Unconditional Parenting has "emboldened" our daughter, not in a good way...? - Mothering Forums
1 2 
Gentle Discipline > Unconditional Parenting has "emboldened" our daughter, not in a good way...?
eko_mom's Avatar eko_mom 06:33 PM 03-29-2010
Unconditional Parenting has "emboldened" our daughter, not in a good way...? DH thinks unconditional parenting is a load of you-know-what, but has been going along with it for the most part. Our almost 4.5 y.o. dd is strong and smart. But, she's starting to ignore requests, from both of us, but particularly DH who is from the "do it because I'm the Dad and I said so" school. He thinks the problem is that she has become emboldened by my lack of discipline or consequences...I'm all about Alfie Kohn, but don't really know how to go here.

I don't want to provide a lack of leadership or lack of structure...but I don't want to punish her either. Advice, thoughts, commiseration welcome. But, no criticism, really. I'm doing enough of that for myself.

NiteNicole's Avatar NiteNicole 07:10 PM 03-29-2010
I think this an age thing. I say this because don't practice UP at all but I'd say in the last two weeks I'm starting to see a lot of ignoring what I'm asking her to do, continuing to do what she's doing when I ask her to stop, and looking me in the eye while doing something I asked her to stop doing. The look on her face is 100%, "What are you going to do about it." I am hearing similar complaints from friends whose kids are similar ages. Even the ones who spank. Even the ones who do time outs. I suspect that somewhere in the mid-fours, this is just a thing they start to do.

I don't have a perfect way of handling it at this point and honestly, this very issue is making me nuts.
ssh's Avatar ssh 03:33 AM 03-30-2010
My DD is 4 and 4 months old, so maybe we aren't there yet. We did have some rude and bossy behavior a couple of months ago. We talk about what kind of person she wants to be. We talk about how her chosen behavior effects how other people see her. So she tries to choose behavior that goes with the type of person she wants to be. The kind of person she wants to be changes from a super hero to a princess to someone who takes pictures of kangaroos. But she never wants to be a rude or mean person or a bad stranger. The person she wants to be is always a nice, helpful, interesting one that likes to help other people and is liked by others. When she is rude I let her know. All of this seems to be helping her make better choices about behavior. For example if my DD completely ignored me I'd tell her that being ignored hurts my feelings and it's rude to ignore people, that if she doesn't want to do something when she's asked she should say so. This hasn't been one of our issues. If DD doesn't want to do something she says 'no' or "I'll do it later". We were having problems with her shushing us when we were talking, being bossy and demanding and shouting. Usually I talked to her about why the behavior was rude or mean and how I feel when she's doing those things.

She's going through a emotionally fragile thing right now. She gets upset very easily and cries quietly. I hope this phase doesn't last very long ......
Surfacing's Avatar Surfacing 03:56 AM 03-30-2010

simplymother's Avatar simplymother 04:18 AM 03-30-2010
Changing parenting styles--no matter what you change to--is always going to have some funny results at first, you know? It takes some getting used to on both sides (you, as parents trying get into a new groove and find the right balance, and your daughter--trying to work out and make sense of this new way of doing things).

That said, Unconditional Parenting isn't about removing all leadership or never setting limits. It's about HOW we do those things--and being aware of how our kids are perceiving our us.

I agree it is an age thing--these early years are all about testing--not necessarily to be "testy" but to figure out where the boundaries are. That could be what she's doing when she ignores your requests. She's no doubt aware there's something new going on, and maybe she's trying to figure it out. Maybe next time you make a request and it goes ignored, you could go to her and put your arms around her and sweetly say, "I sense that wondering if you have to do whatever I say?"

Depending on how much she can express herself at this age, that could open up a good dialogue about where you stand on the issue.

(For us, I've talked to my kids about how parents are here to lead and guide their children, and we often know what's best because we've lived in this world longer and learned a lot of stuff, but we don't know everything about what they should do because we're not them. So if something I say doesn't feel right to them, they can talk with me about it and together we'll always try to come up with something that feels right for everybody.)

But just having a conversation like this, whatever your conclusion is, would be really helpful if the issue is simply ambiguity about how she's expected to act.

Cheers!

--Kate, who has been absent from these forums for entirely too long!
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 03:26 PM 03-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by simplymother View Post
(For us, I've talked to my kids about how parents are here to lead and guide their children, and we often know what's best because we've lived in this world longer and learned a lot of stuff, but we don't know everything about what they should do because we're not them. So if something I say doesn't feel right to them, they can talk with me about it and together we'll always try to come up with something that feels right for everybody.)
This is the conversation I have regularly with our children as well.

I also agree with the rest of Kate's post.

I wanted to add that having a particularly others-centred little person in our home has really illuminated a common but harmful parenting issue. We want our children to be kind, gentle, considerate, to desire the best for others, to be confident, community-oriented and interdependent, etc..., but when we begin the subtle training of those traits into our children, we ignore the very reality that they need to know what the whole spectrum is before they even have the information to make a legitimate choice about it. So saying, it took my older three until they were 3 yrs old to be emboldened enough to buck the expectations of respect and kindness we had for them in our home, and that was very confusing to us, like what is being discussed here now.

Our fourth child is 28 months old and he is so sensitive to the responses and expectations of others that as a young infant, he would try to smile through his crying; it broke my heart, honestly, to see him trying through his own feelings and pain to make me feel better about it. That's not his job!!!

So, from experiencing his personality, our whole family has begun a sort of self-freeing that we didn't even know about before, and that involves our children having the space and support to explore the whole spectrum of feelings and choices that come to them. Our 28 month old will often tell us that he's 'not being nice right now' so we have that as a warning that he's not meeting our expectations for treatment of ourselves. This might seem terrible, but it really works out nicely. We choose how we will deal with ourselves in the face of his not niceness and he learns what the actual consequences for his chosen actions really are (which includes still being loved and supported and that we don't change who we are when he explores his 'dark side').

Now, having grown up in a non-violent home with much love, their particular personalities and dynamics, our children's spectrums really don't extend into truly dangerous actions. Sometimes they are very loud and sometimes they are very irritating- VERY IRRITATING- and I have the place in my home and life to say that, and to be confident in who I am in the face of any choice made by someone else. They need to see that they can choose from a wide range of pleasant and unpleasant options, and I am still who they know me to be; they need to know that they cannot change who I am by throwing their toys at the wall in anger, or screaming words they think are rude every time I want to speak to dp.

The thing is that we've seen that they inevitably do choose the most beneficial behaviours that correspond with the most beneficial perspective, but they really need to have the opprotunity to explore that for real, not just hypothetically from what we tell them. They need to feel like they are being evil, rude, violent, mean, etc.... This is a part of human nature, how ever unpleasant, and I want my children to explore those things in my home, when they are young, before it becomes necessary for them to do so later on in their lives, or not at all, at the expense of true autonomy and interdependence. In essence, I think it stunts their growth to give them set parameters within which they must always exist or there will be imposed consequences.

My home is not full of raging violent maniacs, either. My children are kind, sweet, considerate and loving. Sometimes they are not. We can only make a legitimate choice if we truly know the options, and with young children, they don't have enough life expereince to intuit these things, or to hypothesize adequately to make authentic choices.

At least this is my experience.

As for UP, I think this fits right in for us, because as Kate wrote, unconditional parenting informs our responses and goals in our relationships and doesn't restrict us at all. There simply are so many better and more accessible options for navigating relationships than punishment, that something is bound to be effective for all of us long before punishment would ever enter the picture anyway.

