Bottling Up Your Emotions, Children Edition

Have a look at this FAQ from a quiverfull blogger:

How do you deal with (1) whining/complaining, (2) arguing with parental directions, (3) poor attitudes (sulking, etc.) in response to chores, food, parental decisions, etc., (4) tantrums.

All of the above are a lot easier to avoid, than to deal with. We do not permit whining, complaining, arguing, sulking, tantrums, sibling fighting, rudeness, etc. We avoid them by teaching why such attitudes and behaviors are wrong, and then punishing them if they occur. As a result, these episodes are few and far between, to the betterment of every member of the family.

Notice that the blogger says she teaches her children that bad attitudes and complaining are wrong, and then weeds them out by punishing every instance. She probably thinks she’s teaching her children how to handle their feelings with maturity. Not so—she is teaching them to smother their feelings, and that their feelings do not matter. I grew up in a family liked this. Complaining and bad attitudes were not allowed. We children were very aware that being sulky could get you spanked or sent to your bed. Even a disconsolate face could get you a time out, or assigned sentences to write out over and over. As a result, bad attitudes and complaining were rare (relatively speaking)—at least on the outside.

I don’t understand how parents don’t realize that teaching children to bottle up their feelings is a bad idea. Children should be taught to explore and understand their feelings, and how to properly handle and work through them. Just this evening Sally was trying to put a puzzle away, and for some reason the box wasn’t working, and she suddenly burst out with “I am getting SO ANGRY with this!!!” I was on the other side of the kitchen and hadn’t noticed her struggle. I empathized with her frustration and then advised her to either take a deep breath and think about the problem and try again or ask for help. Other feelings are often similar.

How do I deal with whining, tantrums, bad attitudes, or complaining? I listen to Sally and take her needs and feelings into account, I encourage her to be introspective and to think about how she feels and why, I offer advice on how to work through what she is feeling, and, if needed, I remove myself or her from the situation until she cools down (for instance, in the case of the very rare really bad tantrum). I make it clear what she may not do—hit someone, break something in anger, etc.—and why, but I never, ever question her feelings or tell her she shouldn’t or can’t feel the way she does.

Do I like it when Sally whines? Of course not. And when it happens, it’s not uncommon for me to ask her to take a deep breath and ask again without whining. I also try to see tantrums in advance and short circuit them, sometimes by suggesting to Sally that it might help if she lay on the couch to calm down (something she now thinks of herself when she can feel herself getting worked up). And I’m not saying that parents should encourage surly behavior. What I’m saying is that suppressing your child’s emotions and feelings is never a good idea, and punishing your child for having feelings is an even worse idea. Instead, the parent’s focus should be on helping children understand and come to terms with their feelings, and on teaching children how to handle their feelings without hurting others or causing others to disassociate from them.

Of course, the idea that children’s feelings should be suppressed is more widespread than just this one blogger or my parents. Rather, these ideas are quite common in the conservative evangelical and fundamentalist homeschool community within which I grew up. Let me illustrate this with some quotes from To Train Up A Child:

Sulking, pouting, whining, complaining, begging and the like, should become an eradicated disease.

To allow a child to whine and disobey is to mold a personality and character that you will eventually find hard to like. By taking control and teaching them to control their emotions and to instantly obey, the child will be cheerful and pleasant.

Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything! We have raised five whineless children. Think of the convenience of being able to lay your children down and say, “Nap time,” and then lie down yourself, knowing that they will all still be quietly in bed when you wake.

If you are faithful to guard against and reward every infraction, whether in attitude or action, in just a few days you will have a perfectly obedient and cheerful child.

To be honest, the idea that bad attitudes are rebellion to be punished and that feelings other than “happy” are things to be eliminated is fraught through the Pearls’ work—and not just their work on child training.

Of course, I’m aware that the Pearls are not all that much heard of or followed outside of the world of Christian homeschooling. But it’s not like these ideas stop there. Have a look at how Focus on the Family suggests parents respond to whining and tantrums. Are the suggestions as extreme? No, and it’s true that Focus on the Family can be quite moderate compared to the Pearls and other denizens of the Christian homeschooling world (for instance, Focus on the Family actually acknowledges that teenagers exist and that masturbation is natural and not a sin)—but if you look, the idea that whining or a tantrum is to be met with punishment is still there.

I can’t say just how widespread the idea that children’s emotions are to be bottled up rather than expressed worked through is, but I suspect these ideas extend beyond evangelicalism. I suspect that it’s not uncommon for whining or tantrums or bad attitudes to be viewed as things to eliminate rather than things to work through. It’s a symptom of seeing children as beings that should accommodate to adult desires rather than as little people who need preparation for the world of adulthood. If we can stop seeing whining or bad attitudes as simply annoying and instead approach them as moments when feelings can be accepted as okay and guidance and direction can be offered, children will be better for it.

Let me finish with one last quote from To Train Up A Child:

Don’t think of the rod as a weapon of defense or a show of force; think of the rod as a “magic wand.” The first time parents see its restorative powers they are amazed. Picture a child of any age who is miserable, complaining, a bully to the other kids. When you look at him, all you can see is the inside of a bottom lip. Every device has failed to bring relief. The kid feels that he is living in foreign, occupied territory. He is obviously plotting the day of throwing off the yoke. Bribed, threatened or swatted, he only gets worse. Fail to use the rod on this child, and you are creating a ‘”Nazi.” I still marvel at the power of the little rod. After a short explanation about bad attitudes and the need to love, patiently and calmly apply the rod to his back-side. Somehow, after eight or ten licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand new child emerges. It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein.

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.

  • Mel

    I hate the options on Focus for the Family that end up punishing the kid by making them repeat the behavior over and over. That’s mean.

    I liked the “I don’t understand whinese” comment but only if the parent was able to be playful with the kid.

    I am ok with moving/removing a kid who is having a tantrum from the middle of an audience. I won’t dump them outside, though. Our weather in my area is too intemperate most of the year for that. My parents would move us to a bedroom to help us calm down. It wasn’t a punishment – my folks realized that our tantrums usually happened when we were overstimulated. Moving to a quieter place helped us calm down and more easily talk about what we were feeling.

    • Lyric

      I hate the options on Focus for the Family that end up punishing the kid
      by making them repeat the behavior over and over. That’s mean.

      Isn’t there something in Matilda where the villain forces a chubby girl to eat until she’s sick, to punish her for “greed?” The difference being, of course, that in Matilda, it’s treated as pure evil.

      • sam

        Oh you mean Bruce Bogtrotter? :)

      • Lyric

        Yes, that’s the one. I misremembered the exact way the scene occurred. But still—if your idea of appropriate punishment ever aligns with a Roald Dahl villain, it is time to take a good long look at your life and choices.

      • The_L1985

        If anything you do ever aligns with a Roald Dahl villain, or with the extreme ways in which they get their come-uppance, then something is very, very wrong.

  • Karleanne Matthews

    I think attempting to eliminate whining and tantrums as a good thing as long as parents do it by teaching their children that they’re not good forms of communication. I think there are lots of ways (you’ve mentioned a couple) to acknowledge a kid’s feelings of frustration, sadness, disappointment, or just general fussiness while still teaching that whining and tantrums are not appropriate responses to those feelings. And if you follow it into adulthood, that approach works way better: The reason that adults don’t (often) throw big temper tantrums in the middle of the office is mostly because we’ve found ways to deal with our emotions that result in the problem actually being solved.

    The idea that the feelings themselves are disobedience is just crazy, and does nothing to train children for adulthood. And again, Michael Pearl has been able to take something generally good (kids that aren’t whiny) and twist it around to be all about his own convenience, instead of the child’s wellbeing and preparation for life.

    • shortcake

      This. I am not a parent, but I spent entire summers babysitting my younger cousins in my very early twenties. I hated whining, so when it happened, I asked them to use their big boy or big girl voices, so I could understand them. It had the twofold result of nipping tantrums before they started and getting them to explain what they were feeling, so I could help.

      • shuttergirl46q

        I used the same tactic when I babysat years ago and found it to be pretty great. For a while, I was the only person the one little girl WOULDN’T whine to, including her parents.

