I’ve been thinking about this subject for twenty years as of this writing, sporadically writing about it, reading and blogging, and talking to and observing other parents . . . it was about that same twenty years ago when I realized that punishment, all punishment, was the primary cause of all bad things in life. I have been on-line getting feedback and practicing my arguments for this for several years, and I have been slowly collecting my thoughts for this project nearly my whole adult life, even if I was busy as a working family man and letting it develop mostly on its own schedule. Once I finally decided to attempt the book, the first several parts flowed out as fast as I could type it, despite that it was very different from my blogs and my previous writings, as I knew it would have to be. I had no writers’ blocks. I couldn’t wait to write, and I lost some sleep for not being able to stop thinking about it. But I have to say, it was at exactly this point in the book, this week, as I write this where I very nearly stalled.
I knew that non-physical discipline would form the central part of this thing, so I began to read about it again. Honestly, it had been a long while since I gave it enough credit to actually focus and slow-read it; fortunately it isn’t hard to find. It’s all over the ‘interwebs,’ as a niece of ours says. I had my idea of what was wrong with Positive Parenting, and what I would say, how I would refute it . . . but reading it somehow got to me. I lost my confidence. Positive Parenting very nearly won me over, and I was feeling like I had no legitimate complaints to make about it; it sounds so professional and so, well, positive. The entire four day Easter weekend came and went, and although I got some stuff done in the yard and completed and filed our income taxes, I was very worried that my book was dead. Who could critique all those professionals? Who could shout down all that beautiful, positive language? When I finally sat down to write, I chose the Gershoff article as typical as well as close to the original, I think, close to ‘from the horse’s mouth,’ no slight intended, and I started writing from fear and respect. I want to leave that bit in, I really do mean the respect, and I really do think the whole idea is a major step away from the old, violent parenting model, especially because of the cultural backlash that is always looming about it.
Once I got past the disclaimer though, when I started my critique, all that was over. The spell was broken; the failure of logic that I was looking at in that article was just too easy. Again, words began to pour out of me.
The idea is incredibly seductive, insidious. I had my insight, and I have positioned myself against it for decades, and still I was seduced. That tells me a number of things: one, I was not missed, not passed over by the culture of punishment we live in. Very few are, I imagine.
Two, someone even more thoroughly indoctrinated in the normal system than myself is at the mercy of these ideas. Someone who has never questioned it – and they are out there, are they ever! The number of people I’ve encountered in real life and on-line who have never even dreamed of a life without punishment, a life where the people who love you don’t hurt you to prove it, it’s scary – someone who has never questioned it, has very little chance to hear it. It is going to take some very good arguments, and even if I can make them, it’s probably all for naught.