Thursday, 29 December 2016

18 Ways to ... fiction in childrearing

A blog has been shared around the past couple of days, from the Australian site Happy Families Family Education blog. The link is here... The title is

18 ways to a more resilient child
It is fiction.

There are not 'ways' to 'a more resilient child' ... because children are not resilient. See Dr. Bruce Perry: Children are not resilient, children are malleable... 

Seek not to make a resilient child, but a loved and cherished child.

There is some not-terrible general parenting advice in the piece... although I would re-write every single point (in grey), thus (in blue):
1. Stop saying “I’m busy
There is an old quote that “To a child, LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E.” If that is the case, I can’t help but wonder what “Hurry up” might mean to a child. Or “I’m too busy right now.”When we are too busy for our children, or when we are rushing them, they suffer. They withdraw. They miss out on opportunities to connect with us. And when they are older, our relationship with them will suffer.
1. Stop being 'too busy' doing what you don't think is important and do what you think is important 
What we do with our time demonstrates our true priorities. Is it the newspaper, other people, the computer game, the tv show -–or the people in your life? Prove it.
2. Turn off your smartphone
There may be no greater sign that you care, and that you will listen, than to power down your phone – or at least go to flight mode – when your children want your attention. Studies show, definitively, that the mere presence of a phone detracts from the quality of our conversations. Put the phone away when you are talking.
2. Use the technology intentionally, not incidentally
Do what is genuinely important to you: is it cruising through fb and instagram 80 times a day, or the people in your life? Prove it.
3. Turn off screens
Make certain parts of the day screen-free. No TV. No tablets. No phones. Just a focus on the people in front of you. That means no texting, reading, swiping, or playing games. It means no beeps, pings, whistles, or reminders. It’s just you and your kids, and conversation. Perhaps it might be at meal time. Maybe it could be while you travel. When you decide to do it is less important than making the decision.
3. Use the technology intentionally, not incidentally
Do what is genuinely important to you with your time and attention: is it the tv show, news, sports or the people in your life? Prove it.
4. Make eye contact
When your children want to connect and communicate with you, pause what you are doing and look them in the eyes. Physically turn towards them and pay attention to them in a way that makes it clear to them you really are right there.
4. Sure. Also: watch their eyes as they are busy doing their own thing
When they look up, they'll see you watching and feel connected without you having to do children's activities to 'be together.'
5. Listen
Sometimes our children come to us with problems. When they do, put down your tools and listen! When they tell you about a friendship drama, a challenge on the netball team, a teacher making them feel rotten, or another difficulty, ask them to tell you all about it. Listen carefully. When they are finished, ask, “What do you think you should do?” and listen again. Usually that’s enough. You don’t have to solve their problems. The answers are inside them.
5. Listen to them to understand them, not to tell them things
Don't ask questions. Say 'tell me more about that...' until they have finished talking. Rephrase what they've shared, with the emotions they're experiencing, as 'you feel _____ because_____.' Don't add interpretation, advice, information, your own reaction, how you felt when stories or justification for others' behaviour.
6. Bed time is best
I have written previously about how to make the last ten minutes of the day a precious bonding time with your children. Try it. Our children need to go to sleep feeling secure, loved, and hopeful about the day to come.
6. Be available as they need you throughout the day (and night) –no time is 'best' except 'when they need you'
Children need what they need when they need it. There is no reason to withhold it (unless there isn't any of what they need available) ever, and certainly not to wait for any specific time.
7. Give hugs, and touch them
In our home, we have a habit of always touching one another as we move past one another. It might be a squeeze on the arm, a stroke of the hair, a caress on the cheek, or an arm across the shoulder. The touch is an acknowledgement that you are passing a real person. It is a recognition that you have seen and noticed your child (or spouse). And it feels nice to be noticed. Plus, research shows it can boost wellbeing.I also find that if a child is struggling, one of the best things we can do is hug them. In fact, the times our children deserve our hugs the least are the times they need them most.
7. Touch them if they are okay with it: their body, their choice; be open to their physical affection
Get your own need for physical touch met elsewhere. Your job with kids is to be available to meet their needs, not yours. 
8. Stay calm
I once heard Steve Biddulph say that a parents’ main job is to stay calmer than their child. When we stay calm, our children learn to regulate their behaviour. They learn we are stable, secure, predictable, and safe. They learn that they can come to us no matter what, and we will respond calmly and kindly.
8. Learn to calm yourself
Panicking people can't calm others. Be the stable person in the room. If you can't, they won't be able to, either.
9. One on one time is crucial
I have six children (and one wife!) who all want time with me. Our children feel important, heard, and worthy when they have our undivided attention. Outings, walks, and other forms of one-on-one time may be the most important way we can show our children we care about them and want to listen to them. These ‘dates’ can be crucial relationship builders, and we will see our relationships strengthen as we make them a priority.
9. One-on-one time is irrelevant and may be deeply distressing to sensitive children (and adults)