    • Liz

      Definitely. I’ll admit fully I have almost zero tolerance for whiny, sulky behavior. But I mean I really have NO tolerance for it – it’s one of my personal triggers that is sure to send me straight over the edge into the abyss of terrible parenting. That doesn’t mean, though, that my kids aren’t allowed to feel frustrated, down, put-upon, tired, etc.; they just know that if they want to express it to me they have to do it in a way I can tolerate. However, my kids are 11 and 14 and they are more than old enough to understand this. Even when they were younger I tried to be very calm about it and just explain that I couldn’t understand whining and if they needed to whine then their room was a good place to do it. I’m quite sure my kids roll their eyes now, every time I say “nobody can control how they feel, but you can control how you act on it.”
      I recognize my need for not having this, though, and that it is my need. I’m sure there are plenty of other behaviors my kids exhibit that would drive other people crazy – they just don’t register for me.

  • John Kruger

    That first quote was pretty stunning in its irony. It is easier not to deal with feelings, so we force our children to pretend like they do not have any that are inconvenient. I can think of no more through way of avoiding the problem rather than dealing with it than what is spelled out in the very next sentence after implying it should not be avoided!

    That last quote is as chilling a rationalization for violence as I have ever read.

    I’m definitely with Libby on this one. Focus on molding the behaviors that deal with emotions, not the feelings themselves. The latter is impossible in any real sense, which only sets up a need to be dishonest in the children.

  • Sally

    “All of the above are a lot easier to avoid, than to deal with.”

    Exactly. You’re avoiding, not dealing with. Now your children have learned the same.

  • Sally

    “It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein.”
    Umm, yeah. Speciation isn’t evolution; God did it. Fear of pain didn’t change the child’s behavior (after all “swats” didn’t do it), it’s just magic.

    • Kate Monster


    • Leigha7

      So if spanking doesn’t work, it’s because you’re using the wrong rod. Only *magic* rods will do!

  • Ruana

    How very true. My family was entirely outside evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity, and I wasn’t homeschooled. While I don’t know what (if any) child-rearing philosophy my parents followed, I do know they would both have benefitted from some anger management classes; but, of course, their anger was legitimate, while I was simply being ‘petulant’. As a result, I was a walking powder-keg during my teens and have spent much of my adult life unlearning the horrible lessons they unintentionally taught me about emotional control and conflict resolution.

  • The_L1985

    “I don’t understand how parents don’t realize that teaching children to bottle up their feelings is a good idea.”

    Er, shouldn’t this say bad idea?

  • Cassiopeia

    My mother taught me not to whine by asking for a reason. I learnt quickly that whining would get me nothing, if I could come up with an argument as to why I should be allowed X thing I had a much better chance of getting it.

    I should be allowed to stay up past my bedtime because there was an interesting TV program on. I should be allowed those sweets because I’d been excessively helpful. I should be allowed that book because it was part of a set and I had the other ones (I’m a bibliophile and so is she, so that was considered legitimate reasoning).

    I got what I wanted and even if she said no, I felt like I’d had a fair hearing. Sometimes my mum had to explain that I couldn’t have whatever I wanted because we didn’t have enough money for it. So I learnt to save up.

    This had the added benefit of me being a very helpful child, which gave way (as I started working) to just being helpful for the sake of being helpful.

    If I was angry I got sent to punch a pillow until I could talk about what made me angry. Likewise crying, being jealous or anything else. The talking was expected as well.

    Yes, children have emotions and sometimes they don’t understand how to express them so they are loud or disruptive or they can’t leave something after you’ve said no or they can compartmentalise. The solution is not ‘have no emotions apart from happiness or I’ll hit you’, it’s teaching them how to deal with their emotions in a way that is appropriate for the situation.

    There are situations now when I can’t go hit a pillow if I’m angry, so I have other ways to manage my anger which can be done on the fly. Because bottling up anger just means I’m more angry the next time I get angry. Continually bottling it up means that eventually I go off like Coke and Mentos if you manage to get the lid back on.

    Also, as I’ve said, hitting me because I’m angry is hugely counterproductive. In fact, hitting me when I’m already angry is worse.

    • Gillianren

      Actually, hitting a pillow is counterproductive, too; it isn’t bottling up your anger. It’s expressing it.

      • luckyducky

        Yes, there is a fair amount of neuroscience research that shows that indulging in angry outbursts actually makes one more angry or more prone to anger. I think it has something to do with the endorphins or some other chemical cocktail that are released when you engage in the fight part of the fight-or-flight response that makes punching, hitting, yelling, screaming, etc. neuro-chemically rewarding acts, thus habit-forming.

        I see it with my own kids, they get into the tantrum mode (generally starts when they are tried and stressed) and it is a really hard mode to get out of even when tantrums don’t get them what they want, even when there are separate consequences for throwing a tantrum (i.e., Not being able to use your words to talk to mom/dad about what you are upset indicates you are tired and not getting enough sleep. You need to go take a nap and/or we are moving bedtime up.).

        That isn’t to say one should deny that something is upsetting or anger provoking but learning how to control one’s response to something that is upsetting or anger provoking is part of becoming an emotionally mature, responsible, and productive person.

        My mom used to use the example of Jesus in throwing the money changers out of the temple, the only time Jesus was described as angry. Anger and even angry outbursts can be justified, but you want to use your angry productively, to make a point, to accomplish something, not let your anger control you.

      • RowanVT

        I think it depends on the person. When I was young I would have episodes of true rage; a response I developed due to an emotionally abusive teacher who encouraged my classmates to make fun of me. She thought I was ‘challenging her authority’ by being easily distracted. I wasn’t allowed to respond to my classmates and if I did, I got in trouble. So one day I snapped and physically harmed another child.

        This act of harming another person scared me badly. So over the course of many years I learned to recognise when I was getting close to the rage state. I extract myself now from the situation by any necessary means…. and I go and punch something because it is the ONLY way for me to make the emotion go away. I punch a tree until the pain from my hands outweighs the desire to cause harm. And after that point… I’m okay again. I might be annoyed, but I’m no longer dangerous.

      • luckyducky

        I am not an expert nor do I know you, so I will only speak in general terms except to say that I don’t think your coping with anger/rage issues contradicts the neuroscience research, particularly if your punching has developed into more a physical exercise. I.e., if it starts/ed as an expression of anger — maybe you pictured punching SOMEONE — but became/becomes the specific away you expend some physical energy, provide some sensory input in the form of pain. The question is whether getting close to or falling into a rage state makes you more prone to being in the rage state and if avoiding rage states (working on avoiding situations where you may be provokes, developing coping mechanisms to help maintain calm, etc.) makes it less likely that you’ll get to rage even when in stressful/provoking situations.

        I’ve had some experience with a child who has what you’d call a short fuse and either gets frustrated or gets hyper with no impulse control (not all the unusual for pre-Kers). The hypothesis about this kind of behavior is that the child is having trouble integrating sensory input — children who do this frequently may be more easily overstimulated than most children. Somewhat counter intuitively, applying firm pressure (sensory input) particularly to joints can help them ground themselves and calm down. So, children for whom it is a regular problem are prescribed weighted vests and blankets. For those for whom it is a more intermittent problem, pressing one’s hands together with elbows out, pushing on a wall, or doing push-ups are self-calming techniques, getting a tight hug or wrapped up “like a burrito” in a blanket are others — though you need someone to help with those.

        It is really the same principle behind swaddling babies and I would bet self-mutilation or punching something until you’ve hurt yourself is a somewhat to very dysfunctional way to achieve the same grounding — align neurochemicals with physical sensations.

      • Rosie

        Thank you for this. Some random things I do and have done for years make a lot more sense now, in light of what you’ve said here.

      • Jackie

        Wow! Great information.

      • wmdkitty

        “Burrito-ing” is the best. thing. ever.

      • Leigha7

        I’m not voicing an opinion one way or the other on whether punching a pillow is good or bad, but I’m curious about the way you phrased this. You say it’s counterproductive because it’s expressing your anger rather than bottling it up…but, correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t expressing your emotions (in a healthy way) better than bottling them up?

