Blissfully Informed Hippie Chick

Encouraging people to think critically about everything.

Taking Back My Power 

My #1 greatest challenge in my journey toward being a peaceful person: 

Yelling.  

I have always yelled. My mom was a yeller. I learned from a young age that yelling is power. When I was yelled at, I felt powerless. I felt small and weak and out of control. I felt shameful and bad. 

I learned to yell back at her in an attempt to take back my power. I yelled and screamed, I slammed doors and threw things. But I didn’t like it; I hated what I was doing. I would inevitably get sent to my room, where I would rage until I dissolved into a puddle of tears. I never “won”. I never succeeded in taking my power back. It was incredibly depressing. This is the point at which my thoughts would eventually turn to suicide. If my memory is correct, I had my first suicidal thought at just 11 years old. Suicide seemed to be the ultimate take-back of power in my life that I so desperately longed for. 

I struggled with this feeling of powerlessness even into adulthood, because power to me meant controlling others. I could never seem to succeed at grasping that power, though; no matter how much I yelled and raged, no matter how much I tried to control others. What took me a long time to realize was that being powerful as an individual doesn’t equate control of others; being powerful as an individual happens when I have full control of myself. 

Self-control. 

It’s what I sought as a child and what I never learned. It’s what I’m learning now. I can’t control my children, or anyone else around me. I can only control myself and my own reactions. 
When situations arise that trigger my feelings of helplessness, of powerlessness, my default response is anger. This really has nothing to do with my children or my husband or anyone else, but it has everything to do with my unhealed emotional trauma. It’s a signal in my brain that the wiring it received when I was young was unhealthy. 

Healing that trauma is the biggest step toward being able to respond differently to those around me in the future. As I continually work on that healing, as situations arise that trigger that trauma, what helps me the most is to begin by taking a deep breath (or maybe a few) and stepping outside myself and into my child’s perspective (or whomever else is triggering my response). I ask myself, “What is their intent here?” and I verbalize to them, “What are you doing here, what are you trying to achieve?” What usually looks like a big mess or chaos to me has a greater purpose to my children. What others do that may be initially incomprehensible to me has great meaning and purpose to them. Once the intent of my children has been established, I can move into my ideal parenting role of teaching and guiding, rather than controlling and dominating. Once the perspective of others is understood, I can move into a place of compassion and commonality rather than rightness and division. I find that once the initial urge to yell and rage has subsided, the remainder of the interaction becomes easy, and even enjoyable. 

Peace. 

Peace begins within. I can’t be a peaceful in my interactions with others when my inner self is in turmoil. 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  – Mahatma  Gandhi  

I used to misunderstand this quote. I thought that “being the change” was how I could change the world. I was wrong. The only person I can control is me. The change I wish to see in the world? I should try to live it; not for the sake of changing others, but for the sake of being the person I would like to be. 

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A Journey of a Million Tiny Steps

My nearly 3 year old, Natalie came to me a little bit ago and said “Na-Na hair cut” while holding her hair. (“Na-Na” is her name for herself.) After a few questions, I confirmed that she wants her hair cut to her shoulders. I told her that she should think about it some more and talk to daddy about it later. I explained we that once it’s cut, we can’t put it back on, but that it will grow back slowly. I told her that after she thought about it more, if she still wants it cut, I’ll do it. I feel that it’s important to respect her wishes, especially because this is about the age when our older two girls cut their own hair without my knowledge.

I love that my toddler came to me with her desire instead of trying to do it secretly. It makes me feel really good about the trust she has in me, the depth of our connection.

Autonomy over one’s hair is such a non-issue compared to important things like physical safety. I was so upset when my older girls cut their hair. And now, I can’t tell you how often I feel like going back in time and shaking myself by the shoulders and telling myself to wake up and stop stressing over such petty things!

Sometimes, looking back at my old Facebook posts is really painful. Seeing my statuses about spanking the older girls for the stupidest things. Being so exasperated at what I now know is normal child behavior. It makes me cringe.

