Thursday, 7 November 2013

No Touching–a desert of affection



Have you read about this? A ban on touching (from roughhousing to holding hands, all inclusive) in an elementary school in British Columbia once again proves just how thoroughly out of touch with reality –and basic human needs—too many people working in the school system are.

In his seminal work, Touching, the Human Significance of Skin, Ashley Montague provides decades of scientific research on the benefits of touching and the strange world of what happens to human beings (and, cruelly, monkeys) in the absence of physical affection. Published in 1986, surely at least one person working in the school system, who has studied anything to do with what human offspring need to thrive, has encountered at least the foundation research?

What happens to people when they’re banned from social physical contact has been well-established . . . .

Already living without the most important people in their world, for most of their waking day, now children are not allowed to do the most human of all social activities: bond emotionally with others.

As if the behaviour problems in schools were not already bad enough, with children needing (and not getting) a strong sense of stability and security, with children needing (and not being allowed) to eat when they’re hungry or have silence when they’re overwhelmed or social contact when it’s inconvenient for the teachers, now they’re not allowed to touch a friend… at all.

What cruel world of impersonal body segregation are we working toward, here?

Hey, hang on! Isn’t school supposed to be where kids go to learn to be ‘properly socialized’?!?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

17 and 17, the Other Rule

It was pointed out to me that my last post might be misconstrued to be suggesting parents take up hover parenting (which I’ve already indicated I’m opposed to: see Hover Parent) … so I’ll shall clarify:

Giving Your All is not a virtue . . .

There are parents who for some reason think they’re required to be ‘engaging’ with the child 100% of the time the child’s awake, who haven't yet figured out what that’s going to mean to their own eating and bathing requirements.

Parenting & Adulting --all at once

Parents need to get their own work done, but they do not need to get it done while the children are in suspended animation under a desk. 

Children can do the work of their own lives –exploring, learning what adults do to live, feeling safe and happy near their parents —while moms or dads are in the same room (or an immediately adjacent room from which they can hear and frequently look in on what is happening) getting their own work done. 

A very good reason to do this is because children will probably grow up to be adults, so a couple of examples of How To Adult around them from time to time is a help.

Children Do Not Require Directors

Children have their own agendas, needs, and interests. They don't need to be told what to explore and they certainly do not need to be told how to explore things. Learning is a natural human ability and it does not require any authority to make it happen or to make it happen 'better.' 

Martyrs Do Not Make Great Parents

One of the problems Hover Parenting causes is martyrdom in parents, which isn’t fun to live or to live with. 

Martyrdom also has a nasty way of setting up the give in, give up, roll-over, roll-over, roll-over SNAP thing that happens when people concede more than they want to (for any reason) for too long. 

An example from my living room: a mom started out all the patience in the universe (while being beaten gently over the head with a book repeatedly) who freaks out and screams and throws things when the book touched her the 11,003rd time, three days later at her house. 

Which neatly brings me to my other ‘rule’

Never put up with anything for 17 seconds that you are not fully prepared to put up with for 17 years

Obviously, this takes some experiential learning, because who knows what it is that we aren’t going to be able to tolerate for three years when it only just started? But being beaten over the head by a hardboard book is pretty obviously a no-go, and it's a pretty safe bet that waiting for the toddler to get tired of the cool noise it makes is going to take a lot longer than any normal human's patience will last.

In order to be rational and to respect the others around you, don’t accept things you find unacceptable only to snap after the 115th re-run. That’s unstable, unpredictable and uses up a lot of energy that could be better spent virtually anywhere. No one can deal with that kind of chaos, least of all children who look to the adult for a stable foundation. 

And, it is completely fine to say, calmly, “I thought I was going to be able to tolerate that, but I was mistaken. It must stop now and it may not be repeated.” 

No freak-out required . . . .

The 97:400 Rule

I just made this up, so bear with me..


A lovely woman online was bemoaning her five-year-old. Trust me, I know. I’m not doddering enough yet to have forgotten five-year-olds (5yos, henceforth).

I made a comment about how parents generally believe that it’s reasonable to expect a 5yo to… well, the list was pretty long. I suggested the list was, frankly, deranged. 

“Listen*, be respectful, remember to brush teeth, get dressed when told to, eat breakfast” 

… et cetera went the complaining mom's long, long list…

5yos, I know for sure, are at least two years prior to developing the brain parts necessary to be able to cogitate concrete reality. 

While they’re walking around and talking that big vocabulary and generally looking a lot like little real humans, what they really are is real big infants, complete with magical thinking, little impulse control and no understanding of the difference between ‘mom prefers this to be true’ and ‘objective reality.’ 

They are at least two years’ off Concrete Operations, and still firmly implanted in Magical Thinking.

Parents might think it’s reasonable that these ‘mini adults’ can or will or should do . . . whatever . . . but they can’t, won’t and, in fact, should not.

So, what’s the 97:400 Rule?

Any parent with a child under, let’s call it 7 for tidiness… (could be older, is probably capable younger but don’t count on it…) any parent who thinks they can spend more than 3% of their time outside touching/hearing range of their child is probably going to spend a frightful amount of time frustrated. The rule is:
If you choose not to spend 97% of your time with your under-7 child(ren) expect to expend 400% of the energy you have available in any given day week month year dealing with the fallout of that lack of supervision
There is an alluring cultural lie, that children should* something-something-or-other… (obey, understand, ‘get it,’ follow directions, respect someone, remember the rules . . .  same very long list as above, really.)

The fact is, prior to the brain development necessary to perform concrete operations, a child does not have the capacity to ‘get it’ --about any of that list.

Any child you see anywhere who is performing those behaviours at that age has been rehearsed (possibly coerced) and is mimicking, not understanding what they seem to be doing.

That is: Shirley Temple was a great dancer for a 3yo, a pretty good dancer for an 8yo and a not-very-good dancer at 13. 

Performances can be rehearsed. Children can be coerced into performing Stupid Human Tricks. Understanding requires development. 

The 97:400 Rule

Parents can ‘get it’ that kids need near-constant supervision until they’re about seven, or . . .

. . .  they can spend about four times as much energy as they have available in any given day, week, month, year dealing with the fallout of unsupervised children.

97:400 . . . you pick.

*beware of the word ‘should’ --within traps, expectations, disappointments and frustration lie