Food, eating
pages 162-174 of The Big Book of Unschooling (2009 edition)
[pages 181-198 in the 2019 "Forever Curious Press" edition]
online chat, January 9, 2013

Food, eating, choices, learning to listen to our bodies (or at least letting kids continue as they've begun). In the book, pages 162-174 or on the webpage /food

A couple of days after the chat was over, this note was left in the room:

trista left this message 3 days ago:

Oh my goodness, so bummed to miss this discussion!! What a good one! It addressed multiple things for me--I've been worrying about how much Sam (4 1/2) has been leaning out lately, and I've been offering much more protein (which he's not big on). He denies it nearly every time. I've also noticed a large increase in consumption of sugar (which I've learned to expect when he's growing). Things will probably be much easier if I just stop worrying and make that chocolate cake he asked for this morning, huh?

A year ago, I would have gotten super concerned about the amount of ice cream this boy can put away and would have just not gotten any more so that he couldn't access it, which would abate my fears, thinking that would help him. Now I see that he is needing that (and maybe not as much protein as I think he should have) sugar for a reason!

Okay, off to make some cake. And cookies--we're low on those.

Jihong: hi from jackson hole I cannot believe I can catch this chat :P

Capn Franko: Hello in 2013! Wish I were at a ski resort!

Alex Polikowsky: Me too Frank!

Alex Polikowsky: I may actually try to go tomorrow with the kids!

Capn Franko: One of my fondest ski memories is being ass-over-teakettle in the snow after a bad fall and having a VERY small kid cruise past me yell "Hey, mister, you crossed your tips!" (GRIN)

Alex Polikowsky: Frank Diving sounds like heaven right now!

Serah: Well, the boys are skiing, I'm enjoying tea, chocolate cake and the chat

Capn Franko: I am SO looking forward to being in the Caribbean instead of Seattle in February! And with a couple of other unschooling dads, too! W00t!

Alex Polikowsky: nice!

Sandra Dodd: I want to take the opportunity with an audience to thank Marta for helping me.

Sandra Dodd: She's being my "distant assistant." She reminds me to do things I wanted to do.

Capn Franko: Good for Marta.

I usually edit out any food chit-chat before the topic, but because it's about food this time, and I'm leaving my public thanks of Marta, I left most of the beginning here.

Sandra Dodd: I feel a little bad (okay, very bad) because I will not, cannot, ever do as many things as I can say "Oooh, I should do THAT!" and now Marta sees back stage and sees that I will never finish.

Alex Polikowsky: Marta is awesome! She works so hard ! I am always impressed!. I get sidetracked all the time around here.

MartaBP: Wow, thanks Sandra. Thanks Alex. It really is an honour for me to help you out! I'm learning so much by seeing how you do things back stage -- you work SO hard!!!

Capn Franko: Hmmm, it's breakfast time for me and there's some leftover bread puffing and whiskey sauce in the downstairs fridge. BRB!

MartaBP: Wow, I'm preparing dinner here in Lisbon!

Sandra Dodd: I have leftover bread pudding too, but not alcohol-infused. I have my chat-supply food. Two pieces of kinda-dry storebought bread with Miracle Whip, folded. Leftover fried potatoes and some little pieces of Dubliner cheese. Two peeled and drying-up Clementines (little oranges), and some leftover salad with italian dressing. A FEAST of tiny leftover portions.

Capn Franko: Grazing varietal leftovers is one of my favorite meals.

Alex Polikowsky: I just ate some eggrolls! Yummy!

Alex Polikowsky: I love leftovers. No one in my house does. So I am the leftover eater around here

AnnieLou: I've got a cup of tea - too early for food just yet

HeatherB: I'm eating a fried egg on a tortilla with spinach, avocado and salsa

Capn Franko: Just before the chat started I finished a cup of hot Ovaltine with marshmallow creme. Now I'm thinking abou that solid food, like bread pudding! Breakfast of champions. Kind of.

Alex Polikowsky: OH Frank you me and Ovaltine!!!

Capn Franko: Yeah, baby! I LOVE that stuff.

Alex Polikowsky: Ovaltine is great in so many things! Grew up with it!

Capn Franko: Me, too. Yum!

Sandra Dodd: Parents like to think they know what their kids need, and I think there is an instinct that assures us that we DO know. But with the world being as vast and as complicated as it is, we all need a second look.

Sandra Dodd: Women's gatherer instincts help them know what's edible and what's not, and to remember where what they found last year is and to know when it's too soon or too late to eat it. I think some of that instinct gets overlaid, and misinterpretted, in a world full of refrigerated train cars and freezers on ships.

Sandra Dodd: Costco sell (or used to, or seasonally) some beautiful things. Not quite sherbet... frozen fruit juice combos put back into half of an orange, a lemon, a pineapple, a coconut. Anyone here know what I'm talking about? Sorbet. That's it. In a half of a real fruit or coconut. Assorted, in a box, with little plastic spoons. We can buy them in Albuquerque.

(a picture)

Alex Polikowsky: But our instincts are not like that anymore. We know have those voices in our heads from our families and the society we live in. Sugar will make you fat, kids need to sleep at 8 PM, ...

Capn Franko: Not a Costco shopper but you described it well.

Alex Polikowsky: Making me want some Mango Sorbet ...or passion fruit sorbet.... yummy

Jihong: had those before

Sandra Dodd: Sometimes we eat them in the hottub, and then float them in the water.

AnnieLou: Now that sounds like fun

Sandra Dodd: Here's the forget-that-hunter-gatherer-instinct shocker:

Sandra Dodd: They come from South Africa.

Sandra Dodd: Frozen.

Capn Franko: Guess they don't count as "paleo" then, huh?

Sandra Dodd: So how can our natural mothering instincts (Frank you can represent the spatial-reasoning-equipped hunters) get a good judgment on something that came FROZEN over that much distance?

Capn Franko: Glad I can be of service from my manly status! (wink)

Sandra Dodd: People have priorities. A couple of times in the past someone has come and with a (suppsedly, I can't see, but it seems) straight face they ask whether two priorities can't be equal. Well.... no.

Sandra Dodd: So for this chat I'm going to assume that people's priority is unschooling, natural learning, exploration, children learning in ways the parents trust but might not be able to see.

Sandra Dodd: If anyone's priority is political, or religious or dietary, it would be easy to argue with the idea that letting children figure out on their own which foods they want more of is incorrect, sinful, or poison.

Sandra Dodd: But having three adult children who were never once "made" to eat anything, and who were allowed and encouraged to try anything they thought looked good, and having followed the progress of many other families who did the same thing, I'm beyond idea and theory, all the way to conviction that it works.

Sandra Dodd: And by "works," I mean even little kids can decide that something won't be good for them because they have a cold or fever or sore throat, or that something might give them the runs (good thing to know when you are a little constipated, though, what will give your own personal body a jolt that way).

Sandra Dodd: They don't eat if they're not hungry. When they're hungry, they think about what it is they might want in ways I never could have conceived of doing when I was a kid, or their age.