It breaks my heart when I see other parents locked in power struggles and screaming matches with their kids. For more reasons than one. Now, I understand how badly those parents are hurting. How frustrated and confused they are. How badly they want their kids to grow up to be responsible, kind adults, but how clueless they are as to how to encourage those traits. And how most parents are actually doing better with their kids than was done to them, so I see how much pain they’re carrying around that they may not even realize they have.

But how do you kindly and gently tell people to look in the mirror and change themselves when they ask in desperation how to get their kids to “obey”? How do you even begin to explain to them that obedience isn’t the goal of parenting? How do you get them to admit that their parents did the best they could with what they knew, but obviously what they knew wasn’t good enough?

I’m at a loss of how to simplify the last 5 years of my life, my journey from authoritarianism to peacefulness. Because that’s what it’s been. A journey of a million tiny steps that have led me to where I am now.

I think the only way to show others is to invite them into my world, into my home, and show them what parent-child relationships can be like. How family time can be peaceful. How chores don’t have to be a struggle. And then wait for them to ask, “How do you do that?” And then explain that I can only truly control me, I can only change me. And once I began to change myself, my relationships were changed in the process.

I guess the problem is that everyone is unique, so what needs to change, and in what order, will be different for everyone. I suppose the bottom line is letting go of controlling others and beginning to control myself. I guess if I had to simplify it, that’s what I’d say.

I’m not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m trying. I’m growing. I’m learning. I can look back over the last 5 years and see the incredible strides I’ve made. My journey is mine alone, it won’t look exactly like anyone else’s. But maybe my mistakes and realizations can help others in their own journeys. At the very least, maybe my admissions can help others not feel so alone in their transformation.

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“Mind your manners!”

As a peaceful parent, is it OK to expect my kids to say “please” or “thank you” or anything else, for that matter? I believe that the answer is no.

I don’t force my kids to say anything to anyone. I would rather teach them values, rather than “rules”… societal or otherwise. Teaching kids rules says “this is what we do, period”, peacefully teaching kids values says “this is why I do this, this is how other people do it, this is the line of thinking behind it, etc”. Rules are arbitrary, and usually followed by a condition: “you must say thank you or else…”. Values are meaningful, but should be presented as an option: “I like to say thank you when I receive something because…”. I believe that forcing a child (or anyone) to do something that you value is wrong, because force is wrong. I don’t expect my kids to automatically accept all my values, because they are individuals. Their reality is not mine. I’m here to pass on the knowledge, wisdom, and experience I’ve accumulated in my time here on Earth. What they do with that information is up to them.

When we place our expectations on our kids, there is a chance those expectations won’t be met. So what happens when our kids fail to live up to our expectations? In this case, what happens if your kids refuse to say the words you expect them to say? Even if you don’t overtly punish your children for this failure to meet your expectations, you will still be disappointed. If you are using your disappointment as a coercive tool to convince your children to meet your expectations, you are using force; albeit in a more subtle way, but it is force nonetheless. Not only is force the opposite of peacefulness, but it typically doesn’t produce the desired results in the long-term, because force is extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation fails because once the external source is removed, if there has been no intrinsic motivation instilled, there will be no reason to continue the behavior that has been forced upon the child. 
This is a rather lengthy article that talks about character education in schools, but it is relevant to this topic, because parents often attempt to modify their children’s behavior in much the same way.

Here is an excerpt:

The techniques of character education may succeed in temporarily buying a particular behavior. But they are unlikely to leave children with a commitment to that behavior, a reason to continue acting that way in the future. You can turn out automatons who utter the desired words or maybe even “emit” (to use the curious verb favored by behaviorists) the desired actions. But the words and actions are unlikely to continue — much less transfer to new situations — because the child has not been invited to integrate them into his or her value structure. As Dewey observed, “The required beliefs cannot be hammered in; the needed attitudes cannot be plastered on.”[44] Yet watch a character education lesson in any part of the country and you will almost surely be observing a strenuous exercise in hammering and plastering.

