Measuring Intent

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We’re just now feeling our regular, joyful familial groove return from our time spent gorging on connection, freedom of mind and space, and the annual quintessential family reunion we call The Rethinking Everything Conference.  There are a great many ideas, situations, and conversations on which to reflect and I will continue to analyze and integrate for a great (great!) while.

‘Intent’ has come up several times in the last week in several different ways.  During the very first regular session of the conference, Barb Lundgren, Dayna Martin, myself, and Mark Hegener conducted a panel discussion entitled, “Immerse Me in Unschooling.”  It was a rousing couple of hours with lots of inquiries, debate, and revelation.  During a discussion about a mother feeling overburdened by her child not bringing his dishes to the kitchen after eating, Dayna brought up ‘intent.’  Do we assume positive or negative intent when a child does not live up to an expectation that we hold for whatever reason? 

When holding a freedom-based conference for hundreds of families in a fancy, mainstream hotel, obvious issues arise.  Hotel staff, unaccustomed to the din of children at play, stiffen, raise eyebrows, and increase the security presence.  Some found themselves more relaxed and joyfully aware by the end of the weekend.  I imagine the others just took more ibuprofen for their aching heads and feet and were grateful that their children went to school.  The difference in these two camps is their assumption of intent.  Do they assume children are inherently good and the play is honest and joyful?  Or do they assume that children are destructive, malicious, or simply unaware?

At a recent park day, one of the toddlers in our group decided she would be most comfortable playing naked in the sandbox.  At almost 100 degrees, the rest of us were thinking she had the right idea.  One of the mothers at the park, however, did not.  Ten minutes after she inquired as to whom this child belonged and asked if we were aware that she was not wearing clothing, a police officer arrived indicating that the little girl was indecently exposed and (adding his personal bias) ‘nobody else needs to see that.’  Interestingly enough, Texas penal code section 21.08 defines ‘indecent exposure’ as :  A person commits an offense if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.  Gosh, I wish I’d had my pocket copy of the penal code with me at the park.

The short of it is that we can argue intent all day.  There is only one person in any situation that is actually justified in dictating the intent and that’s the subject.  We could then make judgments as to whether their stated intent is their actual intent.  But one thing is certain: perception is not intent.  Perception is based on personal bias and our own subjective history. 

Now, I haven’t liked the word ‘assume’ since my 8th grade teacher broke it out on the blackboard.  You may have heard this one: “When you assume, you make an ass- out of -u- and -me.  And, after reading The Four Agreements, I feel incredibly free never assuming anything again because generally an assumption is something we take as a personal affront without any basis in truth.

But that is when we assume negative intent.  There can never be harm when we assume the best for and about people.  We maintain our personal integrity and it completely changes how we interact with others such that the energy is always going in a positive direction. 

So what I’m about to say is a challenge but it will change your life.  Assume positive intent and act accordingly.

HB #29- The Traveling Family

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In anticipation of our upcoming sessions, Barb Lundgren of The Rethinking Everything Conference interviews Sarah and Chris Parent about living a mobile life!

 

Since our family took to the road in July of 2010, there has been an overwhelming response from old and new friends alike.  In this interview, we share some brief answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.  We can only do so much in a 1/2 hour!  Come get the nitty gritty, down and dirty info, tips, and tricks when we share our sometimes scary, sometimes funny, always interesting experiences at Rethinking Everything 2011!

Click here to stream this interview or download FREE on itunes!

RE conference banner 2011
Humans Being

Go Ahead- Change your mind

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We all want what’s best for our children, don’t we?  The answer is ‘yes‘.  Even parents whose short-term motives and tactics I question have the same long-term goal – healthy, well-adjusted, caring, ‘successful’ adults (we can debate the qualities of this last one some other time). 

When we were transitioning our suburban life to one on the road as an RV traveling family, I received two specific messages from acquaintances who expressed their concern for our children’s well-being and long-term happiness.  At first I took them as the routine concerns of observers that have cropped up whenever we’ve made a choice that is not along the lines of what ‘regular mainstream’ families do – of which there have been many.  Further discussion revealed that these people had, themselves, lived a traveling life during periods of their own childhood.  This got me to thinking.  I could not reconcile how a decision that we had made enthusiastically as a family would result in our adult children looking back with anger or regret.  I needed to process.