Capn Franko: Makes sense to me. I remember all the shit Arun (in Australia) got from his fellow natural food folks for letting his kids choose to eat "killer white" and other evil (non)foods.

Capn Franko: For them, food was more inportant than unschooling.

HeatherB: What's Killer White?

Capn Franko: refined white sugar

HeatherB: Oh wow!

HeatherB: I've never heard sugar called that before.

Pamela Corkey: and white rice and white flour, I think.

Alex Polikowsky: Last night my daughter was hungry when we went to bed , even after I had made food one hour or so before that, so she asked me for apples and carrots and cheese.

Sandra Dodd: It would be cool (put it on my list, Marta) to find those folks in ten years and see how happy their kids are, how their relationship with them is, and how their eating habits are.

Alex Polikowsky: Well now we have all the wheat is evil too. Not talking about people who do have intolerance or allergies but it seems like everyone has them these days. Wonder how humans survive so many years eating it.

Capn Franko: It's a popular phrase in some circles. His commenters actually said he was *poisoning* his children .

MartaBP: Watching Constança and seeing her naturally decide when she's full and doesn't want any more whatever-she's-eating just blows me away, especially since I can easily (now less so, because I'm more conscient of how I much I need and because I'm more detached from the idea that I can't throw ANYTHING away -- I usually ate all the leftovers until I was so full that I had to lie down...) overeat.

MartaBP: It really is amazing!

Jihong: I have different kind of problem. Orion (7) is skinny. My mother (and I) are concerned about it. So when my mother was with us, she would feed him to make sure he eats enough food. Now sometimes i still need to feed him to make sure he gets enough. Like this morning, I fed him breakfast before he hit the slope. If I had left to him, he might not have eaten anything since he was too excited to want to eat

Sandra Dodd: If you can picture a classic (personal knowledge, literary or your own self) TERRIBLE relationship between a parent and a teen... Some involve physical altercations, endandgerment (throwing a kid out, or a kid running away), or counselling, or lock-up mental health facilities. How many of those, if the parent COULD fix it by saying yes, instead of throwing money and hope and the future all at it in a vain attempt to repair it...
Would some of them say "Okay, let's both eat a cup of refined sugar, and then we can love each other again..."?
But it won't work at the other end.

Capn Franko: Yes. My eating habits (still, after woking on myself for years... decades) are not like those of my girls. They are so SANE.

AnnieLou: Actually food was my sticking point when I began moving to unschooling, but I began to see the damage it was starting to do to our relationships and now my priorities have changed

Alex Polikowsky: Yes Marta. Because of all the starving children in Africa. I too heard that. My mom still cannot see any food not eaten in a plate. We give to the dog or barn cats. SO there mom! No waste!

Sandra Dodd: And if a child has "all the sugar he wants" when he's little, I'm pretty certain that his total will be smaller over the course of his life than someone who is deprived and measured and shamed.

AnnieLou: Many of my friends are horrified that I have changed my mind

MartaBP: "In Ethiopia, children are dying everyday because they have no food!!!", that's what I heard constantly. Plus, my mom ate all the leftovers. She almost never threw anything away.

Alex Polikowsky: Jihong but that is what you want to do. I do not just wait for my kids to go get their food. I offer, bring it, make it. They can eat or not.

HeatherB: Jihong: Sandra made a good point at the conference about presenting warm, good smelling food. If I ask Austin what he wants when he wakes up, he'll usually say he wants a bolus (He has a G-tube that we can give him liquids through, usually milk type stuff), but if when he wakes up he smells bacon and I put down a plate of warm bacon he'll go for that.

Capn Franko: My dad was "poubelle" (garbage can) because *he* ate all the leftovers because of the starving children in *wherever*

Sandra Dodd: My kids have always had the opportunity, the situation and the freedom (I'm not thinking of the word) to eat unlimited sugar. They could eat all the cookies and candy in the house. They could go to the pantry and eat sugar. But they never, ever, once have done it.

Jihong: Same with my mother, Marta. she really went through tough time when Communist Party took control. I eat left over too.

Sandra Dodd: Frank, Keith is that way. He would eat all the food he could get to because it was good to eat it while it was there. His mom gave him tiny portions and made him clean his plate. He ate elswhere in addition to home, from early ages.

Alex Polikowsky: Yep Marta and Frank, That is my mom!

Sandra Dodd: He's finally slowed down, a lot, about that, but it took years. Meanwhile my kids were not eating very much, and Keith would eat what they left sometimes. Not ideal.

HeatherB: We just cleaned out the candy bowl. It was overflowing and I knew there were things in there that Austin wasn't going to eat or had gone bad. Out of seven different types of candy he kept two. Snickers and those little gummie rasberry things.

Jihong: Alex, I do those too. Still Orion is skinny :( Sometimes i want to force feed him so he can gain some weight :-S

Capn Franko: YEah. Like I said, I've been working on *me* for decades to get away from eating too much from a fear of scarcity.

Jihong: Good point, Heather

AnnieLou: My kids all went through a stage of putting A LOT of sugar on their cereal. I stopped fighting them on it and let it happen (they never ate ALL the sugar). I just realised that they don't do it anymore, often they put no sugar at all on their cereal

Alex Polikowsky: I usually keep the candy bowl for when friends come over. They go crazy over it . this Year I had so much I send a huge back to a program that sends boxes to the troops overseas!

Sandra Dodd Jihong, leave it. He has skinny parents.

Alex Polikowsky: You are petit too Jihong!

Sandra Dodd He's not skinny from starvation. He has choices.

Sandra Dodd And you would take him to a restaurant or cook for him if he asked for something particular. It's better to let it go. He won't starve.

Alex Polikowsky: Why do you want to fatten him up? that is who he is! If you make sure he has yummy food throughout the day. Things he loves to eat and smell and look good than that is great!

AnnieLou: Liam is skinny too and doesn't eat a lot. He eats more if I make him his own plate of food and take it too him rather than halving him at the table with us

Bernadette: I was skinny as a child and people tried to feed me up all the time, make me have second helpings. Once I reached adulthood it went the other way.

Sandra Dodd AnnieLou, if you let them, the sugar goes to the bottom of the milk, and it's less a big deal than if you limit and they feel needy, or sneak some.

Sandra Dodd Sugar's not that expensive.

Jill Parmer: Jihong, you know what Luke looks like. He used to be SO skinny, like Orion.

Capn Franko: Societal input stuff. When the girls wre babies, they were in the 100th percentile at the pediatrician. As they got older they dropped to about the 50th percentil, especaill in height. THe pediatrician was "concerned." I told her to look at their genetics! (I;m an American male at 5'2") Those girls were never gonna stay in the 100th %ile. Bizarre, unthinking social pressures.

Jihong: really, Jill? Luke looks great and healthy now! Was he as skinny like Orion? Orion is still around 43-45 lbs

Sandra Dodd Someone I don't know (one of the people who requested to be my facebook friend, but I have no idea who it is) posted a rant this morning about wanting people not to comment on her weight loss. It was harsh. It went on and on. I kinda wanted to find a link to the reports that if people eliminate too much fat/oil from their diet it can make them mean.

