Regarding the Online talk about Bullying

There was a post on here recently, about a bullying incident, I think it was one that went viral, about a boy who was being bullied for bringing his My Little Pony backpack to school and the school basically told his mother he was asking for it, and he should just conform – of course I’m paraphrasing, but you’ve probably heard the story anyway.

Of course I find the school’s reaction appalling, it’s victim-blaming and all that, wrong from every possible angle.

But there was a comment stream about this story that went on forever, and I’m sorry to say, very few comments that had anything useful to say. Mostly, all the commenters wanted to punish the bullies. The school should, or the parents should . . . and that shows a disturbing lack of understanding.

Punishing CAUSES bullying.


Punishing IS bullying.

The only differences are who’s doing it and why. The differences are: children are not authorized to punish and the reasons they punish are not sanctioned. The process, and the rationale are the same, and are as follows:

someone (a kid) does something that some more powerful person (bigger kid/bully, or parent/authority figure) judges to be wrong, and the bully/authority figure imposes some sort of hurt on them, it’s that simple.

Every time an adult punishes a child, they not only demonstrate and teach the process, but they make the punished kid feel helpless and powerless, thereby creating in him a need to find someone else to do it to, a need to find a situation where he feels he has some power again.

An example follows, and there will be a quiz afterwards.

Billy gets defiant at dinner and refuses to eat his vegetables, something his parents think is wrong, so they punish him, by banning him from the internet for the evening. This tells Billy that he lacks the power of choosing to play online when he likes, or eat what he likes, shows him that the exercise of power is a socially acceptable thing, and that it is the method his parents use to modify his behaviour, to stop him doing something they think is wrong.

Now Billy goes to school the next day, he’s with his friends, and he sees someone doing something he thinks is wrong – wearing something “wrong,” doing something that Billy has judged that he wouldn’t do, something that seems wrong to him.

The quiz:

1. What have the adults taught Billy to do in this situation?

(Bearing in mind, perhaps the parents have told Billy not to bully – but, action speaks louder than words. What have they SHOWN him?)

2. What pre-existing need does Billy have that this situation may appear to him to fill?

. . . now here’s the tricky part . . .

3. What will punishing Billy again do?

It may be debatable whether there are behaviours that can be improved by punishing – but the behaviours that are actually CAUSED by punishing, they can’t be.


Hundredth Monkey Time

Word is getting around about corporal punishment. The science is coming in.

That’s a good thing, I’m not complaining. Check out these Time articles, brought to my attention by Morgan – on WordPress, she’s here:

and here are the articles:


There is starting to be a lot of this stuff, and it’s good stuff. The first article states that something like 80% of families in a study that recorded their family households were recorded using corporal punishment methods – perhaps a surprise for those who haven’t raised kids yet, that so many resort to it – and these were families that knew they were being recorded. This seems new to me, mainstream press that states that corporal punishment is not going away.

The second article pretty much lists all the extra risks that corporally punished kids are in for throughout their life, as compared to less “spanked” people.

Again, all good info, I’m not complaining.

OK, I’m complaining.

This looks good, I think we may be on the brink of the Hundredth Monkey effect here, in terms of corporal punishment, it may be that professionals at least, and maybe even parents are getting the idea that it’s not good for us after all.

But all this talk about “corporal punishment” is misguided. It assumes there is some other kind, which there isn’t. How can any punishment be enforced, if not physically? We may wish to impose a non-corporal form of discipline, but it is in the enforcement that it becomes physical; it is in the imposition of it wherein the physical part lies. Be honest:

Why would our kids accept our punishments if we weren’t willing to back it up? Why would a person be “grounded” if they had no idea that there is anything to enforce it? Again, be honest: what is a punishment if we don’t make it happen? It all rests upon physical means ultimately.

So, if we’re heading into Hundredth Monkey territory, if this idea is going to take hold, let’s be honest about it, lets grab this opportunity and make sure a true idea, a real-life idea is the one that takes hold, and that idea is this:

It is punishment that is the cause of these poor outcomes. There is no harmless variety, all punishment is ultimately corporal; we are corporal beings, after all. What sorts of punishments would not be? Mental, psychological, emotional? Do those who decry only corporal types of punishment advocate for the mental variety? Are we to promote psychological punishment, emotional punishment?

This is an all-or-nothing sort of thing.

The question is not “HOW should I hurt my kid,” it is “SHOULD I hurt my kid,” and the answer is, of course, “no.”

The question is punishment or not. Make no mistake, do not be fooled my imitations, the science is coming in, but it needs to take one more step. People are being hurt by punishment, and the problem is THAT they are being hurt, not HOW they are being hurt.

Do Animals Punish?

I don’t think they do. I think punishing is the human difference, the human genius – as well as the human madness.

I think animals teach their children by example.

