Gentle Discipline and Shades of Formula Parenting

There appears to be a growing trend in some Christian homeschooling circles away from corporal punishment. The term generally used instead is “gentle discipline,” and it sounds in many ways quite similar to what I call “positive parenting.” I hesitate to make the critique I’m about to make, because I truly am glad that these parents are deciding not to spank.

The thing is, when I read blog posts by mothers into gentle discipline, I am sometimes afraid that they have simply exchanged one formula for another. It’s as though the corporal punishment/immediate obedience parenting method is a recipe designed to create carrot cake, and the gentle discipline parents still want to end up with carrot cake—or at the very least cake—and are simply trying a different recipe. Still the discussions about parenting are all about how you can turn out a child who shares your same religious and political beliefs.

The thing is, children don’t work that way. When it comes to children, there’s no perfect formula where you input given ingredients and end up with some specific result. Sometimes you don’t end up with cake at all, sometimes you end up with pie, or biscuits, or tarts, or bread. And if you spend your time expecting cake, and thinking you’re entitled to end up with cake because of the recipe you’re using, you risk grave disappointment.

To be perfectly honest, I stopped formula parenting some time after I adopted positive parenting. Because as I see it, formula parenting isn’t about the specific formula used, it’s about the expectation of a specific result, a result that can be reached if you just follow XYZ method. And for a time, I still had specific expectations. For a time, I still thought I could control the final product. Today, I don’t practice positive parenting because I want some specific result at the end, I practice positive parenting because it’s the right thing to do. To bring back the recipe example, I’m not trying to end up with cake, or pie, or tarts. Instead of trying to follow a recipe and end up with a specific result, I’m simply ensuring that the ingredients I put in are healthy—I figure that’s all I can really do. I think I’ve probably stretched this analogy enough now, but you get the point.

I understand why these gentle parenting mothers do this, I really do. When you’re a devout Christian—when Jesus is the center of your life—ensuring that your children also turn out to be Christians becomes more important than just about anything else. But if I could speak directly to these mothers, as a woman who grew up in devout Christian home and is now an atheist, I would ask them what they’ll do if a grown son or daughter comes to them and says “I don’t know about that whole Jesus thing” or “I just can’t believe in God anymore.” Because like it or not, these mothers’ expectations—the results of their formula parenting—will come between them and any of their children who may choose different paths. These formulas and expectations have the potential to threaten and even destroy their relationships with these children.

One theme I’ve seen in Christian gentle discipline circles is that love will fix everything. Just focus on loving your kids, and they’ll turn out fine, and even if they don’t your relationship with them will turn out fine. But to be perfectly honest, sometimes it’s the love that is the worst. If I didn’t know, intensely, how much my mother loves me, it wouldn’t be so hard to live every day knowing that I have gravely disappointed her.

One response I’ve heard from the sort of Christians who practice gentle discipline is that they would tell their “wayward” children “I still love you.” Still. Still? Therein rests the problem. I don’t think parents realize how much those words can hurt. I don’t think they think about what that one word—still—implies. Part of that may be that many Christians have this idea that it’s a wonderful thing that God “still” loves us even though we’re “lost sinners,” and they don’t realize the problems that stem from viewing children who have simply made different life choices through this lens—as lost sinners who should be eternally grateful that their parents “still” love them in spite of their “sinful lifestyle.”

And so I suppose I would simply appeal to these mothers: Please, drop the last trappings of formula parenting, stop seeing their children as something you can program, something you can wind up and set running, and start seeing them as independent individuals who will make their own choices whatever they may be and that’s okay. If your children grow up to make different choices and you respond by draping your relationship with the disappointment of unmet expectations, those children will distance themselves from you. They’ll have to. It will hurt too much otherwise. But if you can start seeing them as individuals early and drop the expectations, if you can instead just focus on being loving and kind parents because that’s what’s right, not because you’re trying to get some specific result, your children—and your relationships with them—will be better for it.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Nate Frein

    No…no…I’m not crying…it’s totally just something in my eye…totally…

    But seriously…Dunno why, but that last paragraph caught me off guard. Well written.

    • Sophie

      I know it felt like Libby could be talking about me and my mother and our incredibly difficult relationship. Which was what caused me to get something in my eye too ;-)

  • Rosie

    This. So much this.

    And it’s also why God’s supposed love looks…condescending and not very loving, to me. I don’t want to be forgiven for my life choices, I want those choices to be respected.

    • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

      exactly. I’m like, forgiven? for what? for doubting that a god who doesn’t seem good is good? how is THAT a sin? and god is gracious enough to pardon it? lately the forgiveness stuff just irritates me. I’m a little angry i ever was taught and believed that i deserved eternal damnation. I mean, i never quite live up to my own ideals so i guess i’m not perfect, but deserving of conscious torture in a lake of fire for eternity? and god loves me??

  • John Kruger

    It is tricky to balance the societal expectations as a parent with the needs of your kids. What parent has not experienced that awkward time when their children were misbehaving in public, enduring the judgmental stares of everyone being inconvenienced? The unspoken implication is always along the lines of the parents doing something wrong to create the bad behavior, even though there are some phases of childhood development where they are just not very controllable.

