America.

Well, first of all, let’s banish this “allowed” business.

You’d be surprised what you’re “allowed” to do as a parent. Actually, everything I’ve listed above in what I’d call punitive parenting is fair game and usually encouraged in our country. Indeed, in the United States you are legally sanctioned to hit your child – as long as you don’t use an implement nor leave a mark (adult humans and domesticated animals are protected by at least the letter of the law). As for grounding, restrictions, time-outs and the rest – these are generally thought of as Good Parenting. So let’s stop with this “allowed” business. I have neither the ability, the right, nor the interest to drive around inspecting how each and every household runs their home. If you parent or care for a child you are pretty much free to do as you see fit and nothing I say here can force you one way or another.

Secondly, you should know I do not think parents/carers who employ the above listed strategies are bad people, monsters, stupid, “crazy”, or any other pejorative. If I thought that I’d pretty much think all parents/carers were jerks. I’d also have a hard time forgiving myself for my own monstrous behaviors and missteps, because for reasons I won’t go into detail here and now I have let myself and my children down many times, yes, even against my own better judgment or principles.

Shame and guilt as forces for improving one’s parenting don’t work very well. I am not here to wield a cudgel. Sadly, when it comes to parenting – or mothering, as most finger-wagging diatribes usually concern, implicitly or explicitly – almost any discussion of bad strategies vs. better ones will prod the guilt and shame injuries most parents and carers hold. Mothers especially, are held to account for any real or perceived errors, and missteps. This shame and guilt can sometimes prevent us from openly hearing what we need to. This is a sad thing, but perhaps unavoidable unless we decide not to speak frankly on these matters.

The good news is, I’m here to deliver some hope.

Because what many people are too afraid to hope for, or too convinced otherwise to entertain, is the possibility of raising a happy, healthy child – complete with a compassionate and moral and fierce spirit – without punishing them, or at least while actively resisting punitive methodology throughout their upbrininging. That’s right. No grounding, yelling, lecturing, time-outs, spanking. Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed it either – until I started experiencing it firsthand. It’s been one of the most humbling and exciting and amazing partnerships of my life. And as each year passes, our children prove we made the right choice.

Parenting non-punitively is possible, rewarding, and incredibly freeing in about twenty discrete ways I could probably list (and will do so at some point). Most parents/carers are too scared to try. They intuit, correctly, that if they attempt to give up punitive measures they will have to give up things they want. And they’re right about that. They also believe – incorrectly – that if they give up punitive measures their children will suffer for it, and in effect grow up “bad”.

Here is, as of today, my best thoughts on the sacrifices as I’ve experienced them.

Primarily, we give up the illusion of control. We don’t really have control – we have the illusion of it. We maintain the facade of control as long as our child is not developmentally aware enough to perceive how she is being controlled.

As our child grows, we may maintain this facade if our child lets us win out – because we have made things so unpleasant for her should she assert herself. Some parents are very good at this. In this stage our child begins to hide her nature, opinions, feelings, struggles and/or actions (indeed, duplicity in a child is a first-string symptom of punitive parenting).

We maintain the illusion of control until we observe our child regularly employing self- or other-harm. I am often very sad to hear adults promote narratives where their teenager “suddenly” starts acting “crazy”/sullen/angry/anxious/”like an asshole”. Predicably, many parents and adults put forth junk-science rhetoric regarding the “teenage brain”, pathologizing teens themselves and/or setting down young adult expressions of anxiety, alienation, anger, sadness or severe disassociation to hormones or some kind of temporary innate contrariety, etc. (what’s deeply sad is to witness teens internalize and then repeat this denigration and erasure; I was one of them). I personally think espousing “teen brains aren’t ‘normal'” / “teens are jerks” rhetoric is a last-ditch attempt to avoid admitting the damage many endemic mainstream parenting and teaching practices have inflicted upon our children. It’s too bad, too, because even even in cases of severe teenage behaviors, there is still hope – but not much hope, if the parents, carers, and teachers in stewardship aren’t willing to admit their own faults. I’d like to believe it’s never too late to admit our mistakes, acknowledge our fears, and in doing so improve our treatment of the children in our lives.

What else do we give up, when we decide we will no longer punitively parent?

We give up many accolades and praises from mainstream parenting “gurus”, from our family and friends, and from our micro- or larger culture. Believe me, if your child has a loud emotional display in a store (for instance) you stand to gain approving nods if you come down on the child with a stern and/or loud voice, especially if delivering a threat. If you patiently say “Thank you,” to the clerk, let your child cry, remove your child as soon as you can (with gentleness), you may very well be glared at. Giving up punitive and public parenting strategies, then, means many adults will expect authoritarian displays of you and, when you do not deliver, tsk tsk – or worse.

You may be told to beat your child. You may be encouraged (usually implicitly) to put him down or speak about him in a sarcastic and dismissive manner so he at least knows what a pain in the arse he is. Your family and peers may not support you; this is based in their fear, and has little to do with you. But it can be hard to be so unsupported when what we need, is a community to lift us up.