Having to set aside (or make invisible) other people to get one's needs met is pathological, and it is often distressing to children to think that someone else needs to cease to exist (or at least cease needing anything from their parents) in order to have their needs met. It really is possible to pay full attention to one person with witnesses.
10. Smile
Let’s face it: most parents are so busy and so stressed that we do not smile as much as we might. But a smile says we can feel safe, and welcome. Our children need to see us smiling, especially at them.
10. Be genuine and own your emotions
If you think you can stop children from knowing and reacting to your genuine emotions by smiling, you're high. Smile when you feel happy. Grimace when you are in pain. Scowl when you are angry. Weep when you are sad. Kids don't learn to handle their big emotions from Stepford Wives.
11. Make time to do nothing
When was the last time you simply sat in your lounge room with no agenda except to be there? Our children are most likely to talk to us when they feel conversation is welcome. If our schedule is packed so tightly we cannot even find time for a conversation with our children, we cannot make them feel cared for or listened to. Sometimes simply sitting and being available can be enough to help our children know we will listen.
11. Prioritize being with the people you claim to love
Not to do planned things, necessarily –but also not to avoid planned activities. Be flexible and available as they need. Be unhurried and be willing to drop activities if they're unwanted (this time, or forever) regardless of the sunk cost or 'lessons in commitment' others might think matter.
12. Respond to challenging behaviour with maturity
It is common to respond to our children’s challenging behaviour with anger. This will invariably leave a child feeling uncared for and unheard. Sometimes we ignore our children. This has similar results. When we remember that challenging behaviour comes from unmet needs, and we see that challenging behaviour as a chance to get close to our children and problem-solve with them, we build our relationships rather than tear them down. Remember that discipline means teach or instruct, not hurt or punish.
12. Be the adult: demonstrate grace and acceptance, listening and understanding
Kids often act out their big feelings, so responding to actions with anger or as if they were driven by malice is inappropriate. When kids are struggling, they don't need more trouble, and they don't need to learn that you are the person who gets them into trouble, not out of it.
13. Leave love notes
You might shoot your child a text or facebook message. Perhaps you could drop a note into his or her lunchbox, or pop a quick letter under his pillow. Children love getting notes from mum or dad. They feel noticed, important, acknowledged, valued.
13. Be affectionate in your own way, with awareness of how your child experiences affection
Whatever your love language is, use it –but also use your kids' love languages for them. Even if you think doing things for them is love, they might feel gifts or time or words of affection or physical touch are the only way they feel loved. Don't stop doing the things that make you feel loving, just add the things that make them feel loved.
14. Offer autonomy
Our children feel unloved when we control them. They chafe and resist our stifling demands. While we do need to have rules and limits, our children will thrive, feeling heard and cared for, when we give them choices and allow them to decide for themselves wherever possible.
14. Acknowledge their autonomy
Their body, their choice. Their possessions, their choice. Their preferences, their choice. Recognize the separateness of this human. This is not 'your' person, they all belong to themselves.
15. Get down on the floor with them and play
Children love it when a parent lets the agenda go and flops down on the floor for some playtime. They flourish downtime with their parents where they can play, laugh and be together. Older children love wrestling too! But they respond just as well to those old-school games like Uno, Phase 10, or Skip-Bo. And they love it when we jump on the trampoline, have Nerf-gun wars, or play handball or skipping.
15. Get down on their level and interact
Play if that winds your watch, but just be alongside their activities without any agenda of your own. Take what they hand to you, give back what they want back, talk about what they're doing, listen to their imaginary stories, don't direct them or add to the stories. Be neutral in your observations, just like a good sportscaster: say what you see, notice their development and skills improvement, recognize their attempts...
16. Save their presents
There is something precious and heart warming about going back through all of the hand-made mothers or fathers day cards, birthday cards, and Christmas cards our children give us. Show them that you treasure their thoughtfulness and kind gifts. My great-grandmother kept a pottery ‘thing’ I made on her shelf for over a decade until she passed away. I saw it every time I visited and marvelled that she kept it on display. I felt like she loved me because she loved the gift.
16. Do not be an example of hoarding
Teach gratitude and generosity by being grateful and generous. Keep the treasures you treasure, and thank them for the treasures you discard when the gift has served its purpose. Teach sharing by donating unneeded things to others. 
17. Tell them you love them
They need to hear those three words often.
17. Express your genuine emotions
When you feel loving, tell them you love them. When you feel tired, tell them you're tired. Be real.
18. Show them you love them
More than the words, they need to feel you love them. Show them as much as you can. They will grow up resilient, because they will grow up feeling cared for and listened to.
18. Demonstrate your life priorities in your choices of how you spend your time and energy
Spend your time on what is genuinely important to you: friends, others, cars, tv shows, globetrotting, work... or the people you love.


