Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do Your Children Own Anything?

When I wrote about gifts the other day, in You Call That a Gift?, I was really only addressing the misuse of the word "gift" as it is applied to things that are clearly not given to children as gifts. The bottom line there is, if the thing given can be taken away whenever the parent feels like it, then it is not a gift.

Then a few commenters on that post (on my Facebook page) pointed out that there is a much bigger issue here than deciding on a new word for the things given to children with all kinds of strings attached. I'll explain with a fictional but very believable story:
Mark was 15 when his parents gave him a shiny new laptop for Christmas. They were so excited to give it to him because they knew how much he loved to play games on the computer. It was a joyful moment as he tore open the wrapping and his eyes lit up. He was surprised and delighted and gratitude poured out from his mouth. It was his own. Or so he thought.
Fast forward only one month. His grades arrive in the mail. He's not doing so well in math. He hates math. He tries really hard, but doesn't understand the material, or his teacher. He has given up on ever doing well. So he's fine with getting a C, but his parents are not fine with it. They come into his room holding the report card, angry and disappointed apparently because he has not invented the kind of magic it would take for him to suddenly start excelling in math. "We're taking away your laptop until you start getting a B or better," they say. They are hoping it will motivate him to try harder. They don't understand that it's not about trying harder. He's doing his best. "But you said it was mine. You gave it to me. Please don't take it away," Mark begs. "We gave it to you, and we can take it away," his parents bluntly explain.

This logic gives Mark an idea. He has worked hard for a couple of years to save up some money, and he decides it it important enough to him to have his own laptop, that he will buy one for himself with his own money. This way, his parents can't take it away, right? Wrong. When his new laptop arrives in the mail, his laptop, his parents are furious. They chide him for wasting his money on a new computer when they have just bought him one for Christmas. "But I'm not allowed to use that one!" he reminds them. "And you're not allowed to use this one either. You are sending it back," they say. He knows he has no choice but to follow their orders.
What did Mark learn from this experience? He learned that he did not have the right to own things. His parents owned everything. He learned that money is power, until he tried to use that power by buying his own computer. Then he learned that age is power. He learned that he has no power until he gets older. He learned to look forward to the day when he could get away from his parents. When people couldn't just take away the things that were his.

When I wrote my last post, I was upset by the thought of parents giving their children "gifts" with strings attached. I was upset that these parents didn't seem to understand the concept of a gift. But the more I think about it, I understand that it's not about gifts. It's about power and control. It's about rights. Many adults seem to be fine with the idea that children do not have the right to own things. I imagine it's requires a similar justification that was used in the not-so-distant past to justify why women could not own property.

This one needed a trim anyway.
In our house, our children own their own things. They are free to use them as they please, as long as they are not hurting anyone or damaging someone else's things, of course. Our children can cut their Barbies' hair, write in their books, cut up their playing cards. They can watch their movies and use pieces from their games for purposes other than those intended. They can eat their candy and wear their clothes in whatever ways they want. They can share or not share their things. They know what it feels like to own something, and to share it willingly. They are learning about ownership, responsibility, and generosity. They are learning that our home is a safe place for them to keep their possessions, and that their father and I are trustworthy protectors of them and their possessions, and their rights.

What lessons do you want your children to learn about ownership and their rights? About you and how much to trust you?

Do your children own anything?

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Call That a Gift?


You know that thing you plan to wrap and give to your child this holiday season? What do you call that thing? Before you call it a gift, remember:
  • It's not a gift if you require a certain type or amount of appreciation in return. 
  • It's not a gift if you reserve or exercise the right to take it away at any moment, for any reason.
  • It's not a gift if you force your child to use it (or not use it) in a certain way.
  • It's not a gift if you use it as a tool to manipulate your child.
  • It's not a gift if you make your child feel guilty for using it too much or not using it enough.
If that thing you are giving is not a gift, please don't call it a gift. Find another word for the thing you are giving. Don't even wrap it. If you do insist on wrapping this non-gift, at least make sure your child knows the deal. Slap a warning label on that pretty wrapping paper:

***THIS IS NOT A GIFT***
This item is on loan to you under certain conditions.
It can and will be taken away from you at the will of your parents, for any reason, including but not limited to: your room is too messy, your grades are too low, you were grumpy one day, you made a mistake.

And don't forget to also label those things your child gets from "Santa" or anyone else, if you plan to use them in the same way. Those are not gifts either.

If you give your child something as a gift, remember that you are surrendering possession of that thing. You are permanently transferring ownership of that thing. It no longer belongs to you. It belongs to your child. If someone else gives your child something as a gift, remember that thing never belonged to you in the first place. Let your child own her own things.

A gift is something given freely and without strings attached. It's something you give because you want to give it. A giver of a gift does not expect anything in return. The giving of a gift is a happy transaction. If your gift is not like this, then it is not a gift at all. It is something else entirely.

**********************

The issue here is much larger than the meaning of the word "gift". See a follow-up post here: Do Your Children Own Anything?

There's a new post on Parent-Free By Choice today, Not Well Adjusted: The Day It Ended. The author explains that she is no longer speaking to her mother because she "couldn't take her constant judging, harassing, and demands anymore."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"That's All I Have To Say About That"

It's a quote from one of my favorite movies ever: Forrest Gump. It came to me at 5:00 this morning, as my mind was racing while I should have been sleeping. Remember the part of that movie when Forrest starts running across the country? That was what I felt like about eight months ago when I started posting on here. I felt compelled to write, so I wrote. And sort of like Forrest, but on a much smaller scale, I attracted some attention along the way. Some people started following me. My writing even inspired a few people (I've been told).

Remember what happens next in the movie? One day, Forrest decides he has had enough. He's tired. So he just stops running. That's what I feel like right now.

I have enjoyed writing, reading, and connecting. The wonderful responses have been uplifting. Even the negative ones have helped me to grow. I have gained confidence, clarity, and compassion. It has been like a dream, having people read and connect with my words.

I have explained my philosophy. My friends and family know I have a plan. Even if they disagree with some of it, they can at least see what my parenting is all about. This was my goal when I started writing. I have also made a lot of new friends in the process. I'm now surrounded by people who treat their children well, which makes me feel good about the world. It makes me feel like there is hope. I know it will continue to catch on.

I don't know how long this feeling will last, but I am looking forward to a retreat into the peace of my more private life. I'm sure my husband and our children will appreciate it as well.

I'll be doing more of this.

