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China Martens
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211

The Future Generation #62

Punk Parent Topic # 5 - "Discipline"

    Hello Ya'll. I’d just like to share a few thoughts with you on the subject of discipline. This subject is a big one. Its hooked up with notions of authority and some of our most deep seated beliefs after all - maybe even going back to original sin.
    As any parent knows, who believes in treating their child like a person and valuing and listening to their opinion - you are going to be in hard positions sometimes with family members or close people telling you that you are spoiling your child because you don't run your household on orders to be obeyed without question through the right of adult authority. And this is hard on you, you will flounder sometimes - because it is not easy trying to curb your violent urges and use reason and patience in your discipline of your children while other people are also criticizing you - See, your kids a brat, they say. You'll be in the supermarket with a screaming toddler, trying to reason and talk about why she can't buy everything. As you go outside to discuss it, some person will eyeball you for being not a good parent since you can't "control" your child. As you sit outside and discuss the situation and come up with a solution between the two of you - the people waiting on you will get tired of the mess of your life. Oh, thoughts of fascism seem so much cleaner! Tell the kid No. Get on with it. And then when you find, your child and you have established a solution and kind of a guideline, " I get to pick out one thing I want every time I go to the store - no matter if its healthy for me or not. If I want something else, I can get it next time. We are shopping for food that is good for us and that is not too expensive" - you will see it is better for you down the road, having spent the time explaining, talking, listening to, and reasoning with your child. Not that you are always so perfect, or that everything always works out for the best. Not that you won't let your kid just cat things in the store sometimes, doing things without your control because you don't feel like fighting to control your child’s every move. (Or being up your kids ass all the time - as Faith puts it) But raising a child means respecting your child, yourself, and those around you while navigating through difficulties. I want to talk about this navigation -

    Navigation is a good word. Following the course, the current, and the grain of natural phenomena - and seeing human life as an integral feature of the world process - is a very Taoist thing to do. "The sage recognizes patterns in life and directs his actions according to them." Western philosophy tends to cut knots, rather than untie them. Tends towards wanting to control outside forces to ones will, rather than observe natural trends in an attempt to understand them. Western Science has failed us, in its objectivity it has reduced the universe to a mechanism - the environment into something for us to exploit. But we are now realizing the ill treatment of the environment is damage to ourselves - we and our surroundings are the process of a unified field - we all function in mutual interdependence. To disturb a piece of grass, is to change the world. Think of all those nature shows you've watched on ecosystems. Well as we have come to see the folly of our 20th century rule of nature by technical force and trying to "straighten" its funkiness out - well may we see we can not control and regulate our human nature - like-wise. Flexibility, and ruling best by ruling least is much preferred to rigid modes of regulation. But sad to say, we live in a nation that feels a need To Be In Control, which desires to push a button or pop a pill, to force a solution into place, without looking at the root cause of the problem.
    "If you don't like the effects, don't produce the cause"- Funkadelic. This is one aspect of understanding how to raise children. Get an understanding of the natural grain of nature and work with it. For instance - the so called sleeping through the night problem. If a baby wakes in the night and is sleeping with you, it can nurse, play with your toes and fingers a bit, and fall back to sleep - without really disturbing your rest so much. In the time it needs, developmentally, the baby will sleep through the night when its reached that physical maturity level. No problem. But you could turn this into a discipline problem. If the baby is sleeping in another room than you, it is harder to deal with. You could take the advice to let the baby cry it out. Each night the hours of crying will lesson until the baby will learns you will not respond and give up trying to get you. And then you can continue your parenting career responding to your child's emotional distress with "S+M instead of TLC". If you have no one to talk to, that can encourage your faith and trust in yourself and child (for the child knows its needs and is crying for them which creates a deep response in the mother to want to go to the child and a pathological response in many others to tell the mother that she will spoil her baby and be manipulated by it, if she tends to its needs)- this could very well happen - that you believe your child will not grow up if you don't force it to.
    We must look at the needs of children, for example to have exercise and space to explore - instead of punishing them for not sitting still and touching things. We have to have realistic expectations of children to make children neither the center of attention, nor "seen but not heard" but part of our community. We do not live in some ideal world so we need to figure out how to navigate a course through this one.

    Christian morality divides us into thoughts of purity; pure evil, pure good - and the constant struggle to try to drive the demons out and be good. It is a war we can never win, a kind of binge - purge mentality. Repression is what fuels the truly frightening qualities in society. Our children are little angels, or little devils, ... never just a funky human like the rest of us. Most domestic problems are small - the choice of what shirt to wear, will you wear your coat outside, who will wash the dishes. Make no mistake though, the problems be small - they can bring down the house and break hearts. This is the crap of our lives, and how do we deal with it?
    One way I deal with it, is de-westernizing my mind some. Not striving for the heaven that never comes, but finding balance in living my everyday. "The Taoist sage does not strive for the good but rather tries to maintain a dynamic balance between good and bad" "Change is the dynamic interplay of opposites" What this translates in me as a parent, is that I except my child as a whole person and do not expect her to be always good and perfect. I deal with problems, problems are part of life, its not necessarily bad to have problems.. Its like this, I view my daughter like an organic apple. I'd rather have something that tastes good and is good, then something that is just red waxy shiny with no bug bites cuz of pesticides, ya know. Taoism is kinda just the big picture way of looking at things.
    "People who have been brought up in the aura of Christian and Hebrew aspirations find this flustering, because it seems to deny any possibility of progress, an ideal which flows from their linear as distinct from cyclic view of time and history. Indeed, the whole enterprise of Western Technology is "to make the world a better place" - to have pleasure without pain, wealth without poverty, and health with out sickness. But, as is now becoming obvious, our violent efforts to achieve this ideal with such weapons as DDT, penicillin, nuclear energy, automotive transportation, computers, industrial farming, damming, and compelling everyone, by law, to be superficially "good and healthy" are creating more problems than they solve." -Alan Watts.

    Yea, so now we mention the word violence, which is another key word in this discussion, It is also very western to solve problems with violence. "Violence is as American as Apple Pie"- (who said that? It was some black revolutionary dude, I forgot who) American society is, for all its freedom, a punitive society, colored by Calvinistic negativeness - says Dolphin Trainer Karen Pryor.
    "Dolphins, for all their vaunted trainability, either resist or flee any kind of force. Push a dolphin and it pushes back. Try to herd dolphins from one tank to another with nets; if they feel crowded, bold individuals will charge the net and timid ones will sink to the bottom in helpless fear. You have to train dolphins with positive reinforcement to go quietly ahead of the net - and even some will charge the net. Psychologist Harry Frank suggests that this principle difference between wild and domesticated animals. All domesticated animals (except cats) are susceptible to negative reinforcement - they can be herded, led, showed or generally pushed around. We humans have bred this in them."
    Hmm. We seem to have bred this in ourselves as well. She continued to write how you train a dolphin is with positive reinforcement. Kinda just fascinating. Now, I don't want to train my child like a dolphin or a dog. But similarly Dog trainers are always saying how people yell at their dogs instead of showing the dog what to do. And I see that people often like to yell at and speak badly to little children, instead of showing them ways to act or understanding why they act. We, as a nation, seem not to spend much time in dealing with things in a positive way - and prefer to try to rid undesirable behavior with punishment.  "Punishment is humanities favorite method. When behavior goes wrong we think of punishment. Scold the child, spank the dog, dock the paycheck, fine the company, torture the dissident, invade the country, and so on. But punishment is a clumsy way of modifying behavior. In fact, much of the time punishment doesn't work at all. Punishment or threat of it doesn't help the subject learn how to modify the behavior involved. What the subject does learn if the behavior is so strongly motivated that the subject needs to continue it, ... is to try to not get caught. Evasiveness increases rapidly under a punishment regime - a sad situation in a family setting and not so great in society at large either.
    Also, repeated or severe punishment, has some very nasty side effects: fear, anger, resentment, resistance, even hate in the punished one and sometimes in the punisher too. These are mental states that are not conducive to learning.
    Punishment often constitutes revenge. Punishment is also reinforcing for the punisher because it demonstrates and helps to maintain dominance. Do you want to alter certain behavior - or do you want the subject to stop going against your superior will and judgment?"
    One reason that punishment does not work is that it does not coincide with the undesirable behavior, it occurs afterward, sometimes long afterward and they cannot change their actions of the past - they learn nothing of how to change the behavior.
    I find it interesting how Pryor explains behavior - although like I said, I do not wish to train my child like a dolphin - it does give one insights. She talks about how positive reinforcement works. That babies are simply not programmed to learn easily by unpleasant experience, though they can learn rapidly through positive experience. (For instance, a smile is positive reinforcement. People, you know, will do stuff to get a smile ... if however smiles are out of the question, people will go for frowns, ie negative attention - for any attention is better than being ignored) Some behavior, she says, will go away by itself. That is called Extinction. Behavior that produces no results - not good or bad results - will probably extinguish. Ignoring behavior can help to extinguish it. Many behaviors are temporarily limited in themselves. Some behaviors can be shaped by absence - reinforce anything that is not that behavior. Another way is to train an incompatible behavior. For instance, if you are singing with your kids in the car, you will find your singing is incompatible with yelling.
    Another way to rid yourself of a behavior you don't want is to change the motivation. The trick is to identify the motivation - think to understand yourself and others - to see what is the underlying cause of the behavior. For instance, the person who has enough to eat, is not going to steal bread.
    Capital Punishment, Divorce, or sending a child to its room on the other hand - eliminating undesirable behavior by eliminating the presence of the subject - teaches nothing. This is not training.

