(If Kirby, Marty, or Holly Dodd reads here: I am your mom.)

Complaints about not being treated as children

Sometimes people say "You're not treating us as nicely as you claim to treat your children," or other versions of that.

This leads to a page with notes, quotes, and responses about WHY, in a discussion of adults, there is a disadvantage to treating another adult as one of our children. There is a collection of things moms have written in unschooling discussions, complaining that we're not treating them the way we "claim" to treat our kids. An Odd Complaint (Neediness)

"Sometimes I feel that the respect you claim is needed for all children is hypocritical because you can really come off as disrespectful to the grown ups here."

I responded:

You're not my child and I'm not your mother.
Neediness, in parents
That was 2012, by someone who was causing problems at Always Learning. In this case, I was returning the post to her instead of publishing it.

Someone complaining wrote:
So thanks for nothing, all your talking about being joyful, you don't treat people in a very joyous way.... It's unfortunate and sad.
I responded:
My goal isn't to help parents feel better about their parenting. I want to help their kids experience the joys of unschooling. That is misunderstood by some parents who think I want to treat them gently as though they were my children. I want to help them (adults that they are) to treat their children as gently as they can.
(others responded, too; Radical Unschooling Info post, February 2012, 181 comments)

Robin Bentley, in a discussion about what people liked, and didn't like, about a discussion:
The misguided idea that we must treat everyone on this list as we treat our children. This comes up fairly regularly. There are people who don't deserve to be treated with the respect and love I give my child. That respect and love is completely different from how I treat anyone else, actually, though how I treat my husband is pretty close. Why complete strangers expect that from me is a mystery. (original)

Without a particular quote, here's something I wrote in response to the idea, in 2007, on Always Learning.

From: Sandra Dodd
Date: August 9, 2007 12:17:50 PM MDT
Subject: [AlwaysLearning] How many children do I have!?

From time to time someone wants me to treat people on this list the way I treat my children.
What I want to do with this list is to help other adults discover and refine ways to treat their children more the way I treat my children, if they want to.

I have a sign on my door, just put there last month, a paper taped there at eye level that says


No tree trimming,
no petitions
no missionaries
no encyclopedia sales
no yard cleaning.

Unlike some other people I know, I have listened to missionaries at length, invited them in, read their stuff, told them I admire their dedication, given them cold drinks or water. I've let Jehovah's Witnesses talk to me at length, and LDS guys. Lately I decided I need to spend my time in other ways. I'm getting old.

Kirby's working nights. Holly sleeps late. Whenever anyone touches our door the dog barks a high, painful bark. I don't want people to trim our trees or clean our yard and someone was coming to the door once a week or so. I don't want to sign petitions for anyone to run for office or for people to pressure the government to do something about something I never heard of.

Does that mean I'm telling my children not to talk to me about religion or not to help me in the yard?

I will let Holly sleep as late as she wants to and I'll make her anything she wants for breakfast, when she wants me to make her breakfast, which isn't all the time, just sometimes. This morning I was glad to make fried eggs and toast for her. She was sweet and grateful.

Does that mean I should let just anyone sleep at my house as late as they want and then request a special breakfast?

And on this discussion list, I'm not trying to mother people. I'm trying to discuss ideas and factors and practices that make parenting antagonistic, when those come up, so that ALL the people on the list, not just the person who posted, can look at their own thoughts, and rules, and expectations and see if they can't tweak them toward the direction they want to be with their children.

Several who have known me online (or in person) for the dozen or so years I've been in discussions like this have asked how I can patiently answer the same questions year after year without throttling people. It's because I know that when someone *does* change in understanding, the world gets better for their children. The world might be uncomfortable for the mom that day, but if she had wanted to stay the same, she never could have found this list. If she found this list and read some and thought it was bogus, she never would have posted on this list.

I assume that people come to this list because they want to change.

I am now, finally, getting tired of things like this (which came on the side, not to the list):

-=- i don't think i can do better!!! i think YOU can do better, if you could maybe be less confrontational and more in tune with the ideas of understanding and empathy, that you speak of regarding children.-=-
The understanding and empathy I recommend parents show to their children is a parent and child thing, and I can't be expected to treat over 1000 people (however many are on this list) like they're all my children.