For us, the greater informing principle is authentic living as human beings. When we are out of alignment, we feel a range of unpleasant emotions and can have unpleasant and unsatisfying reactions as a result. This lets us know that we need to examine our thinking or otherwise, and inevitably it comes down to what is an authentically human need and corresponding response, and how do we enact that? Oftentimes it involves personal challenge to re-establish our own human qualities, shedding ideas from society that we've incorporated without realising it, or realising their detriment.

It's sometimes like infinite regression for me because I grew up in an abusive home with addicts. For me, I have had to shed everything and rebuild all of who I actually am in the last 10 years. It is not easy, but it is the most rewarding work I've ever done. To whatever degree we all need to do that and for whatever reasons, I think our culture in general has lost its way and we'd do well to become a whole lot more human than we seem to be at present.

I think what we are discussing here is not really about UP, although it is a great inroad, but rather what does it mean to be a human being and how do we guide other little human beings in their journeys into and through life? In that discussion, issues of control, expectations, societal norms, our own experiences as children, punishment and rewards, relationships, etc..., will all be a part.

So, carry on.
joanna0707's Avatar joanna0707 04:14 PM 03-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post

So, from experiencing his personality, our whole family has begun a sort of self-freeing that we didn't even know about before, and that involves our children having the space and support to explore the whole spectrum of feelings and choices that come to them. Our 28 month old will often tell us that he's 'not being nice right now' so we have that as a warning that he's not meeting our expectations for treatment of ourselves. This might seem terrible, but it really works out nicely. We choose how we will deal with ourselves in the face of his not niceness and he learns what the actual consequences for his chosen actions really are (which includes still being loved and supported and that we don't change who we are when he explores his 'dark side').
wow, this is great, I love the idea of letting the children explore the whole spectrum of feelings and choices and dealing with ourselves in the face of children's not niceness
could you please share with us how you are doing this in more detail? what is your reaction when he decides he doesn't want to be nice?

the smiling thru the tears thing is similar to my DS asking for things nicely when he's upset or tired because I tell him there's no need to yell, it feels so fake sometimes
eko_mom's Avatar eko_mom 06:33 PM 03-30-2010
All of you thank you for your thoughtful replies. Kate and Preggie, yes that is just my line of thinking. The philosophy of embracing all the child, and not making her think that she has to be "good" to be an acceptable person, because we all have all kinds of emotions.

Yet, in the moment, say, when dd is uprooting the neighbor's flowers, and won't stop despite your requests, or won't discontinue jumping on the bed and screaming when you are trying to put the baby to sleep, or keeps running away from you in public places when you are trying to leave...what do you do then that is not punitive bodily or emotionally? I find myself getting so angry that I can't think straight...and then I know my own attitude is punitive. Exactly, what words, actions do you take right then?

We have had a pretty good run, no terrible twos or threes, and generally a very kind, thoughtful and sensitive DD, but lately (especially since the birth 10 mo. ago of her brother), chaos. Things got better, but now worse. Could coincide with this week being her first day of going to school on her own? (She's been going to preschool--but me and her infant brother have been accompanying her for the last 6 months until Wednesday.)

Its like I've lost my connection to her sometimes...I look at her and she's gone.
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 06:58 PM 03-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by joanna0707 View Post
wow, this is great, I love the idea of letting the children explore the whole spectrum of feelings and choices and dealing with ourselves in the face of children's not niceness
could you please share with us how you are doing this in more detail? what is your reaction when he decides he doesn't want to be nice?
I don't really do anything other than acknowlege them when they are choosing to be 'not nice' or whatever it is. Only ds4 will actually say out loud that he's not being nice right now, whereas the others just launch into something and expect that I'll notice. So for ds4, I just say, "Okay." He will usually then tell me not to talk to him in an angry voice and then I say, "Okay, after this I won't, but it's important to me that I tell you that I love you even when you're not being nice and I'll be ready to talk again when you are."

With the others, it's trickier. My response changes depending on what is happening with them. If they are throwing toys, for instance, in frustration, then I'll ask them to throw toys in their room rather than in the kitchen where they could land in our food/sink/stove/etc..., and if they refuse, then I might cover a pot on the stove, or remove all the food from the table/counter, etc..., and that sometimes means that we will have our meal later than anticipated.

I don't pretend like this is fine with me, and I tell them that their choice to throw toys in the kitchen is inconvenient for me because I had other plans for after our meal and now I will be choosing between serving the meal again or doing what I had planned for afterward since the time is passing either way and there isn't any extra time to make up for now. The three older ones have reconsidered every time I've told them this in situations where it is true, and have made different choices, like going to their room to throw toys, or more often, to change how they are behaving altogether, but not for seeking my approval; I reiterate their present choice as valid, even though they can see that I don't necessarily enjoy it; oftentimes it's pretty neutral for me though because our life is very slow-paced and there are not many constraints on my time, so I am sincerely not put out and they don't have any pressure to conform to my desires whatsoever.

That I am just now doing this is not optimally timed. If they had had the freedom to truly explore this stuff when they were younger, they would already have had a significant set of options by now, so I recognise that in the most ideal situation, my five yr old would have been finished with this stage of exploration when he was 2, if I had not trained so many 'nice' expectations into him then. Now, his exploration would be refined and he'd still be doing hings to test his limits and choices, but perhaps not so frequently doing things that our 28 month old does. So, now we're doing it now instead, and that's how it is for us.

I do see the youngest one resolving these things much earlier and it is a obviously directly related to the real experiences he is having without those 'nice' expectations that his brothers had at his age. I can see all four of them maturing all at once, going through all the stages slammed together and somewhat chaotically because they are trying to synthesize their relatively mature knowledge and understanding with immature emotions. So we're going about it as a crash course to bring everyone up to speed all at once, and that can be chaotic at times, but we are seeing the fruit of our willingness already.

I have a lot of options for my own responsive behaviours too, just like they do. I could start throwing things and screaming, but I don't because I have already determined that this is not the most beneficial response; I could leave the room if I wanted a more peaceful atmosphere and certainly if I thought my safety was compromised; I could ignore it, which I don't usually, unless that is my authentic response- as in what they are doing truly doesn't bother me at all; I could attempt to reason with them, which I do frequently, and more often than anything else; I could try doing something odd and bizarre to catch their attention and help them out of a grump, if that's what they really need; I could offer a solution to their problem if I know of one; etc....

At first, they were testing everything to see if my responses would remain consistent, but now we don't have many issues at all (and that didn't take long either!). They are gaining experiences to rely on so that they can predict with accuracy what would happen if they did xyz, and they have begun to talk to one another about it too, reminding each other of when they did xyz and abc happened. Their reasoning abilities which have always been advanced are now not just skill-wise advanced, but maturing at a very fast pace.

Our five yr old (ds2) is a bit volatile in general right now, and I think it's hormones or something growth-related, because he's very much like a weepy teenager, and I remember ds1 being this way a little earlier, but with similar emotional upheaval. We do a lot of playful parenting with him to help him out of his unprovoked grumps. That did NOT help ds1, though. He wanted to be left alone and would take himself to his room for a cry about once each day for a while. Just when I was beginning to be concerned about its frequency, it resolved and he's been level again ever since.

Myself, I don't pretend I'm feeling any way that I'm not, but I have also grown in my own self-understanding to a point where their behaviour doesn't make or break me. I have my own way of being that can withstand how others are without me wilting. I'm not entangled with their emotions, which has allowed me to be very connected and compassionate with them.