What makes someone wish in retrospect that they’d had a different experience? 

One thing:  Choice.

When we feel empowered in our own experiences and that we have control over the decisionmaking process, there can be no regret.  The outcome may not be what we had anticipated but, in the long run, we’ll not lay blame on others for what we’ve experienced or what has become of us.

The key? We can always make another choice.

This applies to everything.  If a child chooses a food and doesn’t like it, do we scold him and force him to eat it anyway?  This takes out the empowerment of the choice.  Next time there is no choice- opt for something he knows he’ll like.  And then we wonder why our children aren’t more adventurous in their food intake?

If a child decides to take ski lessons and opts out after a few sessions because it’s just not her cup of tea?  Do we shuttle a miserable child to and fro until the end of the season because it’s been paid for and committed to?  Again, a child who is not allowed to change their mind is disempowered from the beginning.  Learning at every bend, they fear then that their next ‘choice’ may result in extended misery and/or disappointment from their parents and opt out of trying a new activity.

Think on this: if a friend asked you to come and try Tai Chi but you knew you’d have to go to every single session for six weeks whether or not you ended up hating it, would you try at all?

 Choice.

Children are always learning.  Some are adventurous in their choices and are trying new things all the time.  Others exercise just as many choice muscles but in a more reserved way (saying ‘no’ is a choice).  How many foods your child eats or activities and experiences your child participates in is not indicative of their level of comfort and independence in making the choice.  It’s our unwavered support of their decisionmaking that results in confident, fulfilled children and adults. 

When a group decision needs to be made, children are capable of seeing the broader perspective with the help of supportive adults who can share objective wisdom gleaned from more life experience.  Children are naturally caring and do not wish for their choices to negatively impact others.  (Impulsivity for younger children is just that- there is no intention to harm or offend those around them.)  Even infants can communicate their needs and desires effectively when their parents are tuned in. 

Choice doesn’t mean always getting what we want.  Compromising is a choice when it’s done rationally and independently.  Children do this all the time during play.  Yes, sometimes assistance is helpful.  And that’s our job!  Not to judge but to facilitate when we’re needed.

So ARE we screwing up our kids by traveling?  As long as it continues to be the choice of everyone involved, no.  They will always feel that their input matters and that they have control over how and where their personal journey takes them.  We CHOOSE to be together.  We CHOOSE to travel and see the world.  We CHOOSE to listen to, accept, and communicate with each other whenever situations are difficult and reevaluate as needed.

Love it…. till you don’t.  Then choose something else.

Spare the rod. Save the child.

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Yesterday I re-posted a link on my Facebook page to The Center for Effective Discipline’s Spank Out Day.  Honestly, I almost didn’t re-post it because I thought it rather unnecessary to tell people not to spank for two reasons.  1) Most people don’t spank anymore anyway.  2) People that do spank know there are better options but are sometimes too angry to control themselves.  I thought it would be silly to even bring it up.  We’re all working on doing better everyday, right?  Wrong.

I’m glad I did.  Because I was wrong on both counts.  Apparently spanking is still considered an appropriate means of dealing with what parents deem as behavioral issues with children.
no-spanking

I’m feeling pretty judgmental on this issue today and, after careful consideration, feel absolutely certain that there is no grey area here.  I’ve trotted around it in my head trying to think of a kinder, gentler way to help people to understand why it’s unnecessary and positively damaging to spank children.  There isn’t one.  Because people who spank feel absolutely entitled, if not obligated, to do so in order to raise obedient little soldiers.  So I’m going to say it really loud- STOP HITTING YOUR KIDS!

We could go on about peoples considered as lesser throughout our history being subjugated to the will of the dominant sector- yes, as recently as women who were punished routinely by their husbands (completely within their rights) for any manner of ‘wrong’ doing.  But parents who spank don’t hear this because of their determination to raise an obedient child.  Children do not have the same rights as other groups in the eyes of these parents and, indeed, in the eyes of the law.

We could talk about issues of perpetual violence and detrimental associations between love and violent behaviors.  But parents who spank will say that this was how they were raised and they love their parents and turned out well.

We can talk about linguistics and the fact that spanking is a soft word that parents use to alleviate the guilt associated with the words ‘hitting’, ‘abuse’, ‘violence’, ‘control’ which are all more appropriate words to describe the actual act being committed.  But parents who spank will say that the motivation behind spanking is different.  They are not hitting their child out of anger, they are hitting them out of love.  (Now say that last part again in your head.  Do you hope to be loved that way?)