For now, I am going to leave most of my posts up, although I may turn off comments at some point soon. I hope some people will continue to read my writing if it helps them. I hope my most important points will shine through:
  1. You can be gentle, kind, and compassionate to your children, and to all children. You can be friends with them, even.
  2. You can speak softly to your children.
  3. You don't have to choose between being controlling and being neglectful. You don't have to choose whether to be a tiger mom, a helicopter mom, or any other trendy kind of mom. There is another way. You can be human. Just realize your children are human too.
  4. You can try to remember how confusing life could be when you were a child. You can avoid hurting your children in the same ways you were hurt. 
  5. You can talk to your child about your parenting dilemmas. You can carefully consider this question as you make decisions: How is this going to affect my relationship with my child?
  6. You can opt-out of the school system if it doesn't feel right for your family. It's legal to do so all over the United States, and in many other countries as well. It's also fun.
  7. You can question every parenting article, every study about children, every piece of advice or criticism you receive.
Thanks to all of my loyal readers, and to everyone who honored me by sharing my writing with others. I appreciate all of you.

And that's all I have to say about that. For now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Five Myths About Spanking


MYTH: Spanking is not the same as hitting.
FACT: Spanking is different from hitting in name only. A few quick Google searches for definitions and a few applications of the transitive property confirmed this:
Hit: Bring one's hand or a tool or weapon into contact with (someone or something) quickly and forcefully

Spank: Slap with one's open hand or a flat object, esp. on the buttocks as a punishment
Slap: A blow with the palm of the hand or a flat object
Blow: A powerful stroke with a hand, weapon, or hard object
Stroke: An act of hitting or striking someone or something
In other words: Spanking = Hitting.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Your Child Being Robbed?

If a child is forced to say thank you or sorry, then he is robbed of a chance to express his own heartfelt gratitude or apology.

If a child is forced to eat two more bites of dinner, then she is robbed of a chance to feel just full enough to be satisfied.

If a child is forced to clean up, then he is robbed of a chance to show how helpful he can be, voluntarily.

If a child is forced to wear a jacket, then she is robbed of a chance to feel cold enough to know when she really needs one.

If a child is forced to stop crying, then he is robbed of a chance to express his fears or his dreams.

If a child is told she is not good enough, then she is robbed of a chance to be happy with herself the way she is.


All those times we exert control over our children, we are taking away chances for them to control themselves. How do we expect our children to learn "self-control" if we don't let them practice it?
***********************

Read about one woman's struggles with a controlling parent over at Parent-Free By Choice.

Please Note: None of the examples above have anything to do with a child running into the street, or anything else involving imminent danger. Also, I have not said we should never guide our children.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Change Your Default Setting From "No" to "Maybe"

I have had many conversations about parenting in the past eight months since I started this blog. The absolute most frustrating type of conversation goes something like this:
Me: I like to help my kids get what they want.
Other Person: That's impossible! What if they want to go to the moon in a spaceship? I can't get my kids what they want every time they ask! I'd be broke.
Here's why I have a problem with this kind of thinking: It's focused on the impossibilities, the exceptions, the singularities. It's focused on what we can't do. How often do our children want things that are truly impossible to get? More importantly, how often do our children want things that are possible, and we brush them off because we have to teach them they can't always get what they want.

A parent who thinks this way has the default setting of No. She's at the grocery store with her kids, and they ask for a piece of  candy or a small toy at the checkout counter.
She thinks: We can't buy something for you every time we go to the store.
She responds: No, put it down. 
She's satisfied with the lesson: You can't always get what you want .
I guess the idea here is that the parent is afraid that if she "gives in" this time, the child will come to expect it every time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Parent-Free By Choice

How many of you out there have chosen to separate yourselves from one or both of your parents because of the way they treated you?
That was the question I asked on Twitter. I was blown away by the responses. There were about 20 people who spoke up and shared a little of their stories with me, out of about 400 followers. I was surprised at how common this issue seemed to be. Then I asked a similar question on Facebook, this time asking people to email me their stories, not sure what I would do with them yet.

Here are some of the things people have shared:
Thank you for your curiosity and openness to this subject many find taboo.

Part of me thinks is it easier to just tell people your mom died than to say you just don’t speak to her.
A person can only be hurt so much before enough is enough.

[My father] made my life miserable and then threatened my kids.
I'm teaching my parents a lesson.  I do plan on getting back in touch, but not until they've had a long time to realize that they need us more than we need them.
It's heartbreaking and it's not an easy choice to make. So much baggage goes along with it. People understand divorce more than they do cutting ties with parents.
Many people also shared how they have felt so alone going through this process. Some have people making them feel guilty about their decisions. All this made me wonder: If this is taboo, why is that? Why do we give people a hard time about cutting ties with parents? Do we as a society feel that a person owes her parents something, no matter how badly they have treated her? If this is such a common issue, why aren't we talking about it more?

After reading through the stories I received, I have decided to start a second blog, to give people a place to give and get support from others who are dealing with similar issues. I'm calling it "Parent-Free By Choice." The posts will be stories from (mostly anonymous) readers, who want to share their experiences. It will be a supportive, empowering, compassionate place.

No one should feel forced to endure mistreatment or abuse from anyone else, even (especially) a parent. A person who chooses to be parent-free is not "running away" from problems, but rather running toward a better, happier life. I'm hoping it will help people to see just how many others are going through this, or have gone through it and feel at peace with their decisions.


I'm also hoping that the connection between this blog and the new one will be very clear. Let's just say that so far, I have NOT heard anything like the following:
I don't speak to my parents anymore because they were too supportive and respectful of my freedom.
I don't speak to my parents anymore because they didn't meddle with my life enough.
I don't speak to my parents anymore because they treated me too kindly.
You get the idea.

Please go visit the new blog, where the first story is now up. Read, reflect, offer support. Share your story if you think it might help you or someone else. Details on how to do so can be found in the right sidebar on the new blog.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten Steps To Kinder, Gentler Parenting

It seems many parents know exactly the "Mean Voice" I wrote about in Did You Kiss Your Baby With That Mouth? Now some people want to know: How do you stop yourself from being mean? What do you say instead?

So here are some suggestions for adjustments that might help you move toward kindness.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Does an Education Degree Come With Super Powers?

According to Ron Clark, in this CNN story called What teachers really want parents to know, an education degree does, in fact, come with at least one super power. He writes:
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you.
See? Apparently, teachers are gifted with infallibility. We should believe everything they tell us about our children. He continues:
And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.
What about demeaning the child by not asking for his side of the story? What about the partnership between parent and child? Should we worry about weakening that? Clark says later in the article:
If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me."
I cannot believe the double standard that is so casually displayed here. Let me summarize:
  • If any teacher tells you your child did something wrong, just believe it. The teacher would never lie or exaggerate.
  • If your own child tells you the teacher did something wrong, make sure to get the teacher's side. Children can't be trusted.
But these pesky parents just don't get it, according to Clark:
They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting.
He's right about one thing, it would be a lot more convenient if parents just believed everything teachers said. Convenient for the teachers. Not so much for the students, or for the parent-child relationships, which will last a lot longer than the parent-teacher relationships, if the parents are lucky.