AnnieLou: Yeah that's right. They probably didn't eat it all anyway and I realised that the sense of independence they felt from preparing their own breakfast was worth more than the worry about sugar

Jill Parmer: Yep. Truly, I used to look at him and feel a little worried too. He just didn't need/want to eat much for a looooong time.

Sandra Dodd But even Atkins... even though there's meat, people could get very cranky and mean.

Bernadette: Off-topic, the original Ovaltine factory and farm are just down the road from us, we were encouraged to drink it as children.

Capn Franko: Lucky Bernadette! (grin)

Alex Polikowsky: Bernadette! I am coming to visit you! Ovaltine!!! YAY

Capn Franko: Party at Bernadette's! I'll bring the Bailey's to go in the Ovaltine.

Sandra Dodd Seriously!? Bailey's will mix with Ovaltine? Does it need to be hot?

Alex Polikowsky: Sounds Great Frank!!

Capn Franko: I've never tried it cold but it goes vey nicely in hot!

Alex Polikowsky: No need to be hot!

Alex Polikowsky: Chocolate shake with Ovaltine is heaven too! Or Ovaltine on top of icecream!

Capn Franko: Yes and yes, Alex.

Jihong: Yes, Sandra. Fat is good for humans.

HeatherB: I quit dieting years ago because it made me mean and unhappy.

Alex Polikowsky: Yeah Frank. I have a local friend and her husband is probably your height , she is not even 5 feet tall, One of her kid is 10 and she says he is the size of a 8 year old. They are doing all these tests! Gosh look at yourselves! But she says he was a big baby and toddler and that something is wrong! ARGH!

Sandra Dodd Those medical charts are a big danger, too, as they try to get everyone to be at the 50th percentile.

Sandra Dodd The ends of the scale exist because there are people smaller and larger.

Jihong: Good to know. Jill!

Jihong: What about artificial flavor and color?

Sandra Dodd Jihong, what do you think we're going to say? If you already know, don't ask.

Sandra Dodd Or tell us what you think we're going to say.

Jihong: Sandra, I don't know the answer. I am looking for creative ways to meet the needs and avoid those flavor and color. I was thinking of making our own candy or something like that? Or how do other parents do with it?

Sandra Dodd Nobody is recommending looking for large quantities of artificial flavors and colors. I hope no one here will recommend forbidding them.

Sandra Dodd They exist in the world. If you tell your kids they're poison, you'll be lying.

Sandra Dodd By "avoid" I hope you don't mean "forbid."

Alex Polikowsky: Jihong you can do all that but if your child wants that specific candy then what??

Sandra Dodd If Orion's at someone's house and there are candies and he wants one I hope you don't mean you will read the ingredients and tell him no.

Jihong: not forbid

Sandra Dodd -=-I am looking for creative ways to meet the needs -=-
What needs?

Jihong: Alex, I let them have...but with a lecture :(

Bernadette: Making your own candy is fun, but it's never the same as commercial candy.

Sandra Dodd Serious questions. Meet their needs for what?

Capn Franko: I can only speak from my experience. When I hear people ranting about artifical coloring making their kids "crazy" it just sound slike the old "sugar makes my kids crazy." No, it doesn't.

ColleenP (NH): catching up on reading back.... my son is super thin, but so is my husband, and I was when I was little too so we know it's genetics - the two of them could eat all day and still be "underweight" per the charts, but they're healthy so that's what counts (to me)

HeatherB: Jihong; We used to restrict those things with Austin. He went through a phase where he ate a lot of candy when we started to buy it when he asked. But, we just went through the candy bowl and through out a lot of candy all of it with artificial this and that in it.

Jihong: meet their needs for wanting that item

AnnieLou: We did an elimination diet 2 years ago - Liam is a chronic asthmatic and nothing was making him better so I decided to try diet. I did it with the agreement of the kids and working with a dietitian I trusted. We cut out a lot of foods, natural and artificial. We all felt much healthier and calmer and when we tested some foods we felt worse or behaviour changed. Other foods didn't affect us

Sandra Dodd Heather, was that your criteria, to throw out things with artificial ingredients? Or do you mean to say they can sit around and not be eaten? Or things he used to love he got over?

HeatherB: Shannon and I had a blind candy taste test...Do you remember if the kids liked any of the stuff we made better than the store bought stuff?

AnnieLou: But after 8 months or so the stress of sticking to the diet started to be not worth the benefits. So now everyone chooses what they eat

shannon: I would prefer my kids not eat the artificial flavors and colors. But it was truly telling when HeatherB and Austin swung by and we did a homemade vs store bought experiment .. my boys chose store bought over almost all my handmade treats. It was hard for me. But my relationships with the boys takes top priority. So if they want me to buy the cookies .. I buy the cookies/candy and have more time to play with them.

Sandra Dodd If they want a particular item and you don't let them have it, you haven't met their need for that item.

Sandra Dodd You can't make M&Ms at home.

HeatherB: Sandra, No, the criteria was "Do you want this? Did you like it?" because the bowl was overflowing.

Sandra Dodd I don't think kids have "a need" for candy.

HeatherB: So things were sitting around and not being eaten and there was no more room in the bowl for new things that would be eaten.

Capn Franko: Humans have a "need" for things which are restricted. Pam's "marginal utility" law, huh?

AnnieLou: Sometimes there are still reactions but I handle them differently, more gently. And the kids are definitely better at saying no to things that they think will make them feel bad (and so am I )

Jihong: Yes, I let them have what they want. And I explain what is in it. Orion (7) chooses not to have anything with red 40, because we googled once how red 40 was made. Makena (4) doesn't care. When she wants it, she doesn't care about the ingredient. I would let her have but I do it with worry in my head

Sandra Dodd Does the worry in your head make Makena healthier?

Pamela Corkey Oscar figures out how different packaged foods make him feel himself, having the freedom to eat as much of what he likes. He figured out that too many Pringles were not happy-making for him. He still eats them, but is careful about how much. He would never have had the chance if I did the limiting for him.

Jihong: Thanks Pam for the assurance about skinny kids Sandra Dodd AnnieLou told something important: " But after 8 months or so the stress of sticking to the diet started to be not worth the benefits. So now everyone chooses what they eat:"

Jihong: No, Sandra. But it prompts me to ask the question here

Sandra Dodd New diets are like happy placebos. Lots of special first-time treatments are, because...
The attention and the personal focus make people feel better.
The hopefulness makes people feel better.

Sandra Dodd It doesn't last forever, but it can last long enough to get people excited enough to clean out their kitchen and make oaths never to touch that other food again. But after a while the new diet shows its own lacks, and the next new diet will seem to have cured EVERYTHING.

Sandra Dodd But Jihong, the answer is the same as all the other answers you have worried about. Your worry isn't helping. Your clarity about the principles involved would show that you already know the answer.

Sandra Dodd it's the same as the other answers.

Sandra Dodd Each child is an individual. If you let them choose from many foods, they won't eat things that make them sick, or make them feel bad.

