You know it was almost a total experiment, although we were very influenced by a visit just a few hours long once with a family who clearly had no bed-times and whose kids were amazing to us. It really blew our minds. If I were ever to get published, I will dedicate my book to that family. What resulted for us from this experiment was better than we had ever imagined. We’ve had almost no serious fights with our girls since the younger one’s toddlerhood. We’ve got some laziness, some messiness – but we also have no rebellion, no serious misbehaviours, no drugs, alcohol, pregnancies, and top (really, top, top) grades in school. We had a funeral this weekend, and my teenagers were at the front of the line to give their condolences to the family.
There is an idea, a good one, I don’t really argue it, that addiction is hereditary, that if the parent is an addict, the child’s chances of being one are increased by something like an order of magnitude. Well – I was quite a pothead when my kids were young. By that theory, I’ve set them up for addiction, but they’re 16 and 19 now, and they are showing no interest in drugs or alcohol. I’m very glad to hear you’re talking to your kids about that stuff, and yes, too many people seem to think that if they don’t talk about it, that the kids will never hear about it. We certainly talk about it here, too, as well as talking about everything else, up to and including sex and death (and we always have).
There’s another idea around addiction, one that gets a little less ink, and that is that smarts has very little correlation with addiction or not, but what does correlate is happiness. That is something that I hope my idea of no punishing at all may address. I feel I’ve proven – to myself at least, I haven’t had anyone else agree that I’ve made the point – that “legitimate” punishment has the same negative effects on us that abuse has been shown to have, and that corporal punishment has been shown to have.
( I spend a lot of time and ink in the book trying to make that case, so I can’t do my reasoning justice in a few lines here . . . )
But a major outcome of all three “levels of abuse” is certainly an impairment in a person’s happiness. This is the secret, I believe, the reason so many seemingly happy, well adjusted people fall prey to addiction and self-destruction – nobody thinks punishing has the damaging effects abuse has, so we all think punished people aren’t damaged and unhappy, or at least if they are, they have no reason to be, no reason the average person can point to. My theory has the potential to explain this mystery, I think. You don’t have to believe to test the idea:
just postulate it, that most people are punished, and that punishing causes the same impairments and damages as abuse – and then see if that might possibly explain the fact that anybody can fall prey to anything, the same sorts of things that abuse victims have a higher incidence of: addiction, self-destructiveness, cognitive impairment, violence . . .
always long on theory, I apologize again.