        I’ve heard all sorts of arguments from both sides about hitting pillows (that it lets you get your anger out without harming anyone/that it makes you more angry/whatever), so I don’t mean that specifically. I just mean that expressing anger, if you can do so appropriately, is less counterproductive than bottling it up.

      • Gillianren

        But there’s a middle ground–dealing with it productively. By punching a pillow or whatever, you are training your body that the appropriate way to handle the physiological aspects of anger is in a violent manner. To me, that isn’t the same as expressing anger. It’s lashing out, and the only difference is that you’re doing so on an inanimate object. However, it does still mean that you’re in the practice of lashing out when you’re angry.

      • Feminerd

        During my teen years, I had to do something to get it out. My mom was very against slamming cupboards and doors (what did the house ever do to you?), and I knew that I was likely to take it out on a sibling and I didn’t want to hurt anyone. So I hit a pillow, because while that’s not a great way to deal with anger, it did help me calm down and it didn’t hurt anything or anyone.

  • Ahab

    “Somehow, after eight or ten licks, the poison is transformed into
    gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A
    brand new child emerges.”

    The physically abused child isn’t showing love and contentment here — they’re learning that they have to put on an act to pacify the sadist who has absolute power over them! God, the Pearls make me want to scream.

    • The_L1985

      Oh, indeed. I had this sort of emotional “training,” minus the whole beating-with-an-object thing, and it doesn’t teach you to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. It only teaches you to repress your emotions–which just means that they keep building up inside you until they explode. I don’t wanna explode, captain!

    • Theo Darling

      Over summer break I stole my parents’ copy of “Shepherding Your Child’s Heart” from their room and am currently highlighting it all to hell. SAME THING. Hit your kid, yell at them, or GROUND THEM and it’s “ungodly child abuse”–Tedd Tripp’s quote, not mind–but gosh, administer a health dose of spanking and they will suddenly feel their needs are being met.

    • Jackie

      I nearly vomited reading that phrase. It’s so absolutely nuts and incredibly lacking in empathy. And shows no understanding of children at all.

  • KarenJo12

    My husband’s family were Catholic and not particularly traditionalist, but this was completely their idea of childrearing. Do what we say when we say it or get beaten. Consequently neither my husband nor his brother can control their anger. I teach our sons that no feeling is necessarily wrong in itself, but that there are better to worse ways to express it, and always check yourself to see if your response is proportional to the stimulus. (My kids are 11 and 15, I can use more complex explanatiôns.)

  • AAAtheist

    “… Fail to use the rod on this child, and you are creating a ‘Nazi.’ …”


    Late nineteenth-century childrearing tactics in Germany and Austria encouraged the “magic wand” and more and were reimposed on the world a millionfold and then some.

    Remove the first two words of this quote and you’re closer to the truth.

    • Jolie

      Yep, the irony of a guy who thinks instant and unthinking submission to authority is desirable talking about what creates a Nazi…

  • luckyducky

    Grrrr… the rod imagery is drawing on the original audience’s experience with herding. A decent shepherd does not beat his/her animals with the rod as beatings one’s animals is counterproductive–they learn to fear the shepherd, which means they are agitated and looking for opportunities to get away from the shepherd. A decent shepherd uses his/her rod to guide – nudging and tapping to remind and redirect, blocking certain areas off, etc. as you move the animals from place to place.

    Sheep may require a particularly forceful tap due to the wool, cattle because they aren’t very sensitive. But it is in the moment to prevent or encourage movement in a particular direction, not in punishment after the movement has already happened and isn’t meant to hurt them but get their attention.

    Oh, and a smart shepherd sets up the environment to minimize his/her work — reducing distractions and spooking opportunities, establishing a routine, etc.

    • TLC

      The other night when I was reading the Mother Earth article about Liberian adoption, I followed a link to the Above Rubies website to a blog entry for women called, “God’s Idea of Discipline.” One section is called “Discipline With a Rod, Not Your Hand.” Nancy Campbell says:

      “It is amazing how peaceful and happy a child can be after they
      have received a good spanking. The effect of a spanking that hurts, but
      which is given in righteous love and wisdom, can last for a long time.
      Effective discipline does not have to be executed so frequently. It
      lasts. God, who is our pattern parent, uses the rod too. ”

      One of the verses she quotes is Psalm 23:4, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

      Apparently, I completely misunderstood this Psalm, because I thought it was a prayer of praise to God for to thank Him for taking care of us and watching over us. But Nancy Campbell has interpreted it as prayer of praise to God for beating us with a staff. “Comfort” means “beating”, right?!? AAAAAACK!

      • The_L1985

        Now that’s a creepy interpretation of the 23rd Psalm. Stockholm Syndrome much?

      • Alice

        AAAACK indeed! I’m tired of willfully ignorant people using Bible verses for their own agenda. I say “willfully” because if they bothered to do five minutes of research, they would know better, but they don’t care about accuracy.

        Also, I think the “Parents should spank with an object, not with their hands because children should only associate hands with love” is bullshit. No matter what method used, the child is only going to think, “My mom/dad is hurting me.” She couldn’t care less /how/ it’s being done (unless one method is less painful than another). And for crying out loud, the parents are still using their hands! I think parents are fed crap like this to ease their guilty consciences. “See, I’m not so bad, I don’t___”

    • Rose

      I used to raise sheep for show (not in large numbers). When showing sheep you lead them by the head without a halter or any sort of harness, it takes some training an a lot of patience, but I never had to strike any of my sheep (even the super bratty ones) the most physical I ever got with them was pressing my knee or hip against their chest to stop them from pushing forward. These are sheep, admittedly not the most intelligent animals out there (although much smarter than people give them credit for; I had a ewe who was always escaping because she could open gates), and I never once had to resort to physical punishment. I guess that’s just because I have more patience with and empathy toward sheep than the Pearls have for children. Also, I respected them. I’m such a sucker, they were probably using me, those wicked, wicked sheep.

  • krisya0507

    I think many families discourage authentic emotion in children (although not to the extent of the Pearls, of course). Anger, sadness, frustration are all bottled up under the label of “bad attitude.” I think it’s so selfish. Parents get uncomfortable when their children are unhappy, and so they act like it’s the kid’s job to act happy even when he’s not. Little kids can’t do that easily, and shouldn’t be forced to. A lot of parents need to grow up and realize that it’s not the end of the world if their child is angry, even at them. They should recognize and affirm that the feeling is legitimate, while helping their children learn how to express those feelings without being hurtful.

    I think if children are used to being listened to, they are a lot more likely to work on improving how they express their feelings. Kids also naturally model. If you express sympathy to them, they’re more likely to show the same care to others. If you show your sadness or frustration, but do it without yelling, they’ll learn how to constructively express their feelings.

    • The_L1985

      It also made it harder for me to articulate my feelings or desires when any form of explanation was treated as “an excuse” or “backtalk.”

      If even just ONCE, a parent or teacher had said, “I’m glad you explained to me why you did this, but that doesn’t change the fact that people got hurt,” whether I was punished afterward or not, I’d have been a lot less afraid to speak my mind.

      • Rebecca

        Oh, I *hated* when adults would claim I was making excuses! Fortunately–for some definition of that word–it didn’t occur to me that adults just didn’t value my experiences, motivations or values, so I got frustrated by being unfairly criticized, but it wasn’t as soul crushing as it might have been if I actually understood what was going on. I thought I was just wording my explanations badly, and when I found the right phrasing, it would end.

      • The_L1985

        I even remember lots of times saying, “But it’s not an excuse! It’s an explanation!”

        There was also an implied, but never stated, “You can punish me–I know I did wrong–but please, please don’t spank me! Please!” Especially as I entered my teens.

      • Leigha7

        I said that so much. I don’t know why they could never accept my explanation as what it was, instead of assuming I was trying to get out of being punished. Being punished for doing something wrong was fine, but I wanted them to know why I did what I did. I just wanted them to understand my reasoning. Even if they didn’t care, it mattered a great deal to me.

        I’d also like to point out that I got this more at school than anywhere else. Most of my teachers–and especially the principal–really couldn’t have cared less why I did anything. Sometimes I really don’t understand why certain people get into teaching, because it’s definitely not because they value children.

  • NeaDods

    Always, always, always all about the appearance! There’s no happiness, much less love or contentment in knowing that you’ll be beaten for the sin of having emotions!

