Thursday, 29 November 2018

11 things really wrong with public school

Would you let a child TRY school . . . if they want to?


In my opinion school is not benign. 

The school system is actively damaging, particularly to children's self-esteem and natural confidence in the intrinsic rewards of learning.

If a supervisor could accompany the kids to school the whole time they were 'trying,' it might be possible for a child to have an experience that was neutral, or even educational. 

But alone in that self-referential, detrimental system... no. 

When they're very young, absolutely no. When they're young teens, at a time when they're going through major brain development and having a hard time even driving their usual lives with balance and ease, also definitely no. 

What if the child could handle it?

While it might be possible, sometimes, for a stable, confident child to deftly handle some of what happens within that system --a direct conflict, say.
But how many a day? Two before the bell, 2 before lunchtime, 3 more during lunch and 3 in the afternoon? Let's pretend there won't be more after the bell in the hallways or on the grounds...just because it's an easy day.

Because then there is All Of The Rest. Most of which is never handled, never addressed at all as it is, within the system, seen as normal. All kids when they first go into the system (at any age, even if that's before they're able to speak) have to figure out what to do about all of that: 

Do they stand up to the teacher about the bullying? Every single instance of it, or is there some scale of 'that's not bad enough to comment on'? What about the sexual assault? What about the child who is utterly ignored? What about the one getting a disproportion of the school's or teacher's attention, whether because of higher needs or just worse behaviour? What do they do about the kids who are left to flail, or sit dully until their aid comes back tomorrow? Nothing? Anything?
What about the lack of respect for the humanity, body wisdom and personal pace of everyone except the strongest willed and most confident? 
It was not lost on me while I was in the system that I, alone, was allowed to wander the halls during class time, get up and leave a lecture while the teacher was speaking (without a murmur of reproach) or completely fail to hand in any portion of an assignment without it negatively affecting my grade.
Somehow, I managed to import a sense that 'Linda's doing something else that's important' into teacher's heads --or I was far more trouble to deal with than I was worth-- or both, so I was respected (or at least not stomped on) when I felt the need to move around, or believed I knew enough about this subject already, or whatever provoked me to routinely leave the classroom to do important Linda things, like having a smoke. I was marked present for classes I spent at the orthodontist.

11 Real Things Really Wrong with Public School
  1. The teacher being repeatedly distracted from teaching by kids' needs, and by conflicts among the children, a simple function of being vastly outnumbered
  2. The quiet, seat-to-seat nastiness that the teacher sees but doesn't address (because: outnumbered)
  3. All of what the teacher doesn't see (still outnumbered)
  4. What we all know happens to kids who point out (tattling / ratting) what the teacher didn't see (because snitches are also outnumbered)
  5. The teachers who are bullies, from tactics used to control the classroom (outnumbered) to what happens to kids the teacher doesn't like or whose parents demand better care of their children 
  6. The casual violence in the halls and grounds
  7. The tremendous energy used resisting the system: being late, devaluing intelligence and high marks, forgetting (homework, instructions, what the teacher just said,)  talking back and refusal to comply
  8. The basic lack of civility and respect toward (and, consequently, among) the children
  9. The errors in textbooks and answer keys, and outdated information kids can easily check on their phones (and what happens to children who correct teachers in public)
  10. Teachers who hate kids, their jobs, or the subjects they teach
  11. The clowning, distractions and utter disrespect for the teachers and material taught
Read Michael 1952's story at
All of this, without even talking about the pace, quality or composition of the curriculum, or its relevance in today's world (much less the world 20 years from today), the subjectiveness of grading, the unnecessarily contrived competition, the propaganda, the unnecessary-yet-intentional age-segregation, and the sexism inherent in the system.

Why not let a child try school, if the child wants to? 

Because school is not a benign environment, and few adults who lived through it understand the ramifications of even a short indoctrination into that system, for kids who have never had to live it.

Monday, 26 November 2018

All Wrong: False accusations & criticizing 'getting away with it'

Getting Away With It

In that other post, 3 More Mistakes Critics Make about Attachment-Parenting, in the section about Misbehaviour, I commented briefly on that dire, threatening suggestion that there is something inherently evil in a child ‘getting away with it’ … with a note to follow up with something else to say about that.

Hi! I’m back!

This ‘getting away with’ language really bothers me. This is part of the war on children that isn’t even covert.
First, what exactly is wrong with a child getting what they want? 

