Logic and Parenting
"On candy and other limits"
TV and violence and such
[Joyce (indented) responding to unnamed poster (in boldface):]
Again, it's hard to talk about this since there are many forms of
Not among unschoolers. And it's really only helpful to discuss the
effects on unschoolers because it isolates what are truly the effects
of TV from the effects of parenting and schooling.
the stresses peculiar to two-income or
single-parent families have swallowed up most of what used to be
time. Our kids have no time left to grow up fully human, and only
soil wastelands to do it in.
In unschooling families TV doesn't take from family time. It's just
another activity among many activities.
As I see it, there are *two* things that steal kids childhoods.
Which is why it isn't useful to use examples from families that
Kids in families who aren't unschooling watch TV for different
reasons than unschooling kids do. As a schooled child I watched a lot
of TV. It was relaxing after the social pressures of school. As an
introvert I needed a lot of depressurizing after being forced into
being social 6 hours a day. As a child of traditional parenting, my
parents welcomed the TV and friends and toys as a way to keep us
entertained. While we did things together (vacations, skiing, card
games), there wasn't a true connection. I don't think they really
knew us. Their main concern was that we were being molded into decent
And the effect of TV even with all that negative stuff? I learned a
lot about a lot of things. I'm fairly knowledgeable about classic
movies. I'm literate in 60's & 70's "junk" TV (Lost in Space,
Gilligan's Island, Brady Bunch ;-). And now, though I love TV, I have
a hard time fitting in all the stuff I would like to watch because
there are just too many other things I want to do.
None of the pressures of 2-parent familes and so on has anything to
do with unschooling or mindful parenting.
But how many unschooling kids have you met?
For most younger children, if they witnessed just one graphic
their living room between two visitors, one might expect that child
might need a lifetime of therapy; why should we expect it to be any
different just because those two people are living in a box in the
While I think the arguments against TV sound plausible, what you're
telling us is theory and data points that make the point the authors
want to make.
What are the real effects on real children who are growing up
*That's* what you need to ask. Because everything else is honestly
Again while it sounds like a plausible argument, does it happen with
real unschoolers? How many unschooled children with free access to TV
have been disturbed to the point of needing a lifetime of therapy (or
honestly even traumatized at all) by something on TV? How many
unschooled children have been traumatized by other pretending?
my reaction when I see video for murder and mayhem now is
visceral and unpleasant in a way I had become desensitized to
That's what you need to ask.
It's not that sensitive unschooled children won't come across
something that scares them (in books, in puppet shows, at circuses,
on TV). What blocks clear thinking is holding TV up as something far
more likely to be harmful than anything else they'll see. In
unschooling homes, TV is just another aspect in kids lives. When
parents know their kids, they *help* them avoid what bothers them (in
any media), they help them find ways to be more powerful than an object.
As an example, my daughter doesn't like moving skeletons. I would
read at ScreenIt.com to see if there was anything in a movie that
might bother her and tell her about it to help her make an informed
decision. She decided to go to one of the Lord of the Ring movies
despite the fact there were dead faces floating in one scene of the
movie. I was able to warn her it was coming up and she closed her
eyes and was fine with the rest of the movie.
That's one strategy to be more powerful than a media.
I don't like books and movies where the main character dies. I find
that disturbing. I've learned to check the last few pages of books
that look like they might do that to see if the character survives.
Another strategy so that *I* have the power, not the media.
That's just part of unschooling.
Again, it's a plausible argument that seeing pretend violence
desensitizes people to real violence. It's even more plausible
because of the violent society we live in and that violent people are
drawn to violent media.
And parents also model that desensitization to young children watching
violent things together.
But, if that is so, then shouldn't unschoolers who have unlimited
access to TV and violent video games be violent? Shouldn't
unschoolers be even more violent than ghetto kids who are at least
protected from TV during the day by school?
Obviously you've never been to an unschooling conference! While it
isn't safe to make generalized statements about how an individual
unschooled child will behave (not all of them have been unschooled
their whole lives and various other reasons) but *on the whole* they
are kinder, more respectful, more honest than your average batch of
Which says a lot about the effects of school and traditional
parenting. Unschooling parents just don't see the negative effects of
TV and TV violence that everyone claims must be true. And if TV isn't
having the impact on unschooling families then it isn't the TV that's
causing what people fear it's causing. It's the combination of
school, traditional parenting and the reasons kids who are being
raised under those are watching TV.
You state that as a fact. What evidence do you have that it happens
in unschooling families.
I know this is a complex topic
Two of our favorite shows were Buffy and Xena. (And if you saw my
daughter and her friends whacking each other in the video game Super
Smash Brothers you'd rate that even higher in terms of violence.)
And yet the most violent thing she's probably ever done is repeatedly
pick up a cat who doesn't like held.