    It is really tempting to think of people, especially young people, as projects to be manipulated. How do I make them like me? How can I make her stop taking drugs? How can I make him believe the same things I do? As influential as we can be, particularly as parents, I really agree that “formula parenting” is the wrong way to think about it, in much the same way as any kind of formula relationship would be.

    • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

      how can i make everyone think i’m a good parent…..
      that’s the tempting thing. To forget about giving my difficult kid the proper tools and just parent so that everyone knows i really do try.

      • Winter

        That’s because the majority relys on external validation for their feelings of self worth. When people “think” I’m a good parent, I receive the ego strokes that I need to feel good about myself. It’s an infantile reaction to the world. Humans are “supposed” to “grow out of” this type of thinking. it really is all about the ego AKA, pride.

  • Mel

    I’m curious how the parent’s views might change as their children get older. I don’t know that any of my siblings or I turned out exactly how my parents expected but they love us.

  • Christine

    I thought that the Gentle Discipline thing was neat, and now I’m just creeped out by it. Not even just because it’s formula parenting, but because some of the advocates for it are not merely wanting the same outcome as the Pearls (perfect obedience at any/all times), but are using similar methods. Yes, I know, they aren’t hitting. But the hitting (as horrible as it was) was not what disturbs me most about the Pearls – it’s the goal of breaking the child’s spirit. A lot of the Gentle Discipline advocates seem to be basically the Pearls sans hitting. Same short-term goals, similar rhetoric, same nasty taste in my mouth.

    • Nebuladance

      As a community member of Gentle Mothering for several years before I became an atheist, I have to disagree. Many of the mothers over there are frankly repelled by the Pearl’s emphasis on breaking a child’s spirit. Most honestly believe what Libby Anne here outlined, that breaking a child’s spirit is not necessary to produce the child you want, that doing so is the cause of so much of the adult rebellion being seen in children raised this way (they might even point to someone like Libby Anne as proof that Pearl’esque parenting will fail) She is spot on though that the goal of many is still formulaic. The goal (held by most at Gentle Mothering) is to produce children with the spirits intact who agree with their parent’s world views.

      • Christine

        Well I’m glad that the vocal ones are in the minority. It’s still difficult for me to emotionally separate the terms from the “we can get the kids to listen as soon as we speak, and they’ll do exactly what we want them to” type nonsense that I’ve seen it connected with.

      • Winter

        It’s ALL the same. In my house when our dad said jump, well…you should’nt even have to ask, “how high? Then good ol’ mama laying on the guilt and the – “remember, god is watching”, or how about the oldie but goodie, – “Well it’s up to you I ‘spose, but just know that you’re not only breaking your mother’s heart, but you’re going to HELL! “. It’s ALL ABUSE PEOPLE!

      • Winter

        “The goal is to produce children with the spirits intact who agree with their parent’s world views.” Why must children embrace ANYTHING from their parents’ culture or era? If everyone throughout the ages adopted his/her parent’s world views, we would’nt have running water or electricity. Thank the rebels throughout history because without them you would’nt have any modern conveniences, no less sit by your husband and men children at church. And voting? Thank the malcontents who see a chance to improve things and do! Thank the disgruntled that you have something to wipe your ass with. And NO, I’m not referring to the bible so don’t get your garments in a twist folks.

    • Winter

      Emotional and psychological abuse is still abuse! And while physical abuse is wrong, in some ways it makes you tougher. Emotional abuse always weakens the mind and spirit. Put ‘em together and you have a being that will piss and cowar at the thought of you. Making another person feel guilty for dis-agreeing with you is abuse. All this HATE over a difference of opinion! What the fuck?

      • Nancy Shrew

        “And while physical abuse is wrong, in some ways it makes you tougher.”

        Um. What.

      • Winter

        Yes, it did me. Because of having to defend myself against my dad’s blows, I had the strength to ward off a would be rapist. Also my dad, but WTF.

      • Norm Donnan

        Winter mate youve got a lot of pain and anger brewing there. I hope you have some positive and encouraging friends around you,if you dont you need to get some.

      • NeaDods

        Making another person feel guilty for dis-agreeing with you is abuse

        I think that’s far too sweeping a statement. A parent making a child feel guilty and wrong for not agreeing with the partent’s politics and religion can be abusive, especially when backed up with shame or beatings. But that same statement could be applied to, say, arguing with a peer and being beaten by facts and logic, which may sting, but is hardly the same kind of power differential.

      • The_L1985

        A good debate, though, still shouldn’t make someone feel guilty for having been wrong. My dad was right about several things I was wrong about, but he always twisted the knife way more than he needed to.

  • Mel

    One inevitable part of all relationship is the cycle of acceptance, disappointment and readjustment. This is true for every relationship. I felt this way about my parents as a child and as an adult. I feel this way about my husband now. I believe that this cycle will continue with my children While I believe that parents should protect their children from the parent’s emotional needs when the children are young, the relationship between parents and children does and should change as adults. My parents can tell me when I’ve chosen something that disappoints them and I tell them when their choices disappoints me. We still love each other.

    • The_L1985

      For me, parent-child interactions were so warped that I am terrified of disappointing people. It doesn’t matter if there’s a power differential or not; I cringe every time I hear the words “I’m disappointed,” because my brain is bracing for the shouting. The worst part is I have no idea how to go about fixing that.

