Parental Authority

A post saved from 1997, added to the website February 5, 2011

Subj: Re: Parental Authority
Date: 97-09-06 11:16:52 EDT
From: SandraDodd
Posted on: America Online

I get very impatient with my kids, and then I yell or make them do what I want. How do you all stay so patient?
Other moms have told me they think I'm patient. It makes me feel guilty because I have the internal list of all the times I've blown it, but a few things have helped me.

The biggest was Adult Children of Alcoholics, an al-Anon group. I went to meetings for four years and learned a lot of calming and encouraging things. One of those is to remember what I wanted and needed as a child. Then I try to give those things to MY children. I don't mean toys or books. I mean listening, and smiling, and joking, and letting them climb on stuff even if it made me nervous, and not making such strictly-to-the-minute rules like "be back at 5:45 or else" and other arbitrary control-junk. One of the quotes/sayings from that learning-time is "How Important Is It?" and thinking that little mantra can help a ton all by itself. If we waste our energy and our relationship with our children on how they wear their socks and where they keep their toothbrush between times, there's nothing left for important things. I try to save it for important things, and I try not to be the defining judge of what's important. There are things the kids consider VERY important, and I force myself (at first, until I calm myself and remind myself to GIVE) to pay attention to their stuff too. No "That's nice dear" while I ignore them. When it happens, occasionally, that I've done that, I feel bad and I sometimes go back and say, "Tell me again about that game. I'm sorry. I wasn't really listening."

Next biggest influence was La Leche League. There I learned that children have within them what they need to know, and that the parent and child are a team, not adversaries. It reinforced the idea that if you are loving and gentle and patient that children WANT to do what you ask them to do, and that they will come to weaning, potty training, separation from mom, and all those milestones without stress and without fear if you don't scare them or stress them! Seems kind of obvious, but our culture has 1,000 roadblocks.

From having studied meditation and Eastern religion I learned the value of breathing. I think what it does is dissipate adrenaline. I remember in the 1960's and early 1970's it was Big News that yogis could *actually* slow their heart rates at will! WELL duh. People had been doing it in church (those who cared to actually "be still and know") for hundreds of years, but nobody thought to wire up contemplative Christians. When people (parents or kids) are agitated and are thinking for a moment that something has to happen JUST THIS WAY and RIGHT NOW, breathing helps. Deep breathing, slow, and full-as-possible exhalation. This is, in Western terms, "count to ten." Calm down and let the adrenaline go. Some people have biochemistry that's not easy to control, and some people count too fast.

I ride my kids a lot, give them absolutes a lot, and I know they are not happy with this.
If you aren't willing to make radical changes, that will get worse before it gets better. Even if it seems to calm down, I think it would be because your kids gave up wanting and thinking and wishing.
Win-win solutions in our house are not the majority.
At ours they have been, and I think it's the La Leche League influence, and the fact that I wanted consciously not to raise my kids the way I was raised, and looked for peaceful and warm solutions to what the tapes in my head said should be MY way, and "The RIGHT way" and I shushed those tapes.

This all made it easier to disconnect the school-teacher tapes when that time came.

Other "tools" than breathing and memory and desire that I use are humor, touch/smell (hold your kid and smell the hair so you remember who this is you're treating like an object if you're getting frenzied), and music. Sometimes music (often on a video) will change the air and the mood. Have some upbeat stuff in mind for such occasions.

If possible when things seem rasty, go out to lunch, or to a new and different grocery store and buy something you've never bought. Yesterday I found some new Keebler peanut-butter sticks (kind of like cracker/cookie things) and the kids liked them, and they were cheap. Just something like that, something that seems trivial, can give you the three minute reprieve you need to think clearly.

Be present. I'm aware of needing to be at a wedding today, and where and when I need to deliver and pick up kids, and that we're having overnight guests, and Marty has hockey orientation tomorrow, and Kirby's spending the day with his friend. It's a very busy schedule, but as each kid wakes up he or she needs THAT moment, not my mutterings about later or tomorrow. One moment spent asking how they slept and if they're ready to eat, and hearing a dream will change the rest of the day for us both.

I hide toys. I rotate cool building sets and games, so when there's a tense day and people are jittery something can be pulled out.

I rent videos that will give them time to sit and be calm and also hear music or learn about people and places they didn't know about before.

Holly was six years old when this was written.
I work with them. Instead of making Holly clean her room, I help her. We talk, I get to help her figure out good storage plans and sorting plans for doll clothes and cards and her hat collection, and her shoes, and to sort clean clothes she dropped on the floor from those she actually wore all day, and we have been together in a real way, and visited, and accomplished and learned.

That's not all, but that's a lot.



I didn't even look back to see who the original author was, so I hope this will come across as totally clinical which it's intended to be. Two quotes:

"Can I unschool and still have him accomplish his goals?"

"The question really is, can HE unschool and still accomplish his goals?"

Terminology reflects thought and belief.
Sometimes just a slight shift in terminology will release the mental block that keeps people from understanding unschooling.

A couple of examples:
Calling grown women "girls" instead of women kept women from advancing for many years. When someone learns to remember to say "women" when they mean women, suddenly girls become women in their minds.

Nursing and childbirth counselors and midwives remind women to change their terminology. If a woman says, "My doctor says I have to..." or "My doctor won't let me..." it's really worth interrupting and asking them to change the words and thought to "My doctor recommends..." or "My doctor doesn't believe..."

If women give ownership of their babies to the doctor, they will not be able to make decisions and to act on their own beliefs without a doctor's approval or permission.

If parents retain ownership of their children's learning, the children cannot learn on their own.

What I've just said above is / will be / has been misinterpreted to mean the parents should throw up their hands, back off, and not say a word. That's not what I mean at all. Possibly the very same interactions can occur, but the balance of power and responsibility can change by changing the phrasing and definitions.

Can he unschool and still accomplish his goals?

Is that different in wording only from Can I unschool and still have him accomplish his goals?

I think it's 180 degrees of difference mentally, and very little difference in real life.

Is it a change worth making?
I think it's absolutely necessary.

When forceful suggestions are made here, though, sometimes people take it as criticism or attack.

If you're trying to help push someone's car and it's not going anywhere, sometimes pushing harder helps. Occasionally, though, you just have to say, "Is it in neutral or not?" If they say, "No, it's in first gear, push harder," what are you going to say? You stop pushing and say "You have to put it in neutral first."

So before anyone can enjoy the benefits of unschooling they have to "put it in neutral." They have to take off the emergency brake. Otherwise the car won't move. Too many people say "We tried pushing the car, it didn't move, we bought a new one. Pushing cars never works."


2011 note: This writing is over thirteen years old. There near the end, I was using "have to" in a way I might not today. As an if/then statement, it's true. In order for X to work, one would have to do Y.

Photos are links


Unschooling Parents

WordsWords (terminology and thought)

Being (mindful, present...)