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

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Analyzing "No"

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Have you ever thought about why you say the word, “no” to your children?  Parents are incredibly trigger happy and “no” is their bullet.  Sometimes “no” is disguised in a few other words or hidden entirely in a phrase that sounds different but, in the end, means “no” (e.g. – “not right now”). 

Children are explorers, adventurers, pretenders, scientists, clowns, wonderers, wanderers, inquisitors, and so much more.  How, then, will they learn in a world where “no” is the easy answer from adults who deem a certain behavior to be inappropriate, uncomfortable, dangerous, or (more than likely) inconvenient?  Indeed, how will they learn the importance of the word “no” when it plays on and on in the background of their lives like a monotonous beat lacking interesting lyrics?

Learning requires experience – on this we can all agree.  Even those who support traditional education are aware (though without the ability to fully incorporate it) that hands-on experience is required to incorporate information into our lives rather than in our short-term memory visitation.  I would venture to guess that more than 90% of “no” (or likewise negating phrase) usage is not based in any real rationale.  What people think of us or whether the situation makes us uncomfortable is not considered ‘real’ when weighed against the potential for the continued learning of our children. 

How, then, are “no” and its comrades in negation used?  I can think only of two situations:

1) My child’s exploration is impinging on the freedoms of others.

2) My child is unknowingly putting him/herself in serious danger.

Even with these there are considerations and the evaluation of whether we are clinging to the potential for these two to be true (b/c it makes the situation easier for US) or if they actually do apply to the situation.  Mild injury is not serious injury and can be a significant learning experience.  Dirtying their clothes does not constitute impinging on your freedoms b/c you are the family launderer. 

Tremendous liberation for all of us lies in the deep analysis of our use of negating statements and redirection.   Not only do we open ourselves to the joy of exploration and revel in our role as the supporters of our children’s constant learning, but we regain/maintain the integrity of “no” for those situations in which it is truly needed.  Our opposition to behaviors and activities is taken much more seriously and with value by our children when it used sparingly and with regard to their need to explore their world.  Children who do not hear “no” constantly stop in their tracks when it is uttered by their trusted adult.  Just as needed to support our children, so should the word “no” be used.

Note to my friends from Clan of Parents (May 9, 2010 post ‘Going Up’) – I request that my children not climb on the kitchen counters, walls, etc. with ‘playground feet’ and that they move glassware so that there is less of a chance of breakage/injuries.  This is generally honored but sometimes forgotten.  This is the basis of a consensual relationship in which all parties are respected- freedom supporting freedom.  They explore in plain sight because they know I support them and will help them without question as requested.  My “no”s are generally rooted in reality and rationale.  When they’re not, my astute youngsters respect my need for them to pause while picking apart my holey negations to transparency so that even I can see the ludicrous lack of foundation.  Those moments are the true “teaching moments”- the ones in which I learn more about me.

Good Morning America- Sheds Uninformed Opinion on Unschooling

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The Biegler/Yablonski family was featured on Good Morning America this morning hoping to shed some light on radical unschooling during mainstream America’s morning cuppa’ joe.  GMA quickly put a halt to any open discussion that might have been had in the MAINstream, however, by spewing their negative judgments and opinions before, during, and after the highly edited and biased segment. 

Watch the 5-minute segment here- Extreme Homeschooling: No Tests, No Books, No Classes, No Curriculums

My comment on Good Morning America’s Shout Out thread this morning:

GMA’s representation of radical unschooling was biased and uninformed.  RUers learn from real life experiences in the ‘real world’ everyday and are generally more confident, capable, and intellectual than any schooled child.  Life is choice at its finest and the resources and opportunities that unschooled children have at their fingertips are boundless.  Underestimating our children and their natural capacity and desire for connection, respect, choice, and learning is the mistake that is undermining our culture and society.  This was a very close-minded segment edited to generate gasps more than actual discussion.  I, too, encourage GMA to edit their content with more vision and less personal opinion and applaud this family for supporting their children in natural learning, inspired thought, adventure, and entrepreneurship. 

In addition to submitting a comment on the thread, I felt compelled to contact ABC directly in the hopes that they would like more information about radical unschooling:

Contribute | Do you have more information about this topic? If so, please click here to contact the editors of ABC News.
In bold is what they received- my response exceeds their character allotment maximum:

I am very disappointed in the biased representation of unschooling portrayed by GMA this morning.  I am the mother of the radical unschooling family in the video clip from Discovery Health and, though DHC’s opposing viewpoints (“experts”) were based in societal prejudice and misconceptions (similar to GMA), felt they did a much better job at allowing us to present how learning happens in the limited timeframe allotted for national television.

