Punishment as Bullying

The world runs on authority, on force. The army, the police, schools, corporate hierarchies, parenting, parenting, parenting. Family structure. Punishment and discipline is a system by where we control unwanted behaviour by force, and punishment, which, punishment is defined as dishing out unpleasantness to the misbehavers in order to motivate them to change their ways.

 

This is pretty much a definition of bullying. The bully punishes the victim. The bully justifies this punishment by listing the victims’ misbehaviours, or the victims’ families’, or race’s, or faith’s misbehaviours.

 

This is punishing behaviour, this is bullies doing what adults do, doing what the police do, I mean the bully’s behavior is very close to that, closer than any of us would like to think. I’m saying the bully feels he is doing what he sees around him, that in the parlance of some schools of psychology, the bully is getting his power back, after some authority figure has taken his power from him.

 

So, parents and schools going to the bully kids and telling them to stop is a joke to these kids. They see it as just more ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ which it is. I, for one, would love to see someone ask the kids if I’m right about that. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the kids. Better yet, we need a mole, someone who can infiltrate the kids’ group and get a real answer. They don’t trust us.

 

Parents don’t think they are bullying. We have a consensus about what is acceptable punishing behavior, and we really cannot seem to draw parallels with what we see as our legitimate punishments and other similar behaviours. If we can’t, if we won’t see how bullying is an extension, an extrapolation of our punishing ways, then there is very little hope that any of our conversation about bullying, any of our attempts to combat it will get any traction, very little hope of our ever solving a problem if we refuse to understand it in the first place. Surely, someone has noticed that speeches that don’t acknowledge this difficult truth have not had any dramatic effect on the bullying phenomenon? I think any approach that doesn’t include this idea would be considered empty and hopeless, at least to any group that lives under threat or reality of punishment – like our kids.

 

Long and short, if we adults don’t stop ‘bullying’ kids everywhere, we will never stop their bullying, that should be obvious. I don’t know why it isn’t.

 

Many nations have outlawed corporal punishment, in Canada, we are in the process of outlawing it, and I can see the next step, that we will someday realize that the damage caused by punishing behaviours generally outweigh any benefit, and when we all stop anything like bullying, so will our kids. Until then, we will fight this bullying thing in vain, fighting fire with fire, and modeling it and propagating it as we do.

 

So now, there will be programs, task forces, plans and research, all government money spent to figure out this embarrassing problem, and if we don’t try to stop people from the use of punishment – corporal and otherwise – on our kids at home and everywhere else, we are wasting all those resources. And that is a sad, cruel joke, one that the adults don’t understand, and only our kids are laughing about. Not in a good way.

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 22, 2016

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Negative Proofs

It’s a hard row to hoe, convincing people that all punishment is harmful, Sisyphean, in fact, but the opposite, that was pretty easy: a complete lack of punishment, no dispensing of negative consequences whatsoever – has no ill effects. Punishment is not necessary for life.

You may not be ready to allow that it’s harmful – but for the lack of it to be harmful, me and my family would have to show some harm, some of the sorts of harm we all agree might result from a lack of discipline, wildness, inconsiderateness, poor boundaries, violence, opposition, poor morals – and that is just not the case.

You can’t prove a negative, but you can prove whether removing an organ kills the patient. Punishment is like our appendix, a legacy condition that can only cause trouble. It’s not a requirement for life. I’ve proved that much, and that is no small thing.

You’re welcome.

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 16, 2016

A conflicted Society – Cognitive Specialization

Cognitive Specialization

A search of my blog for the character strings “cognitive damage”, “and cognitive “, or just “cognitive” will produce results pretty consistently. It’s a central tenet of mine, of course:

“The cognitive damage associated with abuse and corporal punishment is a result more of the repetitive nature of a very limited number of punishments that are provided as effects for a world of different possible causes, the true effects of which, while possibly painful at times, are all things that human beings need to learn, and the earlier the better. The cognitive damage is the direct effect of these missed learning opportunities at early ages, blah, blah, blah . . . “

I’ve said that many, many times, but it wasn’t until recently, within the last year when I started to allow the reverse side of that concept to creep into my thoughts. I thought of this post and forgot it again several times over the last year; thank goodness I happened to be home sick, sitting at the computer when I thought of it this time. Personally, I think I’m afraid to pursue it because I’m afraid it may be the bane of my entire edifice. I can’t wait to see how far I may have to stretch myself to cover this additional bit of information.