A while ago I could not distinguish my emotions from theirs, and the roller-coaster we were all on as a result was an insecure one overall. I would never have thought of myself as un-connected because I have always had such a deep empathy with my children, but that sort of empathic response was not what they needed and it was unhealthy for me too. This was a result of my own needs not being met in my childhood, and before I recognised it, I was taking what I needed from my children, and was sort of doomed to do that because my needs remained actually unmet, and there's no skipping past that, no matter how well-intentioned.

So, now (sadly in retrospect recognising that I've taken from my dc what my parents were supposed to give me) I am connected, sympathetic, also empathic, but not to the point of complete emptying out of myself like before, and I can be authentically me while they are authentically them and we can work things out as they arise. I am now in a place where I can actually meet their real needs and stop the cycle of deprivation that my children have also now been subject to. I can't change the past, but I can now rebuild with them what we all lost from our background and that is a real freedom!!!

So, what I do is to just be, and they can just be as well, without fear. If there's no risk of losing love or approval or anything else that we hold over one another, even seemingly benignly, in order to coerce behaviours that we prefer from others, then the exploration of our whole selves can be refined and mature naturally.

They are free to be who they choose to be, and I am too. Wherever we find conflicts in that, we can work through those.

This isn't just unconditional parenting to me; it is bigger and informs my whole life and all of my experiences. It is living authentically, and that means that I make my choices and move fluidly through life as others makes theirs too. Conflicts arise, and I do my best to navigate and negotiate if necessary, but never to control, coerce, punish or otherwise demand on others. It's never more immediate than in my relationships with my children and partner, though.

I think that it would be difficult or impossible to be an 'unconditional parent' but a 'conditional person' otherwise. Like in OP's situation, her dp thinks UP us a load of ___, which if it is separate from the rest of his perspective, could not make any sense at all, so he has to decide that either his whole worldview is a load of ___ or UP is, and since UP is new and not integrated, it is the likely target. So, it's always going to come up as issues of alignment, in each situation with every person, which is definitely how it happens for me, and not so much as a set of do's and don'ts and how-to's.

I don't know if that answers your question and I know I went way off-topic, but I hope it is at least heading toward the direction you were intending.
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 07:02 PM 03-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by eko_mom View Post
We have had a pretty good run, no terrible twos or threes, and generally a very kind, thoughtful and sensitive DD, but lately (especially since the birth 10 mo. ago of her brother), chaos. Things got better, but now worse. Could coincide with this week being her first day of going to school on her own? (She's been going to preschool--but me and her infant brother have been accompanying her for the last 6 months until Wednesday.)

Its like I've lost my connection to her sometimes...I look at her and she's gone.
I bet you this is a pretty significant set of reasons for her behaviour to be changing even above and beyond what is healthy for her as a growing and learning child. That's a lot of heavy things to deal with, for anyone.
Juvysen's Avatar Juvysen 07:43 PM 03-30-2010

eko_mom's Avatar eko_mom 09:26 AM 03-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
I don't really do anything other than acknowlege them when they are choosing to be 'not nice' or whatever it is...I reiterate their present choice as valid, even though they can see that I don't necessarily enjoy it;...so I am sincerely not put out and they don't have any pressure to conform to my desires whatsoever.
I aspire. You explain why a certain behavior is undesired without judging the behavior...? You think that being able to explore these behaviors and still being accepted and loved will eventually yield the cessation of the negative behavior? How do you teach them what is acceptable without being unaccepting? Here are some popular issues around here for DH--playing with food, being too loud/energetic/aggressive with the baby or while DH is on the phone, running away or scootering too far ahead on walks...


Quote:
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
So, what I do is to just be, and they can just be as well, without fear. If there's no risk of losing love or approval or anything else that we hold over one another, even seemingly benignly, in order to coerce behaviours that we prefer from others, then the exploration of our whole selves can be refined and mature naturally.

They are free to be who they choose to be, and I am too. Wherever we find conflicts in that, we can work through those.

This isn't just unconditional parenting to me; it is bigger and informs my whole life and all of my experiences. It is living authentically, and that means that I make my choices and move fluidly through life as others makes theirs too. Conflicts arise, and I do my best to navigate and negotiate if necessary, but never to control, coerce, punish or otherwise demand on others. It's never more immediate than in my relationships with my children and partner, though.

I think that it would be difficult or impossible to be an 'unconditional parent' but a 'conditional person' otherwise. Like in OP's situation, her dp thinks UP us a load of ___, which if it is separate from the rest of his perspective, could not make any sense at all, so he has to decide that either his whole worldview is a load of ___ or UP is, and since UP is new and not integrated, it is the likely target. So, it's always going to come up as issues of alignment, in each situation with every person, which is definitely how it happens for me, and not so much as a set of do's and don'ts and how-to's.

I don't know if that answers your question and I know I went way off-topic, but I hope it is at least heading toward the direction you were intending.
I feel like our whole worldview is so mired in how we were raised, and "didn't turn out that bad" that we just go to those ways of doing things, even though for me they don't feel authentic. And, honestly, my emotional life in particular has been greatly negatively impacted by coercion by my parents. I can't speak for DH. I feel like a big phony imposing sanctions and authority-coercion to "be good." It feels like I am treating dd like an animal not like a person. I am heartened that perhaps this could be a phase, that if handled authentically and allowing dd to explore her darker emotions will even out. If I can weather not only this, but the expectations and judgments of observers like the in-laws, my parents, and DH. Everyone is so sure that my "permissiveness" is the cause of the problems and will eventually lead to serious problems down the road.



Quote:
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
I bet you this is a pretty significant set of reasons for her behaviour to be changing even above and beyond what is healthy for her as a growing and learning child. That's a lot of heavy things to deal with, for anyone.
I think that the serious problems will come from losing my authentic connection with dd...in fact, I think that's what's happening now. The connection has been disrupted by the introduction of a new baby and the behaviors we are experiencing by dd are the tests. We are failing them by being conditional about our approval...
joanna0707's Avatar joanna0707 09:44 AM 03-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
Myself, I don't pretend I'm feeling any way that I'm not, but I have also grown in my own self-understanding to a point where their behaviour doesn't make or break me. I have my own way of being that can withstand how others are without me wilting. I'm not entangled with their emotions, which has allowed me to be very connected and compassionate with them.
Self-discovery and understanding is the first and most important step on the way to freedom you are experiencing with your children.
I'm not sure how to get started, how to finally free myself of all those years of coercion and false expectations and in result free my children and just be.
Any advice?
coffeegirl's Avatar coffeegirl 12:18 PM 03-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by eko_mom View Post
I aspire. You explain why a certain behavior is undesired without judging the behavior...? You think that being able to explore these behaviors and still being accepted and loved will eventually yield the cessation of the negative behavior? How do you teach them what is acceptable without being unaccepting? Here are some popular issues around here for DH--playing with food, being too loud/energetic/aggressive with the baby or while DH is on the phone, running away or scootering too far ahead on walks...
Personally I think it's crucial to judge the behaviour of our children; it's part of our jobs as parents. Children aren't born with 100% knowledge of how to behave or relate to others or how to control their emotions, you know?

Part of the acting out that your daughter is doing is because she's testing her (and your) boundaries. All children do this, and all children, to some extent, crave limits and structure. They can't put these limits on themselves because they don't know how. That's why we have to do it for them when they're so young. I believe, and I know from personal experience, that this can make them feel secure. And in time they learn to control and regulate their emotions and behaviors for themselves, learning from us. (I reason this out by understanding that the goal of parental discipline is to teach a child self discipline.)