      • Mel

        I grew up in a family that had a lot of struggles – parental depression & anxiety in my sister and I due to a sibling who died extremely suddenly, having a sister with a disability etc.. I have spent years in professional counseling. Having a trained, medical professional help me learn how to manage my emotions so that other people’s ideas and emotions don’t swamp me has changed my life. Counseling is a lot of work, but I am much more alive. I am also deeply grateful that my parents have received counseling and have been willing to work with me and my siblings to learn how to interact more fully. It’s been hard to talk about and listen to, but we all have a better understand of where we are coming from.

      • The_L1985

        Once I get enrolled in my job’s health insurance and can thus afford it, I think I may start seeing a therapist. My boyfriend is a wonderful man, but I can’t keep using him as my shoulder to cry on–it’s just not fair to him.

      • Hilary

        L, can I make a suggestion? Check out the works of Harriat Learner. In particular,
        Dance of Anger, Dance of Fear, and Dance of Intimacy. She’s a liberal Jewish feminist, with a real Ph. D in psychology, and if she was ever in the same room with Debi Pearl, metal sodium and water wouldn’t begin to describe the reaction. I use her books for my marriage, and for dealing with my mom when we were getting badly stuck disagreeing about my future. I recommended these to Libby, and she said ‘my oh my, these are life-changing’ quote. I cannot recommend these highly enough. Harriet is not only funny, she is very kind to the readers of her books and the people in the stories she uses as example.

        Also, she was the problem child in therapy in a dysfunctional family. When her mother had cancer, her father went into extreme passive-aggressive denial, her older sister coped by being flawlessly perfect, and Harriet become the out of control wild child. So she really gets coming from being the problem child everybody tried to fix. (Btw her mom survived). Check her out on Amazon, read about a hundred reviews, then get those three books. She’s writte more, but I think those are the best to start with.

        If I could, I’d buy 1,000,000 copies in every language and send them out free to everybody who could read them. If you have any difficulty getting them, let Libby know, she can email me an address privately and I’ll buy you copies and send them to you. That is how much I believe in them, and how much I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

        Hilary

      • Hilary

        http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Anger-Changing-Patterns-Relationships/dp/006074104X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372286181&sr=1-1&keywords=dance+of+anger+by+harriet+lerner

        There’s the link, and here is a cover blurb about it,

        Anger is a signal and one worth listening to,” writes Dr. Harriet Lerner, in her renowned classic that has transformed the lives of millions of readers.While anger deserves our attention and respect, women still learn to silence our anger, to deny it entirely, or to vent it in a way that leaves us feeling helpless and powerless. In this engaging and eminently wise book, Dr. Lerner teaches women to identify the true sources of our anger and to use anger as a powerful vehicle for creating lasting change.

      • The_L1985

        It wasn’t that I was a problem child, though. It’s that Dad’s expectations were so unrealistic that nothing I did was ever good enough.

      • Hilary

        I’m sorry to hear that, because it really sucks when nothing you do is ever good enough to be appreciated. I mentioned that about Harriet to show that as a therapist, she knows what it’s like also being a difficult patient. She includes her own mistakes as examples in her books, but always with compassion for herself and the stress her family was under. And she always includes an example with a lesbian couple dealing with realistic relationship problems and working them out in a healthy manor.

        Please, please check these books out. Even just check out Dance of Anger or Dance of Intimacy from the library if you don’t want to commit money to them just yet. I would give them to you free if I could. If you’ve ever enjoyed, appreciated, or respected anything you’ve read from me online, believe me when I say these books are worth their weight in gold.

        Whatever you do, though, good luck and take care.

      • Rosa

        I love those books, they changed my life. Totally support this recommendation.

        They’re also pretty cerebral so they’re great for thinky people and don’t require as much time/energy commitment as some self-help books.

      • Olive Markus

        I’ll be checking these out myself. Thanks for the recs!

      • Olive Markus

        How do you manage to say things I didn’t even know I wanted to say?

        Yes. This.

        The person doesn’t even have to express disappointment. If I think they may be disappointed, I hurt. If I see a flicker of disappointment, I feel like I die inside. It isn’t even the shouting I’m waiting for most of the time, though I did become conditioned to expect that in my previous relationship. Just that knowledge that I am somehow inadequate in another person’s eyes is just… crippling. My mother has the same affliction, only worse. She will tie herself into knots to please everybody and be in agony over it for years if she feels somebody wasn’t completely pleased. No wonder I am this way :).

      • The_L1985

        Are we clones? Because I’m seriously starting to feel like we’re clones.

      • Olive Markus

        I agree. Seriously. So far I look at you as a more successful, more highly functioning version of myself :D.

      • The_L1985

        *glances around messy apartment* Functional. Yes. Of course! ^^’

      • Olive Markus

        Mess? What mess. I see no mess. I mean, definitely not in heaps around me. No way.

  • Joykins

    I lost all faith in formula parenting when my oldest child did not respond to ANY parenting method the way the books said he would. Tried a lot of love mixed with a lot of patience and winging it. He’s still stubborn as a mule, but it became easier when I could figure out what carrots and sticks would be effective when he turned about, I dunno, 6 or so. I’m still very curious about what kind of person he is going to be when he grows up. Some days I can’t *wait* because 12, is, by the way, a very difficult age for boys. It’s like they work very hard to be as annoying and disgusting as possible.