Fortunately, although it can sting to give up the many surface-level commendations you receive as a demonstrably-“strict” parent, if you can cast off punitive forces or provide better caregivers or environs for your child, you’ll likely soon be receiving genuine expressions of delight regarding your children’s character and behaviors. The funnest part of this is, for me, a state of far less attachment to outcome; e.g. no longer interested in claiming virtue or value as a result of my children’s behaviors. When my children are complimented (as they often are), I can know it is not me in the driver’s seat, but the kids’ own individual qualities emerging. I do not accept compliments regarding my children’s behavior, because I did not engender their good behavior but merely didn’t thwart, suppress, and twist it. My children themselves are allowed to handle those compliments as they see fit (they usually say, “Thank you.” and leave it at that).

I’m wracking my brain to think more about what we give up, but really those two things are about it (although they’re biggies, I grant it). I suppose we give up allowing ourselves episodes of retaliatory anger. Or rather, when we inevitably give in to such displays (as I do, still), we can relatively quickly abandon the premise that this is our right or responsibility, apologize sincerely if we did something asshat, and return to our better selves a lot quicker.

So that, I suppose, is the bad news. (Except you can see it really isn’t. Bad news.)

That’s what we give up.

Now: what do we stand to gain?

For one, we stand to gain the experience of a healthier, happier, braver, more empathetic, more alert, more humorous, and more fair-minded child. We also begin to see how children raised this way are less likely to experience or evidence the following: depression, low impulse control, habitual duplicity, generalized anxiety disorder, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, repetitive bullying episodes (either as the bully or the target), self-harming rituals, and susceptibility to peer pressure. Please note I said less likely. Believe me, if I knew of any formula to raise a child safe from all large-scale harms, I’d be tempted to can it and put it up in my pantry.

What do we stand to gain?

More enjoyment of our time together. More knowledge of who our children really are (and who they continue to grow to be). When we trust our children, we really trust them. It’s a wonderful experience. I’ve often been told by other parents, “Wow, I can’t believe you let your kids run a restaurant / ride the transit / pay your bills / use your phone / walk to the library. I couldn’t trust my kids to do that.” At first I thought these parents were talking into their sleeve, essentially chastising me for being me too permissive (and perhaps some of them were). But I began to understand I really do trust my children in a deeper way than many parents trust theirs. This wasn’t necessarily easily won nor is it perfectly accomplished, but is not only my experience: it is regularly remarked upon by others. I am their advocate, I am their mentor and advisor (when they need me), but mostly I am their nurturer as much as I can be.

What do we stand to gain?

Children we want to spend time with, and children who want to spend time with us.

What do we stand to gain? A home that is peaceful, fun, funny, compassionate, fierce, tender – and doesn’t feel scary … to anyone (including the parents… many whom I believe are often very scared indeed, hide it as they may try).

And a final note: although I have met other grownups who agree with principles of non-punitive parenting, I haven’t yet met one who claimed he/she had raised a child to adulthood and never hit, grabbed, yelled, or performed mean-spirited lectures, petty theft, or retaliatory creepitude (many parents/carers have done all the above). In other words, believing in a better way doesn’t automatically make one a saint. I have never represented myself this way and a parent who thinks I am doing so, is too defensive to really listen to what I’m saying.

But believing in a better way is the first step to living a better way.  I have had the honor in helping other parents and carers find this believe. And so far, it has been the most encouraging experience of my life. Not just living this way in our own household, but helping other households to find this path.

***

* Here is a working definition of “punitive parenting”, from a site called the Positive Discipline Resource Center (I have not read nor formed opinions as to the site’s content, but do find this definition to be pretty good):

“Punitive parents assume children have to feel bad in order to learn – though they may not use those words to describe it. When confronted with inappropriate behavior in their children, punitive parents search for a punishment to extinguish the behavior. Punitive tools include: time outs, spanking, lectures, grounding, loss of unrelated privileges or property, physical exercise, and physical discipline such as hot sauce on the tongue. Reward/punishment systems are part of a punitive paradigm.”

when Black Friday comes / I’m gonna dig myself a hole

Friday links, and I’m owning it!

1. This weekend we watched Trail of the Screaming Forehead courtesy of sundancenow.com, a project by Larry Blamire (who also helmed one of our family-favorites, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra). It was so much fun – so funny, clever, silly – and beautiful color (it was filmed in CRANIASCOPE). Truly a treat! The children laughed at the jokes but also took the “tension” very seriously!

2. At Underbellie: I published my piece for the Squat! Birth Journal. I encourage you to buy a copy (print or download). It’s a lovely zine by passionate people!

3. I was very impressed with “Ami’s Guide to Food Privilege: How classism, fatphobia, and various other “-isms” control what we eat”. Such a great 101 for the classist and orthorexic bile I am sad to say, I hear often enough – maybe even daily.

4. Join the “I LOVE MY BUM” Campaign! at The Discourse. AU Dr. Thomas continues to prove her awesomeness. I think I got firsties when I sent in my email, too. Hee.

5. “Guest Post: Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women”; another one to sink your teeth into, featured at TranArchism.

