Changing gears w/o stripping them - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 12-18-2001, 03:16 AM - Thread Starter
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OK, I know that TCS advocates speaking hypothetically, but I need advice here, therefore I will spell out the situation as I see it. Here goes...

My 7.5 y/o son did not have the benefit of a wise, informed mama for much of his life. I read mainstream magazines and thought I had much improved over my own parents b/c I vowed never to spank. Anyway, my partner and I split up when DS was only 20 mos and he doesn't remember us as a family. In many ways, I see that DS did not get to have a normal toddlerhood b/c of this - he was such a good little guy until about age 5, when he began kindergarten (is that a BIG HUGE CLUE that I have successfully ignored for three years now?) and the teacher complained about his behavior not being up to her standards. BTW, also at this time I changed jobs, bought a house, got pregnant, quit school, and got married, roughly in that order. Much stress at home!

Anyway, now that I have DD, I have really tried to become more informed and heal my own wounds from the past so that I can prevent my children from inheriting them and passing them on to future generations. I feel bad for not knowing any better and being less-than-ideal with DS. I find it difficult to completely change the way we relate to each other, even though new methods would benefit us both.

My question is, can one change course midstream without causing a mutiny or having a family member abandon ship? If anyone has done this, please advise w/ concrete examples how you navigated this shift. Did you meet w/ resistance from the older child? Did child try to engage parents in old (ineffective) behavior patterns and how did parents handle this? Any and all responses will be greatly appreciated.
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#2 of 6 Old 12-18-2001, 10:45 AM
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I didn't run into TCS until my youngest was oneish, and then it took me awhile to process it and to get to the point where it made sense to me, so that I could translate it into action.

I think we all have unrealistice expectations- how could we not?- when we have our first child, and make lots of mistakes and learn tons from the experience. Part of taking ourselves seriously is to recognize that we have done the best we could with the information and experience we had at the time. We have learned and grown and will continue to, with the information and experience and creativity that we can summon up and the new knowledge we can create, using all the resources we can think of. This is a great and positive thing.

When a person is ready to/has made the shift to the TCS paradigm, I think the first thing to do is to apologize for the coercion they have perpetuated upon their children, and state their intention to avoid coercion in the future. Since each person will have their own journey of understanding about what Taking Children Seriously is all about, ime it will take some time and information sharing and experience for family members to understand about what coercion is, how to find common preferences and to trust in that process. this will sort out differently in each family. The kids might hear 'get what you want' and stay stuck on that for awhile. Who wouldn't, if the order of the day had been to be regularly thwarted? (or some variation thereof)

I don't think that people who have grown up not being helped to get what they want, are able to even know what they want with any certainty. It takes some work, to get to know that about one's self. The kids will also need to learn how to know what they want. And, preferences change, sometimes from minute to minute. And it's ok to change preferences, people do it all the time. Change is good, change is growth and learning.

It is a journey of discovery, and each person is responsible for their own self, their own feelings and actions. Parents cannot live thier children's lives for them. It is intense involvment, for parents and children. Ime, it is essential to understand what coercion is and to be committed to avoiding it and finding better solutions to problems, through finding common preferences. Even when we fail, over and over, to find the common preference, to keep looking and engaging creativity and keep gathering information to help one refine one's theories. Entrenched theories can be quite resistent, and delving into them can be painful, but dismantling them and figuring better theories is immensely freeing and improves life and relationships drastically. It is a worthwhile journey.

TCS is a process, not a method. This is, I think, part of the change in world view that happens when learning about TCS. There is no magic formula, the way of living will be different for each person. The recognition that coercion is wrong, to inflict upon one's self or one's child, is a profound realization, and has a huge effect upon how a person will live and relate to their loved ones. The opening of one's mind, to all the potential solutions, is a beautiful and positive thing.

So, while I am waxing philosphical, you are wanting concrete examples. Hmmmm. I warn against a parent taking the full responsibility for avoiding coercion upon their own shoulders. Get all the help you can from the other people involved in any conflict. 'I know there is a good solution to this problem. What can it be? Please throw out any ideas you have!' and brainstorm any and all of the most ridiculous solutions you can come up with. You never know where the seed of a solution will come from. The more input you have, the better.

parent has to be willing to change hir preference, just as the kids must be willing to. Initially, a person who has been coerced might want to cling to their first preference; they might feel that this is their only chance to get what they want and they are not going to let go of it. A parent might have to bend over backwards in order to convince child that parent is serious about helping child get what they want. When working TCS into their lives, many parents find that they end up self-sacrificing for a short time, in order to build up trust with their child. Now, self-sacrifice is not a virtue, it is another form of coercion and as such is potentially damaging. Recognizing when one is self-sacrificing, and working towards finding even better solutions so that self-sacrifice does not become a default and so backfire on the whole effort (parent explodes in anger- has a tantrum- from not getting what they want), is a part of growing and learning with TCS in one's life, imo.

I think that parents and children in families that are discovering TCS, will continue to use old behaviors until new ones make sense to them. Recognizing the old patterns, pulling them out in the light of day and talking about them, dismantling them, analyze what these behaviors are trying to accomplish, and then brainstorming better ways to get what they want, ways that do not hurt anyone in the process, will help such families to learn and grow together, and vastly improve their lives both individually and together.

Very best wishes, paula_bear. There is a way to avoid passing on our entrenched theories to our children- or at least, having begun the passing on process, that we can stop it and help our children- and ourselves- to be able to work through the entrenchements and create better theories, to be able to think clearly, to recognize the problems in the conflicts of life and to be able to find good solutions to them.

Everyone who has come upon TCS theory- including Sarah Lawrence, the originator of much of the theory- has come from coercive beginnings. This is a new and radical shift in the way people in intimate relationships can relate to each other. We have all had to begin exactly where we are, and to move forward from there. Don't beat yourself up over what has been, forgive and move forward. Guilt is a waste of energy. We can do better.
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#3 of 6 Old 12-18-2001, 12:54 PM
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I'm at work now so I don't have too much time to respond. I will post some ideas soon. But I wanted to say that speaking hypothetically doesn't mean that it didn't really happen. It means that we are making the situation look hypothetical so that our children wouldn't be able to recognize themselves in our posts. Sometimes it is something that we saw with other children that are not our own or something that someone posted somewhere else. But this way no one will be embarrassed by what was said, and the liklihood that a poster will be offended by criticisms is lessened.

I read this a few nights ago on the TCS website:


There are many reasons for this. Children often feel angry or embarrassed later by things their parents have written about them. I have heard from a number of children whose parents have written about them publicly, and they all strongly resent it. Moreover, in a few cases, the children had not objected to their parents writing about them at the time; it was only later, when they were teenagers and young adults, that they started feeling embarrassed and angry about it. In another case, I am told that the person written about felt very uncomfortable about it at the time, but didn't feel able to tell the parent. Knowing that one's behaviour is going to be subject to public discussion (even if this contains only praise) can be extremely burdensome.

Another very important reason is that writing about your children can cause you to ‘objectify’ them in your mind. This can be a very damaging source of coercion. For further details, see my article, Beware the Curriculum Mentality.

TCS List posters use various devices to avoid even the possibility that the List will end up as a forum in which particular children's minds are publicly dissected. For instance, TCS List posters hypotheticalise anything they want to say about their children (or any other children) in such a way that the children will be unable to recognise themselves in the post.

Even when writing about yourself, consider phrasing your post in a hypothetical form. This will make it much less likely that your post will attract replies painfully picking apart your life. When discussions become personal, it can be very unpleasant for the person whose life is being discussed. Taking a little time and effort to phrase your post in a hypothetical form is well worth doing in order to avoid such unpleasantness. TCS List posters have found that far from making the TCS List useless in terms of helping people solve their problems, keeping discussions depersonalised in fact facilitates much deeper and more helpful discussion than would otherwise be possible.

Use hypothetical forms of words such as “If X were to happen, then...” or “Suppose such-and-such were to happen... What would a TCS parent do/think/say?/How would TCS explain that?/Wouldn't that prove that coercion is necessary?” or “I want to raise an issue that I think many parents worry about. How might a TCS parent deal with [such-and-such an issue]?” Use hypothetical forms such as “Suppose such-and-such were to happen...” or “I want to raise an issue that I think many parents worry about. How might a TCS parent deal with [such-and-such an issue]?”