When pretend violence exists without the other issues (parenting,
school, neglect) it just doesn't have the effect that people fear it
For kids who are respected and loved, all sorts of aspects of life
that they wouldn't want in their lives can be interesting to visit
through fantasy. When you know you'd have to give up the things you
value in life to have the "fun" of a violent life as well as the real
life consequences, why would anyone choose it? It's only the kids who
are growing up severely lacking in love, understanding, support,
respect that see violence as a means to something better.
Only when it's mixed in with traditional parenting, school,
Some violent play for kids might be good
In unschooling families it's simple: we help our kids explore what
interests them in ways that are safe. And the side effects are that
they find being loved and trusted and accepted for who they are is a
whole lot more attractive than hatefulness and meanness. When their
lives are full to overflowing with love, they don't need violence to
get something they're lacking. All they need is to ask and they have a
parent who will help them get it.
It's really that simple! Not complex at all.
Again, stated as though it were a fact.
Does anyone here advocate young children should be driving *real*
vehicles just because they have an interest in them?
What is the reality of unschooled parents? What are the experiences
of unschooling parents (who are deeply connected with their children,
it should go without saying as part of unschooling) whose children
are allowed unlimited (violent) play, unlimited (violent) TV,
unlimited (violent) video games? Do we see negative effects?
No, we see kids who are growing up joyfully and exploring aspects of
life through pretend that they have no interest in including in their
life. When kids are full, there's no reason to be using violence to
get something. All they need do is ask.
There's a huge disconnect in the clarity of your thinking if you see
similarities between driving a car and watching a TV. A 3 yo isn't
capable of the physical and mental skills of driving a car. (But a
parent *can* hold a child on his lap in an empty parking lot and let
a child steer. And a parent can do that until the child has gotten
his fill.) But a mindfully parenting 3 yo is perfectly capable of
watching TV when parents are aware of a particular child's
sensitivities so can *help* him find ways to find what he wants and
avoid what he doesn't want.
Parents can take steps to ensure
their kids TV (if they have one) is more like a toy than a power tool
they are not ready for.
That statement might make sense if it could be shown that in
unschooling, mindfully parenting homes that the effects of TV were as
dangerous as those of power tools.
* Children and youth see, on average, about 2,000 beer and wine ads on
TV each year.
The reality is that it just isn't. TV is no worse than any other
media children can use in a mindful home.
* Kids see favorite characters smoking, drinking, and involved in
situations and other risky behaviors in the shows and movies they
What are the effects in an unschooling home?
My 15 yo daughter can drink alcohol at home. Occasionally if we have
a fruity wine, she'll have some. 99.9% she drinks Gatorade or Coke or
juice or anything else but.
Which suggests unschooled kids who have the opportunity to see way
more of that should be smoking like chimneys, having sex as soon as
possible and doing all sorts of risky things.
* Kids who spend more time watching TV (both with and without
siblings present) spend less time interacting with family members.
And if they aren't and other kids are, doesn't that loudly say that
it's something *other than* TV that's behind it?
In unschooling families?
* Excessive TV viewing can contribute to poor grades, sleep problems,
behavior problems, obesity, and risky behavior
And what criteria did the use to define "interacting" for the study?
My daughter and I have done a great deal of interacting as a direct
result of TV. It's tied into her other interests in story telling.
Without TV she wouldn't have the huge collection of comics she's
written. Without TV we wouldn't have discovered manga. Without TV we
wouldn't being going to Anime conventions together (I even dress up).
Really look at that statement presented as fact. You are *telling* us
that our kids have sleep problems, behavior problems, are fat and are
engaging in risky behaviors. You are assuming we are incapable of
noticing and taking action.
Most children's programming does not teach what parents say they want
their children to learn; many shows are filled with stereotypes,
solutions to problems, and mean behavior.
I'm not saying that in an angry way. I'm saying that in a way that
says "Do you believe that could be true in the unschooling families
you're writing to?" If so then you should get far far away from us.
We obviously are so totally unaware of the effects our life style is
having on our kids that we are menace to society.
Again, not at all angry because the reality is so far from your
supposed truth. What you state as truth doesn't even make sense in an
Are unschooling parents depending on TV to teach their children
Obviously, parents can take steps to deal with those issues—but
need to acknowledge them first.
Are we so unaware of what our children are learning that we can't see
a connection between one aspect of their lives and another?
Really I've never met people who are more aware and sensitive to
their children's developing view of the world.
Um, so you're saying we're unaware of why our children are turning
out as they are?
Still, a lot of that advice revolves around knowing what your kid
to and commenting on it,
Again, not angry. Again, you can feel that statement has validity
because you've never been to an unschooling conference, haven't met
scores of kids who are growing up in homes where they have free
access to what interests them.
While true, a conventional parent will take something different from
that statement than an unschooling parent. Conventional parents view
the world through a lens of shaping and protecting their children.
