Monday, 18 January 2010

How Not Yelling Makes for Peaceful Parenting

helping mothers since 1961
Long ago, I attended a La Leche League Canada Area Conference. It was a cooperative event, with all attendees asked to help run the show. I was involved in the registration --it was my assignment-- so I know that there were far more than 200 people in attendance, from 8:30 to 5:30 the first day, 8:30 am to 9pm the second day and from 8:30 to 4 the final day.

creative commons Attrib/Non-Deriv License, 2009Beyond being a great deal of fun, there was something... odd about the experience. It took me nearly two days to figure out what it was.

Of course, it was a La Leche League conference on the West Coast, which lent it an odd air of super-granola in virtually every aspect, but I was used to the Islanders and their homemade soap lifestyles. The oddness was something else. Then I figured it out:

No one (seriously: no one!) was yelling at their kids

Virtually everyone attending had kids with them, with few exceptions of national office-level representatives, and one of the Founding Mothers who by that point had a handful of grandchildren and I'm sure wouldn't have thought of towing them to a conference.

Some of the kids were yelling. Some were melting down completely. 

But no adult in the whole building for the whole weekend yelled at any child anywhere I could see.

To say I was astonished is an understatement. I don't think the possibility of not yelling in life had ever occurred to me. While I certainly didn't make it to my kids' late teens without ever yelling at them, or about them, or near them... the conference opened up the possibility in my head that yelling was optional, not natural or necessary.
I'm sure lots of those parents who attended yelled at their kids at some point or other. Why not there?

I think there were two things: a basic premise that yelling wasn't going to help anything anyhow, coupled with a tremendously child-friendly, family-supportive atmosphere. There weren't spaces where kids were expected or encouraged to behave like mini adults (or like they don't exist at all). And that, to me, seems like the core of peaceful parenting.
There is something inherently violent in the premise that children should, or can, be 'little adults.' The very idea insults the core of who they really are: children. 

If they were adults, they'd have fully-formed adult bodies and fully-formed adult brains, they'd understand things the way adults do and would do things the way adults do. But they don't. 

They can't. 

Because they aren't. And they aren't going to just because we have a whole society convinced it's how it should be.
Believing that it is somehow aberrant to create an environment that acknowledges --even welcomes-- childhood's different needs, different pace, different lifestyle; that's just normal here these days. Encouraging violence, whether verbal or physical, is commonplace in the realm of 'how to raise children' advice and theory --even in clinical psychology.

How do we argue that it is possible to raise peaceful children through violence?