    I am with you 100% on that last paragraph. There is only so much parents can do to “mold” their children; at some point they take control of their own lives and you just have to hope that they grow to be healthy, well-adjusted adults on their own.

  • Nebuladance

    “Part of that may be that many Christians have this idea that it’s a wonderful thing that God “still” loves us even though we’re “lost sinners,” and they don’t realize the problems that stem from viewing children who have simply made different life choices through this lens”

    I was watching some of the videos produced by The Thinking Atheist yesterday, and one of them made the comparison of the bride of christ to that of a battered woman. One specific point was the tendency of battered women to feel that the abuse they receive is deserved and to feel gratitude towards their abuser when they express love towards them. I had never made such a connection before, but now I see it everywhere, and here it is in your post.

    • Alice

      Ouch, I can see that. I was recently discussing the problem of evil with some Christians, and one of them essentially said, “We need to stop whining that there is so much evil in the world and just be grateful there is any good at all. We don’t deserve anything from God, and he doesn’t owe us any explanation. ‘Cause he’s the boss of the universe.” Might makes right I guess.

      It is annoying how Christians can never make up their minds whether God’s moral code is objective or subjective (See Canaanite genocide as another example). The best I can gather is that it is black-and-white for humans, but endless gray for God.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty
      • Nebuladance

        A very good write-up of this connection for those who prefer to read it rather than watch a video.

  • victoria

    It seems plausible to me, though, that by choosing to parent in a way that is less inherently dehumanizing, these parents will develop a connection with their kids on a more individual level. And that would be the first step, right? (I don’t know if any of y’all do this, but on days when I really need to exercise/clean/study/etc. and don’t feel like it I’ll sometimes tell myself that if I do it for five or ten minutes and still want to quit, I can. Usually it works and I do what I planned to do; by taking an action, I can often switch from an extrinsic frame to a more intrinsic frame. This seems similar.)

    I don’t think you can ever solve the problem of parents worrying about their kids’ salvation and being very, very hurt if the kids reject the parents’ beliefs. Not without changing the parents’ religious beliefs. You’re absolutely right that this is something that has the potential to harm the parent-child relationship and it’s a real shame. At the same time it’s hard for me to look at a parent who has this belief, that they’re going to be separated from someone who’s really a part of them for all eternity, and tell them to buck up and let it go.

  • badgerchild

    And… Mom, Dad, I still love you even though you are, respectively, an intellectual lightweight, and a consummate jerk.

  • http://wateringgoodseeds.tumblr.com/ Shira Coffee

    It seems to me that the point of parenting is to show a whole new person the ropes — to teach that person how the world works, why people do what they do, what kinds of tasks need working on, and so on. It is perilously easy as a parent to connect to your fantasies about who your child will be rather than to the child him- or herself. Unfortunately, groups like quiverful seem to encourage parents to treat their children as means to an end rather than as human beings.

  • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

    *sigh* hello, evidence of parental ‘failure’ here too. I feel bad that my mom and dad viewed me as a sort of project because every time i did something wrong, they wondered where they went wrong. my ‘failure’ was theirs. and now i’m an agnostic who wants nothing to do with church ever… but hey, i can’t live just to make their goals come true.
    http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/when-you-try-to-raise-an-army/

  • Winter

    In my home there is always a cup of coffee, a scoop of ice cream, a lone eggroll leftover. Why? Because the three of us love each other and don’t want to take the last piece of whatever it is away from the others. The problem is that egotistical people don’t want children to love, they want extensions of themselves to continue their own lives. You say how hard it is for you because you know your mother “loves”you and you disappointed her. Maybe you need to re-define what “love” means to you. Love is a concept, it’s an ideal, it is not a “thing” that can be objectified. Some of the most “loving” people are the biggest [deleted by moderator]. The old “I’m doing this for your own good” bullshit is simply that, BULLSHIT! I KNOW my parents never loved me, at least not how I define love. Because to me love is always putting that person, or being before myself in most things. Quite frankly I don’t give a shit that my family doesn’t love me because I don’t love them either. Would I put their needs or wants WILLINGLY ahead of mine? NO. NEVER. I also define love as feeling toward another living being, the feeling that I would actually be sad about never seeing he/she again; that I would feel a sense of loss over. So yeah I have loved animals a lot, but people, only two or three right now. Push guilt aside because you are starting to sound like the people that you write about, you know, making excuses for abusers and all.

    • tsara

      Whoa now, calling people c*nts=not cool.
      Also, I’m having difficulty parsing this comment.

      • Winter

        Why? The people I’m thinking of will never see this. Who is it hurting? If somebody sees themself in that sentence, I think maybe that speaks more about them.

        As for the other, well, which parts exactly, perhaps I can try to break it down and explain myself better.

      • Anat

        You are hurting women everywhere, by supporting the culture that reduces women to their genitals for terms of abuse.

      • Winter

        My reply to you actually replied to me. So it is above.

      • Winter

        Also the fact that I have one really should determine how I use it.

      • Winter

        Why do YOU get to determine what is offensive to women everywhere or anyone else. WHO are YOU? What gives you the right to speak for anybody beside yourself, women or otherwise. Because I know a shit load of some really cool chicks who don’t take offense to that word one bit.