Sandra Dodd if you tell them in advance what "will" make them feel better and what "will" make them feel bad, #1 you could be very wrong, and #2, they are NOT learning on their own about food. They're learning how to appease mom.

AnnieLou: Actually the way the diet benefited me most was that it seems to have rebooted my instincts around how my food affects me - now I feel like I' m choosing freely what I eat and I'm only eating what I want to, not what I should

AnnieLou: So it really did convince me that letting the kids make their own choices is going to be better for them too. Which is funny because its the opposite of what the diet was 'supposed' to teach me.

Alex Polikowsky: Jihong I have a story. When Daniel ( MD) was little I decided to make all the cookies he wanted at home and not give him the store bought I told him all about the "not healthy" stuff those store bought cookies had. He went along for a few days after my lecture of what was good and what was bad and why. Then he one days asked me to have a store bought cookies and that it was ok if it had some bad things in it. He looked so guilty for wanting them. It woke me up to what I was doing. He still like them and wanted them but he felt guilty eating them. What a horrible thing for a mom to do . Eating and feeling guilty! How sad. I would never do that again!

Sandra Dodd

Advantages of Eating in Peace

On Aug 1, 2006, at 9:36 PM, Sandra Dodd wrote:

Ramen in a happy environment is better than four dishes and a dessert in anger and sorrow
Nancy Wooten responded:
Proverbs 15:17 ;(Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.)

Schuyler Waynforth, quoted on Facebook in July 2012:

Candy fed with love beats the heck out of broccoli eaten out of fear.


Sandra Dodd We KNOW negative emotions are bad for people.

Sandra Dodd We have a can of candy that was under the Christmas tree this year. We didn't do stockings. We bought the candy kids liked in stockings, put it in this little one-gallon paint can (printed with Christmas candy art) and it was always under the tree from mid-December. I just opened it.

Bernadette: 'Everyone knows' that apples are good for you, but if I'd made Charlotte eat them instead of chocolate I'd have been depriving her of the high-calorie food it turned out she needed and making her eat something to which she's allergic. So I'm glad I let her choose. I could easily have ignored her.

Sandra Dodd It has half of its original candy. Reese's and Hershey's miniatures. Everyone here likes that stuff, but it could last a long time more, because nobody here is "needing" that stuff. Not craving it. It's just candy.

Sandra Dodd I have a friend who's allergic to apple peel and apple juice. Not to peeled apples.

Jihong: good story, Alex. Very insightful

Alex Polikowsky: My husband just called the kids and handed them a whole big box of AirHeads. They will eat their favorite ones and leave what they do not like as much. I still have a third of a box from last time.

ColleenP (NH): Robbie got 2 big bags of Twizzlers from my stepmother for xmas, and a package of Chessmen cookies in his stocking - he gave one bag of Twizzlers to my husband to eat, and put the second bag plus the cookies in the closet and hasn't had either yet. So different from when I'd get candy or cookies when I was little and I'd want to eat them all right away (without sharing ;-))

Capn Franko: Fun topic but I've finished my bread pudding breakfast (a moderate serving rather than an excessive one because even *I* have relaxed over the years about scarcity) and I gotta go pick up MJ from college. See y'all next time I can stop by.

Sandra Dodd I'm pretty sure that most people, when they read about radical unschoolers and food, picture that the kids are gorging on sweets all day and all night.

Sandra Dodd Bye, Frank

HeatherB: Bye Frank

Jihong: Bye frank

AnnieLou: Yes and because the kids who have been limited then can seem to want a lot of sweets when the restrictions are limited, parents panic and think its not working and don

Alex Polikowsky: Yep My kids did not eat their chocolate Santas from their stockings. They did eat their Hershey's kisses!

Sandra Dodd But if there's a family that lets their kids have one piece of candy per day, no more, no less (like of Halloween candy or Christmas candy) those kids will eat more candy than my kids ever eat. AND, given half a chance, their kids will eat a whole bag, which my kids never, ever have and probably never will want to.

Jihong: If there are two very similar items, do you let the kids know what is in it and which one is better, at least in your opinion?

AnnieLou: don't wait until things settle down

Sandra Dodd Nope, Jihong. Don't.

Sandra Dodd It would be exactly like telling them which music was better, or book, or video game, or toy car, or Barbie doll, or shirt.

Sandra Dodd If you "let them pick," but first you tell them which choice is "right," you're sabotaging your relationship with them. If they ask a question, answer it. But don't poison their choice with "This is the one to pick if you want me to love you more."

Alex Polikowsky: Nope Jihong. I do not. If they ask I will say what is in it. But I want them to eat what they like and feel good to them and not with guilt

MartaBP: Another thing that I've thought of is: if moms are in the kitchen baking and cooking lots of stuff that don't have all those supposedly-not-so-good-f or-your-health things in them, who's playing with their children? At least, moms with smaller children. With Constança, if I were in the kitchen trying to bake all the cakes and cookies she likes, I would be missing out on a lot of playing time with her, assuming she would even let me do it in the first place! ;)

ColleenP (NH): we look at ingredients sometimes, especially if Robbie has said his stomach hurt after eating a couple different things, as he likes to see if they have something in common. But as he said once "sometimes a man just needs a bag of Doritos, even if they DO make his stomach hurt"

Sandra Dodd A man doesn't need to finish the whole bag.

ColleenP (NH):

HeatherB: Jihong, How do you know one is better than the other?

Alex Polikowsky: That is a good point for some. But Gigi used to love to bake and I pretty much bake everyday and it does not take long.

Sandra Dodd But my husband would finish the whole bag, because he doesn't have the awareness that our kids have about when the one they just ate was the last one they needed/wanted.

Alex Polikowsky: That can still be me Sandra.

Bernadette: Poor Lotte is allergic to all uncooked apples, which is a shame because she loves them. Every so often she'll eat one but she can only do that when I'm around, in case the swelling gets too much. It's her choice.

Jihong: OK, I don't like my husband to lecture me what is good for me. I guess I shouldn't do that to my kids either.

ColleenP (NH): I used to be that way with Pringles when I was little - my mother wouldn't buy them because she said they weren't "real potatoes" - so if we were at someone's house and they had Pringles, I more than once ate a whole canister. Which is way more than any stomach needs - but I couldn't stop eating them as they were such a treat!!

Sandra Dodd When you're in Hawaii and you go for shave ice, do you ask Orion not to pick a colored flavor?

Jihong: Heather, I was thinking one with red 40 and one with beet coloring, for example.

Sandra Dodd Lack of shave ice is probably more damaging than ANY additive or artificial ingredient could ever be.

Alex Polikowsky: Exactly Jihong. I used to lecture my husband about his snack choices and how he eats. It really ragged on him. It really damaged our relationship.

Sandra Dodd By the time a shave ice melts, the "ingredents" are about one swallow, I think. It's mostly water.

Sandra Dodd They ARE real potatoes. They're just taken apart and put back together.

