RE: Raising children (was GUNS something)

From: Barbara Lamar (
Date: Fri Jan 26 2001 - 12:40:51 MST

This discussion got off to a bad start, and I can't see that there's been
any real communication. I'd like to try again, beginning with the things we
agree on. These seem to be: 1. we both love our children and want the best
for them. 2. we both believe that immunization is good. 3. we both believe
that early breast feeding is good. 4. we both believe in letting children
try out things and do things for themselves. 5. we both beieve it's
unpleasant to be around children who run around making noise and breaking
things. 6. we both believe it's important to respect children as intelligent

Aside from the weaning issue, where we differ seems to be in the amount of
force we think one can justifiably use when dealing with children. I say
"seems to be" because I'm really not sure. We may each be giving a different
meaning to the word "discipline." I think we're both pigeon-holing the other
somewhat. I DO believe in using force in extraordinary situations or
emergencies. For example, I forced my child to get an injection of
antibiotics when she had a strep infection that seemed as though it could
get serious if not treated immeditely (she hates getting shots) and strongly
encouraged her (perhaps to the point of using threats of force) to get her

Generally, I believe in extending the libertarian principle of not
initiating force against another person to children as well as to adults. I
think this is where we probably differ, and I realize that my views are
radically different from the generally accepted views of our culture. I HAVE
had very good results with a number of different children, including a
foster child who was considered a hopeless case; and other people who have
used this philosophy have also had good results. So I cannot honestly say I
think you're right in believing that non-coercive methods of child rearing
never work.

> How does learning things
> that you need to learn preclude learning to think for yourself?

When you put it that way, it doesn't. But this is not exactly what I was
saying. I believe it was Denis Bider who commented that a person learns
better when he's interested in the subject matter and has a personal reason
for learning the material. A person who crams for an exam in botany usually
doesn't retain the information for very long beyond the day of the exam. But
a person who learns botany because he wants to be a more successful gardener
will remember what he learns. A child who's forced to learn to read when he
has no use for the skill will not learn it very well. This is probably the
main reason that children from homes without books usually do more poorly in
school. It's not that there's something wrong with their brains--it's that
they have no use for learning to read. If you show them some of the cool
things they can find out from books, they'll quickly learn to read. I'm
saying this from personal experience as well as similar experiences of other
people who've been involved in helping children learn.

> No, usually, it's about letting her work past day-to-day difficulties
> herself, rather than assisting her. Naturally, there's a balance to
> be struck: we don't want her to become overly frustrated with tasks
> that are just too advanced, but we also don't want her to rely upon
> us to do tasks that are within her ability.

We seem to be in complete agreement here. I never would have thought of this
as discipline, so part of our problem in communicating has to do with
different meanings we're giving to words.

> You seem like a nice person, Barbara, but I just don't understand why
> you continue to malign my motivations.

Well, okay. But malign seems like a pretty strong word. All I said was that
surely bedtime training was for your convenience rather than for the benefit
of the child. I didn't say it was bad to sometimes do things for your own
convenience. I was motivated by my own convenience much of the time. Who
isn't? One of the reasons I chose not to do bedtime training for my child is
that I'm a night person and it didn't bother me if she stayed up late
(didn't bother her either. She was never sick until she was 6 years old and
got the strep infection).

In fact, when my child was little, I used to be the first to admit that I
was a terrible mother. I was constantly taking the easy way out. One of my
reasons for not weaning to a bottle was that I didn't want to be bothered
opening cans and washing bottles, and besides, nursing was an easy way to
take off the weight I'd gained while pregnant. What's so cool to me about
the whole experience is that the easy way turned out to be the best way
(okay, it may not be the best way in every case--but it very often is the
best way). I know it would be more tactful to say, well, this is my way and
other people have other ways that work for them and who am I to say? But in
this case, I believe there's enough objective evidence to say that the easy
way really IS often the best way. It's the same as with
agriculture/horticulture. People make it a lot harder than it has to be.