But you know, here goes. Of course I don’t have to publish. Ha.

If all those chances to learn real things about the real world are being missed – aren’t we still learning something, even if it isn’t how hot the stove really is, or why you shouldn’t punch your friends? Of course there are more conventional answers to that, even ones I like and agree with – but also these:

  • We learn our first versions of ‘might is right’
  • We learn a list of our parents’ likes and dislikes
  • We learn the basic principles of punishment, which are, we’re supposed to bring some sort of pain or deprivation to people who behave in ways we do not like, and that pain and deprivation are good for us, that we deserve them
  • We learn that it is standard practice for the large and powerful to bring pain and deprivation to the small and weak
  • We learn that pain and deprivations are the preferred tools for manipulation, for getting people to do what we want

That’s all somewhere in the realm of the normal, I’d say, but that last entry, is that not slightly more nasty and objectionable? We learn manipulation? And is that some generic-sounding code so that I can say ‘manipulative,’ a much more loaded and powerful word, without actually saying it? It’s a fair cop. I was hoping to make an argument to get us from the one to the other.

So before I get into other things, what sort of result would you imagine, what sort of person might we expect that education might get us if it takes, if that is the sort of lesson we get possibly far more often than we get a chance to learn something about the real world? Well, yes, the aforementioned cognitive damage of course, the life of missed learning opportunities, but what about all the time, all the focus, the opportunities to learn in depth about our families’ quirks and psychoses, and the fine arts of manipulation, and Pavlovian conditioning? Surely those sorts of hours pay off. Surely we are all specialists. Like the Reindeer people know their animals, like the Sherpa know the wrath of the mountain – that’s how we all know this world of the human social animal, with its complex hierarchies and its sometimes random mix of rules, deterrents and punishments. All of us are Subject Matter Experts – both in support of the system, dealing out our own share of the discipline, as well as in avoiding the penalties we deserve if our own disciplined subjects deserved theirs. Degrees all around, generally confirmed about the time our first child turns three, but sometimes, thank goodness, some of us argue with the professors and the department heads because we think we know better – and wind up tenure-less. Early retirement, which in this case can mean irrelevance.

Seriously, navigating our modern world – a social group of millions, even billions in some senses, interacting with any number of different authority structures and agencies at once, at least three levels of government and all three with a suite of bureaucracies. After that, international law, the hierarchies at work, church, and any clubs or associations . . . and all that arrayed against us in adulthood. In childhood, it’s pretty much every adult on earth that we must navigate. As an example of the general level of expertise, we can perhaps note that navigating our teen years, the time between child and adulthood, the period that we finish as adults, this time during which even most of the most sheltered do most our growing up – this, generally must be accomplished on the sly. Practicing to be a grownup, love, sex, relationships, learning about adult temptations like alcohol, drugs, crime, and gambling – all this is supposed to happen on the other side of ‘the law’ so to speak, teens are not encouraged to ‘grow up’ in this way. We are, however, expected to know all about it all by the time we’re adults. What I’m saying about our expertise, about how much of our plastic and modular brain is allocated for this sort of thing, is, somehow we all still manage to get through it, on our own, in the black market where we’re not supposed to be. That’s kind of impressive, considering that we aren’t all perhaps running on all eight cylinders upstairs.

So this is maybe our scenario, that we are to some degree denied a lot of learning at an early age when we are able to absorb it the best, but that we are all a species of savant as regards living our lives among an endless bunch of social structures some of which are downright hostile to us, and even half of the friendly ones of which would punish us, hurt us to keep the social order. And still we somehow live our lives, because we were raised in this system, we’re street-smart. Hardened. So, continuing with the analogy, then.