   Or accomplishing what they’re attempting?

   Or having a need satisfied? 

Second, if they child does get what they want (which is presumed to be terrible) what have they learned?

The Grundies seem to believe that if a child gets what they want, they will have learned that expressing their emotions or making an attempt to accomplish something ‘works.’

Okay. Sure. The child will learn that trying to accomplish something works. 

Oh no. 

Not that., but I don’t understand, they say: the child will learn that doing something badly works.

So, like trying to speak a sentence in a foreign language and not being completely perfect, but still getting the hot dog you ordered teaches you that doing something imperfectly is … somewhat effective. Cool.

No, no, no, it’s bad! It must be bad. Everyone everywhere is certain that it is bad. So…

Yeah, I’m not playing.

Do you have any idea how many terrified-to-make-mistakes, anxious perfectionists, afraid to learn anything new or try anything new, who get angry at the ordinary pace of changes they’re not in control of are walking around in unhappy adult bodies?

Falsely Accused

One of the primal fears of social animals surrounds all the feelings of being falsely accused. It is powerful stuff, our need to be accepted and fit in. In fact, it is one of William Glasser’s Five Needs, right after #1 Physical Security (food, shelter, sleep) --#2 Love and a Sense of Belonging.

A need. Love and a sense of belonging is a need. When that need is frustrated . . . it feels terrible.
Being accused of having done something, or meant something, or gotten away with something wicked is a horrible feeling, connected with that very social emotion: shame.
There is a deep and dark feeling associated with being accused of ‘getting away’ with something. Of course, no one ever accuses anyone of trying to ‘get away with’ being helpful or generous or fun to be around. 

Nope, this is one of the dark triad of experiences people desire to never feel again: ganged up on, falsely accused, totally ghosted. They are in that order for a reason. Those go from being terrible to traumatic to being life-altering-level terrible.

Notice how being ganged up on is actually not so bad?


So, when people suggest that parents are ‘letting their kids get away with’ something, parents feel immediately hunted, haunted, and genuinely fearful for their social safety: will they (or their children) be ghosted, if this accusation gets to stand?

The deep and immediate shame, and desire to never have that accusation come around again, has a very negative impact on people.
Funny, how the majority of people who say it, if confronted with what it really means, think they don’t really mean that at all.

People are like that: completely onside with whatever kind of horrible treatment someone else deserves, until someone suggests that maybe their dark fantasies say something about their character that they don’t really want noticed.

Children are CHILDREN

When kids want what they want, how are they different from when adults want what they want?

Why is it bad, children wanting things?

Why would it be bad for them to get what they want, and what they need? 

Where does this stuff come from? This 'it's bad to want things' and 'it's bad to attempt to get things' and 'it's monstrous to express feelings' stuff?

Is it because these unhappy (perfectionist, afraid to make a mistake, that whole list from up there...) adults were shamed for wanting? Because they were punished for expressing feelings? Because they were tormented for making mistakes? 

Okay, probably . . . but what has that got to do with any child alive today?

Children are innocent of all of trespasses against their parents’ generation by anyone older than their parents, because they are the children -–not the parents of their parents. They aren’t even the overlords of their parents.

They're children, fer cryin’ out loud!

When kids want what they want, how are they different from when adults want what they want? practical terms the difference between an adult’s desires being thwarted and a child’s is indistinguishable. 

What is it about those bleak feelings, of knowing that you can’t afford something, and how uncomfortable it is to have that reality made blatant by a child’s simple wishing, that makes the kids wrong for wishing?

When kids actually get what they want … ooh, surely that is bad, isn’t it?


When people win a draw for an all-inclusive vacation at work, that’s bad, right? People shame them for ‘getting away with’ working inattentively from time to time, and not being super nice to that creep in the mail room…? No? Really?
Because people get right shirty about little kids getting the candy they asked for (except at Halloween, Christmas and Easter, for some reason no one can explain) … as if they are ‘getting away with’ something nefarious.

Kids are really not capable of nefarious. Really. They can’t even recognize that other people have a completely different experience of the world from themselves until they’re at least 10…

Capable of strategizing to overthrow the adults?


We Gotta Talk About These Vengeful Fantasies

There is something really disturbing running under the surface of ‘children are our future’ and ‘children are so precious’ that makes otherwise seemingly rational adults get really weird about kids getting what they want, what they ask for, or {{horrors}} what they need.