      • Anat

        The insults we use define what is considered insulting to be. When you use a term for the organs of one sex as an insult you are saying that having such an organ is something to be ashamed of, whether you mean it that way or not. In a culture where there is an ongoing effort to silence women, to co-opt their reproductive decisions, to exclude them from certain professional fields, shaming women for existing is not cool.

      • Winter

        I thought this was a feminist blog. Feminist, as in a person who believes that women are equal to men. Well, dudes don’t start cringeing when they hear dick or cock. At least non of the atheist guys I know, Which this blog also claims to be. And some of the young lesbians I know, also feminists, don’t place much emphasis on that type of thing. So, perhaps in your circles this is the case, but not in mine.

      • Anat

        Dudes don’t start cringing when you call them dicks because our culture affirms that the dick-havers are the bosses. In a culture where men’s access to political and economical power is considered the norm but women aspiring to the same positions are dismissed as bitches, where if a woman states an opinion a man does not like calling her a cunt means he does not need to listen to her (nor does anyone else) these insults are harmful. Since feminism promotes the equality of the genders feminism is consistent with an objection to gendered insults.

        Gendered insults are as bad as racist insults, and for similar reasons.

      • Winter

        If you think calling somebody a dick or even a pussy is the same as calling somebody a racial slur, you must be white. And anyway really, feminism AND racism are both concepts. There is no right or wrong. The individual determines what a concept is to him/herself. Like I stated previously, In your circles your statement is true. OK.

      • The_L1985

        “If you think calling somebody a dick or even a pussy is the same as calling somebody a racial slur, you must be white.”

        I’m engaged to a Jew. Whenever I see or hear the K-word, I want to hit something because they’re insulting someone I care about.

        One of my oldest friends is African-American. Whenever I see or hear the N-word, I want to hit something because they’re insulting someone I care about.

        I, along with half the planet, am female. Whenever I see or hear women called the c-word (as opposed to just her vagina being called that word), I want to hit something because they’re insulting me and lots of people I care about.

        Both sides of my family are almost entirely Christian, and most of them are intelligent, reasonable people. Whenever I see or hear someone equating religion, in general with delusion or stupidity, I want to hit something because they’re insulting people I care about.

        Prejudice is prejudice, asshole.

      • Sophie

        You get all the +1s for that comment!

      • Carla

        “Prejudice is prejudice, asshole.”
        Well, I read through the comments and I must say that nowhere did I see “Winter” calling anyone in particular, as in on a personal level, a derogatory name. If you disagree with her, fine, but…. Personally I agree with a few things that she is saying. Yes, prejudice is prejudice, however your experience as a witness to it, is not the same as your experience as the target of it. Everyone has a different vantage point when looking at the world. The other thing, which I am a little surprised that nobody understood, was the passage that ended with a quote from Buzz Lightyear. Winter was not making fun of religion, she was merely invoking her right as an atheist to write a statement open to interpretation that ends in a quote from a non existing, fantasy being. Religious people do it all the time.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        This is my blog, I make the rules here. The c-word is a lot like the n-word, I think, and if you want to reclaim it that’s fine (though I would point out that reclaiming a word usually involves changing its insinuations, like the reclaiming of the word queer, and that doesn’t seem to be what you’re doing), but do it somewhere else. It’s one of the few words that is banned here, but the filter must have changed since the commenting system switched to disqus, so I clearly need to reset it. Sorry for the confusion. I’m going to edit it out of your original post.

      • Winter

        I didn’t know that. I was really just looking for the most appropriate word for my thought at that moment. I’m sorry.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        You’re fine, don’t worry about it. I don’t have it explicitly stated in my comment policy, but I did have a filter that should have caught it. I’ll have to figure out what happened to my filter…

      • The_L1985

        I am a woman. I have the organ in question. As such, you have hurt me.

        “Because I know a shit load of some really cool chicks who don’t take offense to that word one bit.”

        That doesn’t make them cool; that makes them misogynists. If you met a black person who didn’t take offense to the N-word, would you start using it in your everyday conversation? Because it is the exact same thing.

      • Carla

        A written rant hardly, to me anyway, is “everyday conversation”. To me that’s reaching a bit. Also, how I understood the statement, the word in question was not intended toward a person, but rather an idea.

      • Carla

        Tag teaming on blogs=not cool.

      • Carla

        “whoa now, calling people c*nts=not cool.” that’s your opinion and that’s fair enough. I assume you find the word offensive? But when Winter asks you why, you didn’t reply. Why not? To find something offensive you must certainly know why.
        “Also, I’m having difficulty parsing this comment.” Really? I didn’t. Except for a very few parts I had no difficulty in comprehending it. True, I see a few grammatical errors, perhaps you could have asked about the areas that seem unparsable, because after all you were given the opportunity.

    • Winter

      Oh, O.K., so let that read DICKS! Is that better? Now I am not reducing women to their genitals for terms of abuse.

      • Anat

        Still a gendered insult. Not a good idea if you support equality. But everyone has an asshole. That’s an egalitarian insult.

      • Winter

        I never claimed to support anything, but you are right, let that read, ASSHOLES!

    • Lucreza Borgia

      “Push guilt aside because you are starting to sound like the people that
      you write about, you know, making excuses for abusers and all.”

      • tsara

        Yes, this was the part I wasn’t sure I was parsing correctly.

