Monday, 5 October 2015

Parenting is Hard, resisting makes it harder

4213466221_8c57f2309e_oThe child is standing screaming hateful words, throwing things, biting, scratching, kicking, hitting… totally gone ‘feral,’ as a friend calls it.

Everyone who has ever seen one will recognize this as an extreme temper tantrum, and just what they look like in a child older than about 3 (and adults.)

There are a lot of theories about how to handle a child whose brain has gone offline, and who is now fully out of control of all higher level brain functions. My personal favourite means is ‘don’t get there in the first place,’ but sometimes shit happens.

When it happens, it is popular to try to ‘stop it’ by doing common things.

Like the withdrawal of support and affection (sending to rooms, etc.) until the emotional expressions are all happy. Yay drugs! Choose uppers.

Like yelling. Yes, because yelling is going to calm anyone’s brain down.

Spanking has its advocates, because that won’t further overload anyone’s sensory input channels. It may push their brain into a traumatized fugue state, which probably looks like ‘it worked’ to some people who don’t know what that brain state means…

Counter-intuitively, what actually works is describing what is going on, in words.

You are really frustrated because that didn’t go your way.

How infuriating! You just want it to not have broken.

It is really important to you to get the red cup!

2698598542_4c36e163ed_oIt feels like this method will ‘give permission’ for horrible behaviour. Kids don’t think that way, so that can be dismissed without really being addressed.

It also feels like this will amplify the feelings instead of eradicate them (the goal of the three options most often recommended by ‘experts,’ as listed above) It won’t, and I can tell you why:

When you have room in your world for the expression and understanding of emotions, they don’t hang around. Emotions are like hunger: feel and understand the message of the emotion and it dissipates, just as hunger dissipates with feeding.

So, instead of leaning away from emotions hoping they’ll just go away (or trying to shout them away, ‘cause really: how can that work?) stop resisting.

The emotion is the whole reality for this child right now, with absolutely no room for the child’s tiny body to hold anything else: learning, ‘getting it,’ the message behind punishment, ‘thinking about it,’ or ‘their attention’ to be on anything but this huge emotional reality.

Yes, even if it is something ‘silly’ like the colour of the cup.

It’s not about the colour of the cup, it’s about the feelings provoked by not getting the colour right, by not being able to decide which colour is right or not being allowed or able to pick the right colour, by frustration, disappointment, rage, grief, sadness, fury, and even by simply being totally overwhelmed by having to make a decision that doesn’t matter –again—about an issue that doesn’t matter but that stops the flow of everything until it’s decided.

It’s not about the cup, it’s about the feelings.


Friday, 24 April 2015

What I “Allow” My Child to Say to an Adult


3775284087_08cc0f2d0d_oFuck off, Fuck you, Fuck me, Fuck it.

A recently circulating blog post 'Six things my kids are not allowed to say to adults,' lists all the reasons why some intensely prim mother will not allow her children to say atrocious things like 'no' and 'yeah' and 'just a minute' and 'I don't want to.'

There is even a great rebuttal, called 'Six things my kids are allowed to say to adults', which explains why every single one of those words and phrases is completely fine.

And here is my initial response to both: no mention of 'fuck' at all?


2332181561_a457f41213_oSo, I suggest to the author of the original: not allowed to say 'no' but 'fuck off' is totally fine? Or beyond your ability to imagine any child actually saying? Or perhaps you are completely deaf in that sound range?

Because dad's a sailor, and mom's a pragmatist, both our children explored the wacky and wonderful world of obscenities off and on throughout their childhoods. I'm not sure they had any nuns to shock, but I can tell you absolutely: kids whose parents have potty mouths don't swear as teens. At least not to their parents...

Whenever parents are suggesting they are in total control of their children's mouths, and have every right and responsibility to control what their children think and say, I think of two words:

humour and mercy

Humour, because really: get a grip, it's not that big a deal.

Some words (which mean the same things as other completely acceptable-for-company words) raise eyebrows because ... why? Because, frankly, when the court languages were Latin and French, the Anglo-Saxon words for excrement and fornication were 'coarse and common.' Ooh, our poor delicate ears can only hear Latin and French words for excrement, female body parts or sexual intercourse without causing fainting.


That is totally related to modern English in the Western world. Of course. That makes... absolutely no sense at all.

Fine. Let's go with that then.

And why not?