This all is, I think, evidence of a long-ago contract, signed unilaterally with the universe (see the Insanity Box for more on this idea) that had a clause in it that reads something like:

Fine. FINE! I will swallow this crap without bitching endlessly about it now, but boy, when it’s my turn, I get to do exactly the same thing to every kid this age! {shake fist at sky}

This child-abuse-provokes-abuse-of-new-children thing is really old.

Sure, it’s not fair. Fine. You had to suck it up to survive. Congratulations, your life sucked, your parents sucked, everything in the universe sucked.

The children alive today did not do that to you.

They did not even wish it on you.

It has nothing to do with them.

Free them from it.

Let go.

Let's All Get Some Therapy

An adult who can look into the face of a completely innocent child and seek revenge for what was done by the adults of their world when they were children… that needs help. Professional help. Lots of it.

That is not mentally healthy, balanced, sensible or, frankly, fair. children get what they need, that is good. 

It is good in exactly the same way it was bad that the adults of today did not get what they needed when they were children. That was bad and wrong.

Children today getting what they need is good, and right.

Please stop polluting the future with the past.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

3 More Mistakes Critics Make About Attachment Parenting

The to-be-continue post (Contrasting Attachment-Parenting with Child Hate, Childism and Misoproliny) was all about the kind of mainstream parenting that attachment-style parenting isn’t. 

This one is about all the types of parenting it is often accused of being instead.
Permissive, Hippy-Flippy, Woo-woo Non-Parenting

Yeah, that. Attachment-style parenting isn’t that.

It is not permissive. It may look like it to the folks still living over there on the mainstream parenting channel, thinking that the only safe or sane way to get an infant to adulthood without turning them into axe murderers or basement trolls who never get a job is harsh treatment or 'tough love' … but since both of those results are far more common from the mainstream … let me explain the difference.

I am sitting at a playground, watching my kids. There are not many other kids around, because that’s not an accident –dinner time is a great time to be at the playground if you want to actually sit down and not be mediating the war over the sandbox toys. One of my children is climbing up the slide, down the ladder, up the slide, down the ladder. Some helpful and kind grandmotherly type wanders up behind me, protesting and asking me why I don’t stop her. I can’t remember now if the problem was that she was breaking the slide rules (no climbing the slide) or because of how lethal climbing down the ladder clearly was. I also don’t remember what I said to Nice Old Lady. It was polite, but I clearly disagreed with her.
My kids did not need any help at all in deciding how to use the children’s playthings. If the inventor of slides only meant them for going down, the design was seriously flawed –up was available, fun and absolutely something my kids were permitted to explore. Not safe when someone else is coming down, but notice I already arranged the playground visit for a lull: not an accident, as I said.

Ladders are definitely made for going up and down (for fairly obvious reasons once you detach the idea of ‘slide and’ from ‘ladder’) and she clearly felt completely confident in her ability to manage the task –she’d already done it at least 7 times.
My deranged (to others) playground rule was simple: you may never help them go beyond what they are comfortable doing, and they must be rescued the moment the indicate the need.

This rule was not ‘permissive’ –it was intelligent and carefully thought through: what kind of risks do I want my kids to feel safe to handle when they are alone?
The kind that needs a spotter? The kind that needs help from others to reach and that would be very dangerous for them, alone, to get to at all?

Gee, no.
There’s the first part of the rule: you can only explore your way to the edge of your own comfort zone, no further. This is easily enforced because adults are rational and will do what they’re told by the kid’s mom even when they don’t understand it (or they will become very uncomfortable and wander away… darn.) Kids will naturally stop when they no longer feel safe, so that doesn’t need any kind of compliance from the kid, it’s built in.

My favourite kind of rule: the kind that I don’t have to police.

And this natural limit results in the odd ‘omg, I have got myself into a pickle here’ experiences for the kid:

Do I want my kids to feel free to ask for help, and get it, when they need it?, yes.

Oooh, look, another goal met without me having to do anything at all to enforce it! They ask for help, they get it. Ta-da!

Watch me sit on the bench watching them police themselves and their exploration all by themselves… while they are building their confidence in their abilities, all by themselves.


This isn’t permissive parenting, it’s lazy. And quite intentionally so.

Just ask, it may not be what you think it looks like.


