Good people and bad people

There’s a widespread self-perpetuating belief that some people are good [us for example] and some people are bad [those other people]; in recent years the bad ones are described as having made “bad choices”.

There are a lot of unfortunate consequences to this view of humans. One really awful one is that parents sometimes put their own children in the bad category. Though children can hit, kick, yell, and act uncooperative [hard on the adults, I know], the behavior is always a result of the child feeling disconnected. What the child does when they feel that way isn’t really harmful to that child. Our responses as parents, grandparents, teachers and friends can be. Children need limits placed firmly and often. And they need those limits to be set without forgetting the goodness of the child.

A result of children being raised with the sense of their being “bad” is some of the adult behavior we see now: building walls –in all senses– to keep out the bad people, or the flip side, feeling unworthy of being treated with respect.

Another outcome is our prison system. [I guess you could say the economic and educational causes of the pipeline to prison is at least partly a result too]. But to warehouse so many people for acting –often as very young people–for decades in inhuman conditions is a direct result of the treating of some people as irredeemably “bad”.

I probably have done this before but I’ll do it again: I so recommend the childraising book, Listen, by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.

Let me know what you think!



A thought on why we’re in the mess we’re in

Young male elephants due to heavy poaching do not have the elder elephants to keep them in line, and so act in ways that are detrimental to elephant society.  I was thinking that something analogous is happening in our human society.  Our young men, particularly those who are in groups that traditionally hold power, too are being raised outside of the larger society’s constraints. Think of college drinking, the sexual predation so common and accepted in those circles.

This is unlike earlier societies not based on money [read greed].  In some, the men from puberty on live together; the elders keep the energy of the young directed in ways that benefit the group. In the earliest people in this region, the Haudenasaunee, all the elders, and particularly the elder women had that role.  But our young men, particularly those from the dominant culture do not have that guidance. And so we have what we have, powerful men who grew up without limits wielding power in ways that are detrimental to the society as a whole.

Of course there are many other factors, but that’s one I’ve been thinking of.


different learning styles for young children

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 styles. Here is why:

–We are an astounding species of mammal but we are mammals nonetheless. Do chimp infants have different learning styles? Do puppies, baby raccoons? They all play, watch their parents, try things.

–What Maria Montessori figured out about 80 years ago was that human children learn through their hands, by absorbing abstract ideas through concrete materials.

–The differences in learning style theory has been debunked. Here’s one article:

–The apparent huge differences in children’s learning abilities can be attributed to the differences in very early learning experiences and more profoundly to the fears, tensions, and grief so many of our children carry.  We can help children by encouraging the laughter [without tickling], tears, and yes tantrums to unload those obstacles to clear-headed learning.

And have you read Patty Wipfler’s new book Listening?  The best.


sister wives

I recently listened to a Moth podcast about a Mormon family of five wives and one husband. The focus of the podcast was how this family slowly lost faith in their religion but nevertheless stayed together.

I’m currently visiting one of my daughters with her new baby and four year old son. She’s a fabulous mom; she’s got a very supportive husband who’s a good provider and she’s also underslept, isolated and unable to do anything other than parent. This is a mom living the “American dream” without the challenges of poverty or racism faced by so many parents.

I think you can see where this is headed.  Even though the Mormon system is sexist and unworkable for a population with the same number of men and women, I nevertheless believe it’s better for mothers than what most women deal with in this country. The women in this report did not have to take care of their children when they were sick, do all the housework, give up all other activities, or spend hours of childcare alone.  The shared work allowed the women companionship and time to sleep, relax, and have fun, including the fun had while working together.

There are other ways in which humans have figured out raising families and, as a matter of fact, almost every way people have figured out families has been better for parenting than what is our lot here.

If we follow the money, we can see that a capitalist economy benefits from every family unit living isolated from other families, buying a house and a car or several, filling it with a refrigerator, and every other toy, gadget, article of clothing etc, etc, ad infinitum. This is not good for parents and it certainly isn’t good for children.

Most societies not organized around money do not isolate families, in the past or currently.  In longhouses [Haudenasaunee], or compounds [traditional Africa], or small villages [everywhere], people parent together.

My daughter just read what I wrote so far, liked it, gave me permission to include her family, and suggested I take a stab at some positive actions we can take — other than [or in addition to] ending –peacefully –a system that values the accumulation of money above human needs.  Here are some examples of what some friends and family have done.

–I know a grandmother who is the main child care provider for her baby granddaughter and has managed to corral four other grandmothers and their little ones to work and enjoy together.

–my son & daughter-in-law have organized neighborhood dinners six times a year.

–my husband and I bought the house next door [before the real estate market soared] and now one of my daughters lives there with her family.

–I belong to a parent group that meets weekly to laugh, cry, and support each other in our parenting.

–A Baha’i community in Colombia [   –check out the first part at about 2:45] figured out, through its religious activities, to support children, youth & adults so, unlike neighboring communities, the young people do not have addiction problems.

I will welcome hearing what you have figured out.

Some thoughts on what our young children really need.

My perspective as a grandmother, former Montessori teacher, and student of evolution is this:

If we look at hunter gather societies and those early agricultural villages, what did the children have.

They had access to 20 or 40 adults of every age at most any time.

They had many children of all ages available for play, laughter, exploring, learning, comfort.

They had their parents and family working where the children could join them.

They had the tropical or temperate forest or hills or mountains with its waterways, rivers & streams and plants and insects and animals, a dynamic ever changing yet ordered .
environment always open to them.


What do our children in our world often have: one set of parents off to work; a caregiver; a house with some games, TV, computer, an outdoor world full of roads and cars.

I do believe that at least some of the struggles our children have are due to this deprivation of human interaction and the intensely interesting environment that our brains evolved in.

Other than ending a society based on economic equality, the proliferation of material goods, and the isolation of families, we can just do the best we can. But I DO look forward to a society of closely knit neighborhoods, the great reduction in use of cars & roads & parking, and the increase in the safety and beauty of the human world.

Some communities are already working on it. These are some articles about some of them if you want to read more:

and for the really serious:

second thoughts on infant crying

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.

What Trump needs

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?