To be honest, some of the tenants of UP seem to me like they could cause a lot of insecurity and anxiety in a child who might simply be looking for clear, firm guidance from their parents.
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 08:08 PM 03-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by eko_mom View Post
I aspire. You explain why a certain behavior is undesired without judging the behavior...? You think that being able to explore these behaviors and still being accepted and loved will eventually yield the cessation of the negative behavior? How do you teach them what is acceptable without being unaccepting? Here are some popular issues around here for DH--playing with food, being too loud/energetic/aggressive with the baby or while DH is on the phone, running away or scootering too far ahead on walks...
Being accepted and loved should be entirely distinct from behaviour, in my perspective. My children really can't do anything to lose those, even if they tried, so they are not choosing their behaviours according to what will guarantee continued love and what will likely not cause its end. Their choices can be more complex and provide greater information for them than just whether or not they're 'in the doghouse' with mummie or worse, no longer loved and accepted. Is it really validly called a choice when so much is at stake if they make the 'wrong' decision?

I think that children are atuned to the responses of their parents and that they know when I don't enjoy what they have chosen, so anything more than my sincere response- given that I am also matured and self-composed and healthy- is a form of punishment in the eyes of the child. I also think that what I perceive as negative behaviour has to be very tightly scrutinised and selected.

I don't think making noise is a negative behaviour, and being unable to quiet down while I'm on the phone isn't either- though my perception of that behaviour may be very negative. If I am on the phone, and my boys are rambunctious, I close myself into another room. My dc really do try to be quiet, but at their ages, only the 6 yr old has the impulse control and awareness that would yeild a truly quiet environment for me talking on the phone, and maybe not when he's in the middle of something loud and energetic.

To use more of your examples, I really think the behaviours you've described are not negative at all, but just normal for young children. Playing with food is only situationally irritating; sometimes playing with food is part of the meal (fondue, self-made pizzas, dips, etc, all seem like play to young children, ime) and other times it's not. We tell our children what sort of meal we're having and we are very lenient with things like mashed potatoes, which really beg to be molded and touched. Peas and other little foods are enjoyable to handle, and we don't find that upsetting either.

Something to consider is that in some cultures, it is rude to use utensils for one's own meal; utensils are only for serving and hands are for eating and feeding one another in ritual-like bliss- for the whole family, adults and children inclusively. I learned that at a friend's home when no cutlery was set out and everyone sat down to feed the person next to him/her with his/her hands.

Regarding running away or being inattentive to us when we're out or walking, is something that for a long time really burned dp. I had read The Continuum Concept and decided that my instincts were not up to snuff. So, I began not looking at my children all the time and using my other senses to know where they were. I also stopped calling after them when I was moving. It took them about five minutes to catch onto this, and that was about 4 yrs ago. I neeeeeevvvvver call my children in a store or out on a walk, unless it's a courtesy because I know they are engrossed in examining something, and then it's just, "_____, we're leaving," and we do; we don't wait.

They catch up immediately and we rarely say anything, but just go about our business and they just come, even when they've run off somewhere; their antennae are very acutely atuned and they can be at the opposite end of a long aisle and the millisecond that I begin to move toward turning the corner, they are already cheerfully hoofing it to catch up. And it's not an anxious thing at all; they love being trusted and having the freedom to explore, and they can do this while I'm doing what I'm there to do. They have personal challenges with this too, to see how far they can go and then return in what amount of time. I don't lose any of my children when we're out and they don't run into the roads or disrupt others.


Quote:
Originally Posted by eko_mom View Post
I feel like our whole worldview is so mired in how we were raised, and "didn't turn out that bad" that we just go to those ways of doing things, even though for me they don't feel authentic. And, honestly, my emotional life in particular has been greatly negatively impacted by coercion by my parents. I can't speak for DH. I feel like a big phony imposing sanctions and authority-coercion to "be good." It feels like I am treating dd like an animal not like a person. I am heartened that perhaps this could be a phase, that if handled authentically and allowing dd to explore her darker emotions will even out. If I can weather not only this, but the expectations and judgments of observers like the in-laws, my parents, and DH. Everyone is so sure that my "permissiveness" is the cause of the problems and will eventually lead to serious problems down the road.

I think that the serious problems will come from losing my authentic connection with dd...in fact, I think that's what's happening now. The connection has been disrupted by the introduction of a new baby and the behaviors we are experiencing by dd are the tests. We are failing them by being conditional about our approval...
I just wrote about how for generations before our parents, the typical sentiment with regard to raising children was that "my children will have it better than I did" but since our parents' generation, it has changed to, "I survived it, and turned out just fine, so my dc will too." What a HUGE paradigm shift. Rather than desiring to lay a strong foundation upon which our children can grow and live further, higher, better than us, we now think that whatever we survived is fine for them too- that they can pull themselves out the mess too, that they should struggle the way we did because it builds character and work ethic. I think that's ridiculous and cruel.

What then is my role? To make sure they suffer like I did? Given all of human history and this being such a recent sentiment, I am more inclined to trust the genuine desire that is in me, that happens to coincide with that of older generations, that my life will be a foundation for them so that they can spring off of it, and not have to reinvent the wheel that I did. I want them to actually progress from where I am and came from. And even if that doesn't end up happening for them, if I haven't at least made my best effort to prepare them, to set them up, then what was I doing all this time???

This is likely the perspective your inlaws have, and for that reason in my life, I have found it very easy to live as I do in spite of the disdain of others. I know that I am doing things in a way that is completely different than they did, and I expect entirely different results, so their upset and derision isn't really relevant to me. I anticipate it, but I know too much to even consider going backward, and that perspective is a regressive one, no matter how it is expressed or explained; it is not progressive and not healthy, imo.

You know that you are not aligned, which is why you are examining this in your life, so kudos to you for your courage and willingness to examine things and not be satisfied with whatever you have expereinced or are presently surviving. There is so much more to life than survival.
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 08:09 PM 03-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by joanna0707 View Post
Self-discovery and understanding is the first and most important step on the way to freedom you are experiencing with your children.
I'm not sure how to get started, how to finally free myself of all those years of coercion and false expectations and in result free my children and just be.
Any advice?
If I tell you what broke the last bit for me, it might not be well-received. I did spend an enormous amount of time reading and thinking and changing behaviours before I came to the point where my parents' behaviours/abuses were just stuck in my psyche; I couldn't shake them. I had already dealt with all of the reactions and triggers I had, but there was lingering shame, and what changed that for me was leaving the church... see? Not really helpful for others, necessarily.

BUT my worldview included that I was deliberately placed in the care of parents to endure their abuse so that something good would eventually come of it through me if only I'd be willing and surrender. When I left christianity, and thereby the doctrine of original sin and the idea that I would grow from my upbringing, I was free to recognise that no god deliberately put me there to learn anything, that their abuse was truly abuse, and that I didn't need to carry the shame I had as if it were a key to something I was supposed to learn, for instance because I would otherwise be arrogant as it was so delicately explained to me.

In the beginning of my self-discovery, I had some definite markers to start with, like being a child of addicts, which led me to finding out what the typical reactions are, and then weeding them out and replacing them with healthy ones through a lot of self-reflection and committment. I also read a lot of books that weren't really intended for healing, but that nonetheless effected healing for me because they helped me to align my thinking and emotions with healthy thinking and emotions and reset the template for myself so that my children wouldn't fall into my template and become addicts themselves (which is a very high likelihood statistically even though I have never been an addict). I read books in philosophy, anthropology and other cross-genre books dealing with similar things. I looooved The Continuum Concept because it solidified in my mind my mother-role and encouraged me to discover my inborn instincts for the first time, and I found they were there and intact, just unused!