I choose this relationship.

I have some questions for Ron Clark: Should everyone have trusted the teachers who recently cheated on standardized tests? Should parents trust the teachers who sexually assault children? The ones who harass and demean and emotionally abuse children?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Did You Kiss Your Baby With That Mouth?

That mouth on your face... Is that the mouth you used to smile and softly kiss your baby's head the moment you first held him your arms? Is it the same mouth you used to whisper gently into your precious new baby's ear how much you loved him and wanted him and promised to take care of him?

How is that mouth now? Does it still feel gentle and soft and sweet? Or has it become rough and harsh and sour?

Do you have a special tone of voice reserved for talking to your child, now that he's not a baby anymore? One that you would never use with anyone else but your own child? You  probably know the tone I'm talking about. It might be the one your parents used on you.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What If They Choose School?

Another question I expect to answer a lot as my kids get older:
Will you let your kids go to school if they want to?
The short answer: yes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Should I Be Embarrassed About This?

I share my bed. There, I said it. I sleep in the same bed as my husband. I like to have him next to me at night. I like to feel his presence there. I feel safe and warm. When I wake up from a bad dream, he comforts me. Is this bad for me? Will this have a negative impact on my growth as a person? Would I be better off if he sent me to another room? Should Nick and I be embarrassed that we prefer to share a bed?

Monday, August 22, 2011

On Bullying

How do you really feel about bullying? What are the options for a bullied child? Please consider these two stories as another school year begins.

First, a fictional story about a girl named Mary...
Almost every day for a few years, Mary has spent many hours with Peter and his friends, who are very cruel to Mary. They call her terrible names, throw things at her, spit at her, destroy things that are valuable to her. She has started to eat meals in the bathroom when Peter is around, because it is the only place she can escape his torment. She believes she is worthless and has thought about killing herself. Peter has warned her not to tell anyone about the things he does to her or else he will only make it worse for her. He is much bigger than she is, so she has not said anything until now. Mary has finally come to you and shared her story, and she is afraid.

How do you feel about Mary? About Peter? What should Mary do? Do your answers depend on who Mary is, and what is her relationship to Peter?
Continue reading here for some of the possibilities.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Are You Ready For the Wild Shots?

This is a little embarrassing to admit, as the wife of a tennis pro: I am terrible at tennis. I haven't picked up a racquet in years, but recently I have been thinking about the first few times I played tennis with Nick. We had just started dating at the time.

We also tried to play once when Louise was a baby.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Child Is Not Any Of These Things

A child is not a blank canvas. He is not an art project. You don't have to create him or mold him into your vision or your ideal. By the time he is born into this world, your job as the creator is done. Your job now is to help him grow as himself, not to give him a self to grow into.



A child is not a terrorist. She is not your enemy. She doesn't do things on purpose to make you miserable. If there are any battles going on, you can make sure you are on the same side as your child.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How To Stop "Giving In" To Your Child

Yesterday I read some advice from parenting "expert" John Rosemond in an article called Mom should stop giving in to tantrums. A mother writes to him about her daughter, almost 3 years old, who is having separation anxiety. The little girl used to have her father as primary care-giver, but he abandoned her just over a year ago. What does Rosemond say about this delicate situation?
I sense that you might be over-complicating the issue by thinking that your daughter's anxiety over separation is due to her father's sudden disappearance from her life. That's actually unlikely. It's more likely that she has no memory of him at all (but might recognize him if he suddenly appeared, but recognition and memory are two different things).
This is a very big assumption. While the little girl may not remember her father specifically, she certainly could have a feeling that she lost something big or that someone abandoned her. However, it doesn't really matter what the anxiety is "due to" because at age 3, she's not making it up. She's anxious about her mother leaving.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Too Much Parenting? Or Too Much Nonsense?

I was tempted to write this post in ALL CAPS. I am so tired of reading things like this, I could actually scream:
I believe that the goal should change from making children happy and protecting them from harm to raising them to be independent adults able to problem-solve and cope in the real and sometimes difficult adult world. A safety net can become a trap. Dependence on one’s parents means lack of real security and often results in low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
It's nonsense. Someone has written another book about how kids these days never grow up, and how it's all the parents' fault for being too helpful, too involved, too available. Read more about it here. Apparently, parents need to set more boundaries, have higher expectations, force independence at a younger age. The goal of parenting should be independence instead of happiness?! Dependence leads to low self-esteem?! Security makes us feel insecure?! I disagree.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think parents should hover anxiously around their children and never allow independence. Let me remind you there IS a third option. You don't have to choose between forcing independence and never allowing it. Between removing the safety net and using it as a trap. The third option looks like knowing your child, talking to your child, respecting the level of independence your child wishes to have. It looks like making that safety net available, and using it properly so it doesn't trap your child. I wrote about this kind of thing in Choosing Your Guide.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When Your Parents Disapprove Of Your Parenting

I imagine it is difficult for parents who are used to having (at least the illusion of) complete control over their children to transition to any other kind of relationship with their children. I'm glad I am starting now, when my kids are toddlers, to practice letting go. I'm practicing giving them real choices, real control over their bodies and their lives.

I'm practicing trusting them now, when the issues are things like whether to brush hair or wear the same clothes for three days in a row or when to go to sleep. These small details will not matter in the grand scheme of our relationship, except that my children will know what freedom and self-control feel like, because they are actually allowed to control themselves. I'm hoping all of this practice will prepare me for when the issues get much bigger. When my kids are deciding who to date or marry, and how to raise their own children, I'm hoping I can continue to support them without criticizing them or pushing my own preferences on them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

If You Hate Spanking Your Kids, Then Stop

(source)

A couple of months ago, I made a flowchart illustrating society's rules of hitting. It shows how ridiculous it is that children are not protected from being hit (spanked) by their parents, and in some states, their teachers. Recently, I got a comment on that post that really struck me. I would like to address it here. The comment is reproduced here in full, broken up with my responses to the different parts:
My parents really didn't use other methods of discipline other than spanking(that worked). I've also had the wooden spoon. I got "grounded" but that never really worked. None of my parents' punishments ever really worked (i.e. removal of privileges, removal of precious things, stern talking tos, bribes, rewards(not really a punishment, but a tool nonetheless.)) Spanking...I definitely feared that and it was definite motivation to do whatever it was I was or wasn't doing that needed correcting. And I wasn't exactly a 'willful' child that needed constant spanking or anything like that. I just got bad grades, never did my homework, and the normal childhood/teenage rebellion, etc.
This might be the most difficult hurdle to jump over when trying to think clearly about spanking: You did not deserve to be spanked as a child. Even if you got bad grades, did not do your homework, or did not do exactly as you were told, you did not deserve to be spanked. It can be hard to reconcile this idea with the fact that you like your parents (if you do), and you appreciate all of the great things they did for you. You don't want to be ungrateful. You don't want to think that they made a mistake.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Don't Call It a Brat Ban

There is a lot of buzz about this movement to provide child-free experiences in places like airplanes, restaurants, and grocery stores. I have lots of issues with it, but by far the most upsetting thing is that some people have started calling these restrictions Brat Bans.


