As an old [in all senses] Montessori teacher, I’ve got my biases on this topic but there’s some evidence to support it. This is the perspective: I do not think human children have different learning… More
After the birth of my youngest daughter’s first child, I wrote that, though I understood that crying is essential for adults and children, with infants it’s wise to comfort, rock, and walk them when they cry.
I think different now that I am with my daughter and her second baby. This time around, after she checks for everything: diaper, nursing, comfort in all ways, and the baby continues to cry, she holds her and listens. Usually the little one will cry for two to ten minutes with the deepest strongest baby wails and then she is finished. She will either sleep or nurse and be very relaxed.
I remember as a young mother hating the practice of leaving an infant or older baby to cry alone in its crib. I still do. This is different. The trusted caretaker holds the baby, looks at her, makes comforting sounds, but allows the baby to finish the crying.
It’s easier on both the mom and the baby.
I am convinced that everyone without exception is eager to do right, to think well, and to connect to others. Donald Trump is no exception. Due to the harshness in his early life, the bad information he’s absorbed, and his owning class life style, his actual impact on the world has been the disaster we see.
Surrounded by people of his choosing as deluded as he is, there’s no way for him to gain insight or even information. Everyone who has understanding and ability to think about the current situation hates him. It’s a rare human who can learn from those who look at us with contempt and outrage. He’s stuck. I am convinced what he needs is someone who is able to think well, who has perspective and information and who can actually like him. The Dalai Lama? Thich Naht Hahn? The pope? [I think the pope might already be in the first category]. Any suggestions?
I have four children myself, now all grown with their own children. Here’s my two cents on making this decision: We live in a time and place where most every family is so isolated that two opposing unreconcilable forces are created–the first is the difficulty in raising even one child in our isolated families. We currently do not have the Haudenasaunee long house filled with grandmother and aunts and uncles and cousins or any of the other systems that non-industrial peoples figured out to raise children together. So having even one child is often an overwhelming and sometimes unworkable possibility.
The other force, also stemming from the isolation, but pushing us in the opposite direction, is our longing to be part of a supportive community. We want to create our own little society by having as many children as we can possibly manage without going mad.
I have a tentative theory as to why our society has moved in this direction. Most native american cultures did not correct, criticize, or hit their children. They were appalled at the way europeans did. I wonder if our culture’s habits along those lines caused the development of this isolated life style. We “chose” isolation over attack.
Of course I would not send any of mine back. I love them dearly; now, forty years later, we provide support for each other, but that’s different from the reality of the forces that shape our decision to have a child.
So my thought is, if you have one child, consider how to build community with other families and take your time in making the decision.
People talk about going back to real values. Where do people want to go back to? robber baron capitalism and child labor? slavery? feudalism? I’m inclined to go back to hunter-gatherer times in some regards, perhaps making me the real reactionary. Let’s take the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois]. They relied both on agriculture and hunting and gathering but they are the group I am most familiar with.
They were matriarchal; a man came to the woman’s long house on marriage and went back to his group if divorced. Only men served on the governing counsel but the elder women chose the men, and removed them if they were not satisfied. Resources were shared; no one lived in poverty. All decisions were made considering its impact on the next seven generations, which would remove most of the energy choices we’ve made in the last 60 years.
The Haudenosaunee did not hit their children –they were appalled when they observed the Europeans beating their own young people–and the children were educated by all members of the group.
Less lovely aspects of their society existed but all in all I think I’ll take what they had.
#1: Don’t criticize. It’s hard. Most of us who are old enough to have adult children were raised with plenty of it. It’s our default modus operandi.
Here’s the motivation to make an effort to break the habit:
–Think of times when you were able to shift a less than stellar behavior; what caused the shift? a caring friend? AA? a book? a class? a good teacher? Mostly, if not 100%, it wasn’t from even accurate criticism. Our parents and less exemplary teachers’ habits of attack are not the treasured traditions we should feel compelled to follow.
And here’s some suggestions on how to break the habit:
–I’ve got a friend who writes down every critical thought that comes to mind and then burns it.
–When I first started practicing this when my children were young, a wise parent educator told us to cry when we wanted to yell at our children. It’s a good idea for several reasons. Our crying doesn’t undermine our children’s self-esteem (as long as we’re careful to let them know it has nothing to do with them) and it unloads the actual feelings that pull us to attack.
–call a friend who will not confuse your critical feelings with the defect of the young people and will just listen.
I’m calling myself an expert here as three of my four adult children chose to live very close to me and their father with their families and the fourth WISHES she did. There may have been a few other factors but I am convinced this one is the deal breaker.
The short answer is to ensure that every child’s needs are filled. And THAT means supporting the families they’re nurtured in. Here’s why. There is nothing wrong with anyone’s brain. Our brains are a result of millions of years of evolution. No one is hardwired to “need” drugs, alcohol [or psychiatric meds for that matter; that’s another article]. What human children need is physical closeness at birth and on, good food, relaxed and loving families and good education. Its lack pulls people toward chemical fixes. If we do the following we’ll come a long way towards ending the endless, fruitless war on drugs.
- Make sure every family has a minimum income that can sustain a life of dignity. People have written about this for centuries [Abu Bakr in the years shortly after Mohammed’s life, instituted a minimum income to all families under his reign]. Several countries are taking stabs at it right now. There’s plenty of substantiating evidence connecting poverty to bad outcomes for children.
- Make sure every child has access to a great school. Finland is a good model of a country whose priority in education is equity; the U.S. is not. The public schools in NYC, one of the richest cities on earth, has a school system that middle class families don’t use. A huge outpouring of resource is needed to fix that problem but probably not as much as currently required to support, imprison, and heal the adults who grow up without that strong education.
We’ve easily got the resource. A small portion of our military spending [https://ourworldindata.org/military-spending/] or a slight adjustment to the unequal distribution of wealth could provide it. Of course ending racism and the unholy devotion to accumulating wealth our economic system encourages might be a prerequisite. This is not a complex problem; it just requires some human solutions.
which is that there is no bad or at least meaningless behavior. Every annoying, uncooperative, rebellious, mean thing a child does is done for a purpose. Nothing a child does deserves our blame. And we parents are not to blame either for our confusion, exhaustion and exasperation when we have to handle the behavior.
I think there are two principles at work. One is the right of a child to dislike what we want them to do.
I remember expecting my children to like my rules. Understandable considering. But wrong. Not only do they have the right to not like them, [second principle coming up] they have the right to SHOW that they don’t like them. That’s the part I regret the most: not allowing my children to show their feelings. It doesn’t mean we need to change the rule or limit if it’s reasonable [as a matter of fact, it’s usually important NOT to change when the child has feelings], it only requires us to listen respectfully.
Now listening effectively means different things for different children at different ages. For small children, it’s to allow and accompany them as they tantrum or cry. For some children, it means preventing them from hurting stuff, you, or themselves. Whatever is required, it means not blaming them. And not distracting them. Both methods prevent young people from unloading the disappointment, fear, rage the limit brought up.
And furthermore, it’s so much easier not to have to force children to feel different from the way they feel. An impossible task anyway. Give it a try if you haven’t already.