Children are not, and cannot become, resilient. They are deeply affected by harsh treatment, chronic stress and trauma. They are healed by loving and nurturing care. 
The goals isn't resiliency anyhow, it's mental health and well-being... 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Thriving Past Childhood Trauma

https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielarauz/16197414403/in/photolist-qFiYZz-7pni5K-rzNupw-8EqYsv-riLzht-rkDbWF-rzNqcJ-9HXnsU-7pniJH-7pnhU8-qFiKAF-8U9d4P-7pnk6F-rzNEnC-9HUsgT-rkDk3v-rkD9AD-7prdP1-rC6fme-7pngDK-rkwT49-rkwRD5-7prb3C-rkDkvK-7prbxy-7pniiM-rBZFeZ-7prbKE-qFiKrx-qF6nyQ-rkwJGQ-rBZzci-rC6eRX-rBZvwT-rBZzsi-rAtfsL-7prbjC-rBZDxn-qFiYhH-rC67XB-7x3RCV-qF6pRq-rkwPQL-riLM7k-rC64Kp-rC61CH-CJN4az-Db1xzZ-BfLjwY-DhK5Cq
How do parents (people) get over childhood trauma?

This exchange happened on a facebook page. Details have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent:


Parent: It's sad from the child's point of view. People forget to feel for the children; it makes the child feel forgotten (I have been a Forgotten Child myself).
Linda: It's not sad for the kids involved, either. It's soul-crushing.

As you know.

Parent: Very true. After a while it's simply sad because anything more than sad would be irreversible.
Linda: I'm not sure I know what you mean...

What is reversible?...

Parent: Well, there's sad, and there's hopeless. If you can keep yourself at an even level of sad, you can live through that. You may not live through hopeless.
Linda: I don't think the dichotomy is that clean. It isn't 'sad' versus 'hopeless.' For a couple of reasons...

If you can touch the fury, you might be able to process the sadness more easily because it won't be trying to stand in for much more powerful emotions. When you meet the rage, the sadness won't feel like 'if I start crying I won't stop for 9 years.'

...and, I think more importantly:
It is hopeless. Not for the future, but to alter the past. No one can go back to have a better childhood than they had, or the parents they needed, or to get the help they needed, or to feel that they were seen or accepted then.

What they do have, in the way of hope for the future is multi-faceted:
It is over and can't keep happening: the children are no longer children and no longer need those people's approval.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ted_major/3909111297/in/photolist-6XrdAD-6wG7Gy-92isTd-4ENr8u-apAk1P-7iWMCG-2MT9Uv-7KVPm7-8GRTCY-nXmAwh-cykaZQ-fZxSip-76v8VV-ePJykq-jhspZr-9n6rJQ-devL2s-eqanmg-pos1Yx-gjcNGH-9X9dan-aikD5w-8Rr3pu-fdf3Kj-dnjLGo-apD5XW-dBnnAt-mj8uHd-5CfBj6-px31UN-6BaJTK-63oLAZ-fyhf1t-wdzbk5-ds2moV-nzcDCi-faDXgv-dnvnV6-f7ECf5-t5yWSz-dEYQh9-ncSPC6-apCDew-8QumXK-gxTFWE-kCqseF-poSuab-8nHdxA-kB5FnF-Xk7CN

The past does not dictate the future. What has happened has happened, but it is over... the last three tosses of a coin coming up heads has no effect at all on the next toss of the same coin. The odds are about strings of events, but the past events do not affect the pure odds of the next event. The coin has exactly 50% chance of being heads again. The threads we draw from one event to another are narratives we construct, not a continuous string of causes-and-effects. We can make new choices, go down new roads, think new thoughts. Now the child knows.
Now the child knows exactly what went wrong and exactly what it feels like and exactly why doing anything like that to anyone, ever, is not okay. This is not possible to avoid until the child knows.


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Multiple Penalty

https://www.flickr.com/photos/angryjuliemonday/9453484491/in/photolist-egPkX3-5F2bmq-DkVUcJ-5EWSsF-6yXdk-bpRaKz-qZuQYB-j7KcdG-67B4nX-svxiqg-oSrgGQ-oDPDag-7vsTJ-4fnyJ1-bpRdyK-hJpgWC-5EWMKT-d2kUvh-fpnzzV-s18sy-5EWSx6-6yXdr
Scenario: Pulled over for doing 15 over the limit in a park zone. Groan... This ticket is going to be big. So embarrassing, kids in the car.

Result: Pay the fine, complain to friends about overzealous cops, move on.

Scenario: Kid get hauled into the principal's office over some playground scuffle. Not sure who started, it, both kids get detention and a note sent home.