I can't stand the word brat in general. While I suppose I can picture what people are talking about when they use the word, I can honestly say that I don't use it myself. What upsets me about the term brat bans is how the word brat is being used as a substitute for the word child. That is unfair.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ignore Anyone Who Tells You This Is a Good Parenting Technique

Just two days after my post about children being like bladders (and why it doesn't make sense to ignore either one), I came across this article, about something called nonreactive parenting. It might have been good if the rest of the article supported this statement:
This approach requires that a parent delay a response to a negative situation with a child until it is clearly understood what the true need of the child is; the reaction is in a manner that strictly addresses the need.
This sounds pretty good. Figure out what the underlying need is before reacting. Yes.

However, the author inexplicably goes on to say that she has "figured out" that ignoring her kids is a great way to stop any behavior she doesn't like. This, to me, is not even close to figuring and addressing the need. I don't think a child "needs" to be ignored in most cases. But I read on.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Freedom Doesn't Always Look Pretty

My children have a lot of freedom. They are free to make their own choices about lots of things like food, television, sleep, bathing, helping around the house. This makes a lot of people nervous. I have had more than a few people tell me, That's great if it works for you, but it wouldn't work for my kids. My kids wouldn't be able to regulate themselves.

I understand it's difficult to imagine what it looks like when you allow children this kind of control over their own lives. We grow up being told that children are incapable of making good decisions. It's hard to let that idea go. I was doubtful about it when I first read the suggestion, not long ago. But as we read more about radical unschooling, my husband and I decided we could and wanted to trust our children.

About a year and a half later, I can definitely report that the freedom is "working" for us. My kids are happy and healthy and fun, and we have wonderful relationships with each other. That doesn't mean it's always easy or that it always looks pretty, though. Some days the kids make choices that seem to be extreme and, if taken out of context, would probably make us look like "bad" parents.

So what does freedom look like in our house?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Society Tells Us About Being Friends With Our Children (And Why It's Nonsense)

Dear Parents,
You should worry about who your child's friends are, because his friends will be very influential in his life. His friends will have an affect on his self-esteem, his eating habits, his chances of doing drugs, and lots of other important things.
You should combat this possible negative influence by trying to be influential in your child's life.
But you must do this while never attempting to be your child's friend. Don't ask why. Trying to talk about it will only make us angry. So just don't do it. Good luck.
Sincerely,
Everyone
But I wonder:

Is there a better way to ensure that your child has good friends who are positive influences, than to be one of them?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Your Child Is Like Your Bladder

If you are like me, you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night feeling like you have to pee. You have two options when this happens. You can get up and go to the bathroom or you can try to ignore the urge and fall back to sleep. But one thing is for sure, even if you somehow manage the second option, the need doesn't go away. In fact, when you wake up again, your need will probably be even stronger.

What if you talked about your urge to pee, and people around you told you to ignore it? What if the people who declared themselves "bladder experts," based on the fact that they have one of their own, told you you shouldn't have to get up to pee at night? Or that if you pee exactly six times per day while awake, at regular increments, it should take care of your night urges?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unschooling: Motivation and Inspiration

This can usually be found as a static page on the blog, but I wanted to share the latest version here as well. I have added links to other sites for inspiration! Happy reading...

Comparing Schooling And Unschooling

It's no secret that I am not a big fan of school, especially the way it is currently set up. Here is why I think going to school is like riding a train, and not even to an exciting place.


Here is how unschooling is extremely different from that: 


Now, I know what you might be thinking. And it probably has to do with some combination of the following topics. If so, check out my posts that attempt to answer the questions and feel free to question even further.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Television Ate My Child's Brain! Or Not.

I've been reading a lot lately about how bad it is for kids to watch television. How television is like an addictive drug that induces a brain stupor for anyone who watches for too long. How kids can't possibly learn anything from watching a screen. How kids love limits and will someday thank me for limiting their screen time. How I should not let my kids watch too much or they might actually be sucked into the screen and disappear forever. Ok, not really that last one.

How can I tell if he is turning into a zombie?

My kids watch television. I'm not afraid to admit it. We love watching it together. We don't have cable, but we do have DVDs, VHS tapes, a library card, a computer hooked up to our television and a Netflix account, so there are almost no limits on the number and range of programs we can access.

Also, they have absolutely no arbitrary limits on how much television they can watch. We let them decide how much is right for them. There are days when the television is on all day. Does this mean my kids are zombies with brains of mush? If so, I haven't noticed it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Am Not My Child's Teacher

This is an updated version of the original post, published in March 2011...

My children are four and two years old. By now, they have both learned how to talk, walk, run, jump, climb, make jokes, dance, and do a bunch of other things. But I won't say "I taught them" how to do these things.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Invited My Children To This Party

I am not the boss of my family. I didn't hire my kids as employees, to follow my orders and make me look good. I don't have a job description in mind for them, a list of responsibilities and tasks they are expected to perform, in return for compensation. The food, shelter, and other things my husband and I provide are not part of a salary. The love we give is not the benefits package.

It's more like I'm the hostess of a party. I sent invitations to my kids to join me in my life as honored guests. And they each had no choice but to accept my invitation. Now my goal is for all of us to have a good time. I suggest and plan fun things for us to do. I invite other interesting people to join us.

I aim to treat my children like I would treat guests at a party.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ten MORE Ways To Confuse a Child

  1. Tell him you are worried about his ability to focus (on doing things he's not at all interested in), but then get angry when he doesn't hear something you say because he's so focused (on doing something he loves).
  2. Whine about how annoying it is when he whines.
  3. Give him something really cool like a cell phone or computer, call it a "gift," and then take it away (or at least threaten to) whenever he does something you don't like.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Four Books I Love: On Discipline, Childhood, Siblings, and Sex

Unconditional Parenting 
by Alfie Kohn


This book gave me a whole new outlook on my children and all children. Kohn clearly explains the problems with a lot of the mainstream "wisdom" about parenting. In doing so, he challenges the effectiveness of discipline, and offers an alternative way to parent, focusing on "love and reason."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Parenting Without Punishment: Taking Responsibility

Since I explained that I don't discipline my kids, I know some people must be wondering what it looks like when something goes wrong around here. This is one recent example:

My son Emmitt (2) once pulled off a few of the keys from our laptop keyboard. And I can't put them back on. There are plenty of ways I could have punished him to attempt to make him realize it wasn't a good thing to do. To make him feel responsible for his actions. To make him feel bad for doing this in hopes that it would prevent him from doing it again.