For traditional moralists, the constructivist approach is a waste of time. If values and traditions and the stories that embody them already exist, then surely “we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” remarks Bennett.[45] Likewise an exasperated Wynne: “Must each generation try to completely reinvent society?”[46] The answer is no – and yes. It is not as though everything that now exists must be discarded and entirely new values fashioned from scratch. But the process of learning does indeed require that meaning, ethical or otherwise, be actively invented and reinvented, from the inside out. It requires that children be given the opportunity to make sense of such concepts as fairness or courage, regardless of how long the concepts themselves have been around. Children must be invited to reflect on complex issues, to recast them in light of their own experiences and questions, to figure out for themselves — and with one another — what kind of person one ought to be, which traditions are worth keeping, and how to proceed when two basic values seem to be in conflict.[47]

In this sense, reinvention is necessary if we want to help children become moral people, as opposed to people who merely do what they are told — or reflexively rebel against what they are told. In fact, as Rheta DeVries and Betty Zan add (in a recent book that offers a useful antidote to traditional character education), “If we want children to resist [peer pressure] and not be victims of others’ ideas, we have to educate children to think for themselves about all ideas, including those of adults.”[48]…

To say that students must construct meaning around moral concepts is not to deny that adults have a crucial role to play. The romantic view that children can basically educate themselves so long as grownups don’t interfere is not taken seriously by any constructivists I know of – certainly not by Dewey, Piaget, Kohlberg, or their followers. Rather, like Values Clarification, this view seems to exist principally as a straw man in the arguments of conservatives. Let there be no question, then: educators, parents, and other adults are desperately needed to offer guidance, to act as models (we hope), to pose challenges that promote moral growth, and to help children understand the effects of their actions on other people, thereby tapping and nurturing a concern for others that is present in children from a very young age.[53]

Forcing a child to say certain words, through whatever coercion we use (even our “disappointment”), might result in the child parroting the desired words, but those words are unlikely to have genuine empathy behind them. Here is an example:

If we want our child to express an honest apology, we must be patient and not push. ‘Hi’, ‘goodbye’, ‘share!’ and ‘thank you’ are all loaded words for toddlers when parents demand them, but ‘I’m sorry’ takes the cake when it comes to parental expectations. Since our goal is for our child to make amends for his misdeeds because he genuinely regrets them, we must trust him to find the words in time.

We are powerful examples for our children of all that is human. We teach “I’m sorry” best by modeling it. Children need to hear us apologize to others, and also to them. They need to know that human beings are not perfect. When we say to our child, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake,” we give the child permission to make mistakes too.

(source)

Here is a further explanation of how forcing a child to apologize actually creates dishonesty and impedes the development of empathy:

Why does empathy matter when it comes to saying “sorry”? Because it implies that the child feels bad for what they have done, and in order to feel bad they have to understand how they have made another feel. For instance, if a toddler hits or bites another toddler at a playgroup, saying “sorry” would imply that they understood that the other child is in pain. Secondly it implies that they regret hurting the other child and wish to make them feel better. If they have poor empathy skills (as is normal for this age) they will not have such a train of thought. In fact, if they bit or hit another child in order to get hold of a toy that they wanted they may in fact believe that the injured child feels happy, as they themselves are happy now that they have the toy. Forcing the child to apologise in this instance doesn’t make the child sorry, in fact all it does is force them to lie.

You may ask “so what? They have to learn”, but do you really want your child to learn to lie? How do you feel about teaching your child to lie because they know if they say “sorry” (when they are not) that they get out of trouble? In the toddler and preschooler years you may not see the implications of this, but visit any school playground and you will hear an echo of “sorry” around the playground. The chances are most of these are empty and hollow. The children aren’t genuinely sorry, they have learnt that saying it gets them out of trouble. Most apologies in this instance sound incredibly insincere, that’s because they are. A child fights with another in the school playground. The midday assistant steps in and tells the attacker to “say sorry”, the child parrot fashions “sorry” and they are let off. The chances of the child actually being sorry are quite low, they have learnt that lying gets them out of trouble. Would you prefer your child to act in the same manner (to lie to get out of trouble) or actually say “sorry” when they really meant it?