If we are all lettered, then what may become of the top of the class, the best and brightest? If we are all steeped in the system, dyed in the wool, then who are the standouts, the pound-for-pound best in this field where everyone has been at it their whole life? I don’t have to name names, of course, but suffice it to say that there are some big jobs for those who are able to manipulate a population of lifelong manipulators, great, unreportable rewards for the con who cons the cons. So yes, we’re talking about our leaders, the super-rich, our politicians and the spin doctors, the PR kingmakers and all of the types who rise to the top of a society built on manipulation and force. This is not an aberration that these manipulative psychopaths are our leaders; that is the system and they are the best. As long as this is our system, they are our rightful champions.

Nothing is going to change for us by simply rotating through different faces and names, when sociopathy is in the job’s list of prerequisites.

It explains a lot, looking at things this way, which of course is the test of a hypothesis, a theory: does it explain more, can it account for previously unexplained phenomena. It explains the power of advertising, and it explains an important piece of the whole Equality Bias and Confirmation Bias phenomenon for starters. It seems to make some sense that if I am invested with an idea of my own rugged, western individualism and independence then maybe I wonder at the advertising industry and that the dollars spent on it seem to always bring returns, when I am not swayed by it. Ignoring that some clever somebodies sold this person the American Dream at some point in his life, this person may theorize about some two kinds of people, the impressionable and the not so, but we may find that our wonder over the effectiveness of advertising and media is lessened if we consider that manipulation is what we do, that it is perhaps the most highly developed discipline that we have.

Similarly, regarding Equality and Confirmation Bias, I personally found the ideas counter-intuitive and I wasn’t sure I believed them, but again: if I think my social group is not bright and/or undirected in their social pressure to think like they do, then yes, it seems unlikely. If, however, I recall that even my relatively uneducated social group have a lifetime’s knowledge and experience in the manipulative world of the most manipulative species’ most ubiquitously manipulative time and place . . . well. It’s not so strange after all.

Plus, it explains even more.

My thesis here, that we are real-world stupid, that our connection to the real world was not made during our early years, and that we are conversely, social and manipulative geniuses may explain how so many clever people can focus on elections and high-powered corporate careers with incredible acumen and success, and yet fail to worry about what their social and political successes may wreak in the real world. Veritable virtuosos in the field of the human mind, social networking and politics – but unable to make the connection we need with the real world.

This is how ‘the economy’ always trumps the Earth and the environment. That social and political construct we can understand, we have evolved a massive organ to deal with it – but our brains’ ‘real-world’ lobe, that is going undeveloped, ignored in early childhood and stunted through life and it is atrophying, becoming vestigial.

We need to broaden our minds beyond ourselves, and start worrying more about the real world. In a real way, dedicating so much of our brain’s real estate to one another and to social concerns at the expense of our resources to process real-world things is analogous to an individual being in arrested development, trapped in the dynamic of their nuclear family and dysfunctional outside of it; the concerns of the social group have grown beyond their proportions. The real, physical world needs some time in our thoughts too, or it may become increasingly inaccessible and therefore even more at risk.

First we need to grow up.

Then we need to clean up our room.

Punishment Hurts in Non-Physical Ways

First, here’s a few posts of mine on why all punishment is dependent on physical means:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/09/18/corporal-punishment-is-not-the-whole-story/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2015/03/04/all-punishments-are-physical/

The second one was written too quickly, but the concepts are there, and this is an online forum; I’m happy to debate them, clarify anything I said in my sloppy shorthand. But this is the other part of the same conversation: it doesn’t need to be physical to be damaging anyway.

I’ve been on this train of thought for a long time, and this idea didn’t develop during the first decade of the journey . . . it’s here now though, and in full force: why should our focus be solely on corporal punishment?

I mean, I’m sorry to kill any buzzes, but, does that mean there’s another kind, one we like better? Perhaps something more powerful, and therefore more efficient, like the mental kind. Whip a kid, he limps for a few days and then back to normal (so there’s all this maintenance), but mentally torture him once and you can fuck him up for years – is that the sort of bang we want for our buck? Of course not.