I don't know really how someone else could start this journey for themselves other than to go where it leads. My path has been overall very meandering, but at times, was very focussed until I could move on. It took me forever to get through UP because the paradigm shifts necessary to grasp the concepts were sooooo vast and far-reaching that I could really only handle maybe a page per day. I can read 400 pages in a day with retention, to give you an idea of the enormity of thought and change that I had to undergo to read and grasp UP- such a slow pace for me!

Of course, that spurred me onto learning more about more things that I became aware that I was missing too, so I read books and reflected on those things too. Not to be diminished was my deliberate observation of my children too; they provided a lot of clues to me about what I needed to change and learn, as well as what I would now have to help them change because of how they had grown to respond to my unhealthy perspectives.

I spent a lot of time in self-reflection as well, listening to what I was saying and my tone and examining my intentions and their roots. It was huge, and still is, although now it is so much easier! It is like an unravelling so that now when I note something about myself, changing it is like moving a jar in the fridge to put something else in its place; it is routine and since one of the byproducts of my upbringing is a complete lack of nostalgia, I don't miss the thing I am rid of at all. I also have a personality that tends toward very immediate and forever committment to things I value, so I can decide that a behaviour isn't beneficial and then change it right then and forever. My dp doesn't have that ability, and this is much harder for him because of that, but he is still plodding along, doing his best, intermittently backsliding and then returning to his newer understanding and behaviours, and I think that is the more common experience.

I hope you find encouragment and support to go ahead with whatever you want to change! It is worthwhile, which I'm sure you have already determined.
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 08:34 PM 03-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeegirl View Post
Personally I think it's crucial to judge the behaviour of our children; it's part of our jobs as parents. Children aren't born with 100% knowledge of how to behave or relate to others or how to control their emotions, you know?

Part of the acting out that your daughter is doing is because she's testing her (and your) boundaries. All children do this, and all children, to some extent, crave limits and structure. They can't put these limits on themselves because they don't know how. That's why we have to do it for them when they're so young. I believe, and I know from personal experience, that this can make them feel secure. And in time they learn to control and regulate their emotions and behaviors for themselves, learning from us. (I reason this out by understanding that the goal of parental discipline is to teach a child self discipline.)

To be honest, some of the tenants of UP seem to me like they could cause a lot of insecurity and anxiety in a child who might simply be looking for clear, firm guidance from their parents.
I think I do understand where you are coming from and spent a lot of my life acting accordingly, but I've changed my perspective. With my own children and the shedding of my upbringing, I've seen that they are actually wired toward self-regulation, and that when I impose on them how they ought to feel and act, though in the moment it may 'work' in that both they and I feel better that the potential outburst is quelled, in the long run, they don't develop self-regulation strategies at all. What they do develop are mummie-pleasing, approval-oriented behaviours that are not authentic to them. They are so sensitive to my responses and reactions that I don't have to deliberately instill fear into them or impose limitations; their sensitivities to me are deep and they know when I am not happy with their choices.

This is nearly impossible to prevent, and I don't think it is necessary or beneficial to try to do so (because that amount, whatever it is, I think is the natural desire for and reciprocation of attachment), but I do think that whatever natural inclination they have for pleasing me is sufficient, and that it is not beneficial to pile on a bunch of extra in the form of my overtly expressed displeasure derived of my preferences.

I think you are right that children crave and need structure. I give that in abundance to them, but the structure I give is perhaps not the same structure you are referring to here. I don't make a bunch of rules and enforcements for them to follow. I do set my own personal boundaries and I am consistent with those because they are an authentic expression of my true boundaries, not synthetic society-pleasing ones, so I don't have to keep track of them; they are as much as part of me as my personality. I do not allow the degradation of human dignity in my home and will intervene if that is happening. This is admittedly a sort of imposition, but I think it reflects what everyone needs and if someone is not yet able to make that clear, then I am willing to do so on his/her behalf. When it is me, I make myself clear; when t is the baby, for instance, I make it clear on his behalf.

The structure we have in our home is relational, personal, and not at all mechanical or superimposed over our relationships and personal growth. It is hard to explain this without writing a book or experiencing it. Relating to your concern about children needing security and parental judgment to deal with their emotions and self-regulation, when our children experience the initial anxiety of not really being sure how to respond, I am there with them, being a sure support and sometimes even talking through options with them. They don't receive the instant no-growth instruction/imperative that 'structure' often implies, but they are certainly not set adrift or insecure. When they settle on something, the victory is theirs, and the life-experience is immediate and ingrained. If they were not happy with how it turned out, they gained the experience they needed to choose something else next time, and I'm there then too.

In either situation, they were supported and also personally responsible and responsive; this is the only real way to truly self-regulate; so-called self-discipline that comes from internalising the voice and commands of mum and dad is not self-discipline or self-regulation, but programmed or patterned response, and it is effective with dogs and and other loyal pets, and even appears to 'work' with humans, but I do not view it as healthy for human beings. It is a strange mix of Orwellian and Huxlian anti-human ideologies.

I don't think a human being is ever too young to begin the process of its own maturation, and the circumstances, if authentic, that my children experience from birth onward, will mirror or follow the natural curve of their maturation. What I mean is that they will have no dilemmas about tax reporting at age 2, nor will they be stuck in a room with someone who is trying to persuade them to steal shoes from the store. These things may come up in their lives, but they won't until they are actually equipped to handle them. I am in a position to ensure this of course, though, because my family free-learns and that means that we are together most of the time, if not all. In fact it's rare that we are not- and of course that does not mean we are isolated; we do entertain and go places too. Anyway, living authentically really is a whole-life thing, and much of the difficulties that we would otherwise have in regard to raising our children simply do not exist for us because of the choices we've made, and the ones we do have may be very different from those of others.

This maturation is very fluid, and I think that 'structure' as it denotes a mechanical undergirding or framework, is best suited to situations where fluidity is a liability, like in an airport, for instance. Schools and other institutions use it because they cannot handle true fluid human behaviour and experience, being that they are not human or organic in any way. In our family, however, there is ample room and support for just this, and a structure would indeed have to be a synthetic and mechanical imposition; it does not flow freely from our human experience and adds nothing- but even worse, takes away!

With regard to judgment, I think that very little of what a child experiences and chooses in normal circumstances truly exists within the realm of morality, which means that it is rare that any judgment is necessary or called for.

Much of what is considered 'wrong' by parents is really trangression of parental preferences, and many children are punished for this. It is not a moral issue that my child not stand on the table. I don't like it, it is not my preference, and I am happy to share my preference with my children about that- but it is not a moral issue and requires not judgment. Since this is my example, I'll follow it through. We have a large kitchen table- 4'x6'- and two of our children like to sit on it while they are all drawing because it means they can all be close and see what one another is doing. This is important to them and makes a lot of sense; they feel and are separated by sitting ont he benches because of their relative physical sizes. So, the compromise that we made was that the two younger ones may sit on the table when they are drawing, but they may not sit there if there is any food or drink on the table at all.

Because no moral issue was ever presented such as would be common -"but it is a moral issue that my dc don't do as I say when I'm the parent!"- we negotiated a way for all of us to meet our needs and even our preferences! If I had made a rule and enforcement regulations, then I would have changed this into something it really isn't and never need be. I didn't make a rule for them to transgress out of their own perceived need.

If I were to consider something less preference-specific like hitting, for instance, I am still left with it not being truly a moral issue in the experience of a child. As an adult, it has definitely become a moral and ethical issue, but for a child- a young one especially- hitting is a physical manifestation of emotion and not at all in the same category as true violence, which is the moral and ethical category that hitting belongs to for me, being mature and capable of distinguishing between my emotions and my actions. If my conscience were malformed or unformed through some neurological or other disorder, then I'd be in the same situation as the child.