  • Suburbint

    This has been a huge topic of conversation in my home lately. My husband is, by nature, not one to display emotions, and as a result when my children or myself become emotional his first response is always to say “calm down.” We had a huge discussion just the other night about how when he responds like that, what he is doing is invalidating our feelings and disrespecting the fact that whatever we are emotional about is, to us, a big deal. It is particularly difficult with my six year old son, who probably is a bit more of a “crybaby” than he should be at this point.

    What we (primarily I) are trying to establish is an environment where feelings are recognized, validated, and then once the initial outburst is over, trying to bring it down to my husband’s area of expertise which is to recognize the problem, isolate the problem, fix the problem. Bottling emotions means that they will ultimately find some sort of outlet, which in my husband’s case is generally an angry outburst over whatever little thing finally pushes him over the edge.

    I was raised to only show happiness and contentment, and in the past few years of my marriage and separation from my mother’s influence, I have been learning to express my emotions in an honest and healthy way. Growing up being told that your feelings are wrong is a brutal existence and creates adults who are incapable of functioning in normal relationships because they are so programmed to keep those negative feelings suppressed. My goal for my own children is that they will understand the value and validity of negative emotions, and learn a way to express what they are feeling in a way that allows for better communication and resolution of whatever the source of the anger/sorrow/frustration might be. It is hard work, but I am confident that the result will be emotionally stable adults with excellent communication skills.

  • M.S.

    I totally agree with most of your article Libby, and disagree with most of the Pearl’s child-rearing ideas, BUT I must argue there is *some* value in “bottling up your emotions” as you said. Self-control is something everyone must learn, and its HARD. If someone doesn’t learn as a child, it is probably even harder to learn as an adult. In adult-life sometimes you do have to suppress / squelch your emotions, i.e. when your boss is yelling at you, when someone says something insulting to you, when you don’t get your way… you can’t just fly off the handle. So, I guess my point is a more moderate approach than that of the Pearl’s to instilling self-control in your child is probably good, but teaching your child self-control of their emotions is important.

    • AAAtheist

      Getting beaten by my father didn’t teach me self control. It infuriated me and made me think my father was an asshole.

      The people who need to learn self control in your example aren’t you, they’re the person insulting you and the boss.

      • M.S.

        I’m certainly not condoning beating anyone. That is never okay. And yes, agreed in my example the person insulting me needs to learn self-control. But lets be honest, lots of people that we interact with as adults are inappropriate and lacking self control, and its our job to control our own reaction to such behavior.

      • AAAtheist

        Sorry if my comment made it seem like you were condoning beating a child. It just that your comment about children learning self-control was made in the context of this post, critiquing the Pearls’ belief in corporal punishment. It just seems to me (as it did when I was a kid) that “self control” can be a gaslighting tactic used by an abusive authority figure to keep a traumatized kid quiet, a shaming tactic to silence a justifiably aggrieved individual.

      • M.S.

        No worries, I wasn’t offended. Just wanted to be clear I don’t agree with that sort of discipline at all.
        I just get frustrated when I see my whiny kids (though they are still very little) and think I don’t want to condone such behavior and raise whiny adults… how can I keep that from happening? That’s my challenge as a parent (one of them, anyway) ;-)

      • Sally

        You were probably being rhetorical, but I got my kids to stop whining by telling them I had “funny ears.” My ears can only understand regular talk, not whining. They were old enough to understand what I was doing there (I wasn’t tricking them). Then I would accept approximations, which got gradually closer and closer to no whining. I also rewarded “no whining” by giving them what they wanted if at all possible.

      • M.S.

        It was rhetorical but I appreciate the idea. My kids are still too young to even understand that though, but maybe someday I will use that idea. I would never resort to “switching” to eliminate the whining habit, but I can’t deny it drives me crazy, its annoying, and I refuse to raise whiny adults.
        I think it was actually you Sally, in a previous post about the Pearls, who commented that the kids looked “happy and extremely well adjusted” or something of that nature. The Pearl methods are extremely abusive to my eye, but how did they manage to raise “happy and well adjusted” kids despite using them? Is erring on the side of too much discipline better than erring on the side of not enough discipline? I think yes, is the answer to that last question (although again, my form of discipline will never involve “switching” or inflicting any sort of physical pain). And unfortunately, one only has to look around to recognize that most parents in 2013 (myself included, most days) err on the side of “not enough discipline”.

      • Sally

        Well, this is tough. I’m not sure I called the Pearls kids extremely well adjusted, but I think I did agree that several of them appear to be happy, functional adults if you can judge at all by their YouTube videos. But that’s the thing, we can’t really know how they feel inside. Still, they ones we’re seeing in video are not total messes, like one might think.
        I think it’s really tricky to say how much discipline is the right amount. I think we can agree that both extremes aren’t good. We talk all the time here about the “too much” side, but I think many would agree that too little can lead to kids who just don’t think of anybody but themselves or kids who act out trying to get their parents’ attention. Lack of limits can feel very insecure, and kids may push to find limits.
        I guess I always try to find that sweet spot where I’m expecting my kids to contribute to the family by pitching in (chores), I’m serving them (helping w/homework, listening, helping them problem-solve, refereeing), and setting limits and enforcing limits with consequences if needed. Mine are older now and they don’t usually test me to the point of my having to give a consequence, but it does still happen, especially with one.
        I’m sure studies have been done which address whether kids are generally better off with stricter or more lenient parenting. But I guess I’m banking on the best parenting being much more towards the middle. It does feel sometimes, though, that no matter what you do, it won’t be right. In the end, we have to do the best we know how at the time, and adjust along the way. I have made many course corrections, and continue to do so.

      • M.S.

        Thanks for the insight Sally, and amen to feeling like no matter what you do, it won’t be right! I often feel that way. Definitely agree middle ground is best; as with all parenting issues it isn’t black-and-white. I just see that most of my parenting fails are the result of me being too lax, not too firm.

      • Leigha7

        I would guess that it’s not so much that they DID raise happy and well-adjusted children, but rather that their children LOOK happy and well-adjusted because they’ve been taught that anything less warrants punishment.

        Aside from that, there’s something to be said for innate personality (and numerous studies have suggested that it is largely innate). Some people will thrive in just about any environment. There are people who were raised in horribly abusive environments, who suffered traumatic experience after traumatic experience, who are perfectly happy and functional. There are others who were raised in a nice, comfortable environment, who’ve never experienced any sort of trauma, who are not. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.

    • gimpi1

      I think there’s a difference between between controlling your feelings and controlling your actions. When my boss behaves badly, I still feel upset, but I understand the need to regulate my actions to those appropriate in a professional setting. (Better than this hypothetical boss, apparently.)

      Learning that kind of self-control is important, but it’s virtually impossible if you’ve been pressured into denying your emotions. Usually, someone who has been forced to bottle-up their feelings has never learned how to control their actions in the face of the feelings they deny ever having. They tend to be powder-kegs, keeping a “happy-face” on everything until they suddenly snap, then blowing up, often in an inappropriate setting or manner.

      Self-control generally comes with self-knowledge. Suppressing or denying your feelings doesn’t lead to self-knowledge. It leads to self-deception.

      • M.S.

        Maybe you worded it better than me, but yes… controlling your actions is a vital lesson that one must learn. And its never easy.
        Dealing with – rather than denying – your emotions is obviously the best method. But at times knowing how to keep the “happy face” when you want to explode is a necessarily skill.
        Do not mistake that I am agreeing with the Pearl’s highly dysfunctional methods. Just pointing out its not a black and white issue. As will all things, middle ground is probably best.

      • Feminerd

        Ah, no. This is not a middle ground issue. The Pearls are just wrong.

        Poor impulse control, as has been stated above, is a problem The way to get good impulse control, though, has absolutely nothing whatsoever with the methods the Pearls advocate. Recognizing emotions and controlling how you express them is important. Bottling them up is not good. You’ll let them out later and likely in an inappropriate manner if you just try to squash them.

        In your example, keeping a neutral face while being yelled at at work is important. Keeping a happy face is not. Abusive bosses exist, and while there’s not much you can do about it, enabling abusive behavior by pretending to be happy about the behavior it isn’t a great tactic either. The Pearls advocate the classic “please sir, may I have another” approach, which has never stopped anyone being abusive ever.