3072394014_454338f2fb_oIn an unrelated note, I can't tell you how disappointed and disgusted I was with modern English when I discovered that there has not been a new swear coined since the 1600s. Appalling lack of creativity here, people!

And, mercy, because: oh for crying out loud, they're children.

Children are (this is not allowed to be a surprise to anyone) immature. Their communication style is, concomitant to their immaturity, also (this is not allowed to be a surprise, either) immature.

Yes, really.

Surely, some mature and reasonably intelligent adult has it within their ability to understand the limitations of childhood and crank back the expectations for perfect, enlightened and mature communication skills at least until the child has most of the adult parts of their brain grown in... say, 16 or 18 years of age.

Maybe instead of attempting to control a child's mouth and all that comes out of it, the prissy mommy-blogger could try being the bigger person, grasping the immaturity of her children's verbal expressions, and understand them from a more forgiving mindset, like 'I know you're tired and hungry sweetie, and I know you don't want to clean up the toys you were playing with at Auntie Jeannie's. I wish we had a robot to do all the tidying, and a teleporter and be at our favourite buffet right now! I'm sorry, it's my fault we stayed past when we are tired and haven't had enough to eat yet.'

449123752_3ac94e3086_oThe child made a sound intended to communicate a message that was important to the child. If mommy 'gets it' why pretend she doesn't? Why be appalled at the immaturity of the method, when she could be instructive, supportive, helpful, kind, informative or, frankly, respond to the fucking need the child has expressed and grow up about expecting wise, mature and pristine communication from tiny, inexperienced people?

Why does mom get to be a big baby about how people say things to her, but expect the kids to be mature adults in all of their communication?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

How I Feel, What They’re Saying



Chatting with a friend today, I mentioned some of Don C. Dinkmeyer’s work, from Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, thus:

One of the tools I've found helpful is 'parent reaction' discover the probable underlying need expressed through [a child’s] intense behaviour.

When you are irritated or annoyed, it's probably attention the child is seeking... When you're angry or want revenge, it's probably power. When you give up and feel despondent, it's a mirror of the child having given up on ever feeling successful.

Or, as she rephrased it:

when your child does x, and you feel __________, the child needs __________.

I like it when people sort out my thoughts more clearly than I can.

What I like about this tool is that it stops asking the child the horrible question ‘why?’ Kids don’t have a clue what they’re not successfully getting that they need, whether it be attention or power or a feeling of capability.

The other thing I like about this tool is its inherent respect for the sanity and needs of the child. A misbehaving child is not insane, bad or wrong … but struggling to meet needs and attempting creative means to accomplish their valid goals.

It is valid to need attention, power and a sense of being capable. The naturally immature methods use in their bids to get what they sense they need are information and communication –not misbehaviour.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Humiliating Children as a Teaching Tool


'Other people are mean, children need to learn to handle it.'

Okay, that might be true –in fact, it probably is. But how is that related to the people closest to them, who are supposed to cherish and nurture them, being mean? Intentionally being mean!

Who are supposed to protect children from unnecessary injury and harm?

It is ironic that today it is just as popular to think kids need to be kept indoors, stopped from sledding or skating on the local pond, and kept rear-facing in car seats until they're 7 or 9 'for safety reasons' as it is for parents to publicly humiliate and shame children.

Why is the only perceived protection or safety children need physical? Do they have no need at all for emotional or psychological safety?

And, seriously people! Is there no way to teach a child how to handle the viciousness of strangers other than through the viciousness of loved ones?

There is a police initiative to combat bullying is called WITS. Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, Seek help. When the parents are the ones being mean, children are supposed to Walk away? Ignore it? Talk it out (seriously, in conflict with their parents!?) or Seek help? From whom, precisely?

When their protectors and closest family are causing the hurt, who are kids supposed to go to? When it is parents hurting children's feelings, intentionally, how will a child learn to assess 'who to trust' in seeking help?

So much of this comes to the point of 'teaching' through punishment, hurt and humiliation, when one of the basic realities of learning is that in order to develop and thrive, humans must first feel safe and secure, then they can expand and try and risk. When they're hurting, protecting themselves from further harm and pulling away from the world, they are only learning that the people of the world—even the ones who 'love' them-- seek to injure them. The only thing they wonder and want to learn is 'why me?'

Too often, the conclusion kids come to is 'because I'm worthless.'

Please don't teach your children that they are worthless.