So saying, I don't ignore hitting, but I don't treat it as a moral issue requiring judgment either. When my children hit one another, I intervene first by telling them to stop hitting, then by helping them sort out the emotions and thoughts that they were expressing through hitting that they can now address through talking. I don't ask them politely (as in with a please and thank you) or request that they stop, because I am not really open to a 'no' answer, so I don't pretend that I am. I tell them to stop directly. "Stop hitting immediately."

In this situation, I am not judging, but I am defending the well-being of the person being hit and attempting to assist the hitter in expressing his actual need instead of just hitting, which isn't addressing a real need; nobody needs to hit anyone.

In this situation, I am guiding them, but not judging them. I am judging their behaviour -hitting- as not as beneficial as talking (and hitting crosses over into the well-being of another person who needs security, and I am very willing to enact that for him); though I would call that discernment and not necessarily judgment, although the word use isn't as important to me as the meaning I intend. Also, as I wrote above, I am expressing the need for and eventual self-expressable personal boundaries of the one being hit. Eventually, I won't do that because they will all have matured to a point where they can express their own healthy boundaries.

I hope you see that there is no lack of discipline in my perspective, no permissiveness or laziness; rather I am diligently engaged with my family all day, while today I am nursing a rotten sinus infection and dp has taken over the chores. Wow, if I'd been doing the chores I usually do, I'd not have written all this... I do a lot of chores!!! I've still been in constant engagement with my children though. Huh.
Juvysen's Avatar Juvysen 09:18 PM 03-31-2010
Quote:
I just wrote about how for generations before our parents, the typical sentiment with regard to raising children was that "my children will have it better than I did" but since our parents' generation, it has changed to, "I survived it, and turned out just fine, so my dc will too." What a HUGE paradigm shift. Rather than desiring to lay a strong foundation upon which our children can grow and live further, higher, better than us, we now think that whatever we survived is fine for them too- that they can pull themselves out the mess too, that they should struggle the way we did because it builds character and work ethic. I think that's ridiculous and cruel.

What then is my role? To make sure they suffer like I did? Given all of human history and this being such a recent sentiment, I am more inclined to trust the genuine desire that is in me, that happens to coincide with that of older generations, that my life will be a foundation for them so that they can spring off of it, and not have to reinvent the wheel that I did. I want them to actually progress from where I am and came from. And even if that doesn't end up happening for them, if I haven't at least made my best effort to prepare them, to set them up, then what was I doing all this time???

This is likely the perspective your inlaws have, and for that reason in my life, I have found it very easy to live as I do in spite of the disdain of others. I know that I am doing things in a way that is completely different than they did, and I expect entirely different results, so their upset and derision isn't really relevant to me. I anticipate it, but I know too much to even consider going backward, and that perspective is a regressive one, no matter how it is expressed or explained; it is not progressive and not healthy, imo.
I love this perspective. I need to try and keep that in mind.
coffeegirl's Avatar coffeegirl 09:13 AM 04-01-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
<snip>
Much of what is considered 'wrong' by parents is really trangression of parental preferences, and many children are punished for this. It is not a moral issue that my child not stand on the table. I don't like it, it is not my preference, and I am happy to share my preference with my children about that- but it is not a moral issue and requires not judgment. Since this is my example, I'll follow it through. We have a large kitchen table- 4'x6'- and two of our children like to sit on it while they are all drawing because it means they can all be close and see what one another is doing. This is important to them and makes a lot of sense; they feel and are separated by sitting ont he benches because of their relative physical sizes. So, the compromise that we made was that the two younger ones may sit on the table when they are drawing, but they may not sit there if there is any food or drink on the table at all.

Because no moral issue was ever presented such as would be common -"but it is a moral issue that my dc don't do as I say when I'm the parent!"- we negotiated a way for all of us to meet our needs and even our preferences! If I had made a rule and enforcement regulations, then I would have changed this into something it really isn't and never need be. I didn't make a rule for them to transgress out of their own perceived need.
Thank you for taking the time to reply. A lot to think about that you wrote. First, one thing that is different that I don't have the hang of yet is the terminology. In some places it seems to me that we're really more on the same page than the previous, explanatory paragraphs you wrote would indicate, unless I'm not understanding the terms correctly. Let me ask about the hitting scenario...I understand you have 4 kids so you're speaking from direct experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
]
So saying, I don't ignore hitting, but I don't treat it as a moral issue requiring judgement either. When my children hit one another, I intervene first by telling them to stop hitting, then by helping them sort out the emotions and thoughts that they were expressing through hitting that they can now address through talking. I don't ask them politely (as in with a please and thank you) or request that they stop, because I am not really open to a 'no' answer, so I don't pretend that I am. I tell them to stop directly. "Stop hitting immediately."
You say you aren't judging the child here, but aren't you if you are essentially 'making' them stop? Yes, you're defending the dignity of the child being hit, but that means you're also necessarily making a judgement that the hitting child is offending the dignity of the child who's being hit. It's not an injurious judgement, it's common sense and it's necessary, you know? That's how I'm seeing it...otherwise, why will you not accept a 'no' answer to the 'stop hitting immediately' command?

Also, what you've described in your post...both the reasoning and the examples....would you describe this as Unconditional Parenting or no?
mamazee's Avatar mamazee 11:14 AM 04-01-2010
I think we're mixing up two different parenting philosophies here. One is Taking Children Seriously, where they don't coerce children in any way, as in a child throwing toys and not making them stop. But there is nothing in Unconditional Parenting that says you can't make the toy-throwing stop in some way, just that you can't use behavioral techniques (punishment, threat of punishment, bribes, rewards) to make it stop. But if a toy is being thrown, there's nothing wrong with saying, "It looks like you're having trouble with this toy. Let's play with something else now." It wouldn't be UP to say, "If you don't stop throwing the toy, no ice cream when we go out later." Or "That toy will have to go in time out until the weekend is over." But I think it's very compatible with UP to say, "Let me know when you're done throwing and you can have this toy back, but it's dangerous to throw this one. You could throw this soft ball instead if you're wanting something to throw."
coffeegirl's Avatar coffeegirl 01:12 PM 04-01-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post
I think we're mixing up two different parenting philosophies here. One is Taking Children Seriously, where they don't coerce children in any way, as in a child throwing toys and not making them stop. But there is nothing in Unconditional Parenting that says you can't make the toy-throwing stop in some way, just that you can't use behavioral techniques (punishment, threat of punishment, bribes, rewards) to make it stop. But if a toy is being thrown, there's nothing wrong with saying, "It looks like you're having trouble with this toy. Let's play with something else now." It wouldn't be UP to say, "If you don't stop throwing the toy, no ice cream when we go out later." Or "That toy will have to go in time out until the weekend is over." But I think it's very compatible with UP to say, "Let me know when you're done throwing and you can have this toy back, but it's dangerous to throw this one. You could throw this soft ball instead if you're wanting something to throw."
We very well might be mixing up two (or more) different parenting philosophies. Here's my difficulty...Seems like in any of these scenario that you mention, the parent is going after the same result: that the child stop throwing the toy.

Look at these two responses: "Let me know when you're done throwing and you can have this toy back, but it's dangerous to throw this one. You could throw this soft ball instead if you're wanting something to throw..." and "If you don't stop throwing the toy, I'm taking the toy away."

There doesn't seem to be any fundamental difference between these two approaches except that one of them is more straightforward and gets right to the point (that the toy won't be thrown anymore). Therefore, the first response seems to me to be rather disingenuous and manipulative, considering that the desired result is the exact same thing as the more clear, direct response.