We can even cite literature that shows that physical punishment is completely ineffective in creating the behavioral change the parent seeks.  What it incites is fear and any manner of deceit in order not to get caught again.  Spankers say it works because they see less of the behavior.  Might we be hopeful that this is because the child has sought out a more supportive environment and is spending less time with the abusive parent?  We can hope but given that children of ‘spanking age’ are usually in their very physically dependent early years, I doubt it.  But it’s not because the desired lesson was learned.  What is internalized by the child in these encounters is to live in fear because those who love them also inflict physical, psychological, and emotional harm on them.

Hitting is only one of many (a few more: time out, isolation, humiliation, withdrawal of affection, taking away personal items/’priveledges’) overt and damaging methods of controlling a child.  Simply replacing hitting with another method of control is not the solution.

The hard part here is NOT learning a new skill to use in these situations but changing the way in which we view them and our children.  It is changing the way we view the traditional hierarchical family dynamic to one of trust, appreciation, support, and true love (not this wacky, power struggle, abusive cycle kind).  And guess what?  You will never need discipline or punishment because what you have created is a respectful home community in which your wisdom, care, and love are appreciated because they are communicated in ways that are clear to the child’s heart and mind. This article- Why we don’t punish our son. Ever. – nailed it in my opinion. Thank you, Jillian Lauren, for rocking me to sleep last night with the pull I needed back to MY reality- the one in which my children communicate openly with their parents and each other and difficult situations are met with compassion and problem-solving not violence, guilt, and shame.

Having support in parenting is monumental and generally people parent the way their parents did so the support for change is definitely not coming from there.  When we know better, we do better.  Here’s some great literature for reconsidering and healing the parent-child relationship:

Connection Parenting by Pam Leo
connection parenting
Parenting for Social Change by Teresa Graham Brett
parenting for social change

Inspired Words

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Coloring Outside the Lines

Some invest heavily
In wrong and right
As if the world
Were black and white
 
Suppose you took
The color away
There’d still be
Countless shades of gray
 
Countless opinions
And points of view
Countless thoughts
On which to chew
 
Should you find something
That works for you
You may want to assume
It will work for me too
 
But I am unique
In my view of the world
How my thoughts and beliefs
Have swirled and twirled
 
In what I’ve experienced
What I like and detest
In what brings me joy
Or brings out my best
 
If I am to find
My place on this Earth
If I’m to find meaning
Feel value and worth
 
I require the freedom
To play and explore
To learn from mistakes
To make even more
 
To try on ideas
To try out new things
To find my own truth
To give my heart wings
 
To be sacred me
In a rainbow of colors
Not a two-tone clone
Spoon fed by others
 
No matter how good
Their intentions may be
No one else can see
What’s right for me
 
I am more capable
Than you can know
Your fears and limits
Won’t help me grow
 
Coloring outside the lines
Is essential
Like you, I am born
Of pure potential.

 Dan Coppersmith

© 2010 Dan Coppersmith

Reprinted with permission.

All Rights Reserved.

See more of Dan’s uplifting poetry at: www.SpiritWire.com

 

HB #28- Guest Podcast:: Freedom & Responsibility with Barb Lundgren and Quinn Eaker

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Quinn is Barb’s oldest child and a grown unschooler.  Having been unschooled in the deepest sense of the word, his sense of self is strong and his awareness is broad.  Discussions with Quinn are immediately intimate.  There is no small talk, no waste of a moment.  He truly lives the intention of being present in the moment rather than simply spending time.  I encourage you to listen to this podcast.  It is truly revealing as are most discussions with Quinn.

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Topic:  Responsibility is the New Compassion
click to the right of this box to listen to the mp3 recording now!

Many people believe compassion is high level action, a sacred/good/right/high feeling and/or thought about another. This, like with all else, is ok, but the reality remains that the energetics of what it is based on is dysfunctional.

Compassion is based on the idea that there are people who NEED help, that there is nothing you can do for them besides feel sorry for them, pray for them, decide for them, take care of life details for them or donate goods to their cause.  All of this is just a handicap for ongoing dysfunction and thus makes the individual who expresses compassion part of the dysfunction.