The thing is, when we opted for the term – Corporal Punishment – defining what wasn’t corporal punishment wasn’t the task, or the problem. It was more a matter of defining what it is, and that is basically the administration of physical pain as a deterrent and a penalty for misbehaviour. Perhaps it overlaps with ‘retribution’ to a great degree, in that they both mean pain, for the sake of pain, to balance the pain of the victims. Point is, we weren’t thinking about having defined Corporal Punishment that we would then have to determine what other sorts there are.

It’s time now, though. The best time is always ten years ago, but now is good too. So there’s your first homework assignment: define “non-Corporal Punishment.” Perhaps that job will morph into naming all the sorts of punishment that there are, for example, what sort of punishment is it when my mom gave me the “wait ‘till your father gets home” treatment? Mental, that it would cause anxiety for the rest of the day, until Dad got home, or probably more emotional, that I would suffer stress and fear for several hours? I guess on those times when all that was promised was given, it all just goes under Corporal, but on the days when Mom or Dad didn’t follow through, the promise was certainly a price to pay, certainly was a punishment in itself, and then should be classifiable. And the much talked about ‘Timeout?’ The solitary confinement must surely be an emotional punishment also, the temporary loss of the primary caregiver and their love?

I have asked rhetorically a few times over the last few years, and I will again – who will stand up and advocate for this form of non-corporal punishment, Emotional Punishment? Of course, no-one will. It is my dream that as other sorts of punishment are identified they are immediately moved to the list of cruel, banned practices, because if we do end up identifying the other sorts of punishment besides the Corporal variety, they are sure to include Mental Punishment, Emotional Punishment, Psychological Punishment and others – the ramifications, one, that the functions identified in the previous studies re: corporal punishment will apply and have always applied to all sorts of punishment, and two,  that now authors, educators and social workers will be in the unenviable position of identifying  some type of punishment off of the list as Approved For Use in the home – are pretty big. The ramifications of what we think and what we do as regards punishment in child-rearing in general have always been huge.

I, for one, am not convinced that all the study that went into the CRC and the anti-Corporal Punishment movement generally says anything like ONLY corporal punishment is damaging. The CRC and the rest list many sorts of damage and trauma beyond the purely physical damage in its condemnation of corporal punishment. Clearly any of these experts would admit at least some measure of the causes of other traumas – mental, cognitive, emotional, psychological traumas – to causes of the same names, mental, sexual, emotional, etc., punishments. Though it would be overly subjective to try to quantify exactly which aspects may produce exactly which or what amount of damage, I think it must be that both these vectors have some effect at some rate. Punishment genres tend to get mixed up in these dramas, often several varieties being dished out in one writhing mass, difficult to categorize.

Meaning, that in theory, emotional, mental sorts of punishments can also bring emotional and/or mental damage – meaning in turn that decrying and banning only “corporal punishment” isn’t going to be enough to stop the damage. So while selling the anti-Corporal Punishment message with this research is fair play, or fair enough, it certainly can’t be the only thing this important research supports. It also lays much of the groundwork to get us from anti-Corporal Punishment to anti-Punishment, meaning again, where all of the non-Corporal kind, like mental, emotional, cognitive, and psychological punishments are understood in our minds to be damaging and counterproductive as well. I know we all know that all those forms of abuse exist, but I think maybe we don’t like to appreciate that those forms of punishment also exist. Perhaps we’re also not appreciating how our acceptance of what we consider to be ‘legitimate’ forms and degrees of punishments tend to give oxygen to the illegitimate kind. We don’t know when we see a kid being dressed down and humiliated at the mall whether this is the worst episode of that family’s life, or the best moment of that kid’s day, much of which may not be spent in public.

When that sort of ambiguity can exist around whether a child is suffering physical punishment or abuse, imagine the additional difficulty of identifying these invisible types, mental, emotional forms of punishment and abuse. We need to do all we can to make abuse more visible, and the second and second best thing we should do is stop approving of all these things that look the same and provide camouflage for abuse. Of course the first thing we should do is realize that the downside of a culture of punishing has a major effect, possibly as big or bigger than the positive effect we always hope for when we’re punishing.