Result: Parent reads the note, sends child to room to think about what he's done, goes online and asks if other parents think he should also lose access to all electronics for the evening.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Announce-and-Wait

...effective ways of getting them into the car, out of the house, to get dressed...
https://www.flickr.com/photos/donnieray/16280303709/

Every couple of hours I read a post of Facebook wherein parents describe the explanations they give their kids for why diapers need to be changed, or we all need to go outside, or it's time to leave the park, or go to school, or get out of bed, or go to bed, or put on shoes, or pack up for dance class... or whatever.

“You want to go to class...”
“If you don't, your bum will get sore...”
“It's good for your body to be out in the sunlight, moving around...”
“Besides, you like the seaside...”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/renegade13/3397050051/Translation: “Blah blah blah blah blah blah bum blah blah blah.”

One of the recommended techniques to improve not only a child's vocabulary but also their ability to think for life is to chatter away at them about what is going on, what things are called, their descriptions, how they function, etc. Pointing out the world and describing it theoretically gives kids the mental framework they need to assemble their thoughts in order to understand what is going on around them...

...which is all well and good, up to a point.

That point is where parents are trying to convince them that a parent's ideas of what should happen next is a super great idea that all sane children will leap to agree with.

Is this where I mention that kids (especially little kids, but let's be honest: people of all ages) are not noted for their sanity?

Even after decades of study in marketing and the science of influencing people, adults struggle to convince other adults to switch to Pepsi or wear their seatbelts... and yet we expect to talk a busy toddler into changing activities while they're doing what they want to do. This is not rational.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/anthrovik/427584882/

And, more importantly, it doesn't work. Pretty much ever.

No child is going to be sold on the 'fun' of cleaning up their room, or putting the dishes in the sink, or going outside when they are happily exploring the texture of the carpet.

What Actually Works, Ever (not 100%, because, see above, re: sanity)

Get the child's attention.
Announce.
Wait.
Wait a little while longer.

Get the child's attention

When they're busy experimenting with the light and shadow on the tile by the door, their minds are not open to what else is going on... so to them, dad chattering away in the background is like talk radio in a different language that you can hear from someone's passing car.

Get down on the child's level, in front of the child so you are within sight. Touch the child gently. Wait until they make eye contact.

Announce

Just say what is coming up, with the first direction you need them to follow:

'Shoes on, we're going to the grocery store.'
'Time for a diaper change, meet me over there...'
'Get what you need for skating lessons.'

Wait

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mliu92/8444068678/in/photolist-jUSMBZ-dJp6Mx-juzw43-jvSp3E-4BNSep-dCQPDf-5L4cPZ-jUCqJf-3eZegd-2eRPZY-5Rx6yM-8HqLs8-dSb4r1-7USjAn-7hqWuG-7VTzAS-6YvDZe-6uAYEF-6KXsVz-4L1nkG-6uB1oF-aTx7G6-dj9Puc-4KW8A6-5EVbE3-mKvdtV-rpAGga
Simple enough. Hard to do. It helps to sit still and not say anything at all. Adding words or movement at this point is distracting from what you've just said is going to happen, and suggests that it isn't, actually... It suggests that something has happened to make that go away (because things do that all the time –I'm talking to you In-5-minutes-we-will-leave-where-mummy-is-talking-to-friends, and we don't go anywhere for 23 minutes!)

Things are moving inside where you can't see them. Gears are shifting, and because they are little and have hardly any practice, it takes a while. Watch their face ponder what you've said, and wait while it's integrated into their world in there.

They want to get along, they want to be part of the big world. They want to be clean and happy and fed and have a variety of experiences. They just don't want to be rushed.

They really don't want to be convinced.

Just wait. Just watch.




Thursday, 27 October 2016

Say The Right Thing First

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kurt-b/4679642827/in/photolist-88woM2-9hzxD8-qsyWCw-4ydzj3-cBMaCy-52ou2d-jopru-3TCJ6q-7K6HZ4-8Jvprf-e3k1Fh-p6BLtz-bEKSsy-vzo8kg-agyf9B-7NQgJt-84a4C9-w8mMPz-EJGHWo-ftYha1-dLGZ6P-6y8hru-7S4JMr-g9uLDG-oC13WV-9y7NHu-467tSo-7YMenG-7hLn3G-fNm2ud-66Vufw-7SoMDW-8Ng3tc-pixuTA-pwaozX-dngYZP-eHuK4B-fdMfzZ-5ghFQZ-9UntMm-dj1VwK-6fiRg5-467uro-fxyRs6-amA7UB-nWvWFi-C1ud3-9rHVqu-cZCBrm-qVekdq“How do I find the right words to explain ______ to my ____ -year-old?”