      • M.S.

        I didn’t mean middle ground between Libby’s approach and the Pearl’s. I meant a middle ground between “you cannot have any emotions” and “every emotion you have can be expressed anywhere, anytime”. I should’ve been more clear.

      • Feminerd

        Ah. Well yeah, that’s pretty obvious. It’s just not a great line to use on five year olds. Expressing emotion appropriately is far more important than not expressing emotion at all for young children. For adults, though, yes that is correct.

      • gimpi1

        I understand, M.S., but I don’t think you quite get how truly toxic the Pearl’s are. They don’t care what the child is feeling, they want all feelings suppressed and an illusion of cheerful, zombie-like obedience created – for the convenience of the parent.

        I feel the best way to learn to control your actions in the face of strong emotion is to first learn about your emotions, and then learn (in childhood) that feeling something does not necessitate acting on it. That requires allowing children to experience and yes, act on their emotions, then teaching which actions are more acceptable. Simply punishing (by whipping) your child for being unhappy, tired, hungry or depressed doesn’t teach a damn thing, except fear and distrust of the parent. Then, when out from under the parental boot, these people, who have never learned how to regulate their actions in the face of strong emotion, are prone to emotional explosions.

        Emotional skills are like any skill. Practice improves outcomes. The Pearls don’t allow for that practice. They set people up for failure. I would have to say, from what I have read about him, Michael Pearl would be exhibit 1 for the prosecution.

    • kecks

      in the examples you mention you ideally would indeed show self control. you do that not by stopping the anger you are feeling (“bottle it up”), but by recognizing the emotion you feel for what it is and making a mature decision how to procede.
      take the yelling boss:

      if the yelling boss is perhaps right in his anger but not in the way he expresses it – wait till both of you have calmed down, talk it over with him, if you did wrong show how you will improve your performance next time and make sure they understand that you would have preferred to have this conversation in the first place instead of the yelling.

      if the yelling boss is just a bully and an as**** who likes to yell, then a mature response may be to resign or if not possible for financial reasons or whatever to not give a f**** about this person’s behaviour anymore, just perform and leave as soon as possible.
      so basically imo self control is a good thing but it is very crucial what you mean by “self control”: it is not “control over your feelings” like in “i do not have negative emotions or do not let them effect me”. it is “control over your feelings” like in “accept the emotion you are feeling right now, do not act on it right away but have a tool box how to express and deal with this emotion in a productive and appropiate way that does not harm you or others”.

      • M.S.

        Right, that was what I was trying to convey. And FWIW these are both hypothetical situations. I have a great boss, fortunately.
        But I’ve definitely been in situations in my adult life where I’ve wanted to scream / cry but have known the professional reaction is calm communication. I don’t want my kids to lack that skill as adults.

      • Jolie

        Thing is, if people (and especially children!) do not have an established, acceptable way of expressing frustration, anger or indignation, they will express it in the most unrestrained, ugliest ways possible- since they expect punishment anyway.

      • The_L1985

        This was a recent epiphany for me.

    • Helix Luco

      impulse control is different from bottling up your emotions. if i have good impulse control, after my hypothetical boss is done yelling i can ask them for a ten minute break to calm down, where poor impulse control would get me in a yelling contest, but neither option involves bottling.

  • alwr

    This is not only a fundamentalist/evangelical issue and it is not only an issue with how we treat children. In my last workplace, there was a policy that nothing “negative” could be expressed. No frustrations could be voiced. No problem could be verbalized. To do so was to “embrace negativity” which, according to the boss’s positive thinking guru–who makes a living selling these ideas to corporations and schools–caused problems in the first place. The server could not accommodate the data entry programs we were required to use, but we were never allowed to even point this out without risking being reprimanded. Those who complained that that problem needed solved in order to allow people to do their jobs efficiently were accused of spreading “negativity” and being “toxic”. This thinking that emotions that are perceived as negative or even pointing out difficulties is infecting all of our culture in the name of “positive thinking”. As I have had a number of crises in my life in the past few years, I have lost friends who have told me that my being stressed or upset over underemployment, financial difficulties, deaths of close relatives and a family member’s terminal illness makes me “negative” and “toxic” and thus unworthy to be in their lives. This message is EVERYWHERE.

    • ZeldasCrown

      I agree that bringing up a problem for a discussion about finding a solution isn’t being negative-being negative would be just complaining about the problem without ever trying to solve it, or complaining in a way that’s “behind the back” of the people involved/makes the problem worse. I would argue that trying to find a solution is being positive-it’s an attempt to make a situation better, and is being proactive so that a particular situation doesn’t become worse. This outlook must assume that there are never any real problems to be solved-everything is wonderful as is, and anyone who says otherwise is complaining just to complain.

      Now, there are negative, and toxic people, but the occasional outburst in a stressful time, or in a moment of being overwhelmed, isn’t an example of this. Negative/bad things happen, and just pretending to be happy all the time doesn’t help the situation or make it so that it never happened.

    • Katty

      I live in a country where a certain tendency towards complaining is part of the general culture. Seriously, there are people who will never answer the question “How are you / how are things going?” with anything positive, ever. Maybe they think when they say things are good, they’ll jinx it? I really don’t know.

      Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I know just how annoying and far from constructive constant whining and complaining can be and I sometimes wish people would just get over themselves and change their attitudes. But what you describe sounds just terrible! If you’re not even allowed to point out a factual problem, how will it ever be solved? I hope you’re in a better workplace now!

      • Ahab

        Out of curiosity … is Switzerland the country in question?

      • Katty

        Haha, no, but close. It’s Austria, actually. May I ask why you thought Switzerland?

      • alwr

        I have been underemployed for four years after leaving there. But I am healthier, so that is the trade off. I point this out, however, because the ideas that were being implemented are being sold via books, videos, workshops and motivational speaking by a woman who is making a very good living off of telling employers, school administrators, teachers, CEOs etc…that verbalizing a problem is “negativity” and that their schools or businesses will function better if no one is allowed to bring up any issues, difficulties or problems. She recommends that students being bullied be taught how to think positively about the situation and the bully. She opens her workshops with the story of how she was a victim of domestic violence and had a light bulb moment in a women’s shelter when she realized that “there are no victims only volunteers” and that being abused by her husband was her fault because she did not view him or the situation “positively”. And she travels the country, sells this BS to thousands of people and makes a fortune. It is not an evangelical/fundamentalist problem or a child-rearing problem.

      • Whirlwitch

        ” It is not an evangelical/fundamentalist problem or a child-rearing problem.”

        Nobody said it was exclusively either of these things.

      • Sally

        That is so sad. This must be something some people want to hear. But I thought we were making progress as a society in general with understanding that we can’t sweep any kind of abuse under the rug. I wonder if there’s a backlash from parents in any schools where this is being used.

      • smrnda

        Have you ever read “Bright Sided” by Barbara Ehrenreich? She pretty much says that the whole ‘positive thinking’ approach actually makes people miserable, since it guarantees nothing ever gets fixed.

      • alwr

        Yes. That book helped me realize that the only solution was to get out. It also validated that I wasn’t crazy to think something was seriously wrong with everything we were being told in these workshops and being asked to teach our students.

      • The_L1985

        Yeah. I agree that being optimistic can help you be better able to get things done (which is where the positive thinking approach probably originated), but sticking your head in the sand does NOBODY any good.

      • Katty

        I’m repeating myself, but that’s just terrible. Such victim-blaming! And I’ll go out on a limb and say that her story focuses on the wrong part. I bet her abuser didn’t stop beating her because she suddenly decided to be positive about those beatings but because she decided not to “volunteer” to be beaten anymore (not that anyone does!) and got away. In other words: She saw the problem and SOLVED IT.

  • Gillianren

    My son has been crying the last few days in part because we are dealing with Baby’s First Head Cold. His breathing is all raspy, and at just shy of eight weeks, he doesn’t understand why and wouldn’t understand an explanation. The best I can do is cuddle with him and make sure his needs that I can fix are met as quickly as possible. When he gets older, he’ll be able to express his needs in ways that aren’t crying, but crying will still sometimes be a reasonable expression of what he’s feeling, whether we his parents want to deal with that or not.