Familiarity Breeds Blindness – When We Can’t See the Concepts for the Words

It’s a sad thing when words lose their power, when we have lived with them for so long that we’re no longer impressed by the things they signify. I think it was when I was reading “Midnight’s Children,” (set in India) when I was shocked, first by the expression ‘sister-sleeper’ and then in “White Tiger” when it was the stronger ‘sisterfucker’ and I realized that our version, ‘motherfucker’ had lost its punch, that I was no longer feeling the image it evokes. I started saying and writing what I think of as the Indian version in order to take advantage of its freshness and power. (Interestingly, my Canadian Microsoft Word is also accustomed to the mother version, but is flagging the sister version for a spell check.)

Show a man a photoshopped picture of himself in coitus with his own mother and he’ll react – but the word for him in that image just means somewhere between ‘dude’ and ‘swine’ these days, at least for some of us. ‘Sisterfucker’ isn’t a more disturbing concept, it was just unfamiliar to me, so my mind looked at it a little closer, and the image was a nasty surprise. I must have quit paying attention to what ‘motherfucker’ means. Now, in case anybody’s concerned that I’m switching gears, don’t worry. Here it comes.

I re-posted one of my older child-rearing, anti-punishment blogs on another site and it started a few conversations with a few people, a man or two and some ladies, some mothers. The conversation came around to my controversial stance that ‘corporal punishment’ is a misleading phrase, that in fact (‘fact’ to me at least), without a willingness to get physical there can be no punishments. Hold on –

early on while writing my blogs and my book on the subject, I looked up ‘punishment’ to get a somewhat official definition. The dictionary ones were pretty straightforward, but the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy went on for many pages. What I came up with, in the shortest form, is that punishment is the imposition of an aversive in order to lessen an unwanted behaviour. ‘Aversive’ means an unwanted stimulus, a term I usually change to ‘unpleasantness,’ and ‘imposition’ means to put something on someone without any condition as to whether they want it or not. So a punishment is something you don’t want and is put on you without your consent, in order to change an unwanted behaviour of yours.

That, just in case ‘punishment’ is a word that we don’t examine anymore, just in case we’ve forgotten the meaning or never really heard it in the first place –

So I spent a few comments trying to convince some people that all punishments depend on force, that their children weren’t likely to have been taking their non-corporal timeouts and such from a place of willing agreement, that their kids probably had learned, either the hard way or by inference, that the non-corporal punishment wasn’t going to be optional, that if they didn’t take it, it would wind up being forced upon them, that the punishment would escalate.

I’m trying not to generalize about gender here, but interestingly, among these very few people in the discussion, the most vocal man made no bones about it. Damned straight, was his attitude, a good smack will put them right. Kids don’t understand talking; that is what they understand.

The ladies, though, they didn’t believe in hitting or corporal punishment, and while they did believe in punishment, they insisted they didn’t back it up with force. Trying to make my point, I asked repeatedly if their punishments were optional, if there was any way the punishment wasn’t going to happen, or if it was going to happen by hook or by crook. One of the ladies assured me that it wasn’t optional, that if the child simply walked away from his or her timeout, that she would simply bring the child back to it, as many times as it took. I didn’t argue that ‘bringing the child back’ was a physical act, and I didn’t ask how forcefully it might have to be done if the child was stubborn about it, although these are certainly important parts of the puzzle for me. I just asked again, if it’s not optional, then the parent is going to make it happen by whatever means necessary, right?

One answer struck me as pretty schizoid, but maybe it’s just this language thing, maybe the words in the response had been said so often that the meaning had been lost: in an answer that said ‘punishments are not all backed up physically’ someone said something like ‘of course you have to follow through.’ Now that last phrase is familiar indeed, ubiquitous even – we all know it. But unexamined it must be, because otherwise how can someone say ‘of course you have to follow through’ and feel it is somehow a contradiction to ‘I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen?’ So that’s what’s happening, I think, when I try to make this point, it’s the same as my opening example, like we hear the deadly, incest accusation of ‘motherfucker’ all day long, and it’s all in fun, harmless, like a friendly ‘cabron’ between pals, but when I say that all punishments are backed up with force . . .

well it’s like I said ‘sisterfucker’ loudly during a moment of quiet at a church barbeque. Shock and horror. The deer-in-headlights blank stares of the good peoples’ moral indignation.