The question comes up frequently, on parenting lists, in groups, at events. Implied in this question is, often, “How do I fit the words and concepts into my child's head so s/he will know everything necessary on the subject at 20 without overwhelming them now or leaving anything out?”

My short answer is 'you don't.'

The slightly longer answer is 'you don't all at once.'

Amongst my friends and family we have what apparently is quite a unique conversational style. As far as I can tell it's uncommon to revisit a conversation that's been had already-- for any reason--at a later date. I find this quite bizarre.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27568572@N06/15493241371/in/photolist-pB5UTe-GtkUWH-jkYcm1-8Df5t-owqY5F-ftxjj6-9cpTUL-5bp1r3-kJdSG-CMXgz-cdBDsJ-4gntYQ-8Qx69K-67r9rW-8XJAyM-9rz4n4-ak67eS-cQ8z3N-oPBf16-qNCAww-b4Us2P-8nBf1e-6Ldtip-6Ldtgr-79YPK-oAzTvP-dD7Fiz-25pv-8zXXGA-DAiP9q-dqZw3x-dTQ8WB-8U2QCk-5ecboz-dsRUH-7UgCTt-J5PG8S-oTd4hh-H89VT-aSyeGv-dKv5dB-6EKTkC-osNBBu-9UFXZy-7vuLpD-3nt85E-FgMTD-aF9d6o-bzVQxj-9NHp18
Many a topic-opener in conversations with a very long-time friend is 'remember we were talking about blah blah blah a few years/months/days/hours/minutes ago?' We restart conversations, kind of in the middle, as new information is discovered, new thoughts or ideas are formed or found out there in the world, or just because we're not satisfied with our understanding or expression of our thoughts on the subject.

Since this was a normal kind of conversation for my kids to be around for, whether or not they were listening, there was always a strong underlying reality in our world: the subject is not closed, no one has had the final word on the topic, and there are many reasons to re-visit the issue.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aturkus/444424399/in/photolist-FgMTD-aF9d6o-bzVQxj-9NHp18-bjrjKD-DaH64V-3QenJ3-DZKir9-4MDcHq-k1VCxV-smhcVQ-o4Fp65-kPexUB-Cxsmus-jCZJfS-3GHvFq-duXQPG-dU7C8V-4EYA2F-54P8PF-nTpWhe-qS7Hja-5rqDao-pXYj8z-8pdfXt-c12KjJ-d8X3Rw-gqwzy3-86arAw-ngBsWL-mTa8Cf-wNw5cg-5ADpyL-cxknrL-egdxSc-B1Lmse-r796XE-pizHT7-6eEFci-eJzpfm-bJPdDK-bn2LuJ-66ba1k-bdkZjx-agCKMM-hMzmnq-Nnrg4-g3xJFv-dCRV69-nRYvaUSo, instead of feeling like I had to explain sex and death and taxes and drugs and etiquette and tact versus lying, or whatever, once and for all... I always knew the conversation was developing. Developing because the thumbnail answer any 3yo can absorb at a time isn't ever going to be the way the same child will comprehend the subject at 8 or 13 or 22 (or 48 or 77...) and that means the discussion continues more or less where it left off the next time there is some reason to talk about it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/130343457@N03/26563701341/in/photolist-GtkUWH-jkYcm1-8Df5t-owqY5F-ftxjj6-9cpTUL-5bp1r3-kJdSG-CMXgz-cdBDsJ-4gntYQ-8Qx69K-67r9rW-8XJAyM-9rz4n4-ak67eS-cQ8z3N-oPBf16-qNCAww-b4Us2P-8nBf1e-6Ldtip-6Ldtgr-79YPK-oAzTvP-dD7Fiz-25pv-8zXXGA-DAiP9q-dqZw3x-dTQ8WB-8U2QCk-5ecboz-dsRUH-7UgCTt-J5PG8S-oTd4hh-H89VT-aSyeGv-dKv5dB-6EKTkC-osNBBu-9UFXZy-7vuLpD-3nt85E-FgMTD-aF9d6o-bzVQxj-9NHp18-bjrjKD
Reasons for restarting a conversation:

  • I saw in the news
  • that movie we just watched
  • a story book we are reading
  • someone else was talking about it and mentioned a new way (to me) to think about it
  • I stumbled upon new information online
  • someone else was talking about it and said ______
  • your friend is dealing with the same thing now
  • another death in the social circle or celebrity media
  • I was thinking about what you, I, or they said the last time we talked
  • it seemed like the conversation ended abruptly because of some kind of interruption, and we aren't finished with it... so, as I was saying . . . .

Friday, 21 October 2016

Adult View, Child Mind

or why what we think has no bearing on how children understand

https://www.flickr.com/photos/128539140@N03/15670859880/in/photolist-pSMfFj-mKvdtV-8Pe6pv-5MeFzJ-6r4Dv7-rD5YYm-GXoRky-cHVR3m“She hates breastfeeding.”
“He is fighting sleep.”
“They are testing me today.”
“Kids have to test the limits.”
“Teens have to rebel.”