    • Lyric

      Ughh, are you having to use the Nose Bulb of Doom? Mine haaaate the Nose Bulb of Doom.

      You have my sympathies. My twins just got their six-month shots, and I really wish they could communicate in words. But, you know, even if they could, screaming is a fairly rational response to leg cramps—or a mommy who just stuck the thermometer there in order to monitor their temperatures.

      • Gillianren

        He’s not really drippy or clogged. Just congested enough so that the sound of his breathing has changed. His temperature hasn’t even felt high enough while feeling his forehead that we’ve bothered with a proper thermometer.

      • RachelS

        Poor little guy. I want to cry when I have a cold, and I’m all grown up!

      • Gillianren

        It does strike me that my instinct is to cuddle him and soothe him and wish I could make it all better. Even when I’m frustrated because he’s been crying for forty-five minutes, getting worse if I put him down, and I just want to eat my dinner, my hope is that he’ll feel better, not just that he’ll stop crying for my sake. This is shorthand for what’s wrong with the Pearls, I think. They don’t seem to want good things for their children for their children’s sake. Just because of how it makes them look.

      • Lyric

        Yes, this. I don’t want my kids suffering somewhere silently where I don’t hear, I want them not suffering.

  • fiona64

    I found this article far more triggering than I expected, especially given that I didn’t come up in the same kind of environment as Libby Anne. I did, however, come up in an environment where my emotions were not considered.

    For example, when my folks gave away some of my precious books (I was about 10), I expressed disappointment. I was told that I “should be grateful, because another little girl has those books to enjoy now.” In other words, what I actually felt was irrelevant and I should feel something else entirely.

    Another example was with class pictures. I wanted to use a photographer that my friends were using, because I wanted a library backdrop thing they had … but my mother picked a different photographer (who didn’t have that backdrop). Another part of the story is that my jaw was broken in a car accident when I was in elementary school, and my teeth came in rather oddly as a result. I was always self-conscious about showing my teeth in photos as a result. When my senior picture proofs came (with the generic blue-grey background), my mother asked me which one I liked best. I picked one that I thought looked nice, and very serene.

    “Well, I don’t like that one, so I’ve already marked the form to order this one. How many wallet ones do you want for your friends?” She picked the one I liked the least, with the fake smile and my teeth showing. I told her, quite honestly, that I did not want any. I hadn’t been permitted to make any decisions about my own photos, so they were meaningless. And, you guessed it, I was told that I “should be grateful.” Would it have killed her to order a handful of the ones I liked? No … but she didn’t like it, so I didn’t get to have what I wanted. And yes, it’s that horrid photo in the yearbook … why do you ask? I didn’t even bother going to the signing party.

    This was a common theme growing up … and one that, now that I am approaching 50 years of age, continues to affect my life. My husband periodically reminds me that it is okay to have feelings that actually belong to me, and that it’s okay to express my preferences.

    I don’t think parents have the slightest idea how badly they screw up their kids at times.

    • Olive Markus

      I had relatively similar circumstances, but they were sort of complicated.

      The most persistent example, though not the most extreme, was that I didn’t like cake much unless it was homemade, however, I loved pie. Fruit pie only, though. Strawberry Rhubarb pie particularly. (Sorry, this is stupid, but there’s a point!)

      Every.Single.Year. for my birthday my mom would ask me what cake I wanted. I always said I didn’t want cake, I wanted pie. She would say that I wasn’t allowed to have pie, because it wasn’t normal. After going back and forth, I would say vanilla with strawberry or raspberry, and instead, she would say that most people like chocolate most, so she was going to get chocolate cake and would maybe (sometimes) get me vanilla or a fruit frosting. It wasn’t until my 25th birthday that she bought me a vanilla/raspberry cake with raspberry frosting!!! Yeah :’/.

      It was my birthday, but it wasn’t for me. It was for everyone else. What I wanted didn’t matter, I was only supposed to want what everyone else wanted. I also learned that what I actually preferred wasn’t normal, so I needed to second guess my every desire and compare it to what others desired, to make sure it was compatible.

      To make matters worse, I stopped wanting birthday parties very early on, but I wasn’t allowed to choose not to have a party. It was so embarrassing to me to be required to have a party that I wasn’t interested in. (To be fair to my poor mom, this is how she was raised/bullied into believing, too. She lives her entire life for the pleasure and comfort of everyone else, even to her physical, emotional and mental detriment).

      As an aside, there was this very, very sweet boy that I unfortunately didn’t have feelings for who, knowing that I wanted pie for my birthday and wouldn’t get it, drove 5 hours one way, bought me the largest, most gorgeous strawberry rhubarb pie, and then drove 5 hours back, in one day to get it to me in time. I wish I’d been attracted to him, I really do. He was so incredibly sweet.

      This is very much, in a nutshell, how I was raised to live my entire life. In all the ways this manifested, I still can’t trust my feelings, desires or emotions to be “right” or “normal” or something worthy of acting upon.

      As far as feelings go? Kind of similar sometimes, sometimes not. I actually think my biggest problem in that department is that my mom overreacted to our emotions, so both my sister and I learned to bottle our emotions, thoughts, fears and problems only out of fear that it would freak my mom out to unfathomable levels of insanity. We just couldn’t handle it. To this day I can’t be honest about what I’m feeling without an epic encounter. The last time I was, she forced my dad to take time off work and they drove literally half way across the country the next day.


      • LizBert

        My mom can be rather prone to over-reaction if I tell her about things in my life, so I just don’t on most occasions. I talk to her frequently but she gets a censored version of recent events.

        And I am with you on the pie front, although I also like cake quite a bit. It’s just that I really, really, really like fruit pies. I have a friend who had a collection of pies at her wedding instead of cake, and not a single person in attendance said that it wasn’t normal.

      • S. Bean

        We’re having fruit pies, too! PUMPED.

      • Feminerd

        That’s awesome! I had cake because I like cake more than I like pies, but I’ve been to weddings with pies and cupcakes and all sorts of things. They’re all tasty!

      • Olive Markus

        I haven’t met too many with moms like mine! At least we’re not alone, right? I just don’t know where I should censor myself and where I shouldn’t. It really stands in the way of closeness, and all she wants is closeness…

        I’m fruit pie all the way! I really don’t like chocolate much at all. I’ve never seen little pies at a wedding. Very cool!

      • The_L1985

        I’m thinking of doing a cake AND a pie! Every dessert-lover is happy, and I get leftovers of TWO awesome desserts! :D

    • Ashton

      Totally agree. I was raised in an environment with as close to no physical punishment as there could be without actually having none and yet I still find this triggering. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that my dad has a giant ego. While he loved us, the ego got in the way of me being able to have a good relationship with him. He just doesn’t understand how someone could be uninterested in something that he likes. To this day, he doesn’t believe me if I say that I don’t like a certain food that he likes. Looking back, I wonder how many things I did just because I felt like I didn’t have choice. Did I really want the things that I said I did? I’m not sure.

      • acoustic_alchemy

        I had a similar experience with my dad; I love him very much, to be sure, but a lot of the time I felt that I joined up things (swimming, dancing, music stuff) so that he could live vicariously through me what he couldn’t do when he was a kid…because *his* parents didn’t approve and wanted him to do activites “for their sake”…etc. In my darkest times, I really thought that people only had children as a way to act out their deferred dreams :/ It got better, but this is why the whole rhetoric of pushing down emotions as prescribed by the Pearls is so toxic.

      • Ashton

        The interesting thing is that my whole life, my parents have accused me of bottling things up. To this day I still don’t know what it was that I did that made them think this. They didn’t say this to my siblings. Hardly a week would go by (and I think it was a lot more often than that) in which I wasn’t told I was sneaking or hiding. I’m still baffled by it.

      • acoustic_alchemy

        At least with my family, it was a weird sort of cognitive dissonance: they could sense that something was wrong, but tried to fix it by being even more controlling. “I know you’re not telling me the truth…why don’t you talk to us about your feelings? You know that Family are the only ones you can trust with These Sorts of Things!” Um, because you’ve consistently shown me that if I do express frustration or anger then that’s just me Acting Out and it’s Not Real and Why Can’t I Just Be Good? So it’s better to just go with what you want instead of spending energy on a argument discussion that will leave me browbeaten, grounded and exhausted?