Sandra Dodd -=-we look at ingredients sometimes, especially if Robbie has said-=- That's WAY different from the mom reading the ingredients while the child waits expectantly and then is told "No, your wish is outweighed by the fine print. Let your disappointment wash over you now."

ColleenP (NH): we bought them once recently and none of the three of us liked them - they seem to have lost their magic over the years - Robbie asked "what's wrong with these chips - they're so... PERFECT looking!!"

Jihong: Sandra, to tell the truth. I didn't expose the shaved ice to them since I didn't like the coloring. that was the first time he had it when you were there. Since he didn't ask to go back, I didn't take him back either. If he saw one and asked one, I would not say No either

Sandra Dodd If he's not asking to go back, then, no problem.

AnnieLou: Sometimes I remind the kids of how they have felt in the past after eating a certain food when they ask for it again - sometimes they choose something else, sometimes they decide to have it anyway. I think they trust me now that the choice is still theirs

Sandra Dodd Moms feel self-righteous when they worry.
And they sometimes feel fantastic when other moms approve of their concerns. While the moms are congratulating each other about being so controlling, the poor kids are sad and hungry.

Bernadette: I've heard that a lot recently, from my family and friends - "Mothers are supposed to worry"

Sandra Dodd I think Jihong should worry about how much damage control does.

Bernadette: If you're not worrying, you're not being a good mother.

Sandra Dodd If you're going to worry about something anyway, don't make it something that will be directly limiting your child's access to experiencing the world around him.

Alex Polikowsky: We buy those colored syrups to make shaved ice at home !!!!! So much fun!!!!!!!!!

Sandra Dodd The stories of kids saying no to cake and asking for vegetables abound among unschoolers. They are common.

AnnieLou: Yes I have struggled with the disapproval I have received now that the kids make their own choices. I remind myself often that my relationship with my kids is the number one priority and I don

Sandra Dodd They are just about non-existent in a world of requirements and limits.

AnnieLou: Don't want to jeopardise that just because of other people's opinions

Alex Polikowsky: I have too many of those stories to even remember all of them!

Here's a collection for anyone who doesn't have any yet:

HeatherB: There is so much information out there about what is good for you what is bad. It's overwhelming. Why not stop reading about how beet juice is better than red 40 all together? Austin used to like red velvet cake. Now he says it upsets his stomach. It could be any number of things about the cake that upets his stomach, but it doesn't really matter if it's the red dye or the chocolate or the icing. He chooses not to eat it because he knows it upsets his stomach.

Sandra Dodd At the symposium we had a big cake, two layers; big. Full sheet, I think. maybe 3/4. But it was not all eaten in one day, and it took most of the second day for the last two pieces to be claimed.

Alex Polikowsky: Just last night I had baked sugar cookies and my perfect brownies and Gigi wanted apples, carrots and cheese for her night snack!

Sandra Dodd That Gigi doesn't appreciate anything.

Sandra Dodd Heather, that's how it is with my kids. They all know which foods they prefer and don't, and it's about what makes them feel better. And they've known since they were little.

MartaBP: We were at my aunt's house this weekend and she had made 3 or 4 cakes for us to eat while we were there. Constança didn't eat one bite.

Sandra Dodd They can balance their own digestive and eliminat(ory? ... poop) by what they eat, and have been able to a long time.

Alex Polikowsky:

AnnieLou: Heather I think that's a good point, it doesn't matter which ingredients are the problem, it's trusting each person to know what they can eat that feels right for them, and to not eat stuff that makes them feel bad

Sandra Dodd Sorry, that sentence lost its middle. When I got to poop I got flustered.

ColleenP (NH): Robert's dad stayed with us for 10 days over xmas, and he tried a couple times to tell Robbie what to eat and what not to eat. Robert stopped him right away both times but it was interesting to be so clearly reminded of how different our parents were with us with food than we are with Robbie - as his dad said "just eat a little meat - to make me happy" (Robbie's a vegetarian)

ColleenP (NH): and then "you can't have twizzlers before dinner" it was amazingly happy to know we're not like that

Sandra Dodd OH MY GOSH! That's a blatant one, eat a little meat to make me happy. Eating should not EVER be about making someone else happy.

Sandra Dodd And now I might take that back.

Sandra Dodd There are ceremonial moments. There is wedding cake, which is ceremonial. People shouldn't ask what's in wedding cake. Accept the slice they give you and take at least one bite.

ColleenP (NH): yes because Robert was "underweight" growing up, his parents tried lots of guilt to get him to eat - yuck - they also put him on "appetite enhancing" meds which he said did nothing but make him mad

Alex Polikowsky: Gigi making and eating raw cake batter (comments and video on Alex's blog)

Sandra Dodd For people who aren't alcoholics or for whom it's against their religion, if there's a toast at a wedding or at a wake, they should participate.

Bernadette: James(my husband) always takes a sip of champagne for a toast, although he's teetotal. He went TT because it was easier to avoid pressure to drink that way than saying 'no, I'm driving'. People wouldn't take that as a reason.

MartaBP: Wow Colleen, my mom tries to do that all the time with Constança... It also makes me feel so good to know we don't do it, we're not repeating what was probably done to us.

Sandra Dodd Oh, she wiped her finger on her Cinderella dress.

AnnieLou: Yes I hear what my mum says to my kids about food and realise how much more relaxed and happy we are about it now

ColleenP (NH): yep Marta breaking the cycle feels good

Sandra Dodd And I don't think it hurts a kid to hear a few of those things from grandparents.

Alex Polikowsky: That cinderella dress was well loved!

MartaBP: She's so cute, Alex!!!

Sandra Dodd When I would hear one, I would bristle up and think NOT AGAIN, MY GOSH CAN'T YOU STOP... and then I would realize that though I was hearing it for the 200th time, my kids were hearing it for the first time, and it wasn't coming from a parent. And it seemed odd to them, and maybe wrong. They might know without us telling them, that grandparents were just odd that way sometimes.

Alex Polikowsky: and did you see we put food coloring in it! She loved coloring stuff!

Alex Polikowsky: and did you see we put food coloring in it! She loved coloring stuff!

Sandra Dodd My kids just lost their last grandparent recently. He lasted until they were all grown.

MartaBP: -=-And I don't think it hurts a kid to hear a few of those things from grandparents.-=- I'm glad I started to read on the Always Learning list and read these words of yours several times. I was getting ready to be stressed with my parents because they did this or that.

Sandra Dodd If a parent thinks "You hurt me, and you're not going to hurt him," usually it's an over-reaction. If they're living in the parents' house, that's different. A couple that can't afford to move into a place of their own does not have as much leeway or option as they would in their own place.

AnnieLou: I can see my kids reacting to differently to my parents than I do/did and it feels good to know that because things are safe and peaceful here in our home and so they have the space to humour grandma.

Sandra Dodd But for a visiting grandparent, they can't possibly hurt the child with words, messages that way. Their opinons will seem small, and old, and quaint. Not big and scary and controlling.

Bernadette: My kids still have a great grandparent. She has very different ideas about how children should be, that sometimes starts interesting conversations on the way home

MartaBP: Yes, Sandra. I can see that now.