People have told me that animals punish, that that’s what they’re doing when for example, a lion or lioness snarls and yells and swats a cub, or maybe bites a cub when the cub tries to eat the food the adult is eating.

Now if the adult cat here is trying to teach the cub to wait its turn, or just not to try to take the adult’s food, maybe, but I doubt it. I think this is a case of teaching by example. I think the adult is teaching the cub, by example, to protect its share of the food. This is an important, real life lesson for a lion. The lion that doesn’t do that will be starved out.

If this is an example of punishing, I have a few comments:

1. Is this the only thing lions do that looks like punishment?

– yes, I think it is. I don’t think they punish their kids for other things cubs do wrong, like wandering away into trouble, bothering the alpha male, not learning how to hunt, or just lazily not hunting. I think for wandering, mom might bring them back, but that’s all. I think they let the alpha male look after his own peace of mind, or the cub gets eaten, and I think a lion that won’t hunt or can’t learn may eventually be exiled and starved, but I haven’t ever seen on TV that a cub is beaten for refusing to learn.

(If anyone has seen that, if there are animal behaviourists in the house, please, let me know.)

2.  Teaching by punishing is a human thing. As another example, how does a prey animal, a deer or a rabbit “teach” its young to run and hide from the predators? By example – because, let’s turn that upside-down: does anyone think a deer or a rabbit hangs around to punish a child who doesn’t run while the wolves approach?

No, doing the wrong thing while simply telling your child to do the right thing and punishing him when he doesn’t – say, abusing your child about smoking and/or drinking when those are things you do – is a luxury animals can’t afford. The deer, the rabbit, they teach by example, and hope to stay alive to do it again tomorrow.

About Hating the Sin and Loving the Sinner – and Hating the Punishment and Loving the Punisher, Part #2

This won’t stand on its own. It’s a continuation of this one:

 – in which I talked about homosexuality-haters and myself as a punishment-hater and made comparisons. I talked about whether these behaviours were natural and built in, but I ran out of space to postulate whether they weren’t.

What if they are choices?

Personally, I don’t like the question of “born gay” or not, because I think people should be allowed to choose their sexuality. Why not?

But punishing as a choice?

Punishing parents will say it is, that’s what prompted these posts, some said just that to me, if in different words. For me – spoiler alert! – the idea that hitting children enjoys the protection of being a “personal choice” is, uh, counter-intuitive, let’s say. Personal choice in the matter of consensual sex, sure.

But there is nothing consensual about punishment, is there?

So here we are again, this is our society: sex must be consensual, but violence?

Well as long as one of you is OK with it . . . 

About Hating the Sin and Loving the Sinner – and Hating the Punishment and Loving the Punisher

Punishment is abuse, something I say a lot.

I know I’m ruffling some feathers with it, and I know why.

Unfortunately, me condemning the practice of punishing will feel like I’m condemning the people who practice it (or the ones who have practiced it in the past), if they feel like the practice is part of them.

It’s the same as my argument about why Gays feel hated by Christians, even if the Christian haters (not all Christians, I know) say they “hate the sin, not the sinner.” When gays feel the “sin” is PART OF THEM, then hating the sin IS hating the sinner, to the “sinner.”

That is a chestnut. The Christian gay-bashers will continue, because, although the gays feel gayness is part of them, the Christian gay-bashers don’t think so . . .

so in the case of punishing, I’m the hater. A punisher may feel that punishing is part of them, but I don’t think so . . .

so the punishers, or the former punishers, feel hated my me. I guess I’m starting to see how anti-gay religious people feel. These are rather parallel things, for sure.

Of course, there are differences. I don’t think the punishers of world are concerned that their punishing is part of them, for them it’s built into, PART OF the punished, not the punisher. For them it’s about Original Sin – that we are born evil – or its Naturalist version – that we are evolved from beasts and are born with beastly instincts that need to be suppressed. Still, though, anyone who has raised a bunch of kids in the usual way identifies very strongly with punishment, with the “need” to punish. Still close to parallel.

And now for my defense.

1. It is going to matter whether these identifications are real or not, whether they’re true.

– is homosexuality built into people?

Many say yes, and there are many good arguments for the truth of it. I believe it’s built in, PART OF people. Maybe not every gay person, as not every person living a hetero life is really wired hetero, perhaps some people live gay ‘against their natures.’ Homosexuality seems to be an integral part of many people, despite that it is often a fringe life-style, a life lived against the current, and fraught with difficulty and often danger.

– is punishing built into people?

This question hasn’t really come up for many people, I don’t think. Again, it’s more the other way, as in “Is needing to be punished built into people?” But when it’s posed to punishers now, maybe for the first time, I think –

Many will say yes. After all, it’s nearly universal. Dishing out punishments can appear automatic and natural. But, unlike homosexuality, punishing doesn’t exist stubbornly, against the current, it doesn’t exist despite being marginal, despite being threatened. Punishing is unchallenged, unless it is seen in an extreme form, and very much supported. It is in this support that we see the difficulty:

How do we know if something that we teach constantly, use constantly, and recommend continually is natural? How do we determine whether it would occur naturally? Where has punishing ever been allowed to occur naturally, when have ever seen people raised in the absence of the society that seems to be a cult of punishment? Everyone in our society wears clothes. Is that built into us? How do we separate these things?

2. One is sex, one is violence. (If you think punishing can be other than violence, ask me in comments, or read my blogs.)

– this is our society, where sex is immoral and violence is not. I mean that as a critique, just to be clear. I think for the religious, that arrangement seems to be correct, but not for me, not for the liberal, not for the modern, secular person.


So, parallel as it seems, these are the differences:

3. Homosexuality IS part of people, and it exists despite persecution, despite everything, because it IS built into some people, it IS natural.

4. Punishing is taught, promoted, supported by scripture and old science, and nearly universal, and if it is natural, we would never know it. Punishing is literally forced upon us all.

5. If we want to know if punishing could exist in nature, we’ll have to do an experiment: we’ll have to stop teaching it, promoting it, supporting it with bronze age stories, we’ll have to stop forcing it on everyone.

Then we’ll see if it exists without all of our efforts to make sure it does. Let’s take it off life support and see if it lives.

Then we’ll know.

It’s not Easy, Letting Your Kids do Whatever They Want

It’s what I was trying to say with the title – really, letting them do whatever they want, despite the way the punishers try to frame it – IS NOT EASY. And that’s not why I do it, or anyone should do it. It’s doing it the hard way, the long way, and the right way.

Beating your kids into always letting YOU have YOUR WAY, always – that’s the easy way, the fast way, and the wrong way.

It’s not comfortable either. It was scary, uncharted territory. But it worked.

I see what people say about how things are all going to Hell as being the result of half measures, the result of confusion. The chaos we have going on today in our kids and our teenagers is because of the force we are still using, not because of the gentleness we’re starting to use more.

A lot of thought went into it. I hope you will read my blog. I’m afraid a plan just to “not spank” can’t really work, there will be more decisions to make, or you are likely to end up there despite the best of intentions.

It’s not Always Easy, Letting Your Kids do Whatever They Want.

We had the family bed, and the kids could sleep when they wanted, nurse when they wanted, and they could toilet-train themselves when they wanted.

Most of that was pretty easy – well maybe not the nursing. With the boob always available, the kids would have small meals all night long, they never had to fill up and then do without. Those were some long nights and brutally interrupted sleeps for my wife. The family bed helped, we didn’t have to get up, at least.

Toilet training was a breeze. Human beings will do that as soon as they’re ready, and at a young age, they will see the advantage of not crapping in their pants. Making that a forced thing, making that about the parents, is really stupid, It’s like forcing someone to eat dessert. Who wants to sit in shit?

A few things were a little tough though. As mentioned in a comment recently in someone else’s blog, letting them procrastinate about their homework until the last possible night, and late that night, that made me squirm, freaked me out.

It all worked out though. I learned to sleep through that sort of thing, and they’re straight A students.

Another one was swearing. We had no rules about language, and we all watched anything on TV together, raised the girls on South Park – but when your first daughter, at seven years of age is playing video games by herself, getting worked up and yelling “Holy Fucking Shit-Balls!” at the TV, with no worry that you’re there and listening – well that kind of freaks you out.

Then when the second one, at about the same age, stubs her toe and hop-runs around the house screaming “Fuck, fuck, fuck, Fuckley J. McFucklepants!” again, with no worry that you’re there and hearing it, that can be a little shocking.

I mean, I wasn’t raised this way. It all rattled me too.

But it’s all good.

Really, really good.

We never Punished, and nothing Bad Happened.

I’ve got two teenage girls, 16 and 19. We never punished them for anything.

Well, after the older one lost her iPod by leaving it in a locker with no lock during gym class at school, and then borrowed her sister’s and lost it by leaving it in a classroom in her hoodie, we told her we couldn’t afford to buy her another one, and we didn’t, for a few years.

Technically, we could have, I mean, we’re mortgaged, operating in deficit mode, but we could have charged another one. I think what we said was “we can’t afford to keep buying these things if you keep giving them away” – something like that.

She felt so bad about it, she didn’t argue. That was as close to a punishment as anything we ever did, and it stands alone as a thing that approached punishing.

Our teenagers are lazy and messy, they’re not much help with the house – and that is as bad as it gets.

I have nothing worse to report.

They’re bloody brilliant, the kind of kids some teachers love, because they’re smart and they can talk to the teachers, and other teachers hate because they’re smarter than those teachers.

My oldest one tutors some of her college peers – and she told me this the other day – even in subjects she hasn’t taken. She’s not even in the class, and she can help you with your homework.

The younger one is going through high school, breaking her sister’s records.

I swear, punishment damages your brain.