        I’m really sorry you’ve had to go through that :( I really think that it’s this sort of mismatch between what’s said and what’s actually expected that sow a vicious cycle of distrust.

      • The_L1985

        OH gods, yes. Also, if I did anything that wasn’t extremely mainstream, “Why are you trying to be weird?!

  • Lyric

    As to how widespread these ideas are . . . I think they’re endemic, unfortunately.

    I vividly remember listening to a school guidance counselor tell a class full of second graders that, “It’s not fair,” is just code for, “I didn’t get what I wanted.” And, granted, it probably wouldn’t have had the same impact on a child who wasn’t being abused at the time, but it was still one of the most damaging things I’ve ever been told by a person who wasn’t my father, right up there with, “You’re not sick*,” and, “We’re all tired, you’re just the one whining about it.”

    One of the most potent weapons a psychological abuser has is the ability to rename their victim’s emotions, tell them why they’re feeling that way, and diagnose what it says about them as a person. (You’re not angry, you’re throwing a selfish little snit because you’re a selfish little girl.**) It can get truly dangerous when it extends to physical feelings: you aren’t hungry, you’re greedy.

    But to some extent, quite a lot of people in this society feel that they have the perfect right to define what a child is feeling—and, to a lesser extent, tell a woman what’s going on in her head. And the sneaky thing is, I don’t think that all of it comes from a bad place. Dealing with babies is an exercise in decoding meaning from behavior, and most of that meaning comes down to WANT X or IN DISTRESS—it’s emotional, in other words. Slightly older children still need help identifying and sorting their emotions—why, exactly, are they on their back screaming? “Anger” is too general; are they jealous of the attention Mommy was paying their sister, or frustrated because we’ve been in the grocery store too long, or suffering sensory overload from the “big loud man” who wants someone to take a call on Line One—or is it just well and truly time for a nap? A certain amount of emotional interpretation is not only necessary, but desirable. But when you mix it with the amount of power adults have over kids already, and the tendency people have to rearrange facts to suit themselves, and the fact that nobody is one hundred percent benevolent one hundred percent of the time it becomes . . . I dunno. A problem.

    *Fibromyalgia, mild depression, and an untreated sinus cyst the size of an eyeball that gave me three cases of strep throat per year, plus assorted colds. WHY YES I AM BITTER ABOUT PHYS ED TEACHERS HOW COULD YOU EVER GUESS.

    **A tangent, but—I think I’d far rather trust someone who drops “fucking” into every other sentence than someone who throws around the adjective “little.” If you want to stealthily demean someone, “little” is the word of choice.

    • tsara

      “One of the most potent weapons a psychological abuser has is the ability to rename their victim’s emotions, tell them why they’re feeling that way, and diagnose what it says about them as a person. (You’re not angry, you’re throwing a selfish little snit because you’re a selfish little girl.**) It can get truly dangerous when it extends to physical feelings: you aren’t hungry, you’re greedy.”
      According to my aunt, who specializes in working with adolescents with borderline personality disorder, this is how you trigger it in people who are predisposed to it.

    • David S.

      The responses to “it’s not fair” have always driven me mad. We have a deep-set desire for fairness; even monkeys who previously got paid in cucumbers will start rejecting them if they see other monkeys get paid for the same thing in fruit. Go ahead and tell me “life’s not fair”, but we’ll see how you react when something’s not fair to you. Parents should acknowledge that fairness is a deep-set desire, and respond to that.

      • Liz

        Having seen video of said monkeys losing it over unfairness, I totally agree.

      • Hilary

        And a link to this video . . . .?

      • Lyric

        Yes! I recently watched the video of the monkey and the cucumbers, and it struck me that fairness, at least in its simplest of forms, is older than the human race. Quite a lot of growing up is about refining and sophisticating our notions of fairness (cucumbers might be a better reward for me than for you, what do you do with people who are allergic to fruit, how do you handle a group who has been systematically and deliberately fruit-deprived for the past few centuries, and do you think I’ve beaten the analogy into the ground enough? I think so.) Children have a passionate desire for fairness, and teenagers, as a rule, have a passionate desire for justice. (I violently reject the “they’re just hoodlums” narrative whenever I see it.) How could someone possibly want to cripple that sense—unless they actually want to produce an adult who doesn’t trust their own judgment?

      • NeaDods

        They don’t want the kids to grow up into an adult with their own judgement, they want the kids to grow up into adults that continue to echo their parent’s judgement. Look at everything said about “the way children should go” and the idolatry of fathers/husbands, and keeping the kids at home and tomato staking and all of it. It is *specifically designed * to keep the kids from growing into independent thinkers.

      • Rebecca Horne

        A tangent, but the verse, “raise a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is a fairly significant mistranslation.

        The Hebrew is closer to, “Raise a child in his own way, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

        It’s less of a promise that if you indoctrinate your kid, they’ll never go astray, and more of a warning that if you don’t teach your kid self-control, they’ll never learn it.

      • gimpi1

        One study I saw in a Ted Talk discussed fairness. (Sorry, I can’t remember the name of the speaker, and can’t find the link.) If I remember correctly, the speaker discussed five basic drives or principles; Fairness or justice, purity, loyalty or patriotism, love and worship or a sense of the sacred. People who tended to be more conservative rated loyalty or purity as very important, with fairness often coming in dead last. People who tended to be more progressive rated fairness as the most important, then love, with the other principles no where near as vital. I think I see that in myself. I’m firmly progressive, and “no justice, no peace,” has always resonated with me.

      • Feminerd

        That’s interesting. I find loyalty and patriotism (not blind loyalty or patriotism, but the kind that says “we can do better, we must do better”) important, though less so than fairness and love. I do find purity and worship to be fairly useless ideals, though.

        I guess it’s not super surprising I’m also quite firmly progressive/liberal?

      • guest

        Do you mean Jonathan Haidt?

      • krisya0507

        Interesting thing to think about. I’ve used that line before, and I’ll have to reconsider. I think it’s good to teach the distinction between a person treating another unfairly on purpose, and the general lack of fairness in life. It’s good to encourage children to think about fairness and equal treatment, and show that by being fair yourself. I think it’s even good to sympathize about the unfairness of life and talk about that. Where I tend to get frustrated with my teenage students is when “It’s not fair” becomes code for “I shouldn’t have to accept consequences for my choices.” Like, I had two tests today and was up late studying so you should let me turn in my essay late. Maybe I shouldn’t so much respond in terms of fairness but just talk about making choices and planning ahead and all that good stuff.

      • Conuly

        I hate it too, though sometimes I find myself saying them anyway. “Life’s not fair!” Well, sure, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make an effort!

        Often, though not always, kids will say something isn’t fair when there isn’t something to be done about it, or when it IS fair, just not totally identical. (Say, if the kid who is diabetic is allowed to eat in class when the others aren’t because the school has a bug issue, it may not be equal but it certainly is fair. Fair, as I tell the nieces, isn’t everybody getting the same. Fair is everybody getting what they need.)

        It can be hard to find a productive thing to say when the kids are complaining (whining, because they’re upset) and you can’t fix it and make them happy.

      • Lyric

        Fair, as I tell the nieces, isn’t everybody getting the same. Fair is everybody getting what they need.

        Well, as I said above, I think part of the process of growing up is developing a more sophisticated sense of fairness. “He gets one, I get one,” is very probably a developmental stage that everyone goes through . . .

        Actually, I wonder if this has actually been studied. Fairness in relation to child development, I mean.

      • Conuly

        To drag the thread totally off-topic, I sometimes find people talking about things like welfare to be so very childish in their perceptions of fairness. They say its not faaaaair for “their” money to help poor people, but it’s a funny sort of fairness they mean.

        And no, I don’t know that there is such a study. I wonder if development of concepts of fairness would mimic or parallel development of concepts of rules and why they should be followed.

        A while back I read an anecdote by…. You know, I think it was one of the Pearl kids – about lying. One of them had, at the age of three, cut up something she shouldn’t have. And when confronted about it she claimed a strange man had done it.