Mindful parents view the world through the lens of walking along side
their kids helping them explore what interests them. The two world
views are very very different.
And kids do need to learn how to handle media in this society; I
just don't think the answer is as easy as let the kids decide.
What experience do you have with children who have been mindfully
parented who are able to decide?
But you *are* speaking to hundreds of families who have been living
this life for *years*. Your statements are telling us a truth that
isn't our reality.
You'll learn a *whole* lot more about the effects of TV on kids by
asking questions of us than by throwing "facts" at us that relate to
schooled and conventionally parented kids.
(that was Joyce Fetteroll, responding to a male poster whose identity has been obscured because he's probably changed his mind and is off watching TV with his kids or something)
[Joyce (indented) responding to unnamed skeptic (in boldface):]
I just have to add my two cents prefacing my comments by declaring my
bias as a person who leans toward obsessive complusive ie "addictive"
I don't think decisions made in response to obsessive compulsive behavior
are a good model to offer to others to make sound decisions from.
I do limit my kids' sugar consumption for multiple reasons, not
the least of which is a family history of diabetes/ late onset which is
directly related to over intake of refined carbohydrates and insulin
I see a number of flaws in your reasoning. I suspect that you don't want
them pointed out and just want it known that you don't agree with what's
being said because you have reasons that make sense to you.
My kids recognize that when they do eat a ton of sugar (say
after a birthday party or what have you) they feel physically ill and
grumpy... My seven year old naturally doesn't care for refined sugar, he will choose
an apple over birthday cake every time. Our family candy rule is three pieces
per day after a healthy meal... (and they are welcome to throw away and try
again if they hate something, so it's actually three...).
But, this is a discussion list and the purpose of the list is to hold ideas
up to examination and to help people make rational decisions. If anyone
doesn't want their ideas examined, its best not to post them.
Here's what I see:
If your kids are overweight then you're offering general advice based on a
nongeneral situation. (There *are* other options besides control even for
If your kids are not overweight, then you are imposing a solution to a
problem that you only fear may exist in the future.
If by late onset diabetes you mean type 2, the connection isn't directly to
sugar but to being overweight. The problem is taking in too many calories
and not expending enough and becoming overweight. Being overweight doesn't
cause type 2 diabetes, e.g. all overweight people become diabetic, but being
overweight seems to be a factor.
If they aren't drawn to sugar, then why limit it?
They are nine and seven and they have no problem with limits.on TV, movies,
computer time, candy consumption, etc.
If by "no problem" you mean they don't complain, depending on personality
and family atmosphere, some kids will learn that complaining isn't worth the
They are nine and seven and they have no problem with limits on TV, movies,
computer time, candy consumption, etc.
If by "no problem" you mean that without limits they choose the way you
would choose for them, then why have limits?
(I'd be concerned, though, if my daughter were making the same decisions I
would. It would suggest to me that she was memorizing rules rather than
learning what's right for her by experimentation. We try to help people see
that children will choose what's right for *them*, though, not choose what
we'd choose for them. They *will* choose differently. But they won't eat
nothing but sugar and fat, and won't do nothing but watch TV and play video
Some people, such as those who are naturally drawn to rules, who live under
limitations accept the rules and stick to them. They live in fear and the
rules are like talismans that will keep the boogeyman away. What happens
when they are faced with new situations that they don't have rules in place
for? People often extrapolate from the nonsense and extend the rules. But
rational thought would reveal shoddy foundations for decision making.
If the reasons behind rules make sense, then there isn't a reason to make a
rule. But people who follow rules aren't learning how to make decisions.
They are only learning to follow someone else's rules.
If the reasons behind rules are nonsense, then people memorize nonsense and
use that as a foundation for decision making.
If your kids have memorized that too much sugar will cause diabetes so it's
good to avoid sugar, they've memorized nonsense and are basing decisions on
If they recognize that sugar will make them feel yucky, then, without rules,
they are free to decide each time if the future yucky feeling is worth it or
not. They'll be listening to their bodies, not a rule they've memorized.
If they are memorizing rules that say any time beyond x spent on TV, movies,
computer is damaging, then they're memorizing your responses to your fears
not listening to their bodies or coming to rational decisions through trial
and error about what's right for their unique selves.
There is too much research, scientific and unscientific that shows tv can and does have detrimental effects though—vision included.
JOYCE: While I'm a big fan of science and have a sciency degree, in terms of
helping children I trust the real life experiences of unschoolers far
more than I trust scientific studies done on (schooled) children
(often with an eye towards getting kids to perform better in school!)
There have been several responses that are counter to your studies.