Some resources to inform you about unschooling so that you can present a more unbiased forum for discussion: I host and produce a podcast called Humans Being (www.werhumansbeing.com) which focuses on connected parenting and radical unschooling.  There are conferences all over the United States from which people are garnering more information on unschooling all the time- one of the finest is the Autodidact Symposium– coordinated and facilitated by grown unschoolers.  The yahoogroup: Ask Unschooling Offspring is another great resource for contacting teens who are being and adults who have been unschooled.   The classic works of John Holt have been used for decades in mainstream educator training and are the basis of the unschooling revolution.  John Taylor Gatto- former esteemed educator and critic of standardized education- has much to say with regard to the validity of unschooling.

My additional responses to this segment:

Unschooled children represent unschooling through their actions and pursuits.  Questioning teens with regard to their readiness for college is a very mainstream perception as to what is deemed important at any given time.  Could you ask the same of a schooled student and get a similar response? Absolutely.  Is college really necessary for individuals to attain success- whether that be classified either by financial status or happiness? No.  True investigation yields information to the direct contrary.  This brings up a very important double standard that is often portrayed in the dubious questioning of unschooling.  Ask these same questions of traditional school and the answers are either equal or an appalling testament to the lack of inspiration, support, opportunity, and options that the system yields for our children.

There was a glimpse of the children’s passions/interests when their indoor cultivation was shown and then cameras cut away to their sword fighting.  Yes, as unschoolers, much of our lives and learning are focused on play.  It is a sad commentary on our culture’s values that life, learning, work, and play are not seen as interwoven facets of the same life experience.  In the same right, for GMA to portray radical unschooling to a mainstream population, it is important on some level to depict the children’s interests/passions/endeavors and discuss learning theory and the extensive history of unschooling philosophy and practice (see the works of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and many others).

No- children need not be forced to participate in activities that are undesirable to offer options, opportunity, nor to help them become accustomed to doing things that are uncomfortable.  The choices that each of us makes in life are based on our confidence level, personal preferences, and goals.  An empowered individual who is supported in their choices will seek personal fulfillment through whatever means necessary (college, training, apprenticeships, hard work/practice, etc.).  Unschoolers support their children in the widely varied and potentially ultra-focused learning opportunities that are available in our communities- local, extended, online, etc.

I am very interested in pursuing this further with you.

Warmly,

Sarah Parent

(whose unschooling family is getting ready to begin full-time RVing and seeing what this great continent has to offer- first hand)

So far, I have gotten their automated response that apparently does not automatically integrate the <name> field on their comment submission page:

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HB #20- Product and Process- 'Radical Parenting'- the special review

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Join my husband, Chris, and I as we discuss and explain some recently blogged comments about our recently aired segment of: 

Discovery Health Channel’s ‘Radical Parenting’ special
3 Families- Attachment Parenting, gender neutral parenting & radical unschooling

General consensus is that Radical Unschooling is, by far, the most ‘radical’ of the styles.  Hmmm.

General opinions-
1) Interesting take; not for us.
2) We can incorporate more of that connected parenting within
our traditional school comfort zone.
3) We wish they had shown a family with older kids.

 Why? This is not about the outcome.
 Just as with public school, we’ll turn out tradesmen, Harvard graduates-
 any and everything you can think of…
 The point is that it’s all attainable in happiness and through pursuit of 
 personal passions.
 It’s about joy and connection.

4) These people are crazy and should be jailed.
 WHAT?  How could loving, trusting, and guiding our children be perceived in this way?

 The most prominent concerns from the show:
  – THE DONUT

  – help with teeth brushing- recommended by the ADA 🙂

  – reading to my son when asked
     Yes- I will- everytime
  
  – too much TV
  
  – do we have jobs?
 
  – our kids won’t function socially
 
  – our kids won’t be able to function in the ‘real world’

Here’s what it comes down to:
Unschooling and connection parenting are based on a multitude of developmental, psychological, and learning principles.
Just like you- we care.

Support this podcast- give what moves you.  Every little bit helps!  Donate button on top right sidebar.

Music selections- Youth Gone Wild-  Skid Row  /  Revolution- The Beatles

HB#18- Love Letter

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Check out my recently published article in Life Learning Magazine– The Mother He Needs

The Parent family will be on Discovery Health representing radical unschooling in March!  Friend me on Facebook to get an update when I am notified of the exact time slot.
Rethinking Everything Magazine– support me, support my new magazine! Tell everyone you know about this amazing publication.  I am so proud of this! These stories are amazing

2009 has been about:

Honesty

Connection

Listening

Opening
What does this have to do with unschooling?
Deep authenticity
True connection with ourselves
Put the Oxygen mask on yourself first
Who am I?

 I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you. We are connected and I feel the energy you offer when you read and listen.  Wishing you a positively brilliant 2010 filled with joy and expansion.

Click here to stream on your computer or search Humans Being on itunes for FREE download!

Music Selections: Send It Up- Vertical Horizon / Our Lives- The Calling