It makes typing interesting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Your Baby Can Walk!

(source)
Imagine someone comes up with a product called Your Baby Can Walk!

It's a series of videos, featuring inspirational clips of people walking around. And close-up shots of kids talking about walking. And catchy songs about how great walking is.

It also includes supplemental materials like little wind-up toys that look like people walking. And colorful, baby-sized foot shapes to put around the floor so your baby could step on them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why I Don't Discipline My Kids

Imagine you have a child who is learning how to walk. He can usually make it all the way across a room without stumbling, but he still falls down sometimes.

And he still chooses to crawl sometimes, because he can get somewhere faster, or because he is tired or hungry or sick, and he doesn't have the energy to walk.


Do you punish your child falling down or not being able to walk a certain distance? Do you worry if you don't punish him, he may never learn to walk properly?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dealing With Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Warning: This post contains language that could be construed as advice. Proceed with caution.

If you are a parent and you spend any time in public, you have probably been on the receiving end of some unsolicited advice. I have run into two general types so far:

The "Oh-So-Obvious" Advice
You're at the grocery store with your infant. You make all the way to the checkout counter without a hitch, when the little one gets upset. You're trying to comfort her while hurrying to unload the cart so you can get out of there as quickly as possible with your food. And that's when it happens. The person on line in front of you says something like: She's probably hungry.

The "You're-Doing-It-Wrong" Advice
You get into a casual conversation with someone and it comes up that you and your kids sleep in the same bed at night, and you aren't complaining about it. The person warns you that your kids will never learn to sleep on their own if you don't push into a separate room as soon as possible. And then offers advice on the most efficient way to train them out of your bed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Our Children Are Not Our Masterpieces"

There is one more quote from Lori Gottlieb's article that inspired me, from Wendy Mogel: 
Our children are not our masterpieces.

This one, I agree with wholeheartedly.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Is Independence Good Or Bad?

Here is one more topic from How to Land Your Kid in Therapy that I can't ignore: independence. On the one hand, Gottlieb talks about how kids have too many choices and too few limits, as I discussed in this post.

The advice is clearly that parents should limit how many choices their children get. We shouldn't worry about respecting our kids' wishes when they want something different than we are offering. This would be allowing... I don't know... too much independence at a young age?? We wouldn't want that.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Vaccine My Kids Definitely Don't Need

Here's another topic butchered by Lori Gottlieb in How to Land Your Kid in Therapy: Happiness. She asks the following question, and seems to answer YES, without a doubt:
Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?
In other words, in order for an adult to have a chance at happiness, he has to get doses of unhappiness (word used in the article: "devastation") as a child, dealt by or at least not stopped by his parents. Sort of like a vaccine against unhappiness. One psychologist quoted in the article describes the phenomenon of "psychological immunity," where kids should get used to settling for any crappy hand they get as early as possible in life. When parents step in and try to "fix" everything, he says, the kids won't learn to "adapt to less-than-perfect situations." The effectiveness of the unhappiness vaccine could be easily verified, because the kids with the most miserable childhoods should be the happiest adults. Right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

5 Words That Have Nothing To Do With Friendship With My Child Or Anyone Else

If you ever talk about the idea of parents and children being friends, you may hear some concerns from people. The concerns usually include at least one of the following five words, which, to me, have nothing to do with friendship:

Monday, June 20, 2011

School Confusion: Response To an Anonymous Comment

I received a very detailed comment on my Ten Ways For Schools To Confuse a Child post, so I thought I would address each of the Anonymous Commenter's points.

Let's look into this a bit further...

Here, I will include the original list item, followed by the comment in italics, and then my response. Here goes...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where Children Are Treated Like Adults

This is my third post in a series about an article in The Atlantic called How to Land Your Kids in Therapy. In it, Jean Twenge, a co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic and professor of psychology at San Diego State University claims that:
We treat our kids like adults when they’re children, and we infantilize them when they’re 18 years old.
Sometimes I feel like I don't live on the same planet as these experts. How many people do you know who treat their kids even remotely like adults?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"You Can Do Anything You Want." Except That.

This is the second in a series of posts about an article from The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb, called "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy." In the first one, I argued against the premise of the article, which seems to be that if your child ever goes to therapy, even if he only has wonderful things to say about you, you might be a failure as a parent.

Today I want to address an idea that is often expressed in our society, and is perpetuated by articles like this. I touched on this topic once before, in The Myth Of Permissive Parents. Here is a quote found in Gottlieb's article, from Barry Schwarz, a Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College:
Most parents tell kids, ‘You can do anything you want, you can quit any time, you can try this other thing if you’re not 100 percent satisfied with the other.’
THIS IS A MYTH! It shocks me every time I hear it. This is NOT what most parents say. Let me alter it slightly for you with some of my own additions in bold: 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If My Kid "Lands" In Therapy

There is an article on The Atlantic, called How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend it. It is a very long article and I have a lot to say about it, a few posts worth. The author, Lori Gottlieb, is a therapist and mother. When she started seeing patients, she was expecting for most of them to have complaints about their parents. She was surprised to find this was not the case for a lot of them, explaining:
These patients talked about how much they “adored” their parents. Many called their parents their “best friends in the whole world,” and they’d say things like “My parents are always there for me.” Sometimes these same parents would even be funding their psychotherapy (not to mention their rent and car insurance), which left my patients feeling both guilty and utterly confused. After all, their biggest complaint was that they had nothing to complain about!
These experiences led her to wonder: Was it possible these parents had done too much for their children?

Monday, June 13, 2011

7 "Dangers" Of Being Friends With Your Child

If you ever listen to parenting advice, you have probably heard some form of this...

WARNING: Being Friends With Your Child Is Dangerous. Do Not Attempt Under Any Circumstances.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Three Steps To Keeping a Clean House

It's hard to keep a clean house when you have young kids.

You want your kids to enjoy living in their own home, but that means messes will be made. You want to spend as much time as you can engaged with your kids and still have some time for your own pursuits, but that leaves little time for cleaning. So how do you do it?


I have solution for parents out there who want to have a guest-ready house at all times, where everything is clean and tidy and perfectly arranged, without losing too much fun time with the little ones...