Nope, nope, nope, nope. No to all.

A form of childism that pervades our culture is seen in the way adults talk about children's perceptions of the world –their aims, their understanding and their experiences.
Kids don't 'test boundaries' they struggle mightily to make any kind of sense out of the world, from gravity to unspoken social rules (like why we compliment people on weight loss but never mention gain, which is kind of related to gravity) and part of that is pure science experiment: what happens when I ...?

What happens when I pour the water on the floor? 
What happens when I pour it on the couch? 
The cat? When the sun is up? 
When the lights are on? 
When it's from a sippy cup? 
When it's from a bottle? 
When it's from a bowl?

Adults, looking at this typical exploration of the world will often say 'she's testing the boundaries' or 'she's testing her parents.' 

She isn't. 

She's trying to figure out why this cup-shaped stuff changes shape as it moves, why it makes some things lighter and some things darker and why it has not so far ever gone up the other way. If sometimes there is a lot of clapping and cheering and sometimes there is anger and shouting or punishment, she'll have to spend a lot of time experimenting to figure out how to fit that into her understanding of the world, too.

Years ago, John Bradshaw (Family Systems theory) told a story of how little Farquar would be happily jumping into a pile of cushions mum made for him in the living room, to cheering and laughter, who later spots a pile of cushions in the furniture store and can't for the life of him work out why he's being shouted at and dragged by the arm from the store... 'it looked like a pile of cushions to me...???'

We tend to personify our worlds, generally: people cut us off in traffic, they aren't distracted and hurried; the weather is for or against our plans, depending on if it rains on our parade; if we were to say that to someone only in anger, that can be the only possible reason anyone else said it to us, ever... et cetera.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/whereisat/370436981/in/photolist-yJA1v-7mYpFk-aLebU-ab6L9j-eCjg7S-4ZG6bA-qUaxLK-eFPtQ7-pCYRsM-rsefH-6kWb4-kHhkHH-6DjoYp-4WczxT-3hvvRG-4Q2ab8-7f152g-4phbK2-6PoEvX-5fzZ5b-6eUV23-mtwLq-9x6kUo-Ld1Ys-eey9CA-iNTvU-7RhJ9M-6sSwkj-mMGusA-74xbPy-eFPTR9-7KmaXo-eFRGfb-4x2VzV-pXjnsU-8K1pKQ-6kAdNB-eFPHPh-5RRPxs-7SzKb4-6T93aK-4Qt7vT-6kEdMs-qVpzJP-5koSRw-kqbeP-4AREhb-6gR6m9-b1tXW6-99GNFq
A brief aside: the Fundamental Attribution Error is a common thought mistake whereby we excuse our own errors (we didn't 'cut off that driver' because they were going faster than we thought or we're just in a hurry which makes it fine or understandable or otherwise completely excusable) yet we attribute character flaws and/or malice to others who do exactly the same things (they are Bad Drivers, they are Selfish, Thoughtless, Idiots, Worthless, Reprobates.)
Becoming aware of this common thought error can help us enormously in life, not the least in preventing our own stress-caused heart attacks. Anyhow... back to the point...

When we are looking at our children's behaviour and attitudes, expressions and postures, it's important to remember a number of vital things before we react in anger or frustration:
  1. Is this a Fundamental Attribution Error?
  2. Is it possible to explain this behaviour in a neutral or positive way?
  3. Am I attributing adult brain capacities to a child's brain?
  4. Am I taking personally something which genuinely has nothing at all to do with me?
A friend's son once rollerbladed up the aisle at church. In his defense, he was a young teen and incapable of complex thought processes like abstractions (How will this reflect on my mother's parenting? What kinds of unspoken rules might this violate? How will the parish see this? What deeper meaning might there be to aisles in churches vis a vis casual sporting equipment?) and it was choir practice, not sermon. In her defense, she'd not encountered a lot of information about brain development and the differences between adults' and children's brains at that point. To this day, she tells the story wishing that she was anyone but his mother, so she could have laughed because it was hilarious. Instead, she felt constrained by her role as Mother to perform 'stern' and 'censorious' as she believed she was expected (peer pressure doesn't go magically away as we leave our teens...)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ladyozma/5759617308/in/photolist-9ToLG9-9Tm2UM-4tiieb-9LXxwQ-9ToPRU-bsBZKk-9Tm25K-nGS119-8A3Fpa-8A3rFT-nJHHg7-9ToQaw-9Tm2gt-8A6yWh-9ToPGy-9Tm38K-9TkZgx-9ToSVW-ov5Pgh-8A6Mtw-5YBa88-8A3QAe-9ToQfq-9ToQQw-4LPnPw-9LXxyG-v3eUHG-8A6XJb-a9jQ6F-9ToQKL-9LXxwu-xZZ9Wm-yhyjRg-xZZAef-xZYGD1-ygzidC-xZYQA3-yiibiV-ygFBjA-wEgjDh-v5yjAn-uMYfCS-jzduyF-iH98pX-fbdAAS-faYm88-f9Pr9E-f9Pr11-djLtt9-4XHoS9/


Surely you can see where I'm going with this...