This was sort of the difficulty/confusion I had with part of PreggieUBA2C's explanation and with some of the other examples of UP I've read here. I hope I can explain what I'm thinking in a coherent way. Basically, if you stop a child from doing something that they would otherwise do, I don't see how that's still not "controlling" the child to an extent. You are still making judgements and exercising your authority, no matter how much you try to distance yourself from those concepts. Otherwise, why would the child stop doing something that they wanted to continue doing? How is it that the child stopped? What happened to make the behavior stop? Parental intervention happened. So the impression this thread leaves me with is that when UP does appear to "work", it works sort of despite itself...Coercion is still used, it's just called something different and explained in different terms. Make sense?
eko_mom's Avatar eko_mom 01:32 PM 04-01-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeegirl View Post
Look at these two responses: "Let me know when you're done throwing and you can have this toy back, but it's dangerous to throw this one. You could throw this soft ball instead if you're wanting something to throw..." and "If you don't stop throwing the toy, I'm taking the toy away."

There doesn't seem to be any fundamental difference between these two approaches except that one of them is more straightforward and gets right to the point (that the toy won't be thrown anymore). Therefore, the first response seems to me to be rather disingenuous and manipulative, considering that the desired result is the exact same thing as the more clear, direct response.
I think that one response is accomplishing the root of why the child should stop--for safety, to prevent breaking something--and the other response is saying, I don't want you to throw the toy, I have more power than you, therefore you will stop.

The first response will allow them to create reasoning about the why and when of throwing things to a consequence (danger) and eventually internalize the reasoning where the second response just lets them know that they are powerless.

The first response would allow for the throwing--is the child discharging anger, or being playful--without judging the reason (and therefore the child--in the child's mind) for the throwing as "wrong" or "bad."

I think its about how the child sees your response, rather than what you intend (stopping the potential danger). Also, you have to search yourself. Are you just annoyed by the throwing and wanting to exercise your power and preferences over those of the smaller person?
To-Fu's Avatar To-Fu 01:40 PM 04-01-2010
You might also like reading/viewing some Gordon Neufeld to complement what you're doing with Unconditional Parenting. There is a particular DVD series called The Power to Parent:

http://www.gordonneufeld.com/booksvideos.php

It's very spendy and long, so I'd recommend seeing if you can borrow it from the library (what I'm doing ) or a friend. It has transformed the relationships of a lot of AP families I know where the parent feels like they have lost their roles as leaders/guides with their kids.

Looks like others have already chimed in with lots of great UC-centered advice!
eko_mom's Avatar eko_mom 01:43 PM 04-01-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeegirl View Post
We very well might be mixing up two (or more) different parenting philosophies. Here's my difficulty...Seems like in any of these scenario that you mention, the parent is going after the same result: that the child stop throwing the toy.
BTW Coffeegirl, thanks for your replies, because you are my devil's advocate saying some of the same things that my DH does, and we are having a hard time having a meeting of the minds. And, of course we never have the kind of time to make insightful responses to one another in the moment or have long philosophical discussions about it.
eko_mom's Avatar eko_mom 01:46 PM 04-01-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by To-Fu View Post
You might also like reading/viewing some Gordon Neufeld to complement what you're doing with Unconditional Parenting.
Thank you To-fu. I love LOVE his HOLD ON TO YOUR KIDS book. Thanks for the tip. Yes, I think I recognize now the detachment and how he talks about it in his book. That is exactly what I think is happening.
hakeber's Avatar hakeber 01:49 PM 04-01-2010
I think I agree with you, Coffee Girl.

From what I can see it's just NVC for the parent child relationship.

The problem is that it CAN come across as holier-than-thou parenting, when in reality it is just non-violent with lots of talking about feelings and needs and what actions can be taken to meet the needs and make the feelings good instead of bad.

I think it has the danger of becoming anarchy when in the hands of a parent who doesn't have the self-awareness to follow through. It is a method that it seems requires total consistency (I would gather from both parents) or the results could be disasterous.

OP: this is a totally normal phase, but it signals a need to clarify the social boundaries of your home. Of course you don't deny love and acceptance, but you can make it clear what is and is not acceptable BEHAVIOR without denying acceptance to the person acting out. You CAN draw the lines of what they can and cannot do, explaining why and what will happen if they do, not as a threat, but as a reality of the natural consequences.

I have found in this last year giving my DS PHYSICAL boundaries has helped him to visualize and he feels safe with that boundary, and being able to see those boundaries helps him to trust the other boundaries we have drawn for our family, especially as he gets older and socializes with other kids and learns about other boundary systems. He wants to know all the more where the boundaries are and WHY and what will happen if he crosses the boundaries. Then he feels he has the freedom to choose his actions with all the information.

I think UP is much more about clear communication and natural consequences, which can be very hard for parents to do, especially if they are emotionally bottled up themselves.

ETA: It sounds like your DH is concerned about the inherent vulnerability of UP. The parents involved will necessarily need to be aware of their own feelings and able to express them in a healthy and clear way in order both to model that and to help their children get to the bottom of their own feelings and how they are affecting their choices. It is not an easy task and can scare the bejeezus out of many adults who have spent a life time keeping their feelings a mystery.
mamazee's Avatar mamazee 02:08 PM 04-01-2010
UP doesn't mean not controlling actions that are causing some kind of harm. It is about not using behavioral techniques, and that's all it's about. Part of the bigger picture is looking at what behaviors actually need to stop and what behaviors we're just conditioned to not like but really aren't a problem, but still throwing something where someone could get hurt or something will likely break is a something I would stop. I would not punish or use rewards. The end result is that the toy is taken away, but it's about how the child interprets it. If you're doing it in way where the child feels punished by the toy being taken away, then it still has the same effect. But if the child just feels that a safer option has been given and the toy is still there when he/she wants it, then it doesn't have the same effect. It's a case-by-case thing on how to handle things, and I try to pay close attention to how my kids are reacting. There have even been a couple of times where I've said to my older dd "I'm not trying to punish you. I just don't want X broken. Does this feel like a punishment? Because if it does then we need to find another way to solve this problem." And then she and I will work on it.
Starflower's Avatar Starflower 07:52 PM 04-01-2010
Subbing. This thread seems really interesting but I am too tired to read it all right now.
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 09:52 PM 04-01-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeegirl View Post
Thank you for taking the time to reply. A lot to think about that you wrote. First, one thing that is different that I don't have the hang of yet is the terminology. In some places it seems to me that we're really more on the same page than the previous, explanatory paragraphs you wrote would indicate, unless I'm not understanding the terms correctly. Let me ask about the hitting scenario...I understand you have 4 kids so you're speaking from direct experience.

You say you aren't judging the child here, but aren't you if you are essentially 'making' them stop? Yes, you're defending the dignity of the child being hit, but that means you're also necessarily making a judgement that the hitting child is offending the dignity of the child who's being hit. It's not an injurious judgement, it's common sense and it's necessary, you know? That's how I'm seeing it...otherwise, why will you not accept a 'no' answer to the 'stop hitting immediately' command?

Also, what you've described in your post...both the reasoning and the examples....would you describe this as Unconditional Parenting or no?
I think that the term 'unconditional parenting' has an in-group understanding, and can be very misunderstood because of that. If you have not read the book by the same name, and especially if you are not familiar with behaviourism (B.F. Skinner et al), then the term may have only a denotative meaning to you, which may be what's happening here (though please correct me if that's not the case). It is a phrase that is used to encapsulate an entire segment of a fully formed/distinct philosophy. It is entirely connotative- it comes with a larger meaning than the words themselves would on their own.