Three Steps To Keeping a Clean House

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Myth of Permissive Parents

Every few months, an article comes out about the Four Types Of Parents. This latest article calls the four types authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. 

Authoritarian parents run their families like dictatorships. Uninvolved parents are neglectful. Think "Anna" and "Zoe" from Choosing Your Guide. These are the extremes, and pretty easy to pick out. Any other category is much more complicated.

The verdict is almost always in these articles that the authoritative parents, described as having "high expectations" but also showing "a lot of warmth," win the contest. Basically, these are parents who tell their kids what to do, but maybe say it nicely, and still give hugs. They are supposedly most likely to have "children who are responsible, competent and have high self-esteem."

The thing I really want to address, though, is the idea permissive parents. As defined in the article:
Permissive parents want a warm relationship with their children, but don't have specific expectations for their children. They tend not to set clear rules or goals for their children or tell them what to do.
There is this myth about kids in our culture, that so many of them are spoiled, that they do whatever they want, get whatever they want. That permissive parenting is rampant. There are supposedly all these parents who don't tell their kids what to do. But according to this article, 97% of school-age kids go to school.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Are You Trying To "Gun-Proof" Your Child?

About a year ago I had the unfortunate experience of reading To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. Many things I read in it still haunt me today, and I don't recommend reading the book if you like children, or people in general. It reads like a dog-training manual for people who don't like dogs, only it's meant to be a parenting guide.

One part of the book I will never forget is this, the section on gun safety:
With our first toddler, I placed an old, unused and empty, single-shot shot-gun in the living room corner. After taking the toddler through the "No" saying, hand-switching sessions, they knew guns were always off limits. Every day they played around the gun without touching it. I never had to be concerned with their going into someone else's house and touching a gun. I didn't gun-proof my house, I gun-proofed my children.
Because locking up the darn gun after every time you use it is just too much trouble, I guess. And because a child is supposed to know to avoid all types of guns (even toy guns I imagine) based on the one type of gun used for the lesson. It's not surprising, having read the rest of the book, because the whole idea of their "parenting style" is to completely kill any curiosity in their children for the sake of parental convenience.

While most of us never would go to such extremes, I think we can learn something from the ridiculousness of this idea.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life Is Not Fair... But Parents Can Be

It's a phrase people use a lot. Life is not fair. And it's true. Nature doesn't do fair. Terrible diseases can dramatically reduce the chances for some people to enjoy life, and cause people to die young and tragically. Hurricanes and tsunamis and tornadoes strike with unforgiving intensity. Some people get much more than a fair share of nature's wrath, while others seem to skip through life unaffected.

What does this have to do with parenting?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Choosing Your Guide

You have been invited to go on a day-long hike by two of your friends, to the same place, on the same day. You have never been hiking before, so you will be relying on your friend to guide you on the difficult course. You have to choose one of them:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is Your Home a War Zone?

  1. Is your child the enemy, or a terrorist?
  2. Do you refuse to negotiate with your child?
  3. Do you create a united front with your spouse, against your child? 
  4. Do your children combine forces, against you?
  5. Do you have battles with your child?

Monday, May 30, 2011

School Readiness

Remember the Ten Ways For Schools To Confuse a Child? Well, I'm pretty sure someone from the federal government read it and took my suggestions seriously. Because they are planning on taking one of the items on the list and running with it. Here it is:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Does Anyone Care About the Kids?

The Institute of Education Sciences has approved a $1.6 million study of the effects of stress on education. This is great! Right?! We will see how stressful the school environment is on the kids, and maybe some drastic changes will finally be made!

Oh wait... no, nevermind. The study is not about the kids.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Don't Think You Are a Good Mother

I'm just going to say it: I don't think you are a good mother. But I'm not saying I think you are a bad mother either. I used to think I could judge whether other mothers were good or bad. But lately, I just don't have an opinion either way. Even if I did have an opinion, would it matter to you? Does it matter if a stranger thinks you are a good mother? Or a friend or sister or parent thinks so?

It doesn't to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three Bad Reasons To Hit Children

Yesterday I put up a flowchart explaining the ridiculous logic that somehow gets us to where parents are allowed to hit their children (and some teachers allowed to hit their students) in the United States.

It's no wonder that parental corporal punishment has been outlawed in 26 countries since 1979. Because people who hit children don't have very good justifications for doing so. Here are what I think are the three most popular ones, followed by my responses:

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Am I Allowed To Hit Someone?

It seems like this is what our society tells us about hitting:



I don't think a child EVER deserves to be hit. But laws in the United States allow parents (in all states) and teachers (in 19 states) to use corporal punishment on children.

Why do we allow this?

Why are children not protected from being hit by adults, by their own parents and teachers?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ten Different Ways To Talk About Your Child

I read this great blog post the other day, with a suggestion for a different way of looking at shyness in children. It inspired me to think of other ways we can rephrase the way we talk about our children:
  1. He's not messy. He's creative.
  2. She's not bossy. She's a natural leader.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Words Matter: Sometimes...

Some of my Geometry tests in high school featured questions that looked kind of like True or False questions, but with a twist. There would be a list of statements, and we would have to decide whether each statement was Always true, Sometimes true, or Never true. I found these questions more difficult than regular True or False questions, because of that middle option, the sometimes.

The deal with the sometimes option is that if you can think of ONE example of when something is not true, then it's not always true. It's only sometimes true. One counterexample is all it takes.

In life, it's easy to lose sight of the sometimes option in the middle, and default to always or never. You might hear parents say things like these about their kids:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ten Ways For Schools To Confuse a Child

In case parents don't do enough to sufficiently confuse their children, teachers and school administrators can do their parts as well. We can all work together to make sure no child is left thinking the world makes sense.

Each of these items is worth ten points, with a few extra credit opportunities:
  1. Punish him for something that is completely beyond his control, like being late for school because of traffic or because his mother overslept.
  2. Make a really big deal about how important it is for kids to get physical activity, and then force him to sit still for 95% of the school day. *extra credit for giving excessive homework, leading to more forced sitting: 1 point for each hour

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kids and Limits

Limits. Boundaries. Restrictions. Things that must be imposed on children for their own good, right? Parents who don't draw hard lines and enforce compliance are told they are setting their kids up for lives of crime. How will they know their limits if you don't tell them what they are?

It is even commonly believed that children don't just need parent-set limits, they actually crave limits. Whenever I hear that, I get a vision of Homer's Odysseus and his encounter with the Sirens. In order not to fall victim to the irresistible song of the Sirens, he orders his men to tie him up and not to let him go, no matter how hard he begs. Are people saying that our children are like this? That they will thank us for restraining them (literally or figuratively), for giving them no choice but to avoid temptation?