It's hard to remember a time in our lives when we didn't have those brain structures that make thinking this way possible, because all of our memories are coloured by the rememberings using each new structure as it developed... so we are telling stories of ourselves as younger through the thoughts of our brains imagining those events while we are older.

It is easy and unchallenging to us to take things personally and make the other person wrong rather than struggling to see their point of view. It is so clearly so vastly different from our own pov, particularly when we're used to our adult brains and the idea that everyone else on the planet has the same adult-brain capacity we do.

Our children have a deep need to stay connected to us, to keep us on their side, and absolutely no interest in infuriating us. Attributing desires in them that disconnect or distance them from us and our approval is wildly inappropriate.

It is grossly unfair to punish someone for rules they don't know exist, particularly when we have great difficulty ourselves trying to articulate the specifics of these rules and how they vary from time to time and place to place.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Magic Calories


https://www.flickr.com/photos/54397539@N06/5034491496/in/photolist-8ET5Vw-a7yV8W-8hBMF4-YkB1j-76mEo-fUkpvS-bYE5Po-nHCqpA-zo7XSj-7DUbMU-ev15GA-8ET5Mo-7sVmF3-4xeTd2-8r4vkg-6rkgwE-5Epkaw-nLWPs-8EPUba-jYo6tq-8ET5NU-8ETwq9-8ETwnY-4dN2cr-8EPUje-jXGot-4QTuez-ytxtec-skrqEb-nTtjc9-i1tFo-539yXz-31qTw-5jAFK8-z8W1Sg-9E6EC6-8kcvFU-c58iU-8gDXDp-2PxZHe-4Teqj-i1tKF-citv9u-sss5XS-rzzkpo-ndkVLA-4ri3tN-e9p4Vg-ofyFWL-g4YjUX
Ice Cream Cones by gordonramsaysubmissions

What reprehensible property does ice cream have before dinner that it doesn’t have after dinner?
What is this strange ‘ruin your appetite’ thing of which the Grundys of the world speak?
Earlier today, I wrote this in a Facebook discussion:
'What magical property of the calories and nutrients in ice cream at 5:20pm is different from the calories and nutrients in ice cream at 6:45pm?'
Why is popcorn okay at 8:10pm but not 7:45am?
If it's okay to displace x number of calories with nutrition-free (or high calorie, low nutrition density) food, what possible difference can it make to anyone, anywhere, if it is before or after dinner? Or noon? Or the 4th time the earth has rotated around the sun since the cancellation of Firefly?

Does anyone have the answer?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Basic Triage: deal with the victim's injuries first

More on anti-punishment in a pro-punish world...

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YeR1tBdzcI4/Vpl6V3tA-OI/AAAAAAAACA0/PKzGF9ONorQ/s320/5111538516_5586374347_o.jpg
We live in a punishment-happy world, where people's response to everything from one child grabbing a toy from another to serial rapists is some kind of revenge fantasy. Hit them back, abuse them back, get them back: tit for tat, at its finest.

This is not functional.

It is dysfunctional, but probably not how you think it is...

Basic triage of, say, a car accident with multiple injuries does not start with finding out who to blame and running them over with a bigger vehicle to 'teach' them that they made a mistake. First aid is given in order of the seriousness of the injury, not in order of who is the least to blame.
When this protocol is followed for other mistakes and injuries, a kind of miracle occurs... the perpetrator (whoever is to blame) can see clearly the result of their error without being distracted from what happened to defend themselves against an attack from an authority figure. Or, as a reader put it, in response to my last post:

YES. And adding extra to the natural reaction following a mistake means that the natural reaction is metaphorically (or literally) shouted over and the additional extra becomes the focus of the child's attention. Thereby muffling the natural learning reaction.