So I’m the bad guy. All right, I’ll play that role, I’ll crash your barbeque – what time again? Oh right, I remember. It’s always happening.

It All Starts When We Punish our Kids, Part #7

It all starts when we punish our kids.

What all starts? Well . . .

Addiction.

Addiction is a strange thing.

I used to say, getting high, getting drunk – that I can understand, but gambling? Spending all your money to feel the high from heroin, or from weed, you’re getting something, at least some relief from all those pesky feelings, and with alcohol . . . well, I think with drink what you get is different. I think what alcohol gives you is a chance to vent, a chance to give voice to your worst feelings with no worry that you might remember doing it.

But gambling? That seemed like only half an addiction to me. You lose all your money and . . . nothing. Talk about cutting out the middleman. That is some pure, un-cut self harm right there.

And that is the clue to what’s really going on with addiction.

The addict tends to think that the very thing that is ruining him is the thing that’s saving him – that’s another clue. The addict sees good in the harm, perhaps it’s possible to say that the addict can’t tell good from bad, but probably more accurate to say that for him, the harm looks like good, or feels like good.
Harm from which good is said to come, or good that is derived from harm?

That is what punishment is supposed to be, that is the theory of punishing, good from harm, harm to create good. And this is where the addict learned it. Where we all learned it, at home, from our caregivers.
When a parent punishes, either hits, spanks, grounds or puts us in time-out, confiscates a desired object or simply withdraws his love in order to hurt us and induce us to avoid that hurt by doing what he wants, this is what is shown: good from harm. Worse, the parent explains it, spells it out: this harm is good for you. For many of us, for so many of us, this lesson is applied for nearly every possible hard lesson we get.
It’s no wonder so many of us think harm is good, at least that harm brings good.

Is it?

#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.

One of Parenting’s Worst Myths

Let me ask anyone reading this – do you actually know ANYBODY who doesn’t try to discipline their kids? Anybody who doesn’t believe in discipline, anybody who says “Oh, I don’t care how my kids behave. Let the police worry about it!”

 

Of course the truth is, all the families that the misbehaving kids and the criminals of the world come from do indeed believe in discipline and punishment, and that DOESN’T F@#$%^G WORK, and so the kids misbehave, and many people grow up crazy and violent and lead criminal lives DESPITE having been punished and disciplined in their family homes. That is the obvious truth, because if discipline and punishment was some sort of magic cure, then you would have to show me a sizable portion of the population who doesn’t believe in it and doesn’t use it, and you can’t.

 

Can you? I’ll ask again:

 

Do you really know ANYBODY who doesn’t try to discipline their kids?

Ignore that “Tiger Mom” – She’d Eat Your Kids

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/12/elephant-mom-timeof-tigermother/383378/?single_page=true

– And here’s the text:

Being an ‘Elephant Mom’ in the Time of the Tiger Mother

It’s okay for parents to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they’re very young.

I still remember the first time someone spoke to me about grit. It wasn’t when I lost my dad and saw my mother fall apart.

It wasn’t when my mother died, and I felt like I was falling apart.

It wasn’t when people who I believed would invest in my business didn’t. It wasn’t when the great recession hit our advertisers and my business had to stop publishing a magazine.

It was when I was thinking of pulling my 3-year-old out of a preschool in which she clearly wasn’t thriving. She was anxious, frozen, a shadow of the child she used to be before she started there.

But it was a co-op preschool, meaning I couldn’t just turn around and leave. When you sign up to join a co-op, you also sign up to work various jobs around the school and to commit to being an active part of a larger community. In other words, I had to talk to the other parents at the co-op about my decision. One of them cautioned me: “What about grit?” she said. For a minute, I was taken aback. Was she talking about me or my 3-year-old?

She wasn’t talking about me.

It shouldn’t have shocked my system. I’ve often felt like a misfit around parents when they talk about how kids have it too easy these days or how important it is to inculcate a sense of independence in them as early as possible.

This is the story of my struggle to allow myself to be the kind of parent I want to be. I grew up in India, but moved to the U.S. in my 20s and became a mother here in my 30s. I had never felt like an outsider, ever—until I had a child.