Regular people unfamiliar with attachment-style parenting will also look at how misbehaviour is handled and think ‘they’re permissive.’ They aren’t. That is, attachment-style parenting parents are not. Permissive that is.
It looks like it because of what they really aren’t: punitive, authoritarian, shouting, demanding, coercive, threatening, nagging … it’s a long list. It is a long list of things you can see happening from across a busy mall.

Since the mainstream is used to expecting kids to get attacked for making mistakes or expressing their emotions, when attachment-style parents don’t do that it looks permissive. The kids appear to be ‘getting away with’ something.

Remind me to write a post about ‘getting away with’… grrr…


Here’s a tip for onlookers: just because you don’t recognize what is happening doesn’t mean nothing is happening, k?


    ‘My 3yo just won’t listen!’

    ‘How do you get your kids to listen?’

    ‘They never do anything they need to do!’, in this context is code. So is ‘mind’ and ‘do anything they need to do.’

The word obedience is so militant and WWII-ish, so people shy away from it all the time.  

Too bad they don’t shy away from the idea of it rather than just the word for it.

Yes, your 3yo will listen. I promise. Get down on their level, touch them gently, make soft eye contact as soon as they look at you and very quietly say, 

‘would you like your very own giant chocolate bar?’

Promise: they listen just fine. 

What they don’t is obey.

How you ‘get’ your kids to listen is two-pronged. First, you listen to them (so they have any idea at all what it looks like) and second, say things you expect they wish to hear. ‘Go do this right now because I told you to’ is very unlikely to be anything anyone anywhere ever wants to hear.

The last one: they resist doing what they need to do.

No, they don’t.
They need to breathe … and they don’t hold their breath until, and unless, they are frantically frustrated at trying to get their other needs met.

They need to eat … and they don’t starve themselves or resist eating healthy food until the whole issue becomes fraught with drama and top-down control (everything that is fraught with drama and top-down control causes resistance, it’s completely natural and inevitable.)

They need to eliminate … and they don’t hold it or get weird about letting it go (bladder shy) until after they’ve been shamed about bodily functions (including uncontrollable noises and odours) or someone’s attempted to control that from the outside.
Obedience is not an attachment-parenting thing.

All 3 --No AP Anywhere In Them

Neither misbehaviour nor obedience, or permissiveness, are part of the way Attachment-Style (AP) parents think about this game.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

4 Easy Steps to Overcome Morning Terror: Kids and Daycare
‘My lad screams and freaks out whenever I have to go to work. I get up a whole extra hour early, to ease him through the process gently, but nothing I do makes it any better. I explain how important it is for me to work so we can live, and how I understand how he is feeling about it, but it doesn’t change his screaming in terror and trying to block my way to the door.’

A question like this comes up about every other day on parenting lists. 

That small children have a blatant preference for the company of their people, and sometimes one parent or the other for a phase of life, is as predictable as Monday morning coming after Sunday night.
While, obviously, it is ideal if kids have their needs met, and their need for their parents are as real as their need for food and air, I also live in the real world: the one where US healthcare costs cause more middle-class bankruptcies than any other factor; the world where millions of very real children are starving to death for real, every day. 

The one where single parents comprise a significant portion of the workforce.

The other day I said,

there is the ideal, the preferable, and the possible

Sometimes what parents get to choose from is in the last category. Reality really sucks sometimes.

This means, pragmatically, sometimes the child will continue to be wild with frustration and annoyance over a parent doing what parents get to do: work outside the home in an environment openly antagonistic to children (read: where kids ain’t going to be allowed to be.) We can argue for days about what’s wrong with that, and why it’s possibly unnecessary in the very many cases, and how children are as much a part of human life and the world as the grown-up. . . and here we are, today, anyhow. Are we having fun yet?

Back to the miserable parent with the frantic child. of people give lots of advice in this scenario –from ‘sneaking out’ (aka: destroy trust early, it’s simpler than waiting) to ‘make major lifestyle changes so you don’t have to go at all’ (underlying suggestion: please start again at the beginning and be born with more privilege next time) to bribes, threats, ignoring it, promises about later, using different words to explain it better, saying ‘parents always come home’ or ‘I’ll be back later’ (and other temptations for Fate) and all manner of other ineffective and unhelpful things.

In the History of Explaining Things to Upset People. . .

The thing is, in the history of explaining things to upset people, no one has ever been made less upset by any explanation. Sometimes they may be effectively silenced (because ‘this is the reason you’re not welcome to be upset’ can really be a powerful message) but the emotional response to the reality they dislike remains exactly where it is, only simmering perpetually in the background. Yay.

