The Tale of When Other Moms asked Mary B
"How do you Do It?"

I belong to two local homeschooling groups. One group is quite active in getting together often. We all get along well and always show up for stuff. My kids have developed great friends with this group and so have I. We all see each other twice a week and some of us three or even four times. We know each other and our kids.

So last park day, while the kids were all building forts in the woods, one mother just point-blank asked me how I do it. How do I parent like I do with never hitting the kids or disciplining them and turn out such great kids? To which all the other mothers agreed how great and easy my kids are. Wow!! I didn't see that one coming. There had been a discussion weeks before with some moms talking about hitting their kids. My horror wasn't able to be stifled and the one mom remembered how I felt and that's why she brought up the subject. That if I never hit, how do I get the kids to listen and behave? (her words, not mine)

So we all talked a lot about parenting and what I do and what I did and what I don't do. And all but one mom was actually seeing what I was talking about. She was the one that originally asked the question. So when she asked me specifics, I would give her ideas to which she responded that it would never work for her girls and that she's tried everything and nothing works. And although she wasn't seeing help, all the other moms did.

One mom relayed the story just recently where she makes her son clean up all his toys before he goes to bed. He can chose to not clean them up and she will, but she bags them all in the trash. When he went to bed crying saying he didn't think he wanted to live there anymore, she put him outside in the back yard and told him to go. When he said he would miss his Bionicles, she bagged them up and handed them to him. He walked away crying and she called him back.

I talked quite awhile with what I thought about that and other ways she could have handled it and more than that, how the poor little boy must have felt. How unsafe she made home for him and not at all unconditional. He's six.

She emailed me later that night saying how the one mom asked for advice and wouldn't even think of taking any of it. She also thanked me for what I said and vowed to never get near that way of thinking and doing again. She felt awful about what she did.

So I know I helped at least one little boy that day to have things be a little better. I know this mom will try much harder. She always gets such a kick out of my kids asking me for all kinds of things at the playground. Like can I have a drink, some crackers, can I go play, can I play in the woods, can I go over there? She said she has never heard me say no to them about anything, yet they keep asking me politely to do things. I guess they haven't made the switch yet from mom can I go play in the woods to mom I'm going to go and play in the woods. I'm sure they will eventually. In the meantime, it seems to some I have completely polite and kind children who *must* have tons of rules to follow or else they wouldn't act like that.

To my group, they know better. They know Joe and me with our kids both out and at home. They know we don't have rules and consequences for not following them. They know we have happy kids who are fun to be around. So maybe we're helping more than just one little kid by just being around. I know a few moms have eased way up on the "school" part of life. One mom is very excited about unschooling and getting there. It feels good to make a difference.

Mary B.

originally posted to [email protected] now defunct on November 23, 2003
Here it is in the archive, 6th comment down.

More on not spanking and on other parenting issues for unschoolers