      • Carla

        See above statement. It took you two days to realize this?
        Really?..?

      • Sophie

        Or maybe some of us actually have lives and we haven’t the time to waste on nonsensical comments from someone who has a limited vocabulary.

      • Bobo

        I did not agree with Winter’s comment, but her vocabulary is not something to dismiss her over.

        This is a touchy issue for me because my husband is very dyslexic. On a online forum recently, he was ridiculed and dismissed because of his poor spelling.

        There are valid personal reasons why a person might have difficulty expressing themselves clearly. Using that as a reason to dismiss their argument is a logical fallacy and also potentially incredibly hurtful.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Tough. Tell him to use spell-check and get over it.

      • Christine

        So basically anyone who can’t spell well enough for spell check should just not be allowed to communicate in written form?

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        No, I specifically said to USE SPELL CHECK to ensure readability. How hard is that?

        (Now, if you can’t figure out how to use spell-check…)

      • Christine

        If you have a learning disability that means you cannot spell well enough to use spell check, it’s very hard. What is the solution for people who cannot spell well enough for spell check to work for them? Just repeating that they should use spell check seems rather insensitive.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Speech-to-text programs such as Dragon. Hell, Windows has speech recognition built in!

      • Bobo

        You’re comments are very classy, truly.

        A nice combination of unfounded assumptions and victim blaming

      • Sophie

        Sorry if I caused you offence, but I was actually referring to that fact that all her posts are riddled with unnecessary expletives. My point was that she wasn’t capable of expressing her opinion without resorting to swearing.

      • Bobo

        You’re fine, I was probably a little over sensitive due to recent events

      • Sophie

        We all have things we are touchy over. I would hope that I would never be dismissive of anyone because they made typos, I know I make them enough! I just can’t stand swearing for the sake of it and I find it very difficult to take away anything meaningful from a wall of expletives and capitals. Winter may have had some valid points in her original comment, but I was so offended by it that I wasn’t willing to go back and try to find the meaning in it. I also was greatly put off by her other comments which were rude, childish and mocking. I made my comment in anger and I’m sorry that it was not more clear and that it caused you distress.

      • The_L1985

        As if someone who was abused through guilt-tripping isn’t going to feel irrational guilt ever.

      • Carla

        What don’t you get? Guilt hides, masks, pushes down, negates, etc. true and authentic feelings. Seriously? Anyone can learn that much psychology from a magazine!

      • The_L1985

        Yeah, and NONE OF US are apologizing for abusers! Where on earth are you getting that, Winter? (Seriously, if you’re not a sockpuppet, I’m the Queen of England.)

      • Lucreza Borgia

        I do not get how anything Libby said in this post is remotely connected to excusing child abusers.

  • http://autistscorner.blogspot.com Thalestris

    Yeah, “I still love you” for me definitely carries the implication that there is something I could do that would make the speaker not love me, which is probably the opposite of what they’re going for.

    • The_L1985

      Hel, I know for a fact that there are things about me that, if my father knew about them, would make him not love me. I’m bisexual. He has said, in my hearing, that if any child of HIS were gay, he’d kick ‘em out on the streets.

  • Mornacale

    Libby Anne says “Please, drop the last trappings of formula parenting, stop seeing their children as something you can program, something you can wind up and set running, and start seeing them as independent individuals who will make their own choices whatever they may be and that’s okay.”

    However, it strikes me that the parents who you’re speaking to most of all here do not even see ADULTS that way. They’ve been raised to believe that all of life is based around this same sort of structural power dynamic–whether the “parent” in question is God or the government or the head pastor–so it’s no surprise that they act the same way with their children.

    • Winter

      Fucking SHEEP! Without a herder or “pastor” they have no clue how to act or who to be. And they’re the fuckwits who don’t believe in evolution! HAHAHAHA!!!

      • tsara

        Here’s one of my favourite quotes. It’s from the book Small Gods by Terry Pratchett.

        “The merest accident of microgeography had meant that the first man to hear the voice of Om, and who gave Om his view of humans, was a shepherd and not a goatherd. They have quite different ways of looking at the world, and the whole of history might have been different. For sheep are stupid, and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent, and need to be led.”

      • Winter

        You are right, they are more like goats because they will “SWALLOW” anything. Sheeps? Goats? What’s the diff…. OH HOLY BAJEEBA!!! What am I saying? AHHH…HAHAHAHA BUJAH! WHO’S YOUR DADDY? Daddy? Father? What’s the diff… What am I saying? PSYCHE! AHH..HAHAHAHAHA…….”to infinite and beyond” -Buzz Lightyear-

      • tsara

        …I don’t know how to respond to this.

      • Christine

        May I suggest by not feeding the troll?

      • Lucreza Borgia

        Like this?

      • tsara

        That is pretty excellent.

      • Carla

        Actually you can come out of your holes now, you’re safe! We voted this website off our list. So no, the “trolls” from our group are certainly NOT coming. BTW if that comment qualifies to you as “troll” material, you might want to take your nanny filters off your computer and actually go to other websites and see what a real troll is. Actually, we discussed Winter’s ability to hold her own in a debate. One girl against all of you….and we’re encouraging her to start her own blog! She really has a quick wit and sharp mind. Unlike some of you who show up with insults way after the fact and others who can’t seem to speak for themselves.

