#antiparenting

#antiparenting

It’s not personal, Folks, but I think I have to separate myself, I think I have to stop hoping that people might ever find me by searching for “parenting.” You’ll find a lot of people, and a lot of blogs, books, advice, bloggers with thousands, even hundreds of thousands of followers, but from a random sampling of the content, it’s all “parenting,” and in the overwhelming number of cases it’s all synonymous with “control.” I hope I’m not hurting feelings here, but be forewarned: if that’s what you’re talking about I’m not going to follow you. More yet, if I’ve been following you, that’s likely to end soon. Again, not personal, but if I had a brand, you’d be hurting it. I can’t be associated with you.

I’m pretty old, the other side of fifty, and so I’m not the most savvy fellow on the interwebs; much of social networking is counterintuitive to me, and I may have lost my way. I thought I would be followed more if I followed more people, and who knows? Maybe it worked a little. Maybe half of my thirty-some twitter followers and half of my hundred or so WordPress followers are the reciprocal kind, and if those numbers were larger by a few orders of magnitude, I suppose I would accept the arrangement. But really – who compromises for those sorts of numbers? For those numbers I’m going to allow myself to be confused with the likes of Barbara Coloroso?

Not personal, Ms. Coloroso. You’re normal, and as such, you’re a fine specimen of your type – but I am in the business of telling people what they don’t want to hear. I’d love a bestseller, of course I would, but this is not my day job. No-one needs me to make any money at this. Folks, when I tell you you’re all bad parents and you’re destroying the world with your efforts for control, this message comes only from the goodness of my heart. These insults are free for anybody. You’re welcome.

“Parenting” has a lot of positive connotations. We protect our kids, we feed and house them, do all we can when they’re sick and we hope for best for them, of course we do. I have no objection to the things we wish for our children. If that was the entire list of what we do – well, that actually should be the whole list, that’s the point. It is the other side of parenting, the side we don’t like to see, the dark side that I’m taking issue with: punishment has no place in that positive list of parenting activities. It certainly deserves no credit in any positive outcomes our children may have. I tell you here, when a firm hand doing the hard thing appears to save a child from serious trouble, we can be certain it was also what led them to trouble in the first place.

I have to say here, that much of the modern parenting advice never says “hit your kids,” or even “hit your kids if nothing else works.” It’s just that they don’t say not to, at least they don’t say it strongly enough. They’re trying to get read, trying to sell some books or gain a large group of followers; they can’t tell everyone, most of whom have already hit their kids, that they’ve caused irreparable damage. Who wants to hear that?

Let me pose this question, though: who, in the history of the universe ever solved a big problem by hearing only what they wanted to hear? Who, in the history of the universe ever changed people’s minds by only telling them what they already thought?

So the best of the “normals,” as we call the punishers of the world in my house – the degreed ones, the educators, the psychologists – are writing parenting advice, trying to nudge people toward a slightly more gentle sort of parenting, hoping to lessen the damage parents cause through the betrayal and abuse of punishments, but they can’t take a stand on the principle of the matter, not when they’re hoping to be read. There are a few voices in the wilderness. You can find a few people, try searching on “No Punishment,” or variations of that, there are a few of us, as the least of which I count myself.

Again, with no boss to worry about, I’ll say it.

Trying alternative methods first isn’t good enough to stop the damage; ending “corporal” punishment isn’t good enough to avoid the betrayal, the resentment and the world-crippling harm. It is punishment, all punishment, that needs to be purged from anything we should be proud to call parenting. If punishment is a part of the good important work of parenting – I’m anti-that.

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Alice Miller was wrong.

Not about the problem. The problem Dr. Miller identified is real. It’s real, and it’s huge and serious. Nearly all children, for basically forever have been abused by their caregivers, usually their parents. Child abuse is ubiquitous and systemic. True dat.

But the doctrine that she offered and has been held by her followers, that a person must have a deep and thorough therapy and recover their memories of childhood trauma, recover the feelings buried during those traumas? This is a good plan for a person, a way for a person to get in touch with themselves, a way for a person to heal themselves, and some folks may succeed. It’s well documented that Dr. Miller failed in her attempt, and sometimes offered as a criticism of her work, at least as a qualifier of the success of her work, but that doesn’t amount to anything. Therapy is not going to solve this problem.

Dr. Miller understood the goal, and she was motivated, personally and professionally, yet still she failed. One reason for this is that almost no-one has escaped the problem Miller described – her therapists included. No-one understands all the types of abuse, no-one qualifies all the abuse as such, no-one can acknowledge all of it. The problem she has described is real, and very serious, even – incurable. Every year we live is more influential and more important than the next, so traumas in early childhood have more power over our development and therefore in our lives than any attempts at intervention afterwards can ever have.

It is prevention that we need to solve this problem. There is no fixing it afterwards. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men . . .

Millerian doctrine has it that we cannot save our children except if we become conscious of our personal histories, of our childhood traumas and abuse, but this rests on an assumption very few people fail to make: that all children need be abused, that all children will be subject to force and violence, because they MUST be. The assumption is that all children must be controlled, and controlled by force and or violence. We seem to consider that it is abuse only when it is carried too far.

This is where I introduce punishment as the vector for the disease. I submit, that if we do not punish our children, that if we never hurt them, as Dr. Miller says, “For Their Own Good,” then we will never go too far with it. If we can find a way to never hurt our children, and not PLANNING to hurt them would be a good start, if we don’t plan to hurt them or abuse them any way whatsoever, then we will never visit upon them even the particular abuses our own personal histories have left us blind to. That is the one, universal repressed thing that we are all blind to, punishment, that is the secret, and if Dr. Miller ever realized it, she never told us.

We all have this blind spot, we all think punishment is OK, that punishing is somehow different from abuse. That is the key., and that is the thing that when we realize the truth, Alice Miller’s dream can come true, children raised without abuse, because the children of someone who has realized this will be safe, despite the particulars of their parent’s abuse. These parents will not pass on abuse, because abuse is passed on by force.

If we refuse to use force, our children will be safe.