This guy did thank his crew for keeping him tied up. (source)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Have You Stopped Asking Why?

Why, Mom?
I have to laugh when I hear adults talk about how unreasonable children are. It's funny to me because I find children usually want to know the reasons, the justifications, the explanations for Everything. That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Anyone who has ever had a conversation with a young child knows that the most important word to him is WHY. A child will ask why questions until his curiosity about a topic is fully satisfied. I have heard the adults in these conversations get irritated. I have heard adults respond with Just Because. Or Stop Asking So Many Questions.

When an adult complains about not being able to reason with a child, I find it's usually code for:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Control, Criticism, and Contradiction

When it comes to parenting, everyone is a critic. I am certainly not without guilt in this area. Especially before I had kids, I wasn't afraid to talk about what other people were doing wrong (although I think I rarely expressed it directly to them). If you are a parent, chances are, you have been accused being a bad parent at some point.

Maybe you have been accused of giving your kids either not enough freedom or too much freedom. Because people like to put other people in neat little boxes, they want to put you in either the box marked: HELICOPTER PARENTS or the box marked: LAZY NEGLECTFUL PARENTS. Just for the sake of convenience.

These are bee boxes. But you get the idea.

One interesting part of being an unschooling parent is having lots of opportunities to be accused of being too controlling AND not controlling enough, sometimes by the same person, in the same conversation. Here's how it goes:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

7 Indispensable Parenting Lessons From Disney Movies

LESSON ONE, from Peter Pan
If you are going out for a night on the town, don’t leave your dog to watch your young children

But if you must do so, at least don’t chain up the dog outside the house. There’s not much she can do from there.

Even the most trustworthy dog would be rendered useless by this arrangement. (source)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When a Child-Hater Writes a Parenting Article

It warmed my heart yesterday to see all the wonderful feedback I got on Ten Ways To Confuse a Child. I am often upset by the hypocrisy and the double standards inflicted by adults on kids. But yesterday was a good day. A lot of people agreed with me. That made me feel good about the world.

And then my sister-in-law sent me this article, republished from this month's issue of Parents magazine, called 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9. Brace yourselves. I have picked out some of the "manners" that were confusing or otherwise bothered me. And here they are, with my responses:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ten Ways To Confuse a Child

  1. If he's yelling, yell at him: STOP YELLING! IT'S NOT NICE TO YELL. 
  2. Tell him never to talk to strangers because it's dangerous, but then tell him he is rude when he won't say hello back to the cashier at the grocery store.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Think I'm a Human Mother

Every day in the news, there is another article about some kind of animal mother someone is claiming to be: a dolphin, a sloth, a panda... all thanks to the original self-titled "tiger mother" Amy Chua, who got all this craziness started a few months ago.

But as Peter Gray so brilliantly writes in this article, Amy Chua is more like a circus trainer than an actual tiger mother. She is ultimately concerned with performance, with impressing others. Her children are just actors (like it or not) in her big life show. It makes me sick to see anyone in the media congratulating her for her daughter's recent college acceptances, as if it somehow justifies her method.

As a parent, I have a choice. I can choose to focus on trying to craft a "designer child," as Chua and many other parents do. If so, then everything I do now is with an eye on the future: Punishments/Rewards, Requirements, Expectations, Manipulation, Forced Lessons. It's all just in case. It's all with the hopes that my child will be some certain way. If I do all of that stuff now I can control the future.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

I don't like to hear adults say this about children: They have to learn they can't always get what they want. And I really don't like the implication that it's my job to teach my children this lesson, by withholding things they desire.

Because I want my kids to keep having big dreams. And to keep sharing them with me. There are enough obstacles in the world without me having to be one for my own children. I want them to see me as someone who will help them get around the obstacles instead of add to them. Someone who will help them realize their dreams instead of shut them down.

These kids (my cousins) were determined to throw this really heavy rock off the pier.
I wonder if the parents who never want their kids to quit things are the same parents who consistently respond to their kids' requests for things with: No, you can't have that. And quit asking! I hope not. Because that would be confusing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How We Eat

We usually don't do traditional meals at our house, in that most of the time, I don't make individual plates for the kids and we do not have set meal times. Instead, inspired by Sandra Dodd, I have a few platters with small sections and I put different foods in each section.  I cut up vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, cheese, and I even include candy, cookies, or chips.

Tomatoes, Carrots, Mango, Avocado, Blueberries, Purple Licorice, and Bacon

Rather than sit at a high table, we eat at the coffee table so the kids can reach it easily, and they can come and go as they please. We do this two or three times a day, and we snack on things in between. As I explained in Food Freedom last week, my children are free to eat whatever, whenever. Sometimes they have ice cream or popsicles or chips while I am fixing a platter. Often they will put down a half-eaten popsicle once the platter comes out.

Some of my favorite things about the platter way:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Have a Parenting Question? Ask Your Child!

In my last post, Mom To the Rescue!, I mentioned a presentation I attended. The presentation was called Choosing the Right High School For Your Child. I only went because one of the presenters was Madeline Levine, who wrote The Price of Privilege and was featured in the documentary Race to Nowhere.

I thought overall Levine was pretty good. She talked about things children need like unconditional love, acceptance, and hands-on learning. I was happy to see parents around the room taking notes, writing down the words "unconditional love," in hopes that the act of writing it down would help the concept to sink in.

The rest of it was not so good. Even just the title and premise of the event did not sit right with me. It would have felt better to me if the title were Choosing the Right High School WITH Your Child, or if any of the parents who attended had brought along the person who would be attending said chosen high school (there was not one child in the audience).

Boarding school was on the list of topics covered. I don't know if that is even "a thing" anywhere else in the world besides here in New England, but apparently it is a big thing here. There was a lot of talk about why boarding school is so great and how to choose among the wonderful options.

One presenter, headmaster of a boarding school, kept saying that choosing a high school for your child is "THE most important parenting decision you will EVER make." Um, ok.

But it was a question from a father in the audience that really got me riled up. He asked the panel, "How do I know which one is better for my child- boarding school or day school?" It was at this point I wanted to jump up out of my seat and grab the microphone and say (shout):

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mom To the Rescue!

I forget things all the time. It's rare that I walk out of the house without having to run back in to grab something I forgot. Just a few weeks ago, I walked out without my keys, but I did remember to bring my kids, and to lock the door behind me. I found myself outside in the cold with no keys for the car, and no way to get back into the house.

So what did I do? Since I knew my husband was unreachable, naturally, I called my parents. First I called my Dad, hoping that the extra key for my house was at his house, only three miles away. When he couldn't find it, I called my Mom, who was at work. She had the key!