6. Laurie Couture writes, in her typical direct and passionate manner, “Unschooling Parents (Not School Teachers) Best Equipped By Nature to Guide Learning”. As a friend at lunch said yesterday, she thinks parents truly aren’t aware there are options besides school or at-home-school. You know… as an aside, I would hope any of my work encourages parents to find ways to be with their children and live life well. I know I’ve made a difference – and I have people like Laurie and Wendy and Idzie and Cheyenne and Jeff and Daniel, to name a few, who’ve helped me find my own way.

7. Did y’all catch the title of the last Friday link post? [ tumbleweed blows past ] Anyway, 17 year old Fiona at Rachel Simmons’ site writes the first thing on the “Rebecca Black phenomena” I’ve seen so far that was worth reading. You know what’s pretty pathetic? Full-grown people making fun of thirteen year olds (yeah, this is happening. LOTS). And saying stuff like, “I’m going to ass-rape you” and “die in a fire” (but you know, it’s just a joke! And so are all those other instances of child abuse and terror, and actual thirteen year olds that get raped! All jokes! Um… er…). Yes. That is actually happening.

8. On a lighter note, and at The Retroist: “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Memories”. As I commented, I have a special place in my heart for this film; likely primarily because I saw it as a young child. Interesting it is one of two films responsible for the PG-13 rating. Also from the Retroist: Patrick Warburton for Bugle Boy. Look, PW is a handsome guy, and that’s a very nice bod he’s sporting there outside of blue latex and all. But the soprano sax and the come-hither-I’m-dressed-in-your-shirt-teehee!, not so much.

9. “Study: 87 Percent Of Movies Would Be Better With Michael Keaton In Them”. So true!

10. While I’m excited as anyone at the so-called trend Penelope Trunk identifies in Sara McGrath’s piece, “Entrepreneur with Asperger’s on getting unschooled” (I say “so-called trend” because of course, school is the relatively new invention, not “unschooling”), I didn’t like the tone of some of her comments. Specifically: “Over the next ten years, Trunk predicts that we’ll have two classes of kids: one set who knows how to run themselves in this world and another set who needs to be told what to do.” Hissss! While I have absolutely seen many differences observable in self-direction, independence, assertion, fairness, anti-bully mindset, varied and complex social skills, and real-life skills observable in non-schooled while well-nurtured children (not just in my own children but in reading countless testimonies of other life learning / consensual living / unschooled families, children, and grown non-schoolers), I think ultimately framing parenting and childrearing in competitive terms is both a very schooly thing to do and quite unhelpful – but, unfortunately, as American as deep-friend asshattery.  In this country, raising your own children without the use of state institutional instruction/care is damned rare, and I’m wondering if the few and the brave who do it might consider distancing themselves from or even denouncing outright too much Special Snowflake MY KID WILL HAVE AN EDGE OVER ALL OTHER KIDS. Caveat: in exploring the amazing multilayered awesomeness that is life without school and non-punitive parenting, it’s been like scales falling from my eyes daily and a lovely journey. I think any amount of talking about one’s experience of this Wonderfulness is going to necessarily bring to light some of the silliness or awfulness of the live lived before, and I’m aware that be threatening for some to read. It’s a conundrum I haven’t quite figured out myself (for my part I try, when talking about our homelife, to speak in first person). I’d also point out many passionate life learners are very concerned with improving outcomes and scenarios for all children, including the 98% enrolled in compulsory schooling, and have some of the most incredible ideas about how to go about these goals.

11. Film: live-action akira adaptation: starring white people! at Angry Asian Man. This film is a classic, much beloved, and Hollywood won’t do well by it. The typical racebending aspect is just another soggy slap in the face. SMH as per usual.

12. Speaking of movies: I’m loving Anita Sarkeesian’s vlogs times one hundred. In “Tropes vs. Women: #1 The Manic Pixie Dream Girl” she does not disappoint. But you know, Portman’s character in Garden State *totally* had her own story arc. Like how she was epileptic, and her hamster died that one time.

13. Movies, again: screen giant and philanthropist and lovely woman Elizabeth Taylor dies. A lovely photo-perspective at all things amazing.

14. Bri writes a wonderful post on her experiences with a lap band. You know, that surgery that is rather dangerous and doesn’t work, but people are still quite eager about.

15. In ridiculous and gratuitous cupcake awesomeness, I submit the Cupcake Cupcake Topper and homemade Hostess cupcake cake balls (as seen on my blog yesterday).

16. Wednesday night we saw Handsome Little Devils at the college (they were fabulous!); Monday it’s the Reptile Man’s Serpentarium, and a few weeks later, the Kenya Safari Acrobats. I can speak highly of the first two experiences and I look forward to the third; what are you up to?

17. Currently listening to: Vetiver, Au PairsAdele’s “21”, and Kelis (Phoenix loves the latter two). What are you listening to?

18. Live bunnycam featuring new babies. LIVE BUNNYCAM FEATURING NEW BABIES. There is no better link to leave you with, people. P.S. a baby rabbit is called a “kitten” or a “kit”. Excuse me while I punch myself in the face. Because of the cuteness.