It does not mean 'unconditional' as in no conditions are placed on the life of a parent and child and family. The unconditionality being referenced in the phrase used for shorthand in substitution of the whole philosophical position (UP), refers to the total openness, respect and dignity afforded each person in a relationship, the maintenance of foundational relationship regardless of behaviour- so essentially, complete love and acceptance regardless of the child's behaviour. It grew from the study of punishment and rewards which comes from the study and practice of behaviourism.

I am an 'unconditional parent' in the sense that I do not hold a carrot on stick for my children; they have no patterned responses based on my direct training of them to enact such responses from them like a pigeon in a lab who turns its head to the left every time it wants food because it did that once and was rewarded with food (although it happened to be random and the pigeon imagined the link, but nonetheless, it serves to exemplify the tendency in thinking creatures to do this, and the necessity for not imposing such training on one another). Certainly a rat given food every time it rings a bell and refused the food if it touches a swatch of fabric hanging in its cage is a more direct example of what I do not do with my children or anyone else.

My love and acceptance are unconditional, but my personal boundaries and upholding of human dignity are intact, and I will intervene where necessary and enact and uphold overarching principles in my home as they align with human need and the whole spectrum of beneficial human interraction and needs-meeting. I am not powerless, and likewise, neither are my children. I am not pacifist, and I do not require that of my children either. We do not live in ignorant bliss or as in The Lord of the Flies; we are connected and intuned with one another and the world we live in as well.

In all of this, however, I do not bribe them through their tender emotions and desires for connection with coercive behavioural tactics. For example, I will and do simply state that true violence is not acceptable in my home and harms all of the world (my children are presently not capable of such a thing as true violence, they will become so later on); I will stop it with conviction, and disallow its continuance (though violence doesn't actually occur in my home; I just can't think of something that grave at the moment that does, if anything); this is not outside the realm of UP, at all.

Colloquially, there are conditions to being able to maintain a peaceful relationship with me personally, and those are what I would sum up as my personal boundaries and certain of my values (human dignity and others similar to it). If someone deliberately trangresses those, even if my own dc, then we will have things to negotiate and discuss, but even then, my love is not withdrawn, and my acceptance of them remains. The behaviours that trangress my boundaries are not accepted, though, and I think it is very simple to make that distinction in almost every circumstance in an attached relationship. This has nothing to do with my preferences though, to be clear; that is a distinct issue from this one, for me.

There are parents who practice radical unschooling (RU) and they have a more open view of parenting than I do, but I cannot discuss that position as well as someone who practices it, so I won't try because the distinctions are just as hair-splitting with RU, and I'm just not equipped to do it justice. But, if you could discuss RU with someone with experience, you would see some of the distinctions between what you are concerned about and UP, oddly. Namely, that children are not directed but rather trusted to sort out the world on their own according to an innate ability to do so, with which you disagree, as do I (personally, but I think people who practice it gain what they need through it) , but to different degrees, it seems.

As regards judgment, perhaps it is just a use of words issue, so to clarify my own use of it, I relegate judgment to the realm of morality and nowhere else. This is because judgment is definitionally final, which in any other arena of human experience would render it superfluous, gratuitous, or just irrelevant, so I keep it for morality, where it can actually be final; a judgment that is subject to change according to my preferences is no judgment at all, imo.

For every other far more common experience in human life, where I am faced with a choice, I would call the tenure of my response discernment because it allows for a lot of freedom, leeway, and margin for error that can reasonably be corrected within the definition of discernment. My discernment can be incorrect and can be corrected; if I make a judgment, and it is not correct, then it cannot be rightly considered a judgment since it lacked finality. Not so with discernment.

Examples that differentiate would be as follows:

Judgment: My neighbour hitting me is a form of violence (moral and ethical issue) and is ultimately, finally, wrong (always will be wrong, does not change, does not allow for or require further input).

Discernment: My child hitting his brother hurts them both and there is something upsetting him (non-moral, needs-based expression requiring my assistance). The hitting must stop as it interferes with both childrens' sense of security, so I must intervene (does not make any final judgment of the child or the behaviour, but does allow for the need to be met and the potential for resolution to the precipitating problem, whatever it was; also subject to correction and change according to further information and changing circumstances; anticipates further input).

That is my own preference for the use of those terms and it really is a philosophical/semantic issue, admittedly, and perhaps that's going much further than you wanted to, but it would be helpful to me if you'd allow me that latitude- I really have to make that distinction in order to keep my own thinking in alignment. I am happy to take your meaning over your word choices where they differ from mine, of course, as I am asking the same of you here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeegirl View Post
Basically, if you stop a child from doing something that they would otherwise do, I don't see how that's still not "controlling" the child to an extent. You are still making judgements and exercising your authority, no matter how much you try to distance yourself from those concepts. Otherwise, why would the child stop doing something that they wanted to continue doing? How is it that the child stopped? What happened to make the behavior stop? Parental intervention happened. So the impression this thread leaves me with is that when UP does appear to "work", it works sort of despite itself...Coercion is still used, it's just called something different and explained in different terms. Make sense?
I hope that my brief explanation of behaviourism above will address some of what you've written here. As above, the contradiction exists in what seems to be your denotative understanding of the term 'unconditional parenting.' Stopping the child from causing another harm is not ipso facto controlling him/her. It can be, and as pp wrote, intention matters a lot, as does the child's perception of the parent's actions toward him/her.

If I swiftly and gently grab my 28 month old as I see him about to haul off and whack his brother in the back of the head because his toy was misplaced, and proceed to tickle him into a happy frenzy, I am interfering, and I have absolutely controlled the behaviour (hitting) and I am exerting control over him by tickling him (causing involuntary physical responses), but both of these are quite distinct from controlling the child himself in the way that would normally be termed 'controlling'.

I think the use of the word 'control' in this instance is gratitutous. I would see this as relational persuasion , like putting my hand around my son's shoulders when he's feeling a bit upset and needs my support, giving him something else upon which to focus, should he be receptive and choose to do so, and from which to derive his need. I suppose it could be considered a soft form of control, but of course, as above, my love and acceptance of him remain intact, and are thereby still unconditional (UP). If this is viewed as control, then any relation with anyone is also a form of control and to distinguish that from overt power-mongering, we'd have to use different words altogether.

Coercion, though having many definitions, in the context of UP, is used to denote the compulsion of another under threat, as in, "if you do/don't, then I will withdraw my love and acceptance/punish/reward you." It does not assume the impotence of the parents or an absence of need of the child for direction from his/her parents.

If I were in discussion with RUers, the discussion would likely take a very similar form. Hair-splitting is very difficult! What solidifies the distinctions and realities of this for me is living it. Discussing it misses most of what it is in actual experience, but I find it still very beneficial to discuss; it helps everyone who is interested to rarify his/her ideas/thoughts/perspectives/etc....

So, thank you for keeping at this! I never find myself not in need of some rarifying!
PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 10:07 PM 04-01-2010
I wanted to add that given that UP is a philosophical position, the practice of it will vary quite dramatically over the whole spectrum of parenting that would be classified within it, much like gentle parenting (UP fits within GP) or other philosophical positions.

There are obvious inclusions and exclusions of behaviour and intention that span the whole spectrum, but you'll find that my particular actions will seem a lot less directive than some others and a lot moreso than some others. There is a lot of freedom within UP. I'm somewhere on the spectrum, but where I diverge from the principles into describing my actions, I 'speak' only for my family, respecting the differences between us and other families, of course.
1 2 

Up