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 use this opportunity to clarify.

Parents need to get their own work done, but they do not need to get it 5869276206_19176d5607_odone 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 while getting their own work done.

Directing or being involved in all of what a child is doing is both unnecessary and causes a lot of problems. One of the problems it causes is martyrdom in parents, which isn’t fun to live or to live with. It also has a nasty way of setting up the roll-over, roll-over, roll-over SNAP thing that happens when people concede more than they want to (for any reason) for too long. Parents of toddlers who start out all the patience in the universe (while being beaten gently over the head with a book repeatedly, say…) who freak out and scream and throw things when the book touches them the 11,003rd time. 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.

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, 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. No one can deal with that kind of chaos, least of all children who look to the adult for a stable foundation. It’s unstable, unpredictable and uses up a lot of energy that could be better spent virtually anywhere.

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 and it may not be repeated.” No freak-out required . . . .

The 97:400 Rule

I just made this up, so bear with me..3063416392_3cfe3e014e_o

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, well, deranged. “Listen, be respectful, remember to brush teeth, get dressed when told to, eat breakfast” … et cetera went the long, long list…

5yos are, I know for sure, 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 the 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 . . .  oooh, the list is SO long.)

The fact is, prior to the brain development necessary to get concrete operations, a child does not have the capacity to ‘get it’ –about any of those things.

Any child you see anywhere who is performing those behaviours at that age has been rehearsed (probably coerced) and is mimicking, not understanding what they seem to be doing. That is: Shirley Temple was a great dancer for a 3yo, and not a good dancer for an 8yo and a not-very-good dancer at 13. Performances can be rehearsed. Understanding requires development.

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