So, if you don’t make your child say “sorry”, does that mean that you are totally permissive and let the little darling ‘get away with everything’? Surely that will raise an even less empathic child? Absolutely! The alternative isn’t to just ignore everything, but to approach it from a position that raises empathy without lying. For instance if you are at a playgroup and your child shoves another and makes them cry, the first thing you would do as a parent is to apologise to the child and the child’s parent, because the chances are you are genuinely sorry. This is a great role model to your own child. Next, it’s time to speak to your own child in a quiet area where you explain, simply, that the other child was crying because it hurt when they were shoved. This is a great way to help develop your child’s empathy skills. You can reiterate that they “shouldn’t shove but use their voice”  if they are upset next time. The chances are they will still shove the next time though, because that’s what two and three year olds do, but if you keep repeating this process each time you have a much greater chance of raising a truly empathic child, who sincerely means it when they say “sorry” when they are older. Isn’t that what all parents would really prefer?

(source)

This all relates to forcing manners in a very similar way:

If telling a child to say “thank you” (and other manner words and actions) does not teach her/him to authentically feel and express gratitude – what does it teach?

A few possible things:

1) The child learns that telling others what to say or do is “good manners”. The content of the “talk” is practically lost, as the child is mostly aware of the fact that someone is telling her what to do.

2) A less obvious message is the one: “I cannot trust myself to know what to say or do; I should rely on adults (authority) and obey instruction” (dependency, being a follower).

3) Linked to the previous one is “I cannot know on my own what to say or do, therefore I am not good enough” (low self-esteem and feeling inadequate and incapable).

4) A similar feeling of inadequacy can spring out of self-doubt: “Why don’t I feel like saying ‘thank you’? Something must be wrong with me”.

5) A child learns to be phony and even simply to lie: “I don’t really feel like saying anything, (sharing, helping…), I guess I am supposed to lie, pretend, or put on a show that does not reflect my real inner experience”.

6) The child learns to hate sharing or saying “please” and “thank you”, as his formative memory of doing so is that of resentment, being controlled, and being unreal. In doing something while not wanting to do it, he is learning to hate the expression of being grateful (sharing etc.) and the natural authentic development of his manners can be delayed….

As a mother I have discovered that my child’s manners are not about me impressing anyone. My child deserves my full respect to be at the stage of awareness, confidence, and of acquisition of manners that he is. It is not easy to feel comfortable when our child doesn’t fit society’s expectations – but knowing that these very expectations don’t fit the child, helps me remember whose well-being I stand for. Maybe we are still dependent on the approval of others as we were in our childhood, when we were told to say “thank you” and did so just to please our parents. We need to build our own self-esteem, so we are less dependent on approval of our children’s ways of being for enhancing our feelings of self-worth.

Making a good impression on friends, relatives, or strangers, becomes clearly unimportant next to the welfare of my child. Yet, I can still impress these friends and relatives. What I will impress them with, is not my compliance to their standards of behavior with children. Instead I will demonstrate to them my respect to my child, and my strength in following my own heart and my child’s needs.

How then will they learn manners?

How then will a child learn social manners? Can we trust the child to develop and mature in her own time, the way we trusted her to learn to walk and to talk? Why are we in a rush to have children behave like adults before they are adults?

When lovingly and respectfully treated, children will learn manners on their own simply because they want to live happily in this society. We can ensure this development by the following three approaches:

1) To “teach” a child to be grateful, express your gratitude for her contribution to your life: “It is such a joy to spend the afternoon with you”. It is how you treat your child that teaches her how to be. Telling a child what to say is not respectful. It is not the kind of manners you want her to learn. Thanking her for her help and being kind and generous toward her are really at the heart of your teaching tools.

2) We can provide examples in our interactions with others by expressing gratitude, sharing generously, and treating others kindly. Our children will assimilate what they see, hear and experience around them.

3) For your child to learn manners with pleasure, and enjoy behaving in pleasing ways, she needs to see you enjoying yourself through these expressions. She needs to see you being real, authentic, and fully present when you express gratitude and treat people kindly.

4) We can provide ample freedom and opportunity to express painful feelings. Children, like adults, can best experience kind and giving feelings when they are not preoccupied with upsetting experiences. When a child tells me “I hate my sister”, I validate his feelings and accept his emotional outburst – only then he can be free to love his sister. If hurtful and angry feelings are numbed, the loving and kind ones fall asleep with them. It’s a package deal.

(source)

I think that this whole discussion could be reduced to one simple question: “Is it OK to force a fellow adult to say or do things that I think are desirable?” I believe the answer to that question should always be “no”. Force is not peace. Force undermines freedom to individuality. (That’s not to say that you shouldn’t protect yourself from harm, but I think that’s another discussion entirely.) And I believe that children are deserving of the same rights as adults. Human rights shouldn’t be conditional. They shouldn’t be based upon gender, beliefs, color of skin, age, or any other factor. Human rights belong to all humans.

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Whom do you trust?

The debate on whether or not vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary is really a debate about trust. Their safety is touted by governments, scientists, doctors, and, most of all, the companies that manufacture them. On the other hand, more and more doctors and scientists are speaking out against their safety, efficacy, and necessity. So whom do you trust? While those who speak out against vaccines have little or nothing to gain from that stance, those on the other side have much to profit from. Here are some important questions that I feel should be answered by individuals before deciding whether or not to inject themselves and/or their children with these chemical cocktails:

1) Do you trust a company like Merck, when lawyers prove in court that they sold a painkiller for years, knowing full well that their own researchers had concerns regarding it’s safety?

Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market in September 2004, after a clinical trial proved that it increased the risks of heart attacks and strokes. But internal company documents showed that Merck’s scientists were concerned about the risks of Vioxx several years earlier. And a large clinical trial that ended in 2000 also showed that Vioxx was much riskier than naproxen, an older painkiller sold under the name Aleve.

(source)

2) Do you trust this company, knowing that they’ve spent $1.2 billion defending the drug they knew had potentially lethal side effects?

3) Do you trust this company, knowing that they spent $5.17 billion last year to advertise the safety and efficacy of their products?

Direct to consumer ad expenditure for US prescription pharmaceuticals came close to record levels in 2015, according to estimates from Nielsen, reported by industry blog DTC Perspectives. Total spend reached $5.17bn last year, capping three years of gains since 2012’s low of $3.4bn.

(source)

4) Do you trust this company, knowing that they manufacture (and advertise and safety and efficacy of) this list of vaccines?:

– COMVAX® [Haemophilus b Conjugate (Meningococcal Protein Conjugate) and Hepatitis B (Recombinant) Vaccine]

– GARDASIL®9 (Human Papillomavirus 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant)

– GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant]

– M-M-R®II (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Virus Vaccine Live)

– PedvaxHIB® [Haemophilus b Conjugate Vaccine (Meningococcal Protein Conjugate)]

– PNEUMOVAX®23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent)

– ProQuad® (Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella Virus
Vaccine Live)

– RECOMBIVAX HB® [Hepatitis B Vaccine (Recombinant)]

– RotaTeq® (Rotavirus Vaccine, Live, Oral, Pentavalent)VAQTA® (Hepatitis A Vaccine, Inactivated)

– VARIVAX® (Varicella Virus Vaccine Live)

– ZOSTAVAX® (Zoster Vaccine Live)

(source)

5) Do you trust the company that manufacturers and promotes a vaccine that causes such widespread and serious side effects that it has been removed from other countries’ vaccination recommendations due to concerns of it’s safety?

Around 2,000 reported side effects after using Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine have determined Japanese government officials to withdraw Gardasil from the market in 2013, despite the vaccine being highly promoted in the United States and now approved by the European Union.

“Japanese health officials have recorded nearly 2,000 adverse reactions – hundreds of them serious,” reported Judicial Watch, the Washington-based corruption watchdog that has been monitoring the effects – and health costs – of the drug’s use in the United States for years.

“The alarming reports have led Japan’s government to take action, suspending recommendation for the controversial vaccine which is billed as a miracle shot that can prevent certain strains of cervical cancer caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV).”

“The U.S. government has taken the opposite approach amid equally alarming cases of serious side effects. Not only does the Obama administration continue recommending the vaccine (Gardasil), it spends large sums of taxpayer dollars promoting it and works hard to keep details involving its dangers secret.”

The side effects of using Gardasil include seizures, brain damage, blindness, paralysis, speech problems, pancreatitis and short-term memory loss, while other patients have died after taking the vaccine.

(source)

6) Do you trust this same company that released a “hit list” of doctors who criticized the drug (Vioxx) which they knew had serious side effects, in order to discredit them?

Merck made a “hit list” of doctors who criticized Vioxx, according to testimony in a Vioxx class action case in Australia. The list, emailed between Merck employees, contained doctors’ names with the labels “neutralise,” “neutralised” or “discredit” next to them.

According to The Australian, Merck emails from 1999 showed company execs complaining about doctors who disliked using Vioxx. One email said:
“We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live …”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer gave this assessment:
“It gives you the dark side of the use of key opinion leaders and thought leaders … if (they) say things you don’t like to hear, you have to neutralise them … It does suggest a certain culture within the organisation about how to deal with your opponents and those who disagree with you.”

(source)

7) Do you really think this company would do any different for doctors or scientists who dare to speak out against the safety, efficacy, or necessity of the long list of vaccinations they profit from?

8) Finally, do you trust the government officials who are responsible for the list of mandated vaccinations, who also financially profit from the very companies who manufacture those vaccines?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of individuals hand-picked by members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends which vaccines are administered to American children. Working mainly in secret, ACIP members frequently have financial links to vaccine manufacturers. Dependent on federal CDC funding, administrators of state vaccination programs follow CDC directives by influencing state legislators to mandate new vaccines. Federal vaccine funds can be denied to states that do not “vigorously enforce” mandatory vaccination laws.
Conversely, the CDC offers financial bounties to state departments of health for each “fully vaccinated” child. In a recent year, the Ohio Department of Health received $1 million in such CDC bonus payments.
At CDC national immunization conferences, Merck and other vaccine manufacturers wine and dine thousands of attendees who make their living promoting and administering vaccines.

Are physicians beholden?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a major supporter of mandatory chicken pox and other vaccine mandates across the country, shares incestuous financial ties with Merck. When constructing its new headquarters in suburban Chicago, the AAP solicited funds from Merck, and received $100,000 for its building campaign.
Vaccines represent an economic boon for pediatricians. Profitable well-baby visits are timed to coincide with vaccination schedules established by the AAP and the CDC.

(source)

I think that these are valid questions that deserve consideration, before we allow our government to take away our right to choose whom to trust.

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I’m sorry…

When life gets messy…

When my body hurts…

When my surroundings aren’t as I want them to be…

When the knowledge of what I need to do to bring peace back into my surroundings feels like an insurmountable task…

When my expectations of help aren’t met…

When I feel like if everyone would just do what I tell them needs to be done, the goal wouldn’t seem so out of reach…

When I feel like simply hiding in bed and sleeping the day away, but there are people who rely on me…

When I feel like nothing is going my way and everything is spiraling out of control…

…that’s when I lose it. Whatever “it” is. I yell, I scream, I rage at whoever is in closest proximity. I channel all my frustrations, my pain, my anger at people who aren’t really the source of those feelings. Their actions or inaction merely spark the cascade of emotion that has built up inside me.

The worst part is, I can’t take it back. I can’t undo what has happened. The best I can do is apologize, let them know it isn’t their fault, explain my feelings, and then try again next time to release the building pressure in a healthy way instead of hurting the innocent bystanders that I love the most…my children.

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Imagine Peace

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Morality doesn’t need to be legislated. Humans don’t need other humans to tell them to do good things. Contrary to popular belief (which is based largely upon religious texts), humans are inherently good. Children aren’t evil little sinners who need to be tamed through authoritarian means. And in fact, authoritarianism is what leads to self-centered children and adults!

This is a wonderful thing for those with all the power in this world…get people to believe in a religion that teaches the inherent evil of humans, which leads to authoritarian parenting, which leads to self-centered adults, which keeps the focus on what’s good for *me* right now and never what’s good for anyone else, and which ultimately leads to adherence to a government that promises to act on *your* best interests but really just keeps you under their control.

But the people are waking up. Many are realizing, through science, experience, and history, that authoritarian parenting works the opposite of how we’re told it will. People are realizing that obedience shouldn’t be a goal of parenting. And once they realize this, I believe it’s only a matter of time before they realize that all governments are merely authoritarian parents on steroids. Ruling others simply isn’t healthy for humanity and doesn’t work anyway.

But just as everything within an anarchist society must be done voluntarily, anarchism itself must be voluntary. It must be peaceful. Because only peace can beget peace. The revolution cannot be violent, the revolution must be one of ideas and of actions that represent the peaceful society we wish to have. Humans have the ability to create what they imagine. So to achieve peace, we must imagine peace…

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

– John Lennon, “Imagine”

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Loving My Dirty Dishes

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This sink full (always full) of dirty dishes would normally make me sigh a sigh of discontent. I would look at it and see imperfection, failure, and work.

Today, this sink makes me happy. Today, I look at these dishes and know what they represent…

They are the food I cook for my family daily.

They are my four children, unschooled and here all day most days.

They are the time I spend with my husband and children after dinner; not standing at a sink, but talking and playing games and watching our favorite shows.

They are the cookies I bake with my toddlers.

They are the time I spent crocheting rather than doing housework.

They are the peaceful, non-coercive relationship I strive to have with my children.

One day, I will have a clean, empty sink. One day, I’ll do dishes before heading to bed. One day, my sink won’t be piled with brightly-colored plastic plates and bowls. One day, every single fork and spoon won’t be dirty. One day, my children will be the ones with toddlers running amok and full sinks.

So today, I choose to smile at these dishes. Today, these dishes represent love.

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A Conversation With My Soul

I quieted my thoughts, and there I met my soul.

I said to her, “I do not know how to love.”

In the stillness of my mind, I heard her reply:

“You are love.

You are light.

All you must do is allow the love and light to flow from your spirit.

You must break down the walls that prevent the love and light from escaping.”

I began to cry.

I called out to my soul, “If I break down walls, I may get hurt! My walls protect me!”

My soul answered:

“The walls are built from fear.

When you were young…before the walls were built, when you were still an expression of pure love and light…you received hurt and darkness from those who were supposed to give you love and light.

You did not know what to do with such hurt and darkness, so you built walls around your love and light; to protect them.

In doing so, you began to reflect the hurt and darkness that you received.

The hurt and darkness bounced off your walls, but so also did love and light.

You eventually met other spirits who attempted to give you their love and light; but by then, you were too afraid to break down the walls that were there to protect you as a child.

You wanted to receive the love and light, but you didn’t know how.”

I began to cry harder.

I was terrified of the hurt and darkness I might receive if I broke down the walls.

My soul explained:

“You will receive hurt and darkness, but you need not hold it inside.

Others will reflect the hurt and darkness that has previously been given to them; but you can let it flow through you, because it is not yours.

And as you allow that hurt and darkness to pass through your love and light, it will dissipate.”

I began to understand.

I began to see.

I repeated what my soul had told me:

“I am love. I am light.”

And thus, I took the first piece off of the walls surrounding my spirit.

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Toddler Bedtime Bliss

It’s wonderfully surprising to me to see my younger two children reaping the benefits of having always been parented gently. I struggled so much with everything with my older two. It’s so obvious to me now why they acted the way they did. One such example is bedtime. It was always such a struggle with the older two.

My 2.5 yr old, Natalie, has always slept with someone. Either in the same bed or in a bassinet/crib right next to my bed. When she was almost 2, she started sleeping in bed with her 9 yr old sister, sometimes the 11 yr old, too.

I’ve always followed Natalie’s cues for when to put her to bed and how to do it. She usually is rocked and sung to sleep but sometimes she snuggles up to us on the couch and falls asleep. Well, the other night, she got her blanket and bottle, got in her bed, and fell asleep. Just like that. She recognized that she was sleepy, so she went to sleep.

I seriously thought that sleep was just always a struggle with kids. But why should it be? If they experience nothing but positivity, love, compassion, comfort, and patience at bedtime, they will never feel the need to protest going to bed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve lost my temper, I’ve been impatient, I’ve been burnt out and exhausted and even cried along with her. This is the same child who had horrid colic and spent first year of her life fighting sleep with every fiber in her little being! But for the most part, on my end, I’ve created as safe of a feeling surrounding bedtime as possible. And it’s paid off in a big way.

I’m excited to see what other differences I will notice between my older and younger kids due to my parenting choices!

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Disconnect to Reconnect

It’s pretty common knowledge that rats will choose to use cocaine addictively in a laboratory setting, if given unlimited access to it. But did you know that rats who are placed in a fun, engaging, social, mentally-stimulating environment will not partake in the cocaine in an addictive manner? Researchers have realized that the rats in the community environment don’t feel the need to use cocaine excessively. It’s only when in isolation that the rats choose the cocaine. Because why not? What else have they got to do with their time?

The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.

But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.

Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.

After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

I theorize that all addiction is the same thing… lack of connection. I have no trouble staying off Facebook when I’m out and about, visiting with friends or family, running errands, etc. It’s when I’m feeling lonely, isolated, faced with either cleaning my house (again) or scrolling through my news feed that I just can’t seem to resist.

Until not that long ago, humans interacted tangibly with each other daily. And not with just members of one’s family or extended family, but with members of the greater community at large. The lack of connection we as a species are experiencing is likely a driving force behind increases in everything from crime to mental/physical health problems to parenting struggles. (For a great read on the adverse effects the decline of the community on child development, and why this happened, read this article by Peter Gray, Ph.D.)

Loving, caring physical touch has been known to lower stress levels so significantly that wounds even heal faster. I would posit that just being in the presence of happy individuals improves one’s mood. Which is why churches are so successful… they meet several times a week, sing uplifting songs, hug everyone, and talk about things like loving your neighbor. Why wouldn’t people like to go there? And how better to get people to donate money to you than to give them happy feelings? Not that all churches are taking advantage of this, but some definitely are. What we need are communities like churches, without the hell and damnation, without the silly recitations and expectation of belief in a deity; but with all the things like visiting the sick and elderly, free child care, potlucks, food pantries, love and concern for all.

The question is, how do we get people to see that Facebook isn’t real connection? Beyond that, how do we get people to see that they know more about their favorite sitcom family than their friends’ families… and what a tragedy that is? This disconnection is so pervasive, it might take a huge jolt to wake everyone up to it.

I think we all know, deep down, that connection is what we need. It’s why we’re so quick to click that tantalizing button: “Connect with me on ______.” (Fill in the blank.)

So what’s it going to take to end the disconnection, once and for all?

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