> Bedtime training is mostly for her benefit.

How is it for her benefit? I truly don't see this, unless she has to get up
in the morning at a certain time and can't take naps during the day.

>Discipline isn't just a
> tool for parents to maintain order. It's a gift that you give a
> child that she can use her whole life to help her to reach her goals.

I can see this. But again, I've found that children learn best by simply
following examples. My mother once commented to me that she was glad I'd
trained my daughter in good table manners. I was surprised to hear this,
because I'd never even brought up the subject of table manners with my
daughter. In fact, I can recall laughing along with her when she was little
and smeared food on her hands and face. But apprently what had happened was
that she watched what I did and copied it. It was that simple. Same with
toilet training. I don't believe a word was ever said about it; she just
watched and copied. And the same pattern seems to be continuing now that
she's almost grown. Occassionally I try to impart "gems of wisdom" but the
most potent teacher always seems to be example.

> Can't you even begin to assume that my motivations are noble and that
> actions I take or don't take are for her benefit above all?

I apologize for this. In fact, you probably take parenthood more seriously
than I did. I don't mean that I didn't and don't love my child, but I tried
to make motherhood fun above all (which is pretty much my approach to life
in general). What I'm trying to get across is that sometimes the fun, easy
way is the best way for all concerned. People make life harder than it has
to be. I should probably add that I've been a single mother since my child
was 5 years old, and most of the time I've had very little money. I chose
the option of working only part time and scraping by on almost no money by
buliding my own house, growing food in the garden, raising chickens and so
forth. As it turned out, this was probably the best thing I could've done
for my child, but my motives were largely personal. It was more fun to do it
that way than trying to balance raising a child with working full time at a
job. I think this is probably a very feminine way of doing things, whereas
the discipline method is a more masculine approach.

In fairness to me, I'd like to point out that you began our exchange with
some rather untactful comments aimed at my child rearing methods.

> > > The kid has an absolute panic attack if she isn't there when he
> >wakes up from a nap.

Children go through different stages as they grow, and of course everyone
has a unique personality. Maybe meeting the child's needs at this stage in
his development will give him the self-assurance to be more independent
later on. When I said early nurturing results in more independent older
children, I had in mind children of 10 or older rather than toddlers.

> Who's talking about their being out on their own?

Sorry. I was resorting to sarcasm which, my 9th grade English teacher told
me, is the refuge of the small minded. Or something like that.

>I'm talking about
> not seeing mommy in the room and panicking.

Can you see that you're being quite judgemental in this case, perhaps
unfairly so? Each child has a unique personality (my farming experience has
taught me that this is true of non-human animals as well--genetics plays a
huge part in determining what we are). It clearly irritated you when I said
you were mistaken. And yet--although you didn't explicitly state it--you
certainly implied that I am mistaken and that your friend is mistaken.

> Yeah, but you were talking about lack of "coercion" leading to
> self-confidence and independence. I'm just pointing out that my
> experience is that your philosophy leads to the opposite, a lack of
> independence and a lack of self-confidence.

There are many factors you're not taking into account here. First, of
course, this is only one case. This particular child may have unusually high
needs for security at this stage in his life. Second, a 3 1/2 year old is
still a very young child. And I believe you said he's a boy. Boys seem to
lag somewhat behind girls in early development.

>>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?
> How does being able to follow orders preclude being creative and
> independent?

It doesn't. And it seems clear from everything you've said that you're
encouraging your child to think for herself. But your earlier comment about
"the way life normally works" implied that one's usual lot in life is to
follow orders. I was pigeon-holing you as a result of that comment. I was
reminded of the following kind of exchange between parent and child:

Mother: Clean up your room.
Kid: But Mom, I'm right in the middle of building a space station.
Mother: I said clean up your room. Now.
Kid: Why?
Mother: Because I said so, and if you don't do as I say, you're going to
lose your computer privileges.

I think the kid had a legitimate question when he asked "Why?" and the
mother didn't give him a fair answer.


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