ColleenP (NH): Robert didn't have grandparents (they were all in Cuba so he didn't know them) - I had one grandmother who lived until Robbie was almost 2. I wish Robbie was closer to his grandparents than he is, but they're all pretty busy with their own lives - so much different than when I was little and my grandparents were always around - I don't remember my grandparents ever criticizing me or my parents in front of me, but the grandparents in our families feel very free to criticize. It's very interesting

Sandra Dodd We had a four hour drive from Keith's parents and there were some interested de-briefs the times Keith and I had been out of the house. We left Kirby and Marty overnight once, before Holly was born, so they were 2 and 4 or so. They saw it as a surprising adventure, even the controlling and scheduled and the "clean your plate" parts.

Sandra Dodd Kind of boot camp for babies.

Jill Parmer: The things that bothered me about my mom, are not even a blip to my kids. They are not growing up in the same environment that I did; there environment is so far from my growing up one.

Sandra Dodd But we never left them overnight again. Sometimes a kid would be there alone for a few hours, or out of the house with grandparents for a short while without us.

AnnieLou: My eldest, who is 8, is starting to see how some things I do are as a result of my relationship with my mother, and she pulls me up on them.

Alex Polikowsky: What do you mean AnnieLou?

AnnieLou: I can see my relationship with my mum slowly healing, through the help of my daughter

Sandra Dodd Colleen, is it possible that your grandparents didn't criticize because your parents were doing just as they were expected to do?

ColleenP (NH): Robbie is closest to my mother and will get annoyed when she quizzes or criticizes him - but he is old enough to say "I don't want to go overnight to Gram's for a while again - she did the eat-your-green-beans thing again" so I'm happy that he feels ok with setting his own limits even though I'm sad she can't see that it's her words that make him want to limit his time with her sometimes

Sandra Dodd Does "pull me up" mean she points them out to you? "Calls you out?"

AnnieLou: Sometimes if I'm worrying about something or obviously struggling to say yes, Caitlin will say something like 'grandma didn't let you do this, did she?'' It's a good wake up call

Sandra Dodd In England Julie said that her sister would "show her up." And that meant something different than it does here.

HeatherB: When Austin goes to see my mom he says she always guilts him into taking "one more bite for grandma". It annoys him and he does it. I've given him some options of things to say when she does that, but I think he accepts it as this annoying thing that is a part of going to see grandma. I think all the fun they have outweighs her asking him to take another bite of food.

ColleenP (NH): Sandra - could be. My parents will say sometimes things like "you're living so... different" - and they also have my sister raising her family very traditionally so the differences are perhaps more glaringly obvious

Sandra Dodd In the US "showed me up" means embarrassed me by doing something much better than I could.

Sandra Dodd In Julie's usage it meant "ratted her out"--told on her, revealed something.

AnnieLou: Yes, pulls me up = calls me out

Sandra Dodd Heather, he could stop one bite before, so that the grandma bite is the last one he wanted to take anyway.

Sandra Dodd It's sweet that your daughter sees that, AnnieLou.

AnnieLou: Yeah, it's very sweet. And on occasions when I have slipped into behaviour like my mother's, saying things like 'you always expect...' Or similar, Caitlin has stood up to me. So she's helping me be a better mother, and also showing me different ways to relate to my mother

Jill Parmer: That's really sweet that you are seeing that, AnnieLou. Many moms wouldn't.

AnnieLou: Yeah it was a challenge at first to see it rather than get more mad. But now I'm so grateful to have her around and helping me out

Sandra Dodd My granny's name was Annie Mae, and my mom was Mary Lou, so your name is reminding me of relatives. The cousin who grew up with me (my parents took her in when she was seven) was named Nada Lou.

HeatherB: Sandra, that's a good suggestion. She's in Texas and we're in California so it won't be an issue unless we go back to Texas for a visit, but I'll keep that one in mind.

Sandra Dodd it's a Bre'r Rabbit trick. "Don't throw me into the briar patch."

Sandra Dodd I used it a couple of times in my teens.

Sandra Dodd If I was late getting home or did something bad, my mom would ground me not for a week or a set time, but she said (because she wasn't a strategist), "The next time you want to go out, you're not going."

Sandra Dodd So... wanting to fulfill my sentence, and satisfy her lust for vengeance... I (wait... this is more like Hansel and Gretel than Bre'er Rabbit, now that I think of it...)

Sandra Dodd I would ask to go out when I didn't have an "out" to go. Like if I wanted to go out Friday, I would ask on Wednesday whether I could go to the movie with Joseph.

Sandra Dodd "No. You can't. You were late last Saturday, you're not going."

Sandra Dodd If I had said "okay" and skipped away smiling, she wouldn't have felt satisfied.

Alex Polikowsky: and that is what happens when kids are controlled and punished. They will find a way to do what they want. and get away with it

Sandra Dodd So I looked sad and said "Please!?"

Sandra Dodd No.

Sandra Dodd Now we're even, and I go out on Friday as scheduled.

AnnieLou: That's a great example Sandra

Sandra Dodd And so Robbie can slack on the eating, and maybe have TWO bites to offer grandma at the end.

HeatherB: I need to go warm up the oven for bacon. Thanks for the chat y'all. See you next week.

Alex Polikowsky: Bye Heather!

Alex Polikowsky: bacon!! Yummy!

ColleenP (NH): Austin and Robbie both can and there will be 2 happy grandmas

AnnieLou: I've actually been wondering how to manage the food thing when I have friends over whose kids are still restricted and my kids want to eat something that I know the other kids are not allowed

Sandra Dodd Remind your kids about the restriction and say not to ask for other things while those kids are over.

AnnieLou: Usually i suggest my kids wait until the others have gone

Alex Polikowsky: I would ask my child to wait until the friend was gone. To be kind to their friends.

Sandra Dodd Put out foods that are acceptable but that your kids like too. Grapes and cheese or something.

ColleenP (NH): when we have kids coming over who are food-restricted, we put away the candy etc. that's out and remind Robbie of the restrictions - he'd rather have friends over without food incidents

Alex Polikowsky: Exactly. Offer what they can eat.

Sandra Dodd I would NOT make a special version of something my kids liked (gluten free or sugar free). Find real foods that already satisfy both families.

AnnieLou: Yeah so planning ahead a bit would help!

Sandra Dodd Right. What Colleen said.

Sandra Dodd And if it's too irritating, meet in a neutral public place next time.

Sandra Dodd Planning ahead is crucial, for any visit.

Alex Polikowsky: Yep Because in public I would let my kids eat whatever they want.

Bernadette: I ask my children not to ask for certain foods when my mother is visiting, as well. She's usually only over for a couple of hours at a time so they don't have to wait long.

Sandra Dodd Put up toys your kids don't want played with; bring down what those kids will like (within what their mom lets them play with). If the other family objects to toy guns, put your toy guns out of sight, or whatever.

Alex Polikowsky: Yep.

