Re: Raising children (was GUNS something)

From: Barbara Lamar (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 13:36:26 MST

I'm not sure whether to send this personally to Chris or to the list, or
possibly not to reply at all, since Chris and I seem to be miles apart in
our philosophy on child rearing. I probably won't post any more on the
topic unless there's evidence of general interest in the topic, but again,
I'd refer anyone who's interested in non-coercive human relationships to
take a look at Sarah Lawrence's web site.

>Why would you say that I "wish" them upon my child...

Because you said your child needed hard realities, and it's common to wish
for one's child's needs to be fulfilled.

>I dare say that I love my child every bit as much as I'm sure you love
yours, so let's avoid maligning each others' motives, okay?

I'm assuming you love your child. I think you're mistaken, not evil.

>Do you think that people who believe in using discipline do so to make
their children's lives more difficult?

Sometimes parents appear to have less than helpful motives, but generally I
think parents use discipline as a teaching aid, with the best of intentions.

>Maybe out of some sort of sadistic impulse?

(NOTE: none of the below applies to you, Chris, or anyone else on this
list. Just observations I've made.)

Sometimes this appears to be so. Aside from really terrible
beating/permanent injury cases, emotional scars seem to be the worst.
Thinking of a particular kid I know who's now a teenager and has attempted
suicide--when he was little he loved to draw and paint; he found joy in
using his sense of sight. His father wanted to use discipline in the form
of emotional coercion to make the kid learn to be a different sort of
person. It seemed sadistic to me, but I don't think the father would have
seen it the same way.

  I remember once when this kid was 8 years old I went for a walk with him,
and we explored an abandoned building that had started out as a hotel
during the cattle boom of the late 1860's and had later been used as an
office building. Pigeons and bats had taken over the upper floors, gaining
access through holes in the roof. It was a visually interesting place
because of the juxtaposition of architectural elements (human and animal)
reflecting the building's various uses over the years. We spent quite a
while wandering around, calling each other's attention to wonderful sights.
As we were leaving, the kid stopped, looked back and said, "I wish life
could always be like this." There was such longing in his voice.

Poor kid, his father wanted him to be a regular guy and go out for sports.
The kid tried hard, put up posters of basketball and hockey players in his
room, tried out for teams at school. Once he even lied to his father and
said he'd gotten onto his school's football team. The father punished him
for not being a regular kid by constantly criticizing everything he did. It
would be difficult to think of any more sadistic treatment, especially
since the kid's mother died when he was 10 and his father was all he had.
These days they keep the kid pretty zonked out on various psychoactive
drugs--I understand a huge portion of school kids these days are taking
psychoactive drugs. One might argue that it's a good thing you can use
drugs to overcome difficulties adjusting. Unfortunately, the drugs have
some unhealthy effects when used long-term. The drugs, too, are a form of

Seems sadistic to me, and yet the father would insist he loves his kid. He
spends lavish amounts of money on the kid, sends him to the best private
school in town, the best summer camp in Texas. He probably believes the kid
would be happier as a regular guy, believes that he's doing the kid a favor
by steering him in that direction. Where I think he's mistaken is in not
respecting his kid as an intelligent, whole human. This may seem like an
extreme example, since the kid actually tried to kill himself; but I see
this sort of emotional coercion being used against kids by their parents
ALL the time. One of my daughters friends wants more than anything to major
in music and be a high school music teacher. Her parents tell her
scornfully that it's a stupid idea--music teachers don't make enough money.

>Are you surprised to learn that we do it because we love our children
dearly and want to make their lives easier?

No, not surprised at all. I just think you're mistaken in believing that
you can use force to help someone learn. Force results in a change of
behavior, but it doesn't show the child how to learn and to think for herself.

>>Do you really believe that you need to come up against hard realities?
>>What sort of hard realities do you need to come up against?

>Sure. My income isn't infinite, so my wife and I have to discipline
ourselves to spend wisely. I've had to learn lots about my taxes and
the >business world, not because I enjoy it, but because they're skills
I've needed to achieve my goals in life. I have customers to keep
pleased >when honestly, I'd prefer to be with my family, exercising,
reading, or playing video games. As time goes on, I'll come up against
other >hard realities, as I and my loved ones are victims of crime,
disease, or our own stupidities. These limitations of life are what I term
"hard >realities".

And how would this relate to disciplining a child? Are you saying you'll
arrange situations in which the child is thwarted so she'll know how to
achieve goals?

>Yes, when our daughter cried upon being put to bed at certain times, we
let her cry for a bit before going to bed. Training her to go to bed >at a
certain time early on means that she's now very reliable about knowing her
limits concerning bedtime.

There's no doubt you can train a child into certain patterns of behavior.
Surely you did the bedtime training for your own convenience though, rather
than for the child's benefit?

>When mommy and daddy say it's time for bed, she goes to bed without many

Yes, of course.

>We could have done like my close friend's wife. She couldn't stand to
hear their baby crying, so even though the child is 3 1/2, the
mother >*still* has to rock the child to sleep and cater to the child's
whims about where he wants to sleep and when.

Somehow I don't see anything so horrible about *still* rocking a little 3
1/2 year old child to sleep. One person's whims may be another person's
important issues. I don't want to put words into your post, but it appears
to me as though you have the attitude that simply because you're older and
bigger, your way is the right way, and the younger, smaller person's
preferences don't count for anything.

> The kid has an absolute panic attack if she isn't there when he wakes up
from a nap. You were mentioning "independence"?

I hardly think 3 1/2 years is an age at which we should expect human
children to be out on their own. Do you really think a person should be
independent at such an early age? In the usual course of childhood,
independence is gained gradually, a step at a time, and full independence
doesn't come until 14 or 15 (in our culture, of course, we typically
prolong the period of dependence until 18 - 22)

>>I think rather than more discipline, what's needed is for people to
understand the learning and thinking process and to acknowledge
that >>learning and thinking cannot be forced.

>When I was an employee at a company, and my boss said, "We need to
implement this totally different X with this new technology Y." >You bet
your sweet bippy that I did some forced learning and thinking. That's the
way life normally works, and to shield children from being >trained in
methods of coping with that is a tremendous disservice to them.

Good training for followers of orders, to be sure. But how about for
creative, independent thinkers?

>>Here's an excerpt from an article by Katherine A. Dettwyler, PhD.
Abstract with references at >>

>Thanks for the link, I'll take a look at it, although the excerpt you
posted really was just a vague theory, and not scientific evidence.
I'm >ooking for more of the latter type of information.

Abstracts are summaries of the research, not a complete description of the
research. You have to read the complete paper to get the details. To the
best of my knowledge, forced weaning is something that's usually done
because of social pressure or because the mother has to do work that
involves leaving the child in someone else's care or because the mother
gets pregnant again before the child has weaned. I don't believe I've ever
seen evidence that's it's healthier for the child.


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