Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Down With Obedience!

Let’s review the obedience model, which purports that something is wrong when a child is not obedient or conforming. So much so, that our culture resorts to drugging a child into obedience. This is stunningly disturbing that a school or parent would change the chemistry of a child’s brain to meet its own parental needs…the epitome of narcissism. Children are forced through punishments and rewards to act in a manner that is easy for parents. Such coerced behavior meets parents’ needs, but rarely takes into account the children’s needs. We need to look deeper and realize that we are not here to train our children to be obedient. We are here to raise free-thinking, strong, confident individuals.

As parents living the Radical Unschooling philosophy, we focus on the needs under our kids “behavior.” I put behavior in quotes because I feel the word itself is demeaning. I wouldn’t say to my husband, “Honey, I didn’t like your behavior at the store.” This doesn’t feel respectful to me and sounds like terminology used for dog training. For the sake of clarity, I will use the term in the following discussion.

Traditional parenting focuses on a child’s behavior. Living the unschooling life infers that we choose not to focus on how our child is expressing their needs or their behavior. I don’t judge behavior because I trust that our kids are doing their best through self-expression at any given time. Because parents stop a child’s behavior through punishment, they may feel that their job ends at that point. However the child’s need underlying his or her behavior was not met. In fact, correcting a behavior rarely meets a child’s need. We don’t listen to our kids. We just silence them and make them behave.

An important point to remember and internalize is that a child’s unmet need does not go away. Silencing the behavior does nothing for the child and only meets the need of the parent. The child’s need is still there, present, not getting met. How overwhelmingly frustrating for a child, or any human for that matter!

Do you know how maddening it is to ask someone for something you really need if you were tired and grumpy, only to have him or her say, “I don’t like the way you asked for that. Sit there for 5 minutes and be nice!” Moreover, they walk away and leave you. Can you feel that frustration build within you? Parents treat children this way every single day, and it warps them internally so much.

Again, the unmet need doesn’t go away. Often, the need morphs into another symptom like stuttering or nail biting or something more distressing. Then, we drug kids or bring them to therapy to do away with these troubling behaviors that WE caused! Their need does not go away because you force them to stop expressing it. If only their need was heard in the beginning. If only a child could truly have the basic human respect to be heard, this vicious parenting cycle would never have started.

You cannot punish children’s need out of them. Whatever inside of them needs to come out will do so if suppressed. The point is to notice the need, and when the need is met, then notice the child’s growth: “Wow. She did not scream for her juice that time. She asked me politely. That was awesome.” Just notice and be authentic. Be in the moment and be grateful.



Anonymous said...

Even worse is when social workers drug children who have been abused, and who have been shuffled from home to home or raised the first few years of life in an orphanage. I don't know how I'm ever going to set my heals in if I ever adopt...
When I used to work with abused children, we had one child who loved to pretend to be different animals. One day, she was a horse, one day a cat, etc, etc. They drugged her for this. All it did was put her into a daze. I tried talking to her in her daze, and she looked at me, said nothing, and slithered her tounge out like a snake.

jill said...

awesome post dayna! every parent needs to read this

Lisa said...

An amazing post with wonderful clarity.

Secret Garden Supper Club said...

One word.


free thinker said...

Well. right on girl!

Stephanie said...


L. J. Lowe said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for spreading the truth in love. :)

corneilius said...

Spot on. When adults tell children what to think, either by direct intervention or indirectly, they abuse the child.

Conditioning ensures that the child internalises those messages and cannot access the meaning and truth of their experience, leaving them crippled for life and subject to external manipulation.

I am currently working on a letter to all the various mainstream 'change' movements leaderships to request that they include the pollution of children's minds (this is what these processes amount to) in their work.

I understand that it is the very fact of this conditioning process that gives rise to adults who are emotionally blind, who can and do rationalise violence, overt and covert adverse control over both human beings and the natural world such as we see in Governments, Corporations and Organised Religions and elsewhere...

I realise that it is a BIG ASK to expect a positive response from Governments et al (Alice Miller has for example written to all Government Departments of European States, and been totally ignored), nonetheless, I feel it must be put on the public record, so that at the very least I can say "You have been alerted. You have been warned." so that those responsible, be they the leadership of 'change' groups or others cannot say they did not know.

I am working on a small pamphlet to alert both parents and children to the points raised here, and to how this works within the larger framework of society.

Unless we stop telling children what to think, and actually start listening to them as people with valid meanings to impart, I can see no possible beneficial future for society or industrialised humanity in general.

Gregory Keyes said...

Well stated, Dana.

I'll add / argue on semantics:

We use the word "BEHAVIOR" with our children and ourselves - and even with our co-workers in the office environment, as well. It is a descriptive word of our actions, not demeaning.

Similar to the word "DISCIPLINE", there is nothing demeaning about the word "BEHAVIOR". Only the idea that it can be imposed on others is demeaning.

Behavior IS key to free-thinking, strong, confident individuals. It is the responsibility of the individual performing the behavior. Unacceptable or offensive behavior need not be countered with required "obedience"; but it should have appropriate consequences - pleasant or unpleasant or neutral feedback.

Unwelcome behavior - whether injuring others or simply not showing up for work on time - can and should be met with appropriate feedback without judgment or negative emotional reaction. Similarly, the behavior of dropping a rock on one's toe does not involve judgment in the consequences... it is simply feedback that allows the performer to decide whether to continue the behavior or not.

Lest this be taken wrong: love and affection and kindess and respect are GIVENs. They should be shown all the time - to everyone - even if their behavior is offensive. These things are not "earned" nor the reward for "good behavior", they are MY responsibility to exhibit to all humans - including my children. I must maintain the discipline to exhibit these behaviors toward other humans at all times to make the world what it can be.

Let's not lose the importance of BEHAVIOR and DISCIPLINE. These are valuable personal traits; they are not to be imposed on others.

We are not raising children. We are raising adults. They are responsible for their behavior. And I hope they find the discipline and responsibility to control their behavior as they need to make their lives what they choose.