Unfortunately, Mom said, I could bring it to you, but I'm not going to. You have to learn you can't forget your key. How will you learn if I just bring it to you?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hopeless

Hopeless is what I imagine two girls must have felt as they took their own lives last weekend. The fourteen-year-olds got together for a sleepover, and hanged themselves, leaving behind sad suicide notes and sadder families.

The girls had apparently been bullied at school. They were harassed about things like their weights and hair colors. What is a child to do when she is a victim of bullying?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Food Freedom

We are nation confused about food. It seems like every week, there is a new study about what's good for you and what's bad for you. Experts do not agree. We have people advising us not to eat any meat, and others to eat mostly meat. We have some touting the goodness of whole grains, and others saying we don't need any grains at all. You can find advice to go gluten-free, dairy-free, low fat, low carb, raw, fermented, or a hundred other things.

One of the most difficult things about nutrition confusion is when you become a parent and suddenly you are responsible for not only your own choices, but also those of your children. Parents are advised that they know best. Parents are told to decide what their kids should eat, when their kids should eat, and how much they should eat. I've seen lots of articles over the years warning against giving kids too much food freedom.

But how are we supposed to decide what is best for our kids if the experts can't even agree on what's best for us?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Children On Airplanes


I came across this post today, about people who want airlines to offer kid-free flights. The author, a mother herself, says she agrees with a certain Facebook group that says children are a "constant and annoying disturbance" on flights. This really bothers me for several reasons.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Socialization: My Thoughts

In my last post, I asked some questions about socialization. Here, I share my responses:

How many people do you know who did not attend grade school or high school?

Before I had kids and started thinking about this for my family, I had never met anyone who didn't go to school. There was one person in college who was known as "the homeschooled kid" and all of his weirdness was attributed to that one fact about his past. Now that I am more involved in the homeschooling community (both locally and globally online), I know a lot of people who never went to school. I can say that in my experience, I have found about as much variation in all the usual social characteristics in the unschooled population as in the schooled population.

Are you basing your opinion of unschooled people on a handful of families you have met, or maybe haven't even met but have only heard about? That is like forming an opinion of an entire country or race of people based on the same limited knowledge of them. I was guilty of it too.

Think about the five most antisocial people (by your own definition) you have ever met. Did they go to school?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Survey: Socialization

Even with my limited experience as someone planning not to send my kids to school, I can tell you with some confidence that the most common objection people have to this idea is regarding socialization. As in: How will your kids get socialized?

I used to be one of these people, so I am not here to pass judgment. I used to have the same concern. Now I realize that for me, it was a pretty automatic thing that popped into my head like a reflex when I heard the word "homeschool." I don't remember being taught to have this concern, but it got in my head somehow. Maybe because people told me that was why I was in school? I don't know.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I am going to assume that almost everyone who voices this concern is legitimately worried about my children. Worried about how they will learn to socialize without school. Worried that my children will grow up to be weird, or mean, or too shy or awkward, or I don't know what else.

So here are some questions for you about socialization. Think about them. Think about the reflex answers that pop into your head for some of them, and then really think about how you feel. If you want to. I would love to hear your answers if you are inclined to share. Use the "Anonymous" option if that helps.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What If They Choose School?

Another question I expect to answer a lot as my kids get older:
Will you let your kids go to school if they want to?
The short answer: yes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Simple Solution To the Cheating Problem

I recently found another article by "parenting expert" Dr. Michele Borba called Raising Honest Kids Despite Cheating Epidemic. In it, she cites nine reasons why kids cheat, a few ways to tell if they are cheating without directly asking them, and six ways you can stop it.

Doesn't that sound complicated? What if I told you there is one simple way we can stop all kids from cheating? It's true. Here it is:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You Might Be Going To the Wrong Dinner Parties

It's another common criticism of unschooling. A worry about raising a child without a curriculum:

Won't your child feel stupid later in life when he goes to a dinner party and doesn't know what people are talking about?

Monday, April 4, 2011

"I Survived It" Is Not a Ringing Endorsement Of Any Experience

I came across the following quote on Facebook the other day:
When I was a kid I didn't have a computer, Nintendo DS, XBox, or Wii . I had Barbies or Hot Wheels, a bike and a sandbox. If I didn't eat what my mom made, I didn't eat. And I dealt with it. I didn't think of telling my parents "no" or dare to talk back and I got in BIG TROUBLE if I did. Life wasn't hard, it was life. And I survived. Repost if you appreciate the way you were raised.
I have heard this sentiment many, many times before. But whenever I hear or read something like this, it strikes me. I will save my feelings about media and toys for another post. For now, I want to talk about the fact that all of us who are here to tell about it "survived" our childhoods. There are grown-ups walking around with all sizes of emotional and physical scars inflicted by their parents, who can still say they survived. So I want to start there: just because someone survives his childhood, doesn't necessarily mean that his parents had it all figured out.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What Happens When You Try To Change Someone

I have a feeling it's not possible to change someone else. That might seem obvious. People say it out loud all the time. Yet most of us still try. There are many, many people out there writing books and articles about how to get someone to be who you want them to be.

Especially our children. Parenting experts and amateurs alike make us feel like it is our duty as parents to mold our children into some ideal form. Like if we can just train them right, they will be right. People scare us into thinking that if we don't try to train our kids (to be polite, to take orders, to eat right, to sleep right, not to give up, to love reading, to watch the right amount of television, you name it), then we are doing them a great disservice. They will surely grow up to be mindless, selfish, friendless criminals who can't get along in the world.

But what if all the training that you do to your child doesn't change who he is at all? What if it only changes how he feels about who he is? And how he feels about you?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

When She Is Ready, It Will Be Easy

The term "pooty" came from Orange County.
My daughter is four years old. She uses a pacifier, all day and all night. She loves it very much. She has had it for so long now, that I barely even notice it anymore. She speaks very clearly even with it in her mouth. I can relate, because I used to use a pacifier, and I also did not give it up until I was four. I am grateful that my parents allowed me to use it until I was ready to give it up, and my husband and I plan on giving our daughter the same freedom.

Many people feel compelled to comment on the fact that she still uses it, and that she is too old for it. Some share how they were able to break their children of the habit using one trick or another.

The trick stories always include some form of the phrase It Was Easy! As it if should be just as easy for me. And maybe it was for them. But I'm not buying what they're selling. No one knows this child better than Nick and I do, and we know none of the tricks would work on her, even if we were willing to try them. We trust that it will be easy for her to give it up when she's ready, but not before then.

Here are some of the (simple!) suggestions I have gotten over the past couple of years, and some responses to them: