What every adult understands about family and people
My mother spent much of her life educating young children and evangelizing for their protection. She was a founder of two schools and a toy lending library for the disabled, a professor, and late in her career trained people who cared for poor mostly loved but sometimes neglected or abused children. I found this writing laminated in one of her files and thought some might find her perspective useful.
She was very concerned in her later years about how to break the cycle of inter-generational violence and trauma. She held great hope for the simple goodness of ordinary people, even when faced with evidence to the contrary.
This document was likely a training aid that she used with caregivers and parents arguing for “common sense” from adults on behalf of children. She was an unapologetic pacifist. She thought the best toys for young children are water, sand, sunshine, and space to imagine and explore. As an artist, she believed in art as a way to learning.
This article was originally published as part of the Propaganda for Good Series on Verbal Primate.
“Every person, regardless of age, is a complete person. All need and deserve complete respect. The tendency to treat young children as different, lesser beings is a result of how adults were treated when they were young.
A pacifier is one of the most effective weapons against the very young. When someone’s tears, loud noises, trembling, and thrusting motions are suppressed, this affects good judgement. Later in life, the one who was pacified will probably try to pacify himself (“relax”) with TV, “normal” conversation, alcohol, nicotine, or other means.
When a child is crying or making noises, the thinking adult never stops this, with a hug or other means, even when it has gone on for hours. The trick is to make sure there isn’t a health problem, and to find ways to let the child cry where others’ sleep is not disturbed. Someone always needs to be available at night if the child needs to cry, someone who will not try to get the crying to stop (not the parents every time — that’s unrealistic.)
Whining is generally an attempt to cry or make a complaint. The adult’s job is to help the child bring up the emotions or voice the complaint, not to criticize or stop the whining.
Two people cannot begin to fulfill a young person’s needs. The myth that one or two parents can do this weighs very heavily on parents. What a parent can do is to try to make sure that at every moment there is someone present who will think intelligently about the young person.
No young person needs to be taught to be “good.” They are good right from the start. They pick up a lot of bad habits from people nearby. Because parent are often nearby, children pick up lots of fear and habits from them.
Young people do not need to be taught respect. They are born respecting people. After a lot of disrespect from others, they start to act it out themselves. Adults do not need to establish authority, just as men do not need to establish authority over women. Authority, punishment, obedience, duty — these fearful concepts work against people and progress. Thoughtfulness, responsibility, commitment, fun — these are the real thing.
One of the basic ways to hurt or stop a young person is to keep information from them. Afraid of tears and discomfort, adults “protect” them from all kinds of important realities.
Hitting humans is not a good idea. If we know not to hit someone on the street, we surely know not to hit our family. No matter how much we hear it’s okay, hitting children on the rear is wrong and cowardly. It is simply taking advantage of their size and trust.
Tickling young children is not a good idea. Adults do this to try and get laughter and smiles. Children do not need to have their moods manipulated.
Homework is not something people need after a 35–40 hour work week in school. Homework is playing monopoly and reading books of your own choosing. It’s washing dishes, mowing lawns, and learning how to follow traffic rules and ride a bike safely. Homework is baseball and basketball played by the children’s rules. It’s learning about energy conservation. Homework sets young people up to work mandatory overtime when they are adults or to work salaried jobs where they work extra hours for nothing.
It is a good thing to encourage children to avoid drugs. They should know all of these are unwise for people of any age: alcohol, nicotine, Prozac, Ritalin, Tylenol, Nuprin, marijuana, cocaine… The use of all psychoactive substances is about fear. It’s a fearful attempt to feel and think less. And unfortunately the attempt works. It’s unjust to give children the idea that some psychoactive substances are good and others are evil.
For a person to do what is right in the home, it is imperative to take the best positions on all issues facing humankind. We cannot be against violence in our homes, for example, and for capital punishment and war elsewhere. Our real position in that case is that violence is good stuff.
There is no way for an adult to treat a child well without profoundly changing his/her life and attitudes. There is no way the adult doesn’t feel upset a lot of the time, no way to avoid trembling, crying, sweating, yawning, and laughing.”