This conference call is designed with focus on the parent/child relationship to bring forth some realities of freedom and responsibility.  As an example, let’s say one has a child..and this child is upset, angry, shy, frustrated, sad or some other aspect of bad energetic.  Instead of adopting the feeling of “I will pray for my child to find his way or I will buy her something to ease the pain,” a parent could choose instead to talk to the child about how he is feeling, sharing that it is ok to feel however one may feel but there ARE options.there are alternatives.there are infinite possibilities.  Or, possibly an even higher action would be to know that pain is a part of life, as is confusion, uncertainty, doubt, and all may all be a part of evolution.  This is OK.  IT IS NOT a bad thing and actually very important in the self-existing and growth process.  It is  important that an individual be able to deal with one’s own thoughts feelings and life.  It is important that one is able to know that she has the ability to influence her own experience and that she is capable of dealing with whatever experience life brings forth.  Until an individual is capable of dealing with one’s own thoughts, feelings, actions and overall life one will continue to be subject to the system of government/school/corporation/control/manipulation/dogma that is established for them.

There are many people who are aware that they dont really like what is going on but have no idea what to do to shift or engage beneficial new realities to unfold.  There are so many people that do not think for themselves but look to others for guidance.  This is a guaranteed path to suffering.

There is no benefit in taking care of everything for a child, with regard to thinking, choosing, and deciding for a child.  One may think this is compassionate and that compassion is holy but, in fact, it is a handicap that does not serve the parent nor the child.

Children are born of pure potential.  It is, in fact, this world that they are born into and their parents that birth them that is replete with fear, limitation, doubt, lack, control, manipulation, war, abuse, compromise, suffering etc., etc.  Why is it that these children need adult guidance?  Why is it that they need adult TEACHINGS?  Why is it that they need adult COMPASSION????

They do not, of course, and though the title of this is cool and powerful it still boils down to the fact that children are born capable and connected and by living in this world and the influence of the world around them that they lose connection to that.

The alternative to all this is Responsibility.  Children will NOT be responsible until they actually HAVE  responsibility.  Most children are not only irresponsible but wild, destructive and rebellious because they have not experienced real responsibility.  When a child is authentically able to choose for himself, when he sleeps, how he keeps his room, how he treats others, what he does with his time/thoughts/feelings, this child becomes very involved in the process we call LIFE.  A child becomes fully engaged and efficient with her choices and chooses highly beneficial realities for herself.  It is only when a child does not have responsibility that she is irresponsible and seemingly wastes her time.

A child is born with an inner guidance system that is highly sensitive and in tune with what is important.  Every time a child is forced, controlled, manipulated, advised or taught something not actively sought, he is further and further from this natural state of being.

Give your child full responsibility for her life, her choices and follow where that energy goes.  Provide unconditional support and love.  When a child needs/wants something you have to offer you can be sure that child will come to you with a clear and honest request.

Mistakes may be part of life and a free, responsible child may make them as well.  What a free, responsible child will not do that children without responsibility WILL do is repeat mistakes, for when one is living for oneself and responsible for all that one does it is silly to repeat mistakes.  When a child has no responsibility then the mistakes are not for them but for others.  If a child has no responsibility she will not care if she breaks something.  Actually, a child might want to break or ruin things to rebel against control.  A child who is responsible will know that unless there is some very important reason it is not beneficial to break things.

Click here to stream this podcast or download FREE on itunes!

HB #27- Guest Podcast:: Freedom & Responsibility with Barb Lundgren and Courtney Taylor Clay

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Several have asked me about unschooling teens.  Who better to speak to this than a young adult (now mother!) who, herself, was always (in all ways) unschooled?  I am pleased to have Courtney and her family in my personal experience.  Her presence is quiet and powerful.  She has much to share.

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Courtney is an unschooling mom of a 9 month old son and is herself a product of a lifetime of unschooling, self direction and self responsibility.

Topic:  Raising Teens with Maximum Freedom and Self Responsibility

Who says being a teen has to be difficult?  Who says teens lack motivation and are irresponsible?  It doesn’t have to be this way!  In an environment of respect, love and unconditional support, teens thrive, self direct and experiment with life in exciting and profoundly intelligent ways that foster growth, independence and self ownership.  We’ll talk about how to achieve this empowered and enlightened state with your teens, or soon-to-be teens.

Click here to stream this podcast or download FREE on itunes!

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