One instance where this was really clear to me was when our elder daughter locked the keys in the car, just as we were about to leave my grandparents' house to come home from a camping trip. She came into their house, her face white in horror, and cried as she blurted out what had happened. Her dad started shouting at her and I stopped him: 'she already clearly feels terrible, what are you shouting for? It won't get the keys out of the car...'

https://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/5857485174/in/photolist-9VB9gG-9VBaGL-9VymAV-9BqyUg-dHu8m4-aJptFP-9VykZK-644Ln2-9Vyij6-47sNkL-38FxBN-55UA1h-9VB7jC-o8HpiP-d1p5wS-34qSfQ-4HMHFB-98Gm-6h2g8K-dHugwT-cLrdhw-cLraCd-cLr6jS-cLr8WE-9Vynke-6s8b-cLrbML-cLr7WY-cLrdSb-cLrcDh-yXQ2GS-yHwoeC-y4fF5V-z18o8V-z1WnA4-yHC1rM-yHwoCd-yHwnN7-ESciu-yzhNz-69R6nh-69LT2T-69LTwz-9LB4ov-nMUJQg-cLrB29-cLry9S-cLru9w-cLrztd-55QoRe
Punishment doesn't solve problems. Punishment doesn't 'teach' people to notice the results of their behaviour, or even to feel bad about what they did. Punishment shows people that the authority is not on their side, and will gleefully add to how bad they already feel about themselves and their actions.

Punishment teaches people to evade blame and to argue against the authority's assertion that their action was intentional or malicious, in order to avoid feeling worse than they already do about the mistake. Punishment takes people's minds off the results and focuses their attention on protecting themselves from an attack...

... exactly the opposite of 'teaching' them to take responsibility for their actions.

Focusing on the victim first, treating the injury and helping restore their sense of safety, gives the perpetrator an unobstructed view of the results of their action and space to think for themselves about what they really wanted to achieve. It helps them save face while also giving them time to take calm down and take in new information... the conditions necessary to learn anything.


Friday, 15 January 2016

Anti-Punishment in a Pro-Punish World

https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/2833064226/in/photolist-5jmchW-z9aRYC-6wRA6L-83R13E-oNCdUi-b7ntgR-z9Crf-cRcQ7-89xEzT-bXStgm-7f3Ws4-xTv99Y-gqK3L-dBJKyj-bjUgXk-6U6bsH-5cmzC4-5Qxjui-3vnVkg-niVZyo-4nKtL-8wLS8k-o5K6s3-jUnzGB-kYzdc4-5ngh3w-qYgFei-qu8kZE-8tEC9b-5TBRMe-z9Crj-xTDvP4-oNoVgU-DQoDX-DrM1J-iR5VZb-zwmfuy-zh35gb-s1sFsx-m1eTS-7jARG6-6eC8zA-ALdq73-yBLXWZ-kYzPvF-nzDBsJ-boXoyw-zzmxYd-6mqarG-7Wp9iWThe long-tail from childrearing in a punishment-happy world is adults who believe that whenever they make a mistake, damage anything or get anything wrong, they must be punished: made to feel bad about what they’ve done.

Again.

Yes, that’s what I said: again.

You see, the natural result of doing something wrong, making a mistake, hurting others, doing damage or creating unnecessary costs is to feel bad. Even really little kids get upset when the item breaks, or the baby cries, the dog runs away. I am convinced that this is not something that needs to be ‘taught.’ The natural result of making mistakes or doing damage is self-recrimination, shame, guilt and a loss of self-esteem, and to know that one is capable of harming others (and stuff.)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tjook/5111538516/in/photolist-8MFYjq-rK1EpY-r5zDKo-s2w9fz-twto4-68tu98-rJpkd8-5qis6R-72CFsk-aYWkoB-5KkNKg-8ErdD6-pztT5R-a6gZbw-Au3cM7-pigscb-5TCeF2-qAq5Gv-pxEuhw-pxEfc7-7PzYFL-dfdMda-pxHYaj-q2PAe6-nbskhx-5otM4s-iojZ2W-fxUSP1-pih24o-4Tq9tJ-4TkW7a-4Tq9sJ-4Tq9sb-aymetB-6avCpj-aqJTk-v4uZJM-yeS2CC-DuUMZ-4pJb7k-eR9RA3-6fDhLE-oWyYTz-m73iZv-6Xwk7Z-9PvcMW-eiN8jg-e9eYC2-s6msCj-nqhfGkYet it is an article of faith among the pro-punishment that in order for people to ‘learn’ they must have some kind of personal harm applied: public censure, fines, thrashings, withdrawal of affection, restriction of privileges, dragging it up in every tangentially-related discussion to keep scraping the scab off to keep the wound perpetually at the top of the victim’s mind.

Perpetrator’s mind.

Hang on… this is one of the things I find to be problematic about the application of additional punishment: the scale.

Punishment can very rapidly go from ‘harming the perpetrator just enough to match the offense’ to ‘harming the perpetrator so much more than makes sense that the perpetrator is now the victim.’ It is a delicate balance that requires understanding of just how bad the perpetrator already feels, so the additional harm inflicted doesn’t tip the overall experience of the perpetrator into the victim category.

But, wait… if the perpetrator already feels bad, what is the purpose of additional punishment?


I honestly have absolutely no idea.