BUT WAIT! This list isn't a question and answer column where all the answers come from me. Not at all. When people post here they get several people's feedback. And they get the feedback from people who are pretty likely to be giving unschooling-focussed answers. That happens because I keep the list running, and keep spam and distractions off of it.

Below is a link to an explanation of why I think people who want help should get help quickly and directly. With my kids, they have 18 years to learn to read, use a bank account and wipe their butts (not in that order). With parents who have children, they do not have 18 years to change. They don't have ten years. They don't have five. They need to change before more damage is done to their relationship, before it's so far gone they no longer want to regroup and re-direct.

Getting It

And here are quotes from people who say they wish they had changed sooner:

If Only...

I am very interested in helping those people. I'm less interested in helping people who want to be coddled, who complain about how I phrase things, and who want to take years to consider whether they'll change their ways. The statement before is NOT about any individual, it's about hundreds of people who have come through and complained instead of coming through to look at what they're doing in the light of what others have discovered.

If my website and articles and this list and UnschoolingDiscussion are not to someone's tastes, that's to be expected. That's fine. I really don't think I should change them because a few people wish they were different. I don't think it's courteous or reasonable for people to ask me to do my volunteer work just the way they imagine they would do it if they were me.

I have said before "If you can do it better, do it!" And I don't mean that in a mean way at all. Anyone who sees flaws and can help others in a better way should really, honestly, truly, do it. The more free help people have, the better.

Is it because it's free that I get complaints? Maybe. If someone pays money to a counsellor they just either accept the help or they quit going, they don't harrass the person to change and do differently.


(original post)
In 2019, the busiest forum I'm in is on facebook. Here's its intro: Radical Unschooling Info

Someday that will be gone too, probably. Someday this website will be gone.

What do people "have to" do, regarding actually being supportive?

No one owes any other unschoolers support or assistance. Luckily, there are many people willing to offer help, information, assistance and ideas. But neither online nor in park meet-ups nor at their own kitchen tables is it ever *required* that someone help you.

I have a page of information on people who will help you for money, but even they are volunteering to put that service forth and could decide halfway through a session to send you a refund instead of finishing it.

This group won't last forever. I've been in groups and on forums I WISH still existed, for my own sake and new unschoolers', but they are, several, serially, gone. My strongest personal discussion, Always Learning, is quieter than it used to be. It is over a dozen years old, and solid, and waning. Radical Unschooling Info is only worth doing if it's done well and solidly—with the intention of helping people, and without the time-sink and confusion of the sort of "support" that hampers rather than helps.

Please be grateful for the help others provide, because they really don't have to help you. When people write here and share their lives, and photos, and best ideas, and experiences, they are doing it out of the joyful hope that your children can have happier lives. It's not to make the mom feel better this moment, but to help her change her life in ways that will make her feel immeasurably better later on.

Sandra Dodd, November 2014, Radical Unschooling Info on Facebook
When I brought this here in 2019, Always Learning was difficult to use and to search, because yahoogroups is not being supported as it once was. It is in demise. [yahoogroups closed up]. Increasingly, links to blogs and discussions are leading to abandoned sites.

Take and appreciate good help when you can get it!!

Always Learning has been successfully moved to a new forum which works very well, and is being revived!! Read about the group before joining.

"Rhetorical" questions, leading questions, clarifications...

In one of the topics, someone wrote "I can't tell if that's a rhetorical question." and then (it seems) deleted it while I was sleeping.

The first questions asked should be real questions the poster would like to have discussed in the light of radical unschooling. Questions within that discussion might be clarifying questions, or rhetorical questions. "Rhetorical question" can mean a question designed to reflect light back on a point someone has made. It might be in the tone of "wait, look." ; It might be in the tone of "What!? Seriously!?" or (in chess terms) "are you sure you want to take your finger off that piece?"—a kind hint of an impending check.

No one is required to answer ANY question, though if someone seems disruptive and is asked how old their children are and how long they have unschooled, or if someone seems especially argumentative and won't even state whether he or she is unschooling, they might be given the boot.

Of those who ARE certainly involved in unschooling, questions don't "have to" be answered. Sometimes it's helpful, and sometimes it's not. Very often questions are asked in hopes that a confused and frustrated parent will use them privately, internally, to help her untangle her thoughts, and to clarify her beliefs.