If you choose out of fear to listen to the studies over the voices of
unschooling experience that is your choice but limiting kids because
of what a parent fears might happen is not going to help anyone
Do ask what people's experiences are on the list. Do collect your own
data and weigh it and assess it! :-) But offering a fear over
experience as the basis of decision making isn't going to be helpful
Joyce responds to someone justifying limitations on TV (from the Always Learning list, 2006):
personally prefer that my kids not watch tv for hours, so we set
Not we. Your husband and you.
I don't think it's a big deal.
Then why have a rule?
I don't believe that after two hours (or however
short or long) of tv that suggesting to my kids that they might want to find
something else to do is belittling or undermining their trust -
that is just
And if after what you felt was too short of a time reading a really
good book your husband suggested it would be better to find something
else to do, how would you feel?
It's one issue and it need not be made into such a huge deal.
First, it means he's watching you and judging how you're using your
time and you aren't meeting his standards of acceptability.
Personally it would make me feel pretty icky to know my husband was
watching me and checking his watch and waiting for me to do something
he thought was better. :-/
Second, it means he thinks your judgement of how you spend your time
isn't as good as his.
Kids shouldn't be *left* to drift to the TV for two hours. But if TV is
what they want to do of all the options available to them then it
will help unschooling to give them the freedom to do so.
*BUT* the other options better be appealing *to them*! Offering to do
things with them is better than sending them off to play. (If they
preferred to play, they'd already be doing that.) Offering to go
places that they enjoy or you're certain they'll enjoy, bring kids
in, take them to other kids' houses is better too.
But to be a real choice, they need the freedom to say "no thanks."
To the makers of the rules, it doesn't need to be a big deal.
Freedom and empowerment is found in a variety of ways and tv, or
lack of tv
is barely a taste of what freedom or empowerment completely, or
The discussion really isn't about TV. It's about the freedom to
explore in a rich supportive environment in ways that *children* find
meaningful. It means being their partners in helping them get what
they want. It means offering options that appeal *to them*.
There is much more out there that is far, far more important than
missing a few tv shows bc mom suggests another activity.
They aren't missing shows if they're choosing to do something that
appeals to them more. They're making a choice to do something else.
I'm sure that
isn't the point, but maybe someday I'll get it!! [wink]
(Also there are VCRs and TiVo to record. I found that when my
daughter knew she could watch something anytime—rather than the
specific time the station put a show on—that she often chose not
to watch. What sometimes keeps kids glued to the TV is fear of
missing something new or a favorite episode.)
And if you're making them turn the TV off, to do something else, it
shows a lack of respect for their feelings. How would you feel if
your husband shut the TV off and told you to do something else when
you were watching something you enjoyed? What if he shrugged your
protest off because he didn't think your protest was important since
you'd already been watching (in his estimation) "too much"?
And your husband is out with his buddies and says "Yeah, my wife gets
upset when I send her off to do something other than read that silly
book she bought. Maybe someday I'll get it!!" [wink]
Joyce's 2014 response to a mom explaining that she controlled food and was right to do that
I am a nutritionist with many many MANY hours spent researching the very real impact of poor diet on the human existence.
Take the following questions not as an indication of me being insulted by you questioning the beliefs here. Take them as an indication that your thoughts aren't quite as clear as you think they are!
So why are radical unschoolers making such seemingly wrong choices for their families?
Is it that we can see how unhealthy our kids are but believe it's better for learning to be nice and feed them the junk food they prefer?
Or that we feed them the junk food they prefer but don't notice they're unhealthy?
Or that the health effects are so subtle that people get used to the feeling so we're ignorant? Or the bad health effects won't show up for years and years. So it's better to be safe now than sorry later?
Which do you think might be true? Or is there some other idea that would make us believe we're right when you're certain we're wrong? What scenario would create such a situation that of a group of people act against what you're certain is truth?
How are the questions you're asking about food any different than the very similar ones that professional educators and relatives ask about homeschooling and unschooling?
Most educators are just as positive that letting kids watch cartoons and play video games as much as they want will be detrimental to the kids' mental growth. They're certain kids need professional educators to feed them the right knowledge in the right way.
For the educators to be right that means the unschooling parents are either uncaring, ignorant or too attached to their philosophy to care that they're damaging their kids.
How can they both be right?
Does an educator's certainty and "many many MANY hours" of study make her right? Or is it that the educator has studied a narrow piece of the world so thoroughly that she doesn't realize it doesn't reflect the world beyond the narrow piece?
What advice might you give the educator who knew the very real impact of poor learning on the human existence if she wanted to understand why unschoolers were making such wrong choices for their kids?
here, on Facebook, June 18, 2014
What do you "have to" do?
rules vs. principles
How important is it?
more TV debate
other parenting considerations
Transcript of Joyce Fetteroll's presentation at the 2002 Live & Learn Conference
"Always say yes. Or some form of yes."
Joyce's Own Page on Unschooling and Thoughtful Parenting: