Discipline?

As an anarchist parent, and someone who affirms independent thinking in my children, people frequently think that I do not believe in or approve of discipline.  This isn’t true.  Discipline is necessary.  A home, even when run as an autonomous collective, must have rules, so that all living within it can be happy.  It needs boundaries, respect and contribution from all members.

Children, while completely valid human beings, do not have the maturity or life experience to know how to set or respect boundaries, and they’re instinctively selfish which means they do not have the instinct for contribution.

There is nothing wrong with this.  The selfishness which is inherent in all children results from the fact that when starting out, they have had to do nothing.  A baby’s responsibility is to grow.  Their selfishness IS their contribution, because they have to develop before they can contribute.  A toddler’s responsibility is to explore and become independent, but this is soon joined but necessary discipline.  They need to very young start learning that other people have rights, and that violating these rights is not okay, or else they will not be able to be respectful, contributing members of their collective.

As children become older their responsibilities increase.  Cleaning up after themselves, and helping take care of the home, as well as younger children and pets, become daily responsibilities.  When they try to balk at these added responsibilities, there must be disciplinary action.

What kind of disciplinary action?

Much of it is just logical consequences.  If you make a mess, you clean it up.  If there is refusal, then there is a removal of privileges until the necessary action has taken place.  If The Wizard refuses to fulfill his responsibilities, he goes to his room until he is ready or willing to do so.

Today, he did not want to respect others, listen, or contribute to cleaning the house, and was sent to his room.  However, we didn’t want to just put cleaning the house on hold and wait for him, nor did we want to just let him “get out” of his responsibilities.  The Husband, in a burst of ingenuity, told him to write a letter, explaining why he should listen and contribute.

Now, The Wizard is seven years old, and in the second grade.  This obviously would not work for younger children, but they could be asked to write a short apology, or even younger children could draw a picture of how they feel, or showing the negative result of their negative behavior.  These alternatives could also be implemented when there is learning or behavioral disorders, or if it’s a very difficult assignment to start.

With The Wizard, as this was a disciplinary action that had never happened before, there was of course, revolt.  Screaming, yelling, statements of the injustice of it and of the world, kicking the wall.  Which resulted, in tired, frustrated parents, yelling in return.  A “time-out” and assignment that should have taken no more than a half an hour, took instead, an hour and a half.  However, we told him repeatedly to write what he was screaming about instead, and once he ACTUALLY started doing so, it was a big relief for him.  It allowed him to express himself, and at the same time think about how his contributions are necessary.  It allowed him to say why he was upset, and slowed and calmed him.  At the end, even he declared it a success.  Which is a good way to measure these things.

Kids are not going to like disciplinary actions.  But the disciplinary action will demonstrate itself to either be a success or not.  Sometimes it might take a battle in order to get our kids to follow through, sometimes we need to use alternate methods to find what works for our kids particularly.

Positive disciple ends with discussion, with our children understanding the reasoning behind the action, and it is adapted for the children and the situation.  It results in everyone being able to express themselves, and resolving the original problem.

Positive disciplinary methods are respectful, and when in our frustration, we treat our children with a lack of respect, we owe them an apology.  Everyone makes mistakes, and showing our children that they’re not the only ones who need to apologize, and they’re not the only ones who need breaks and time outs and “cool downs”, makes them feel equal and understood.  If we treat our children with respect, and ask for it in return EVENTUALLY (when they have the emotional and mental maturity) they will return the favor.

In other news, The Wizard lost his first tooth today!

-Domestic Anarchist

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Sugar, sugar, sugar!

 

Browsing parenting magazines is a favorite hobby of mine.  Theres not many that I consistently agree with, but nor are there many parents I consistently agree with.  Some articles annoy me and occasionally some thoroughly piss me off.  But most of these are simply differences of opinion, and societal programming.   You know, stuff like “Americans let their kids cry it out and stop breastfeeding at 6 months because Americans value independence!”

…right.  I’m sure all the co-sleeping tribal kids that breastfeed til the age of four end up very insecure and irresponsible. 

However, this is the first time I’ve been driven to rebut something I read in a parenting magazine.  In the July Issue of Parents, they stated “Some studies have found that small amounts of sugar can increase a child’s focus and calmness (but it’s still smart to limit sweets since they’re typically low on nutrients).”  This is in a health Q & A with the question “Does sugar cause hyperactivity?”  Their answer is simply “No.”, stated as if there is no other possibilities, no matter what.

Okay, for a start.  It’s a known fact that people with autism and autism spectrum disorders (which includes such common disorders as ADHD), are sensitive to sugar, especially as children.  In these children sugar certainly does cause hyperactivity, as well as poor processing and even more limited self-control than usual.  They’re also frequently sensitive to artificial coloring and preservatives, substances that are often found in high-sugar foods and beverages.

foodforthebrain.com has a full list of disorders and the food sensitivities that accompany them, with lots of references to many, many different studies.  Many of the disorders, including autism, ADHD, bipolar, depression and schizophrenia are all listed as sensitive to sugar.

I’m aware schizophrenia is fairly rare in children (it normally manifests in the teen years), but the diagnoses of autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression for young kids are steadily on the rise.  I’m not necessarily saying all these diagnoses are accurate.  I’m of the opinion that the pharmaceutical companies have a huge impact on diagnoses, and schools do receive money for each high-needs child they have enrolled, which might make things get rounded up here and there.

However, we must consider how many of these kids just had sugar sensitivities to start with, which resulted in behavioral issues and thusly, diagnoses of ADHD?  There is very few foods you can say across the line “These cause no behavioral problems at all!”  if someone wrote in asking about bread, I would expect any decent parenting magazine to put in a disclaimer saying that while many kids are not impacted by bread, there are also kids with wheat allergies who will exhibit behavioral problems if exposed to wheat.

In the magazine they say that the study saying sugar causes hyperactivity  was published more than 30 years ago.  What about the study published in October, 2009 saying children who eat candy on a daily basis were more likely to be convicted of a violent crime by the time they’re 34?  (you can read about that one here)

Yes, sugar is empty calories, but don’t try to say that’s the only reason to avoid it.  That just glosses (or should I say glazes?) over the problem.  The problem is that sugar and candy and soda are treated like such normal, natural parts of children’s lives.  They make candy EVERYTHING.  Candy bugs!  Candy jewelry!  Candy cigarettes.  Even (how cute) candy binkies.  Candy baby bottles.

Hypoglycemia (a disorder they now frequently call “pre-diabetes” because it’s very rare that someone with hypoglycemia doesn’t end up diabetic) is on the rise, especially among children.   It’s when your body cannot handle sugar properly.  So when you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels spike, causing hyperactivity, jitteriness and poor self-control.  Then your pancreas sends out a large amount of insulin, larger than needed, which makes your blood sugar plummet.  This results in lethargy, depression and disorientation.

Sound like your kid after a big sugar binge?  Every parent knows about “the crash”.  What they might not know is that this is a result of low blood sugar, which means your child’s body is releasing excesses of insulin, and after too many of these “crashes” that poor little pancreas is going to get burned out, and your kid is going to end up having to shoot up their insulin.

Now, I’m not doctor.  I’m not a scientist.  I’m a mother, and someone who developed hypoglycemia as a child.  (If you think you or your kids might be hypoglycemic, or want to know more about it, check out What Is Hypoglycemia which has good info, and a test.)  This is my blog where I use my right to free speech to put my opinions, life-experience and research out there.  Don’t base your opinions on what I say, look into it yourself.

I’m not going to say that my kids never have sugar.  I use sugar occasionally when baking, I just usually cut in half from what the recipe says.  if someone else makes a sugary treat, or offers The Wizard a piece of candy, he always asks me if it’s okay, and 90% of the time I say yes.  But those times don’t happen all that frequently, and he doesn’t have any disorders or issues that seem to be triggered by sugar.  So why do I limit him?

Much like peanuts or eggs, sugar is something your body can develop a reaction to.  With peanuts or eggs, it’s exposure in early childhood that can cause an allergy to develop, because your immune system reacts to them, and after early exposure, sometimes a childs immune system can see them as a serious threat, and over-react as an allergy.  After your child is a certain age, the immune system is mature enough, and allergies don’t usually develop.

However, with sugar, it’s not the immune system reacting, it’s the pancreas.  So there’s not a time when the risk ceases to exist.  It really depends on the individual person, the individual pancreas and liver, as well as the frequency and level of exposure.  As with most things though, the highest risk is in infancy.  Also, a “sweet tooth” is something that’s developed.  If you don’t give your baby sweet foods, they won’t have the same taste for them as a child who was raised on sweets, and you’ll have a much easier time keeping sugar out of them later on.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty.  Like I said, my home is not a sugar-free zone.  I try to limit it though, and I think saying that sugar cannot cause hyperactivity in children is very closed-minded and irresponsible.  It might take a little extra work to cut back the sugar in our children’s diets, but there are lots of alternative sweeteners.  (And no, I’m not talking about Splenda.  It’s made from sugar, and the only real difference is a cut in calories.)

Personally, I like agave.  There’s also stevia, or fructose.  Many, many options.  Search it online.

And congratulations to Parents magazine for an awesomely irresponsible FAIL on giving out researched, thorough and concise information to their subscribers, some of whom are likely parents of kids with sugar-sensitive disorders.  Way to suck at life.  Feel free to criticize them at Parents.com!

-Domestic Anarchist

Walking with Children

now that the weather is beginning to warm up a bit, we’ve started making a regular habit of walking with the kids.  The Squid and I often go for walks during the day, with her either in her sling or mei tai, either napping or observing.  she loves being outside.

The Wizard, on the other hand, is becoming less interested in just walking for the sake of walking, and now for him it’s all about exploring and challenging himself.  any hills or bolders we encounter he must conquer before we can move on.  and he always looks for the most complicated way to do so.

this is doing more than just getting out of the house and getting exercise.  as humans in our culture, we’ve become so accustomed to being in houses, places we seldom leave except for set activities, such as shopping or soccer games, and then we travel in a car.  we’re disconnected from the reality of the world.  we don’t think of it as a huge interconnected organism, we think of it as a number of places, conveniently attached together by roads.

getting out in the wild, exploring the world around us, gives children a sense of not just the earth, but themselves and their place in it.  that place should be a connected, living space.  a space where they’re aware that while we’re part of a much bigger picture, we contribute to it.  we’re part of it.  finding frogs and climbing trees and splashing our way through rivers and creeks, picking up contributions from beavers, we find ourselves reconnecting to the truth of what we are and what’s around us.  in lands that have no ownership, we have the same right to be there as every bird, deer or bug that crosses our path.  we are all equal and we all belong.  our heads lift, our breath becomes deeper.  when at last our bodies begin to tire and we push through, we learn of our own strength, the hidden strength within us and the power we can draw from the universe around us.