I read a lot of books so that I would be the best mom I could be. And I suddenly found myself wondering, did the Indian parents I saw in my parents’ generation—and many in mine—get it wrong? My father was a big believer in the importance of a child’s first five years. I often heard him tell people how he couldn’t scold me until I was five. He reprimanded his younger brother for raising his voice at his kids before they turned five. Raised voices or not, we didn’t have any concept of time-outs anywhere around us. I can’t recall a time when I cried and a grown up didn’t come to console or hold me. They always did. I slept with my mother until I was five. My father would tease me and say I was my mother’s tail, but neither of them did anything to get me to sleep alone or in a different room with my siblings.

My parents weren’t the only ones with this kind of approach. The phrase I would hear in almost every home we visited during my childhood was some version of’Let the kids enjoy themselves.’ They have the rest of their lives to be grown up.And the social fabric of our world supported them. We would go to the fanciest of restaurants with our parents and run around and play tag. No one would stop us—not the managers, not the other diners. It was normal. Soon enough, the servers would join in. It was lovely.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that my parents and their friends necessarily had it right. Some of them produced kids who were happy, some of them didn’t; some of them raised CEOs, some of them raised stay-at-home moms. I’m justsaying that it’s okay to be an elephant mom, an elephant dad—an elephant parent.

If you’re wondering what ‘elephant parent’ means, it’s the kind of parent who does the exact opposite of what the tiger mom, the ultra-strict disciplinarian, does. Here’s a short video clip that shows how real elephants parent. And that’s what I’m writing about here—parents who believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they’re still impressionable and very, very young.

My elephant mom was a doctor with infinite patience. I failed a Hindi test when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I remember going to her, teary-eyed, with my results—and hearing her tell me that it didn’t matter. There were many more tests ahead. As I sobbed in her lap, she stroked my hair, hugged me, and told me there would be another test, and I could pass that one. (I did get the annual proficiency prize for Hindi a year later at the same school.)

My grandparents were doting parents, too. On both sides, the families lost everything in the partition of India. They had to flee to India from what is now Pakistan. My naana (mother’s father), originally a doctor from a wealthy family, began saving every rupee to educate his girls. He stopped going to the movies, his favorite past time. Both he and his wife stopped buying new clothes and began stitching them at home instead.

My father knew grit. He came to Punjab in India on a train with bullets flying around him—and people dying in front of his eyes. (Riots accompanied the 1947 partition that divided India and Pakistan.)

After his father died suddenly, he looked after his mother and brought up his four siblings in India. He and my mother paid for them to study in school and college and funded their weddings. Yet, my father never talked to me about grit. If anything, my parents protected me from pain; perhaps they knew that life would eventually have some pain in store for me, sooner or later. They learned how to raise their kids from their parents. And I learned how to raise my kid from them.

But my husband, who is also Indian, and I are raising our daughter thousands of miles away from where we were grew up. There aren’t any families of Indian origin at my daughter’s preschool or even in our immediate neighborhood. “Our way” isn’t a way that everyone around us understands. When she was a baby, we wouldn’t let her cry herself to sleep. It wasn’t a judgment on those who followed the sleep expert Marc Weissbluth’s advice. It was and is a cultural belief. Even now, our four-year-old will often ask us to put her shoes on, and feed her, much to the consternation of many fellow parents. But we do it because it connects us to our uncles and aunts who would have said she has the rest of her life to do it herself.

To make sense of the world where I was raising my child, I went to meet Angela Jernigan, who runs Parent Connect East Bay in Berkeley. She helps people find and build a support structure in their parenting journey. “We don’t have the village anymore,” she said. “It’s very hard for parents to be connected (to their kids), to give their kids the experience of being felt and heard.” For that to happen, parents need to feel connected and supported themselves, which in our fragmented world can be hard to do, she explained.

Jernigan has heard words like grit and resilience thrown around in her own child’s elementary school. “I explain that us having adult-like standards for children is the wrong way to build resilience. Parents have to be nurturing to build a core of strength with children,” she said.

Nurturing. Vulnerable. Empathetic. That’s how parents need to be, she suggests, when kids are having a “big feeling” (in other words, a meltdown).