As a friend’s counsellor pointed out: 

people give hugs and tissues to crying people because they want them to stop crying,
not because they want them to let out all their big feelings for however long it takes right now
Actually, people really need to let it out and to feel felt, as Bessel Van Der Kolk puts it, not calmed.

The calming will come on its own, once the feelings are felt through. The feeling through the emotions part –we don’t like that.

The calming will come on its own, once the feelings are felt through

We Don't Like That

First, because it upsets us. We feel their feelings (natural empathy) and we dislike those powerful feelings even when they are not ours.

Second, because it feels like it is going to literally take forever. It won’t, because emotions are a passing chemical response in the body/mind, and those chemicals deplete over time … eventually. (The longer its been since anyone was effectively empathetic with the feeler, the longer it will take because the backlog is bigger and feeling felt is such a unique relief. . .  but that doesn’t have much to do with little kids.)

Third, because people having big emotions around us feels (often) like they’re saying it is our fault, and we often feel compelled to justify, explain, inform or convince them why they’re wrong. Not a lot about trying to tell an upset someone about how they are wrong is likely to improve their mood. . .
Fourth, because it’s not fair. Few people have ever had much experience with feeling felt themselves, especially as kids, and we are deeply agitated by kids ‘getting away with’ things we were banned from doing. This is very stark in people who were shamed as children (like ‘boys do not cry’ or ‘how dare you?!?’)

And you know what? It is not fair. Truly.

It is not fair that people ever treated children and their emotions that way. It is less fair to mindlessly pass it on to another generation of innocent children. Becoming aware of this impulse to seek revenge on the next available victims is often sufficient to stop the cycle: Oh, that’s just those nasty old voices of those old crones who were wrong then, too… I can do something differently this time.

What Do I Do Differently? 
4 Easy Steps to Handling Kids’ Objections to What is Happening

     Step one: empathy

     Step two: repeat step one

     Step three: resist the urge to explain, justify, inform or convince

     Step four: empathy

Not so Easy, Is It?

The urge to rush to explain, justify, inform or convince is powerful, because we feel like our kids’ reactions are blaming us, and there are few things our culture is less comfortable with than blame.

This is where the adulting gets hard.

Courage, dear.

Scene:   Bedroom, early morning, mother and child getting ready for the day

Mom:    You are feeling so angry and scared that I am going to work, because        you really need me to stay home

And . . .  scene.

What is happening here that is so different from the ‘usual’?

Two really big things:

     1.       no one is trying to dismiss or silence the child’s emotional reaction –quite the opposite. This is a parent saying ‘I hear you, and I am here with you hearing you’ which builds trust, and;

     2.       this is a completely neutral and blame-free response that does not personalize the child’s emotion as the adult’s fault, or suggest in any way that the child is to blame for either his feelings or the adult’s emotional reaction.
Notice, this doesn’t magically make the child’s feelings go away.

Why would it?

This is the child who is, in the child’s terms, losing their parent (for the moment, for the day, for the duration of the deployment, or, when the child is really young and can’t understand the parent leaving and still existing somewhere else, forever.)

So, the child starts with powerful feelings that don’t go away by the end, how does that ‘work’? How does that qualify as ‘working’?

In mainstream terms, where the goals is to control the child, their emotions and every aspect of their expression of emotions, it doesn’t work.

it does not work at all for that

We Are Not Seeking That Goal

We are not seeking that goal.

We are also not seeking the underlying goal embedded in that control: to stop the parent feeling anything about what is happening for their child.

One of the things mainstream advice is really resistant to is any suggestion that the parent’s actions might reasonably make the parent feel bad. the child feels bad, well, that’s just to be expected, but parents should be forever free of anything like guilt, regret, responsibility or even compassion for what their child is experiencing when they have no power to fix it.

That’s the thing that takes the courage: the ability to have compassion for a child’s genuine experience when they are suffering and the situation causing it is impossible for us to fix.

The parameters of interacting with humans (even small ones)

               You can’t control them
               You can’t control their feelings or emotions
               You can’t control how they express their feelings or emotions
               You can’t demand trust or respect

               You can control your words and actions
               You can understand your own feelings or emotions
               You can help them feel felt and heard and understood
               You can foster trust and respect

That is what that 4 step plan reaches toward: fostering trust and respect, by helping them feel felt, heard and understood.

I did say that it takes courage because it's hard.