For example, suppose your 8-year-old daughter is being bullied by the other children at her Judo class, and you want advice about this situation from TCS-minded people. Even so, there is no need to mention specifics. Almost certainly, you can hypotheticalise it by posting something like “Suppose 6-year-old Billy was being picked on by the children at his swimming class...” and so on. Even with the changed details, you are likely to get helpful answers. But if everyone starts going off at a tangent about the changed details – the swimming pool, or the age or sex of the child – simply post a further message saying “OK, well suppose it was an Art class instead of a swimming lesson. What would you say about that?” Or “Well imagine that it was a ten-year-old instead. – wouldn't that change things in such-and-such a way?” And so on.
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#4 of 6 Old 12-18-2001, 05:28 PM
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Change is always hard and it can't happen overnight. My first advice would be to be gentle on yourself as well as your children. You'll make mistakes, as we all do. There will be times when you just can't think of a solution and you'll want to revert back to "good 'ole coercion" ;-)...But I *promise* that if you stick with it and really open your mind to possible solutions, it *will* get easier and easier and more and more rewarding. Larsy is right, I think, to advise that many parents find themselves self-sacrificing at first in order to gain their children's trust. But rather than seeing this as self-coercion, it might help if you think of it as a chance to explore *your* desires and creativity as well. I'll give you an example:

Before we discovered TCS, we had problems with our child's bedtime. We tried introducting a routine, but found that s/he would balk at the very first sign that bedtime was imminent. We tried lying down with hir. We tried massage. We tried herbal teas and aromatherapy. We had a family bed, so thought perhaps s/he wanted hir own bed (didn't work). We were frustrated because we *really* wanted time together in the evenings. Once we were convinced that we really had no right to force our child to bed, we made tremendous discoveries; not only about our child, but also about ourselves. At the beginning, we reluctantly "let" our child stay up with us. But we discovered that we were simply spending out time *waiting* for hir to fall asleep, often one or both of us falling asleep before s/he did ;-). After getting to understand TCS a bit better, we began really spending that time together as a family. Sometimes we would go for night walks (which gave my dh and I time to talk), sometimes we would play games or listen to music, sometimes one of us would do some work or watch a movie while the other spent time with hir. We found that we really enjoyed this time together! In fact, we had more time to talk and connect now then we did when we were spending our evenings struggling to get hir to bed :-). And, yes, at first s/he stayed up until s/he simply passed out with exhaustion and s/he would be short-tempered the next day. We would remind hir of this later, suggesting that s/he might want to go to sleep when s/he gets tired. We would comfort hir when s/he was easily frustrated. Sometimes we would share our own experiences of being tired and short-tempered after staying up too late. But we never pressed it. We never said "I told you so" (though it was tempting!). We didn't predetermine how each evening would go. We found common preferences each time, depending on the desires of each of us rather than only mine and my dh's desires. And after awhile, s/he began to understand hir own body and hir own need for sleep. We began to understand how precious *any* time together can be. And we discovered that living in happiness and harmony is *so much better* than struggling to exert our will on another human being.

I hope this helps :-)

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#5 of 6 Old 12-18-2001, 07:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you larsy, k'smami & Netty, for your thoughtful replies. I find that info very useful. I will make an effort not to talk about my children in the forums, but to learn how to hypothecize each situation for which I am asking advice. Deep down, I know that is right - I asked myself how I would feel if dh discussed our married life on a public forum, and voila! I had my answer to that one!

I have learned to be very patient w/ myself. I am not nearly as critical as I used to be, and I find when I treat myself gently, that quality spills over into my relationships w/ the rest of the world, especially those I hold dearest. I look forward to learning more about TCS - I read all the info from their website and have subscribed to their e-list. I will apply things as I learn them to the best of my ability and try to keep an open mind and a willingness to see the truth. I feel very excited to have found such a wonderful group of gentle people and I feel these discussions really nourish my spirit.
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#6 of 6 Old 12-19-2001, 04:19 PM
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im no help

but i will say that 'mainstream' magazines are more about AP than you might think.

"Mothering" is the only magazine that I have found that is tolerant of different choices.

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