AnnieLou: Oh yeah, I've always done that with toys

Alex Polikowsky: Yep I put away Daniel's pocket knife and stuff like that.

Sandra Dodd Turn off the South Park movie soundtrack when the Christian homeschoolers come over. (Which I forgot, which Holly remembered, and slid over casually and turned the volume down)

Alex Polikowsky: It sits in his desk.

ColleenP (NH): and lego sets your kids don't want broken - that's part of why we made a lego closet so they can go behind closed doors easily, legos robbie doesn't want to share/break

AnnieLou: I think part of my lack of planning around this is to do with when we we so limited, most people didn't bother to change anything when we were there, and my kids were SO good about it, but it must have been hard

AnnieLou: So I don't want things to be hard for anyone else's kids

MartaBP: Hey guys, gotta go. :( Constança wants to use the computer and my husband is watching football.

AnnieLou: But also mine tend to think 'well we watched them eat their stuff so why do we have to wait now'

AnnieLou: But you're right, it's not hard to put out enjoyable food that will satisfy everyone, and avoid the tension around food

Sandra Dodd Because of compassion. If they felt bad before, they shouldn't want to make people feel bad now. But AnnieLou, maybe you should tell them that it wasn't the fault of the other family for having food out, but it was your fault for being afraid of it, and controlling.

AnnieLou: And I didn't ever expect any other family to accommodate our (my) food choices. So perhaps it's me that feels resentful that now other people want me to accomodate theirs

Sandra Dodd Children should be prepared to live in the world.

Sandra Dodd Too many families want the world to change to accommodate their children.

Sandra Dodd And there are unschoolers who, more than anything, think that other unschoolers should put up with any behavior their kids dish out, and smile and be sweet, because we're all unschoolers.

AnnieLou: Yes, you're right. I have apologised and I will do again if it comes up

Sandra Dodd They want a fantasy unschooling world where their child doesn't have to learn ANY manners or courtesy. Sandra Dodd Years back when the discussions were new and a family would say "we can't afford a trampoline, but my kids want to jump," people might say "well what about the bed? How strong is your bed? How expensiveve or nice is it?" or "Do you have an older couch you don't mind them jumping on?" But some parents read that and thought "unschoolers should be able to jump on furniture." And they thought they should let their kids jump on any and all furniture, at their house or anywhere else. And that's just crazy.

Sandra Dodd If you feel resentful, don't do it.

Sandra Dodd But if you can see it as being a good hostess, then do it lovingly and generously.

AnnieLou: Yes, big difference! Thanks for the clarity

Sandra Dodd But if you feel that the other family is being harsh and controlling and you want no part of supporting that, then the thing to do would be to not have them over.

Jill Parmer: When I felt that way, AnnieLou, I'd look at my kids and see that it did not bother them at all, so I tried to use their feelings to override mine. It was a non-issue for them, and that seemed so refreshing to me.

AnnieLou: Yep it's easy to assume our kids are feeling things and then use that to justify our choices

Sandra Dodd Sometimes we had kids over whose parents didn't want them watching TV or playing video games.

Sandra Dodd My kids were fine to turn them off, to have kids to play with.

AnnieLou: Better to look at the kids and see what they really feel

Sandra Dodd Sometimes we had kids whose parents didn't mind them watching tv at our house, but never let them at home. Kirby was CERTAIN to turn the tv off in those cases, or the kids wouldn't play at all, just be stuck to the TV.

Jill Parmer: Yeah, same here.

Pamela Corkey I have a question about unschoolers kids being inconsiderate.

Sandra Dodd Go ahead, Pamela (maybe you're already writing)

Sandra Dodd I'm guessing my response is going to be "rude is rude."

Pamela Corkey How do you experienced unschoolers deal with a situation in which you are with another family and the children are being disruptive, rude, and making your kids uncomfortable. In the moment, not in terms of limiting the exposure in the future.

ColleenP (NH): yep Robbie has a church-going friend in the neighborhood and we remind him that her family probably would rather not know he's seen certain pg13 movies and such - he's happy to skip talking about the movies to preserve the peace and the friendship

Sandra Dodd I say to the kid directy, "Be nice."

Pamela Corkey The family I am thinking of are unschoolers.

Sandra Dodd I rarely ask a parent to ask a kid to do something different.

Sandra Dodd I figure if the parent had any persuasion or awareness the kid would be acting better. So I deal directly with the child.

Bernadette: My nephew is only allowed to use the computer at home one hour a week, but he can use it a friends' houses, so he's rarely home when he can get away, and he's moody at home. His parents think it's because he's 13.

Sandra Dodd His parents are taking advantage of other people's space and computers, too.

Pamela Corkey This parent sometimes asks me for unschooling advice, but it doesn't feel right to tell her how to handle her kid whne she doesn't specifically ask.

Jill Parmer: I would position myself to protect the play of the kids having fun. Then we probably would not invite the rude kid over again, or play at a public place where we could get some space or leave.

Pamela Corkey At the same time, she wonders why her child is avoided by other people. I feel badly for him - he wants friends so badly.

Pamela Corkey My kids have said "NO MORE" to spending time around that child and I will protect them from the experience for sure.

Pamela Corkey I did speak directly to the kid. The mom just watched me. It didn't feel great.

Sandra Dodd

-=-This parent sometimes asks me for unschooling advice, but it doesn't feel right to tell her how to handle her kid whne she doesn't specifically ask.-=-

If that's the decision you make, you're justified. If you Do want to try to help, risk the friendship. Your kids already don't want to hang out with him.

Sandra Dodd But if you spoke directly to him as his friend, or as the defender of your own kid, why worry about whether it feels great. It's not supposed to feel great.

Jill Parmer: When I'm powerless in a situation, I look to where I can have an effect. Can't change the other mom or kid; Look to my own family, see what I can do to help there be more peace, fun, enjoyment.

Pamela Corkey True. That's often the choice - say something an take the risk, or don't and accept the icky situation.

Alex Polikowsky: maybe if you are there with them to help out. Call the child out " be nice" or help them communicate. If his mom is not mindful and present he just does not have the guidance and help he needs.

Sandra Dodd OR talk directly to him, maybe, about how to be a better guest and a better friend.

Sandra Dodd The risk is a gamble. Sometimes it kills the friendship. Then the problem is solved. Sometimes it strengthens the friendship and the mom is grateful and changes. Problem solved. Let it hang and continue without doing anything.... problem NOT solved.

ColleenP (NH): if part of what she's asked for advice for is why he has no friends, I'd be tempted to (nicely) point out some examples of your own kids' interactions with him that have been tough - in a "well remember when you asked about xyz? Here's an example" - but it'd depend like Sandra said if I was willing to risk the relationship

Bernadette: If a situation is really icky than it's not much of a risk saying something.

Pamela Corkey That's helpful. He seems grateful when I do say things like "don't scream from different room" or "when you are watching tv with us, don't take control of the remote."

Jill Parmer: Often times I'll play with the kids, that way I can help tone down the irritating kid, by saying something like..."easy does it", or "hang on there, your turn is coming up" and give them a smile.