        “Ta Ta for now”- Tigger- Winnie The Pooh 1-23

      • Lucreza Borgia

        We?? Who is this we and what does this do with the fact that she’s taken a relatively begin post and gone nuclear with it?

      • The_L1985

        Quit being an ass. Being religious does not automatically make a person stupid or gullible.

    • Snipe

      I’m 32, and my parents still try to make power plays with me. My dad has a certain warning tone that he used when I was a kid and was straying into disagreement, and he still uses it to this day. It doesn’t work.

  • Beutelratti

    I wholeheartedly agree, however, the problem I see is this: There are certain choices parents will never deem okay. To name an extreme example: I would not deem it okay if my child became a murderer even though I raised her/him to not hurt other people. I would probably still love my child all the while being horror-stricken.
    I would guess that for some of these Christian mothers having a child that does not believe in Jesus comes close to having a child that is a murderer. We might consider not believing or believing differently to be a choice that in no way comes close to an actual crime that destroys lives, but for some not believing or believing differently is a crime, it’s horrifying. So while I totally agree with everything you said, I find it hard to apprehend how some of these moms could actually learn to accept their children’s choices without becoming more progressive Christians themselves.

    • Bobo

      I agree with this, I think virtually all parents have some level of expectations for their kids, even if they just entail being independent people who don’t commit violent crimes.

      The thing is, if I believed that my child would be burned for eternity if she did not believe in Jesus I would do everything in my power to instill that belief. I find it hard to wrap my head around actually believing that but apparently some people genuinely do.
      The only thing that is likely to change the parental expectations is a change in belief, and that is something that is usually hard and often impossible

      • travelerks

        My mother believed with all of her heart that, as a declared atheist, I would burn in hell forever. She loved me, but she went to her grave praying that I will be saved before I die. I felt guilt then, and I feel it now, knowing how I disappointed her. Yes, religious abuse was heaped on me growing up and I resent it. But I loved my mother very much and came to understand that she did what she did out of the true belief that she was doing what her God wanted her to do. She was trying to save my soul.

    • Winter

      Christians mothers equate not believing in her chosen deity to murder? Whoever thinks these things is mentally ill and is suffering from delusions. Unless of course it’s a “true believer” then it’s all good!

      • The_L1985

        Dude, seriously?

  • tsara

    I’d like to point out that even secular parents can do this — take it personally and call it ‘failure’ when their kids don’t turn out the way they expect.

    • victoria

      You know, that’s a good point.

      I grew up in an family where the expectation was that you’d enter one of the professions. I’m the only one of my siblings who didn’t do that soon out of college (I worked an office job long enough to save up enough money to make a go of it as a writer and musician). And things have been reasonably good on the career score — I’ve always made enough money to pull my own weight in the household and I was able to parlay my writing work into a research job I really like.

      One year we went down to visit my family for Christmas. My kid was about two years old; I’d been very sick of most the previous two years with complications from the pregnancy, but I’d managed to secure a good writing gig that covered more than half the mortgage. That holiday, four different people — including an uncle I talk to roughly once a year — cornered me to ask me “if I’d thought about what I was going to do” with my career. I’d gone down for the visit feeling relatively good about where things were and left feeling just devastated.

      My mom tries to be lighthearted about it, but I know I’m a huge disappointment to them. (They really wanted a doctor, and I was the obvious fit for that among the siblings.)

      • Olive Markus

        I’ve been a monumental disappointment to my family, as well. That hurts more than anything, I think.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        Hah…I was thinking today how happy I am at my poorly paid job that gives me mornings off to do the things I need and want to do to get healthy. My family wants me in a professional 9-5 job. I’ve never been able to consistently wake up in the morning and am a night person. What professional job has those hours?!?

      • Sally

        ER doctor or nurse? :)

      • Lucreza Borgia

        Too stressful for my medical condition

      • Karen

        Engineer. Except it’s an 11 to 11 job. I know; my husband is one, and I gave up on it as a career partly because it was robbing me of the rest of my life.

      • Karen

        I was a monumental disappointment to my mother, because she expected a house full of grandchildren, I’m an only child, and my husband and I chose not to have children because of my struggles with depression. There were months on end when I would barely function at work and would have been an extraordinarily bad mother. But my mother pushed and pushed, to the point where we were barely talking for awhile.

    • sylvia_rachel

      Absolutely true.

  • Mewslie

    I had first hand experience of a mother who believed that love will fix everything. No matter how badly she hurt me, it was supposed to be forgiven because she loved me. Everything she did was for me because it was for my own good and because she loved me soooo much. I’m not proud of this but I snapped; if this was what it was like to be loved, I didn’t want it. Yes, I screamed at my mother to stop loving me.

    It took me years to recognise, it was not love but control.

    • jhlee

      Your mother is evidently my father. My God, do controlling parents the world over use the same line?

      • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

        My mother told me she had to get drunk because she loved me so much. Her worry for my welfare caused so much anxiety she needed to drink. She believed her alcoholism was the result of being a loving mother very sincerely.
        I also snapped at a certain point and made it clear I didn’t want that kind of love.

      • jhlee

        My dad is alcohol intolerant, but he made the same argument about his anxiety-induced rages–that it all came from loving me too much, with the extra insidious little twist that he couldn’t help being worried about me (and, when too worried, angry) because I didn’t have a normal level of caution and perception. I also snapped eventually and walked out, but I’m still trying to deal with the profound lack of confidence his constant self-justification instilled in me.