    Punishment both flustered the child and gives him a model to imitate and learn from - says the Stanford Department of Psychiatry. So - what is the alternative? "For many of us sarcasm, lectures, warnings, name-calling and threats were all woven into the language we heard as we were growing up. It isn't easy to give up the familiar" - from How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so kids will talk.
    Yes! This is a good book - it has lots of comics which is great. People learn immensely from watching others. When I see some one do something that works out - I copy it, totally. Behavior is contagious, most especially with child-rearing - so you can look at how these little comic people handle stuff. (And one of the biggest ways children learn is from modeling the behavior of others they observe - so cut the crap about teaching them what’s wrong when you can show them what’s right by living it yourself) For instance - their is a comic section entitled: Talk about your feelings - it is possible to cooperate with someone who is expressing irritation or anger, as long as your not being attacked. One comic says: Instead of "You're rude! You always interrupt. - say "I feel so flustered when I start to say something I can't finish. Instead of - "Stop that! Your a pain in the neck!" say "I don't like having my sleeve pulled." In a comic entitled Give Information, it shows In stead of "If I catch you writing on the walls once more your going to get a spanking! - say "Walls are not for writing on. Paper is for writing on. And Instead of 'How many times do I have to tell you to turn off the bathroom light after you use it." say "the bathroom light is on" Another comic says Say it with a word. Instead of saying "Look at you! Your walking out the door again without your lunch. You'd forget your head if it wasn't attached to you. " Say " Jamie, your lunch"
    Maybe this sounds silly to you, if you don't have a kid. But I do, so dig these little comics and there is a ton of them. These methods really work too! . Because it is really good to change some of our verbal habits. We have a tendency to be verbally abusive and it is not constructive. Truthfully I believe all Americans need to learn how to communicate with each other better, not just parents. I have been working on this my whole life and I do messed up stuff just like anyone, maybe worse than anyone. One thing I have a hard time with is, is my temper. I try to remember to Yell how I feel, instead of mean things. Like Yell, "fuck fuck fuck I hate doing the dishes, I feel like I am the only person who does them, Arg Dishes!" instead of - "You are a piece of shit, you never do anything, you are so lazy, you suck, you didn't do the dishes and I told you to." Because you can really hurt people when you loose your temper, and the fact that you loose your temper means you know - you’re out of control - so I'm trying to train myself to yell what I feel - not yell insults at people - but it is hard to change. I usually bottle it up and then burst out with some obscenity. That is no good. This book is way cool, looking at the little comics and getting an idea how people could talk to each other when they have problems.
    Those comics I told you about, were all about how To Engage Cooperation. Chapter 3 is about alternatives to punishment. Here is a list of methods put together in the book -

1) EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS STRONGLY - WITHOUT ATTACKING CHARACTER.  "I’m furious that my new saw was left outside to rust in the rain!"
2) STATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.  "I expect my tools to be returned after they've been borrowed."
3) SHOW THE CHILD HOW TO MAKE AMENDS.  "What this saw needs now is a little steel wool and a lot of elbow grease."
4) GIVE THE CHILD A CHOICE.  “You can borrow my tools and return them, or you can give up the privilege of using them. You decide."
5) TAKE ACTION.  Child; Why is the tool box locked? Father; You tell me why.
6) PROBLEM-SOLVE.  What can we work out so that you can use my tools when you need them, and so that I'll be sure they're there when I need them?

    If a small child who doesn't talk yet touches something he shouldn't, isn't it all right to slap his little hand?
    Just because children aren't talking doesn't mean they aren't listening or understanding. Little children are learning every minute of every day. The question is, what are they learning? The parent has a choice here. She can repeatedly slap the child's hand, thus teaching him that the only way for him to learn what not to do is to be slapped. Or she can treat the child as a dignified, small human being by giving him information he can use now and for the rest of his life. As she removes the child (or the object) she can tell him firmly and clearly: "Knives are not for licking. You can lick this spoon if you like." "This china dog can break. Your stuffed dog won't break."
    She may need to repeat the same information many times, but repeated information conveys a far different message from repeated slaps. - How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk.

    Not like you copy every word, they are just showing you examples to get the feeling. And I think its good! I am kinda a crappy person about things I say when I get mad, but I definitely have problem solving and making amends in my skills. I think the stating your expectation thing is really cool. The point is, there is more effective things to do, that are to the point of the problem, than punishment. I personally have rarely ever punished my daughter - It is not me to do that. I do have a problem with how I act when I loose my temper so what I've most needed to work on is self-discipline. I don't want to suppress my anger and be a "good" woman but I do want to learn how to deal with my anger in ways that aren't so destructive to myself and those I love.
    I don't expect myself to speak like a robot of perfect things I should say in the right situation. Its just this book helps give me ideas of how I could handle problems. I am also not trying to manufacture my child into some vision I have for what a person should be. I try to enjoy her, appreciate her, and if it comes to it, put up with her, for the individual that she is. I don't have to comprehend everything that she is, or the outcome of every action. I find some of this behavior stuff interesting for thinking about what behavior you are encouraging through your actions - but I in no way want to train or mold my child. Children should be left to blossom. And this is not a win-lose situation. I am not trying to get my way all the time - which is really important to realize with kids - It is not a bad thing to back down, to let them get what they want, to apologize for your mistakes. Adults are not always right! Nobody is. So I'm not fighting for control. If I fight for anything, I fight to be the person I feel down deep in me, is the person I was born to be. I am not telling you what to do. You have to do what you think is right.

    This article is basically against punishment itself and saying people are pretty much born good - not sinners. Now that sounds like - oh so silly. But its basically at the heart of a lot of what I'm saying.
    As an anarchist I believe Government is a negative force in our lives....... “when a society becomes more oppressive and totalitarian, the order of the world does not increase, but rather it decreases in proportion to the amount of energy used to keep the people 'in order'" - Hippy Core
    As a Taoist I believe that people just being natural, that aren't artificially shaped and socially warped "are far more sociable and civilized than those who try to live rigorously by laws and watchwords" -A.W.
    As a parent I see the situation looks different when you are the one responsible for running things and not just complaining about how someone else runs them. So - by then all means, we should all have responsibility and decisions in how things go - so we can deal with the problems we in part make.
    Skills and values that are important to teach are Cooperation, Mutual Respect, Tolerance, Reason, Give and Take, Compromise, Creative Problem Solving, Compassion, Personal and Communal Responsibility and Equality with an understanding of our individual differences. How can you teach a child these values when all the child has to do is Obey you? "We can see that people who have spent their childhood’s submitting to the authority of their caretakers have been prepared to accept a world where authority is given to rich over poor, to white people over people of races, and to men over women."- Children and Feminism
    I do not see life as a hierarchy but as Alan Watts puts so well - as a mutual interdependence of everything in the Universe - where the whole cosmos is implicit in every member and every point in it may be regarded as a center. The order of nature is not a forced order; it is not the result of laws and commandments which beings are compelled to obey through external violence. People who get caught up in control, think they can control it all. But there is too much to control. The organization and regulation of thousands of bodily processes through the nervous system would be utterly beyond the capacity of deliberate thinking and planning - not to mention the relationship of those processes to the "external" world.
    "And when it comes down to it, government is simply an abandonment of responsibility on the assumption that there are people other than ourselves, who really know how to manage things. But the government, run ostensibly for the good of the people, becomes a self-serving corporation."
    The Taoist moral is that people who mistrust themselves and one another are doomed. If you can not trust nature and other people - you can not trust yourself. If you can not trust yourself, you can not even trust your mistrust of yourself - so that without this underlying trust in the whole system of nature you are simply paralyzed.  —from Tao, the watercourse way

    I don't believe people should use fear and control as the motivational force in society, towards keeping the social good. Doing things because you care is a much better thing than doing things because you are afraid. (If you care about living you are going to have to work to keep yourself alive) I'm not talking about anything remotely liberal or easy or saying we don't cultivate strength in adversity. I'm not saying that Life is not harsh, or life should be some La La utopia.
    I am saying that you can be strong and stand up for what you believe in without putting other people down and solving all your problems with violence. (As a matter of fact, if you do feel good about yourself and are not living in fear and psychosis, you are not going to being wanting to put other people down.) It’s just that I see, when I look around me, nothing good grows from fear. Especially children. " A child learns to be kind, fair, and considerate by being treated in a kind, fair and considerate manner." - A.Millff

    Now I want to say, this is a real column of chaos, and I'm sorry. I have this goal for this column that I would like to hit down all the big punk parent topic in a real orderly and organized and smart way. Because for me, it is a honor to write for Slug and Lettuce and I don't want to waste your time. I want to dispel collected information and experience. But I have just finished editing issue #10 of my zine - and I am burnt out from getting that monster together. So this column on discipline, is not as disciplined as I'd like it to be! Plus I have an overwhelming amount of information on this topic and I only dealt with new material as I did not feel like repeating things I had covered before in old issues of my zine that I put out in the early 90's (T.F.G. # 3 - "anarchist child raising" + #5 part 11 - "Violence and Discipline") So for the so many important topics I did not cover, here is a Free-your-mind-and-your-ass-will-follow reading list: Summer Hill by A.S. Neil, For Your Own Good, hidden cruelly in child-rearing and the roots of violence by Alice Miller, and Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram.
Take Care! China