I heard something similar in a TED talk by Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work, who studies the human connection. “You can’t selectively numb those hard feelings,” Brown said. She was referring to emotions like guilt, vulnerability, and shame—emotions kids and adults feel. In an uncertain world, Brown said, we like to make things certain. “We perfect, most dangerously, our children.”

And why we do that probably warrants an entirely different discussion about our cultural fears and insecurities. Have we failed as parents if our kids aren’t the most well-behaved, toughest, and smartest kids in the neighborhood? Jernigan’s clients are more often than not people who are trying to be the perfect parents, raising perfect kids.

Literature, discussions and forums about parenting abound. As we look for the best ways to raise our kids, we gravitate toward what makes sense to us. After meeting Jernigan, I couldn’t help but think that if there were so many parents flocking to her group to learn how to better connect with their kids, maybe many of the differences I’d noticed weren’t as fundamental and deep-rooted as I’d believed. Perhaps parents, regardless of where they’re from, have more in common than not. The mom who spoke to me about grit also, on a separate occasion, spoke to me about wanting a slow separation from her child.

Studies and facts indicate that, regardless of what parents might say about being tough with their kids, they are spending more time and money on them than previous generations have done. A 2012 study by sociologists Sabino Kornrich and Frank Furstenberg that was published in Demography found that parentsspent more on their children’s education and care than on consumer goods from 1972 to 2007. Studies out of the University of California at San Diego show that college-educated parents in the U.S. have dramatically increased the time they spend with their kids over the past twenty years.

It All Starts when We Punish our Kids, #6

It all starts when we punish our kids.

What “all starts?” Well . . .

6. Racism.

Childhood punishments are where we first hear talk about “the other,” about “those kinds of people,” about Good People and Bad People.

  • You don’t want to grow up to be one of those people, do you?
  • You’re bad. I told you to be good!
  • “Jimmy played with matches. Don’t be like Jimmy.”
  • Stay away from those kids, they’re bad.

Those aren’t very direct, it’s no simple thing to draw a direct line from there to something like Ferguson, but a few things can be said, and if you’re looking for proof of anything in the foggy sphere of social science then you’re just looking for a way out of things you don’t want to hear. If social change relied on hard, math-style proofs, our progress would be at full stop instead of just being really, really slow.

Even when phrased in the second best way, descriptions of when we behave and when we misbehave are still about what we are, and not about things we only did or didn’t do. Santa Claus wants to know if you’ve been a good boy or a good girl, he needs to know you haven’t been naughty. When it’s our own language, and especially if we only know one language, it’s easy to forget what that verb is; we rarely conjugate words we learned as young children, but those statements don’t speak to what you do, they speak to what you are.

When we do something wrong, it’s because we are bad. Of course when we think a bunch of people do something wrong, then they are bad.

Of course, a good definition of bigotry is thinking that “the other” does what they do for impossibly stupid reasons, and that can as easily be descriptive of how a parent reacts to a young child’s misbehavior as it can to one race or culture’s inability to comprehend the actions of another’s. What we do, and therefore what we are, has its reasons and makes sense. The destruction wrought by a toddler or the rioting of an underclass race is just senseless. They need to be made to understand that they’re being bad.

Of course, little sponges that humans are, everything we do anywhere near a young child, and especially what we do to them, the stuff that affects them directly, is stuff that we are modeling, stuff they are learning. If we explain everything we see not in terms of processes, not in terms of interactive activity but rather simply because of what the people doing it are, of what the person doing it simply is, then that is how they learn to understand the world.

And, yes, that is a problem, and one cause for the problems we have understanding one another across cultures and across races; it opens the door for bigotry, it skews us toward not trying to understand the experience of “the other” because we already have our explanation, it’s just what they are.

Here’s the rest of the series:

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/09/11/it-all-starts-when-we-punish-our-kids-5/

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/08/25/it-all-starts-when-we-punish-our-kids-4/

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/07/20/it-all-starts-when-we-punish-our-kids-3/

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/07/19/it-all-starts-when-we-punish-our-kids-2/

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/07/19/it-all-starts-when-we-punish-our-kids-1/