Sandra Dodd, January 2013, on facebook

For years, this was here: Unschooling Questions and Answers (still is)

Joyce, in 2013, to someone who was flailing defensively:

Please see responses as feedback on how clear you're being. Why would you ask us to spend *more* time answering a question you felt had been answered? If you post a question it looks like you want an answer to it.

And do note, this isn't a peer to peer conversation. Picture stopping a busy person on the street to ask for directions. If they love being helpful, they might take the time to give the lost person directions. But they don't owe that person *anything*. They don't owe the lost person more time to ask for clarification. The lost person owes *them* the courtesy of being as clear as possible the first time so they aren't wasting the answerer's time.

(original here)

I expressed a strong opinion on my own facebook page once, and someone wanted me to take it back. Part of what she and I wrote: OTHER:
-=-To say what you said when you are in such a public position...-=-
I'm not an elected official. I'm not the representative of a company or a corporation. I'm just me, and this is just my facebook page. It's not an editorial in Newsweek. I'm not going on national news.
-=-...where so many people admire and appreciate what you do -=-
That doesn't obligate me to support the varied beliefs and lifestyles and religions and political views of all the people who might admire or appreciate me. What I do is write. What I do is think about and examine and discuss what helps individuals and families live more joyfully and peacefully. I'm not going door to door. I'm giving it away freely to people who want to read stuff I've put online or on a few yahoo lists I'm on.

That's not my duty, even, to help people. My kids are grown. I could quit; I could start charging $30 an hour (as an ever-growing number of people seem to be doing, explaining things I've written to other people...). I'm not doing that. I'm just writing.

On facebook here, in 2010. The rant/topic was about birth control: "Dear to-whom-it-may-concern: If it isn't against your religion, use birth control. It's cheaper than a carseat. My younger cousin is a great grandmother. B-I-R-T-H C-O-N-T-R-O-L."

Intentionally and Carefully

For clarity of thought and for value of discussions about unschooling (or anything), it's important to use words intentionally and carefully. If a parent can't tell the difference between "consequences" and "punishment" and doesn't want to even try to, she'll probably keep punishing her children and telling herself it's not punishment, it's consequences. That muddled thinking can't lead to clarity nor to better parenting.

Sandra and grown Kirby, posing under a sign that says Your Mother is not here, please clean up your own mess

Sandra and Kirby Dodd, under a sign at a barbecue place in Austin


Someone wrote of me, elsewhere, in 2011:
I think it’s sad, a shame really, that she doesn’t use what she teaches in her books and on her website with her own Yahoo group.

She’s so manipulative with adults, in fact, it makes me doubt that she raised her own children in the non-manipulative environment in which she asks others to raise their children.
I responded, there, in part:
-=-I think it’s sad, a shame really, that she doesn’t use what she teaches in her books and on her website with her own Yahoo group.-=-

I don’t intend to “teach,” but am sharing ideas. People learn or not. That’s now natural learning works. But I don’t think you really mean to suggest that I should treat thousands of other parents the way I treat my own children. I don’t think they want to be treated like children, and they don’t have 18 years to gradually figure out unschooling, either.

-=- it makes me doubt that she raised her own children in the non-manipulative environment in which she asks others to raise their children.-=-

I have never asked anyone to raise their children in ANY way. I unschooled, it went well, I understood it well enough to share what I was doing from the beginning (for various reasons explained frequently), and people asked me, from the time my oldest was five years old, what my plan was and how it was working.
I wrote more; others wrote more. The original post was nice. Information Defensiveness (Penelope Trunk, on her blog)

I KNOW you don't treat your children like that so why me?
Sandra Dodd:
#1, you're not the child of anyone here.
#2, you're not a child.
#3, you came to a discussion group as an adult.
#4, you have children at your house. We would like to help you treat your children the way we treat ours.

This complaint is made a time or two a year. If a mother wants to be treated as a child, that's beyond the scope of this list. We KNOW that many adults had insufficient nurturing and would like to be babied and soothed and rocked and sung to. We can't rock and sing here anyway, but mothers can heal their own childhoods by babying, soothing, rocking and singing to their own children.

This is also on the page An Odd Complaint, which is about parents having expressed a wish to be treated as children, in discussions (though they didn't realize it, sometimes).

When Parents Have Issues

Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch.



An odd complaint
(objection to unschoolers treating a new unschooler like an adult rather than as a child)

Title art by Devyn Dodd, 2024