  • Rose

    This seriously strikes a chord with me. My parents (at least, my mom) were definitely in the “gentle parenting” category and they still ended up with a lesbian agnostic daughter (that would be me). And yes, the ‘love’ hurts, the disappointment hurts, and the idea that I have failed the one thing I was literally conceived to be and do hurts. It hurts that I have to wall myself off from them to stay emotionally safe. Any formula of parenting that aims to churn out a specific model of child is a formula for heartbreak, probably on both sides of the relationship.

  • Amethyst Marie

    I’m always shocked and pleased when I get to be the first to say this on a relevant internet post…

    THE CAKE IS A LIE!!!

    • Anat

      Well, the only cake meme I know is:

      A certain realization dawned on him.
      ‘Oh,’ he said.
      YES, said Death.
      ‘Not even time to finish my cake?’
      NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE. (Terry Pratchett, Night Watch)

      (The would-be cake-eater is a tyrant who suffered a heart attack upon realizing that a young assassin just killed his bodyguards and is aiming for him.)

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        The cake is a lie meme is from Portal 1, which is a super awesome PC puzzle game. If you ever have the chance to play it, you should.

        FOR SCIENCE!

  • Snipe

    You touch a sore spot with this one, Libby Anne. Throughout my childhood, my parents treated me as they liked rather than as I wanted to be treated. I wanted to pleased them, so I accommodated them. The message that I got from all this was that I was not all right. I had no personal boundaries and felt worthless, but my parents loved me, so that made it okay, right? I sought therapy and am much better now, but I still deal with the fallout to this day, and they don’t make it easy with their needy form of love.

  • lollardheretic

    I’m not sure I disagree with the “I still love you…” thing. I mean, I get the problem with it, and the problem with programing kids. But love regardless of mistakes is important. “You screwed up, and that’s a problem, but I love you anyway” is important for a kid. It’s important to have a safe space to make mistakes and to know that they WILL make mistakes. I did bad things as a kid (I stole money from my dad once, lied, whatever stupid stuff kids do) and I got in trouble for it, but my mom catching me, telling me it was wrong, having me confess to my dad, etc. and reassuring me that all this did NOT jeopardize her love for me was WAY important. It wasn’t manipulation. It wasn’t condescension.

    And sometimes my parents being disappointed WAS good for me. I mean, that’s how they taught me right from wrong. How else do you do it. Sure, kids will make their own choices, and I did. And my parents expected me to, but those choices didn’t include things like hurting others, and I’m guessing, Libby Anne, that you’d be pretty disappointed if your daughter became a serial killer. So where’s the line? Where’s the “she’s her own person” and “holy heck she’s torturing cats!” And I mean this seriously. You don’t want programming, but you certainly are encouraging values in your kids, and there are some things you won’t stand for, I’ll bet (like, say, oppressing others), so how do you deal with that as a parent. What do you do if your kid comes home and says “I’ve decided to be a Nazi”?

    • kisekileia

      I’m not sure about this either. I mean, I’d be disappointed if a kid of mine turned out to be, say, an MRA. I’m not sure where to draw the line between unreasonable expectations of kids and reasonable desires for them to be a good person.

      • The_L1985

        Speaking as someone who saw the bar set reasonably for her brother, but way too high for herself, I’d say that, for example, expecting your child to put forth a good effort in school and learn enough to make decent grades is reasonable. Expecting all 100′s…isn’t.

      • Olive Markus

        I was grounded when I got a B…

        Scary. I’m serious.

    • Sally

      I think this is an excellent question. I think we all have some kinds of expectations and that is in fact good for kids. I think the key is balance and also modifying as you go. When you see your child’s personality, you adjust. When you see their goals start to take shape, you start to hand over the reigns for their future. You gradually become mutual adults.

      I see waaaaay too many parents still trying to parent their adult children. That is one thing my grandparents didn’t do to my parents and my parents don’t do to me. What’s the message when parents parent their adult children (I mean well into their 20s and beyond when they’re out on their own)? I think the message is that you’re not a full adult, I am, and I still need to guide you because you’re still not doing it right. Why???? Are these older parents so insecure that they can’t let their adult children function as adults? And what’s the result? Some adult children avoid their parents. Some become strangely co-dependent.

      I’ve been through some hard stuff as an adult (haven’t we all?) and I have shared it with my mom (my dad doesn’t handle crisis so well in his own head) and she’s listened and given advice *when I asked*. If I don’t ask, she doesn’t slip it in some sneaky way.

      Anyway, as our kids grow, I think we move more and more towards the mutual adults model. I think it’s really important not to get there too soon (little kids feel insecure when the family has no structure or the kids are raising themselves), but get there we must! Once your kid is able to think for themselves and plan their future, *it’s up to them* I believe. The parent’s job is to support that. Now, some paths are easier to support than others, no doubt. And some paths (drugs, crime, abuse) should not be supported, imo (but *still* loved through). But just about anything else should be.
      One last thought. We often try to define love here. I was taught that love is not a feeling, it’s an action (and I think we can add the *right kind of action*). That’s one of the few holdovers from my Christian days I still embrace (although I might define *right* differently sometimes now).


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