Sandra Dode; -=-I look to where I can have an effect. Can't change the other mom or kid; -=-

Why do you assume, Jill, that you can't change the other mom or kid?

Sandra Dodd If someone does something irritating and no one around gives any indication that it was irritating, then it seems to me that everyone is complicit in the problem, and the irritating behavior was condoned.

Jill Parmer: Because I have not had lots of experience where moms take advice from others to help their kid.

Sandra Dodd If someone says "don't," then it's someone else's move. Probably the kid will 'don't.' Maybe the mom will think to step in. Maybe she'll get mad and leave. But to dodge and cringe and endure indefinitely isn't often helpful.

Jill Parmer: By saying the "easy does it", it gives pause to the irritating kid and allows them a moment to slow down.

Pamela Corkey There have been a few times when I mentioned some inconsiderate behavior and she defended it as being age-appropriate. I gently mentioned needing to avoid situations that my kids couldn't yet handle with grace. Maybe that sunk it a bit.

Sandra Dodd Jill, you have TONS of experience of moms listening to other moms. If it can work in writing, why can't it help in person?

ColleenP (NH): I have to go - we're off to pick up Museum of Science passes at the library for a friday trip into Boston

Alex Polikowsky: I have taken advice!

Sandra Dodd When hanging out with a family with a known loud or wild kid, I used to try to plan activities or toys he could use, like, play with.

Sandra Dodd And I'd remind my kids that the other kid would be there, and ask if they had ideas about what would be good. Big ball, bubbles, running games... sometimes that helped for a kid who was loud and rough and not good with small-pieces games or quiet activities.

Jill Parmer: I see that on the list yes. But not so much in local activities. I've seen moms who don't pay attention to the kids, and their kids are irritating. Moms get defensive or make excuses. Pamela's situation is with a local or in-person situation.

Sandra Dodd I usually dealt directly with kids, at park days, and not the defensive or excuse-making moms.

Sandra Dodd I didn't always smile when I said "it's not your turn yet.

Sandra Dodd Some kids' moms are clueless.

Pamela Corkey Those are good ideas. My kids, being a lot older than this child, are d-o-n-e, but I still like engaging with him. He's a wonderful kid in lots of ways. I want to help him if I can. His mom is also pretty great in many ways. I'd like to help her, too, if I can.

Sandra Dodd And that's part of why school is seen as good.

Sandra Dodd Unfortunately, it's only good in ideal, abstract ways. Because some of the teachers are clueless.

Jill Parmer: I smiled so the kid would know he's not in trouble. A smile of encouragement, friendliness. I smiled to keep it light.

Sandra Dodd There can be a sociable kid with a wise-counselling mother who has a kind, thoughtful teacher, who spends his days in the next classroom from a socially awkward kid with a clueless mother who's hoping he will learn manners in school, but the teacher is clueless too.

Sandra Dodd There's that big random factor effect at play.

Jill Parmer: Will you be around that kid without your kids, Pamela?

Bernadette: It can sometimes help if you don't talk directly to the mother - say something along the lines of "I've noticed when my child... it helps if I..." and let her make the connection.

Pamela Corkey I haven't smiled so much - I want the kid to know his actions are not appreciated. He really doesn't have any idea and always greets my remarks with a sort of thoughtful compliance.

Sandra Dodd Bernadette, I did a lot of that. I would say "Kirby used to do that when he was little." And then she would ask how I handled it.

Pamela Corkey I think he craves the information. I don't think he wants to be annoying.

Pamela Corkey Jill, I do see him without my kids.

Jill Parmer: Ah, so you have some investment in helping him. That's kind of you.

Pamela Corkey Oscar was doing some babysitting for the family, but won't anymore. I wish the mom was aware of what his behavior is costing him and them!

Sandra Dodd If the kid is doing something that's going to cause another family not to come back the next time, or if he's doing something that's harming your own kids' peace, then that IS a form of trouble.

Alex Polikowsky: Well girls Gigi has been patient and was playing with her brother but now she wants to play some minecraft! So I leave you and thank you so much!

Sandra Dodd And maybe a test. If he responds badly to it, then it's not worth messing with. If he responds well, maybe he's just needing ideas and advice he's not getting at home.

Pamela Corkey Yeah, I have successfully created a divide between my kids and the situation. My boys are 14 and 22 and know how to express their preferences.

Pamela Corkey Bye, Alex

Jill Parmer: Bye , Alex.

Sandra Dodd Pamela, if you tell them it's the behavior that keeps him from wanting to babysit, then the mom WILL be aware. If Oscar makes polite excuses...

Pamela Corkey That's really my question - should I tell her? "Oscar won't babysit because of your child's behavior"

Sandra Dodd My friend Jeff and I have talked about having a "high stakes friendship." We've both risked the friendship to say something really important, but hard.

Pamela Corkey How did that work out with Jeff?

Alex Polikowsky: I love that my kids are happy and humming and singing!

Sandra Dodd And we're still friends, and better friends. And if any of those things ever break the friendship, then it was done anyway.


Sandra Dodd I would rather have a couple of strong friendships I was willing to risk than two dozen kind-of fragile friendships

Alex Polikowsky: thanks you for making my kids life sweeter!

Alex Polikowsky: bye!

Pamela Corkey Also, I just mentioned the possibilty to Oscar and he was mortified to think that his feelings about the kid would become known.

Sandra Dodd:

I need to go finish cleaning the hot tub. It's cold outside, but it's above freezing. It will take hours to heat it from the hose temperature of 50-60 degrees.

If Oscar doesn't want to admit it, that's fine, but it would be useful to the other family if he would.

Pamela Corkey Ah, well. I really appreciate you helping me think this through. I'm especially going to weigh the risk/reward aspect of the situation.

Sandra Dodd Or if he would let you.

Jill Parmer: Dang, I don't like that I still sometimes get caught outside of that idea, Sandra. and worry about being "nice".

Sandra Dodd If a friendship is painful, why plan to extend it indefinitely? And if it can be better....

Sandra Dodd Sometimes nice is necessary.

Pamela Corkey I'll talk to him about it. He's very reserved and private, but also sweet and kind.

Jill Parmer: Written out like that it seems so simple, and in person, lots of feelings flood me.

Sandra Dodd Sometimes "nice" becomes social martyrdom of a very bad sort.

Jill Parmer: Yeah, I know that , too.

Sandra Dodd Feelings are legit.

Pamela Corkey Yeah, this is a kind of scary situation for me.

Sandra Dodd Well either your friend's kid has a series of many FORMER sweet and kind friends, or he can get a clue about how to have fewer former friends. Maybe you could put it in writing.

Pamela Corkey It would be so much easier to just smile and avoid, but I sense an opportunity to really help some pretty neat people.

Pamela Corkey Well, it's monkey platter time. Have fun in the hot tub!!!

Sandra Dodd I also think it's easier for older people to risk friendships than for younger people.

In the Big Book, that page links to:

The Big Book of Unschooling Directory of the Big Book Chats Chat Transcripts on other topics