Love Flowing Backwards

It’s a sad thing, but a vicious cycle, and a real one, in many families: reverse flow.

In some families, and to some degree or other in many families, sad to say, it is the children who sacrifice, the children that spend their days protecting the adults from their bad feelings, making sure the adults feel loved.

Adults know how important it is for children that they feel loved. Unfortunately, for so many, that is not always the priority for parents and caregivers, too often the priority seems to be discipline first, and love second. For children, however, for that very reason, that choice is not available, they are not able to exercise that sort of prioritization.

When an adult requires a child’s love, that child had better just give it up. An adult in the throes of feeling unloved, and adult who is experiencing their infantile lack of love is a dangerous thing to a child. A child in this situation has no choice. This child must set aside his own needs and serve the adult’s needs; this is a matter of self-preservation, and the child, almost invariably will look after his life first, and search for love later.

Unfortunately, what often happens is this search for love later in life becomes a desire to have children and continue this backward cycle.

(As a half-humourous aside, I must observe that in the world I am hoping to help create, saying “I want a child” will begin to be seen as a form of “I want a human being,” alongside of horrible phrases like “I want a Negro,” or “I want a pair of Vietnamese nymphets.” These are human beings, not possessions of some sort. It should be seen as a horrible thing to say, and it should be obvious that saying it signals an unhealthy psychological need as much – and more importantly – as it does a natural manifestation of the procreative urge.)

I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll be saying it again:

This generation needs to lose at both ends. We may not have gotten the unconditional love we needed as children, but we need to break the cycle. We need to not get that love again, we need to not suck it out of our children. That doesn’t save us anyway, it only continues the cycle, it only hurts our children, and theirs, and theirs, ad infinitum.

The buck should stop here. Let’s be the last unloved generation.

Don’t Turn Your Back on your Childhood Self

When I was a kid, and still pretty young, I realized my parents were crazy.

There was a moment that I remember, although I’m sure it’s not an isolated incident. We were in the car, going somewhere or coming back, all of us, me and my brother, my two sisters, and my parents, in the big family car, Mom and Dad in the front, kids in the back, either the Meteor or the Parisienne. This would have been in the mid to late 1960s.

My brother was hyper as Hell, he could get on your nerves, and had gotten on Dad’s. He’d gone too far; he knew he was in for it, and so he got scared and started crying. This was at least partly from real fear, maybe partly a ploy, something kids do to try to tell a parent that they’ve made their point, but he was really crying. Dad apparently found this noise to be not any less irritating than my brother’s preceding noise, and growled (perhaps you’ve heard this one before?)

“Stop crying, or by God, I’ll give you something to cry about!”

To my mind at the time, the child, my older brother by a year and a half, was already crying from fear, and my father’s solution was simply more fear. This seemed unreasonable to me; I was crying also, and I too was only more afraid and only cried harder after that. That may not have been the only time, but it’s the one I remember the most, and I decided in that moment that grownups were crazy.

The difference between me and most people, between me and you, is that I’ve never changed my mind about it. To reverse myself about that is, definitively, to become crazy. To join the ranks of the mad, and I’m not doing it. My eyes were clear in that moment.

Now, I know you’ve all been there too as kids. I hope I can in some humble, respectful way, suggest that if you have changed your mind in that way, that you reconsider, retrace your steps, and start again. Support the sane, frightened child you once were and reject the madness that we call ‘parenting, discipline, punishment, consequences.’

Support the child you once were, and support the children in your world now.

And support me too! Follow me on Twitter. I will continue to try at least to put something out in this topic weekly.


Last week @ ASU, (Steven Pinker) invited a dream team of researchers to Origins of Violence conf. See 5 of them in The Great Debate

Neighsayer’s comments:

What I took from this talk is that warfare is impossible without teamwork; that teamwork is foundational for violence without risk . . . that teamwork is not the positive thing parents pretend it is when they push their children into sports.

. . . but then, I have a bad attitude.

My Doctrine: Abuse with an Excuse

Abuse with an Excuse – Doctrine in short form . . . Part #1


A. Damages

1. Abuse in its several forms damages people. The forms are these: physical, mental (cognitive), emotional and psychological. The damages have the same forms. This is well documented.

2. Corporal punishment also damages people, and the damages take the same forms: physical, mental, cognitive, emotional and psychological. This is well documented. The corporal punishment of children is being outlawed in much of the world, driven by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.


3. Non-corporal punishment cannot actually exist, it’s a logical fallacy – an oxymoron, in fact. The argument goes like this:


– punishments are unpleasantnesses, they are by definition, something the punished person would not want, and so they are necessarily imposed, forced upon the punished person, against his will. Anything forced, anything imposed, involves either direct physical means, or at least the threat of physical means.

– punishments are employed when reason and talk – non-physical methods – fail, or are presumed to fail. This is often true, that these non-physical means fail, babies and young toddlers can’t be reasoned with, and even for older children who can be, punishments are usually only considered when any child is being unreasonable in the first place. When non-physical methods have been attempted and then ruled out, then logically what remains is physical, either directly or in potential.


Therefore punishment is impossible except that it’s physical. The only possible exception to this logical proof is in the case of punishments that are purely mental, emotional, or psychological, and these sorts of punishments are also universally considered to be unacceptable and abusive.


When children submit to their non-corporal punishments, this is not a disproof. It is only that the child is making a choice, the child is either remembering his baby or toddlerhood punishments, the physical ones, or more likely the child knows that if he resists, that the punishments will escalate and become corporal punishments, or most likely both, some combination of the two.


4. Conclusion: there are no non-corporal punishments. All punishments require force and physicality. Therefore all punishment is corporal punishment, therefore all punishment cause the damages associated with corporal punishment.


Abuse with an Excuse – Doctrine in short form . . . Part #2


B. The Cognitive Damage


1. Punishments/penalties are all artificial consequences, contrived ones. It is not really a simple ‘cause and effect’ phenomenon when some active agent chooses the effect for a cause. In this way, our contrived consequences are substituted for the real world, natural consequences a child may experience when he explores or misbehaves, and therefore any real world learning experience is circumvented. This is the function that is in play when we note, through many good studies that corporal punishment hampers cognitive development.


When standardized punishments are substituted for the nearly infinite number of random real world consequences of childhood exploration as well as misdeeds, the vast and varied learning that may have happened is severely lessened, and the only learning that does happen is artificial and contrived. This is definitive of serious arrested cognitive development. It follows that the resulting impairment of thought will vary, of course with many factors, but certainly with the degree to which a child is controlled. A child who has more real world learning experience will be better able to process information regarding the real world than one whose learning years held few real world mistakes and learning opportunities.


2. Of course, parents need to protect their children from extreme danger. Life and limb certainly take priority over individual missed opportunities for real world learning. These safety hazards are not the most common situations parents and children face, however, and this is not a valid argument for the use of punishment generally.


Some may say that children need to be punished to learn to obey in every situation, so that their obedience will be guaranteed when there does arise a hazard, a real threat to life and limb, that a child needs to be conditioned to obey so that he may be ordered away from a street or a river and will comply immediately. This, I would say is a valid argument only if this sort of conditioning didn’t have a serious down-side. I believe that the damages that result from punishing, and certainly from the all-encompassing environment of punishment that this argument implies, brings a terrible cost also, up to and including a considerable cost of life and limb, in the form of violence, crime and suicide, along with the many social costs that are not as visible, that result from the cognitive hobbling that is produced by these methods.


Abuse with an Excuse – Doctrine in short form . . . Part #3


C. Childhood Misbehaviours are Irrelevant


1. When we are punishing our children to teach them not to cause any harm in our lives, not to break anything, not to hurt anyone, we are causing permanent harm in our attempts to avoid short term and material harm. The damages of abuse and corporal punishment are long lasting, while the damages of childhood misbehaviours are, for the most part, either material or temporary, sometimes both.


Temporary damages are bruises that result from infantile violence or carelessness, or simply missed or disrupted adult social occasions; material ones are broken dishes, damaged or stained clothing or furniture – of course material damages can be either permanent or temporary; a loved glass heirloom is forever, a coloured wall until the next painting. Things like painting the wall cost labour and money, which, if it happens to a modern person living in debt, may be a permanent harm to their finances. Young children can cause real harms, but again, as in the previous section, this would only justify the damages of punishment if those damages were small and temporary, and they are not. The damages of corporal punishment (and it is my position that there is no other kind) are long lasting and impact every aspect of life. This, again, is well documented.


2. Childhood explorations and mistakes, when they go bad, can cause some damage, things get broken, caregivers and other children get bruised and inconvenienced, but for the most part, these are individual, one-off incidents, that is, single incidents, with a single instance of damage per case. If we consider that each instance is a learning opportunity, each instance can teach a child a single lesson such as the fragility of pretty glass objects, or the fragility of human relationships (when one toddler hurts another, and the other expresses his feelings somehow), we can see that trading any one such lesson off against a lifetime of suffering the damage of having been punished is a bad bargain. The long term damages of punishment would only be justifiable by considering that the damages of the child’s misbehaviour are also long lasting. In reality, the occurrence of a misdeed or a mistake by a child will rarely be habit forming. These things, dish-breaking, punching other children, do not become chronic if they go un-punished. In reality, punishing increases defiance and misbehaviour in the long term.

Consequences, shmonsequences . . .

Change your ways, people, not your words, or not only your words.

Consequences, discipline, ’cause and effect,’ these are all words for punishing. If you’re imposing any of these things, you’re punishing . . . and yes, that’s . . . bad.

I am the most politically correct person you’d care to meet, but here’s what’s wrong with so much about PC terms: they’re terms. Words. We have seen words banned, new words for old things, old words disappearing, but the things never seem to.  Outlawing the N-word has not ended some peoples’ dislike for black people, racism still exists, albeit in code.

Punishment still abounds, albeit in code. Changing things, though, that is more difficult than changing words. Changing this thing, the world-destroying scourge of punishing, this is going to be harder than memorizing new words for it. It’s going to involve some very heavy lifting, namely:

1. Admitting our parents hurt us to no good end; and

2. Never regaining our sense of personal power by hurting our kids to no good end.

That is some very heavy lifting. No shame in not doing it – just no glory either.

In Search of a Brand . . .

You can reach my blog at “” or at “” – I don’t mind these, but I’m not sure . . .

Any thoughts?

I recently found Bea Marshall, and I was jealous. She’s got this “Yes Parenting” tag that seems brilliant to me, a much friendlier sort of monicker . . . here she is:

Bea Marshall

Bea Marshall


Creative Consultant // Parent // Barefoot // Speaker 

Sheffield ·

I haven’t yet determined her level of radicalness – I know I’m way “out there.”

I’m guessing Bea is much smarter than I, and isn’t the type to alienate all the parents out there by telling them they’re all wrong, like I do. I’m guessing she is doing as much good as possible, and more than I do, because she’s still within reach of the people, the parents I call “normals.”

I’m sorry, folks.

But we all have our roles, I guess . . .

Please check Bea out.

And if anyone has any help for me and my cause, I’ll entertain some suggestions . . .

Thank you all,

 it’s Neighsayer@punishmenthurts

re-tweet me!


From an Online Conversation . . .

OK, first, you’re way down the road, the path of what I call “normal” parenting, it is way too late for you to change and do it my way. Your kids are living in the normal system and simply removing all the normal controls now would probably be disastrous.

(We were discussing someone’s teenager)

Second, you yourself are far down that road too. I have long since given up on expecting any agreement with my idea about child-rearing from someone who has already raised their kids in the normal way, or even done it for a few years. A massive load of guilt is the only prize for any person who has already raised their kids and then has my epiphany and starts to see things my way. I mean, I don’t blame you, or any normal parent, I feel it’s just the system, and as much as anyone is doing what I think is wrong now, I think that parent was first and foremost a victim of the system in their own childhood.

But having said that, we like to think we know what we’re doing, and when we learn anything we did was wrong, guilt ensues.

Generalization? Yes, but the number of people who think of discipline and punishment the way you do is huge. Of all our individual differences and all the variety there is with people, the one most common thing is the belief and practice of punishment in child-rearing. There may be differences in method, and in the rules, but the basic idea is the most common thing that most of humanity shares.

I do think that generally, punishments are a betrayal of love and the caring and protection we owe our kids, and I do think that generally, our kids are resentful about it, and that our kids and especially our teenagers are a whole lot angrier at us and “respect” us a whole lot less than we wish and we pretend. What is normal, what everyone expects, angry, resentful teenagers, is not built in, not automatic. We had none of it with our two girls, now 16 and 19.

We didn’t escape some normal patterns, though. Our first was outnumbered and overpowered by us, so she seemed to be the more compliant one, while the second one seemed to be wild and rebellious – that’s a normal pattern, right?

But we didn’t beat the younger one down, didn’t punish her, and I swear to you, the behaviour problems stopped in our house as soon as they were at an age when they could talk and reason (somewhere around six) – which is never the end of behaviour issues in punishing households.

“Expert parenting” isn’t applicable at all. We didn’t know what to do half the time. All we knew was what NOT to do – punish – and that just made everything easier and better, again, after the age of five or six. Toddlerhood was a lot of work, a lot of legwork, a lot of chasing, holding, talking . . . but punishing actually seems to CAUSE the bad behaviour. We learned that if you never punish them when they’re small, you never have to. You may be right, we may have had it easy with just girls, although the second one was pretty hyper and had her own mind.

Because we never punished, never committed that betrayal, our girls have always still been communicative with us, the lines of communication have never closed. They don’t have to hide, they don’t have to keep their own counsel.

Regarding “Boundaries”

“Boundaries” are a favourite buzzword for parents and parenting gurus alike. We all have ‘personal boundaries,’ of course, but ‘boundaries for kids’ aren’t the personal kind, or they aren’t all the personal kind. Kids are bound in more ways than that. Many more.

“Testing for boundaries” is a very popular idea, the theory being that kids are frightened in a big, boundless world, and we therefore owe it to them to provide some boundaries, to make them feel safe.

I’m sorry, but I call bullshit.

The “big, scary, boundless world” – that is the world we all grew up in, that is the world our species evolved in, it is part of us, and we of it (or, for the religious, this big, boundless world is the one God made for us, and the one we have dominion over, rather than the other way ‘round). This unbounded world is our natural environment. We were made for it.

From where I’m at on this subject, what I see is a certain amount of chaotic parenting in a very complicated world where even if the boundaries were consistent, which they often are not, responses to the crossing of them usually aren’t.

I see kids “testing for boundaries” because there is no logical system of boundaries. After all, every culture, every nation, every creed, right down to every family has its own idea of what the boundaries need to be. To take that idea two steps further, every family is comprised of two different families’ inherited set of rules, and even within each of the two, individual differences can be big. After that, kids are individuals too. So every child’s “system of boundaries” is a one-off, as individual as fingerprints. The common factor is only that every person must learn the boundaries, or else.

All a kid can really do is test each individual boundary, each situation empirically, in the absence of any system that he could extrapolate from or deduce. That is what “testing for boundaries” is. It is a child learning which particular, strange, just invented yesterday set of rules he will be obliged to learn, or else.

What I am trying to say here, is that it isn’t a natural tendency to push limits that causes your child to test boundaries, and he isn’t going to test them to the point of jumping over a cliff, or killing someone, not naturally. It’s not a natural tendency to find out how bad he can be, what he can get away with.

He’s just trying to learn his way around in the mad, chaotic world of your rules, what you think of as your “system.”

Admit it, there is no “system,” no method to our madness. Our one-off set of rules/boundaries is the result of millennia of random culture, blended with the random experience of our parents and ourselves, along with our random reactions to that experience. Face it.

We’re weird. The worlds we make for our kids are individual, weird and random ones. They’re only trying to make sense of the senseless.