        So her parents guilt tripped her incessantly for two weeks, at which point she confessed, and they proceeded to beat her every day for another two weeks as punishment. And tell her they can never trust her again, of course. The grown child relating the story ends with “and this is the story of why you aren’t supposed to lie”.

        Except that, of course, no such moral is ever really expressed. As near as I can tell, this adult is stuck on a three-year-old’s understanding of morality: don’t do it if you might get caught. That understanding is better than nothing, but I want my nieces to have a more adult concept of right and wrong.

      • LizBert

        The lesson I would take from that is to lie to cover my lies. Being pressured to confess and then brutally punished for it repeatedly wouldn’t tell me anything good about my parents. I remember as a child when I told a rather substantial lie. I was old enough to know that lying was wrong and it ate at me for months. I finally woke my mom up in the night and confessed and she hugged me and told me that she was proud of me for being honest. What I learned from that is that telling the truth is the right thing to do and that all of us make mistakes.

      • Conuly

        Yes, if that girl had just kept up the facade she would never have been beaten. This is the story about why you should never tell the truth once you’re committed to a lie.

      • The_L1985

        Yeah, I learned to lie from that sort of thing too. Although, the fact that I was once spanked for “lying” when the truth wasn’t what my parents wanted to hear wasn’t much help.

        Every time my idiot father insists that atheists can’t have morals because they have no hell to fear, I am always deeply disturbed because of what that implies.

      • LizBert

        Doing something out of fear or coercion isn’t morals in my book. Doing something because you think it is the right thing to do according to your understanding of the world and empathy for your fellow beings is morals. Sometimes Christians annoy the crap out of me.

      • Lyric

        The moral of that story is that you should always choose a scapegoat that your audience actively devalues. She should have blamed an African orphan.

        . . . Is that too sick to count as dark humor?

        Seriously, though, the lesson here is to make your lies believable and never get caught.

      • Conuly
      • Lyric

        Oh, I remember reading about that, sometime back in college.

        What I was actually thinking, though, was more of how children process fairness rather than right or wrong. For instance, most five-year-olds would agree that if I give their brother a cookie, I ought to give them a cookie—fairness equals identical treatment. But I think that many of them would maintain that they should get a cookie even if they got a cookie earlier and their brother didn’t; I mean, that cookie isn’t here, is it, which makes it irrelevant to a concrete thinker. I’m wondering when that changes. Or when they start trying to think in cookie-equivalents for someone who doesn’t want a cookie, and so forth.

        I do remember a math teacher, in seventh grade, trying to tell me that my health accommodations wouldn’t be fair to the other students. I informed her that my illness wasn’t very fair to me, and she sort of stuttered and then ignored me. (I ended up not having her, thank god.) But at some point, for many if not most people, there’s a transition from “fairness means one for me and one for you,” to some more sophisticated concept like “fairness means we each get what we need to live in a fashion that could reasonably be considered comfortable,” or “fairness means that we alleviate peoples’ disadvantages as best we can in order to make sure we all start work/school/tiddleywinks with more or less the same number of assets,” or something like that.

        Maybe that’s the difference between fairness and justice.

      • smrnda

        When life is not fair, people have a tendency to even *go to war in pursuit of fairness.* And we’re probably all better off for those who demanded fairness in the past.

      • aim2misbehave

        I was complaining about something legal-system-related to my mom the other day that she didn’t really agree with, and she said “Life isn’t fair” and I actually had the presence of mind to retort with “Being ‘unfair’ based on something a person can’t control is called ‘discrimination’ and is actually illegal in this country*” and she’s never tried to use that argument against me since then.

        *no, it’s not universally illegal about everything, but the general concept applies.

    • Katherine

      I wasn’t abused until adulthood, but I can totally relate to the “abuser renames and interprets all of your emotions” thing. What a terrible feeling.

      With children, I think the only thing to do (and easier said than done) is to teach them how to interpret their own feelings, rather than simply interpreting them for them… And then to start trusting them at a certain point, which has GOT to be hard when you are used to decoding crying.

      I dunno. A good friend of mine had a baby (not planned) at nineteen, and now the child is two and a half. Recently, I asked her about her experiences with motherhood and she said “it became a LOT easier once I realized she was a person and I could just talk to her.”

  • kisarita

    libby anne i’m amazed that you grew up to have such a strong sense of self and direction after being raised like this. my upbringing was less severe, and i struggle so much to know myself.

  • TLC

    I am waiting for the day when one of these suppressed, tortured homeschoolers explodes and kills the entire family. I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet.

    The theme throughout fundagelical culture is “Don’t trust your feelings. Feelings don’t matter. Trust the Word — see what the Bible says.” This suppression of most emotions goes far beyond homeschoolers. It is a theme preached into churches, youth groups, Bible studies, everywhere you turn. Consequently, there’s a whole bunch of people out there who believe it’s perfectly normal and reasonable to shut down all emotions, and are raising their children to do the same.

    As part of my recovery from this culture, I decided to reject any teaching that said you should “not” feel a certain way. Anger, lust, grief, fury — all are there for a reason. What matters is how you process these feelings. It’s not a sin to have them!

    I found a great blog that talks about this. Here’s a quote:

    “I was on a psychology website awhile ago, and I came across a list of human emotions. It Included every emotion imaginable – happy, sad, embarrassed, fearful, angry, nervous, apprehensive and so on. Out of the approximately sixty to seventy emotions listed, I could count about four that Christians are allowed to have. This absolutely floored me, and I found it extremely telling. Suddenly, everything came into focus and I gained a new understanding of why so many of us are so torn inside. It also explains why so many pastors and evangelists view the world from a cold-hearted, black and white perspective with little or no regard for the feelings of those listening. Christians come across as heartless to the world around them.”

    Here’s the link:

    • tulips

      I think it has happened recently.

      • Aeryl

        I remember hearing somewhere that Adam Lanza was homeschooled, but I have no idea whether it’s accurate or not.

      • Sally

        Oh, goodness. Let’s not just toss names up.

      • Sally

        If this is accurate and his mom pulled him out sometime in 10th grade, he clearly wasn’t raised in the type of homeschooling environment we’re talking about.

      • tulips

        The one I’m thinking of was a homeschooled boy with quiverfull sized family (not sure if explicitly so but it seems likely) who shot his mother and several siblings and planned to also shoot his (pastor) father but was talked out of it by a friend.

      • Ella Warnock

        Is this the story you were thinking of?

        A 15-year-old boy from NM killed his parents and three of his siblings.

    • NeaDods

      Andrea Yeats was a pretty classic example of snapping after her needs were ignored

  • Unbeliever Prime

    I was struck by something while reading this article.
    This method of ‘child training’ isn’t meant to produce people who can function as reasonable independent adults when they grow up.
    Its meant to produce SLAVES.
    People who are automatically and mindlessly obedient.
    Individuals who aren’t even allowed to have their own thoughts or feelings.

    • AAAtheist

      From Wikipedia’s information on corporal punishment:

      “… Quintilian’s (c. 35 – c. 100) early and complete opposition to corporal punishment is notable. According to McCole Wilson, probably no more lucid indictment of it has been made in the succeeding two thousand years.

      ‘By that boys should suffer corporal punishment, though it is received by custom, and Chrysippus makes no objection to it, I by no means approve; first, because it is a disgrace, and a punishment fit for slaves [my emphasis], and in reality (as will be evident if you imagine the age change) an affront; secondly, because, if a boy’s disposition be so abject as not to be amended by reproof, he will be hardened, like the worst of slaves, even to stripes; and lastly, because, if one who regularly exacts his tasks be with him, there will not be the need of any chastisement … Besides, after you have coerced a boy with stripes, how will you treat him when he becomes a young man, to whom such terror cannot be held out, and by whom more difficult studies must be pursued? Add to these considerations, that many things unpleasant to be mentioned, and likely afterwards to cause shame, often happen to boys while being whipped, under the influence of pain or fear; and such shame enervates and depresses the mind, and makes them shun people’s sight and feel constant uneasiness … scandalously unworthy men may abuse the privilege of punishing, and what opportunity also the terror of the unhappy children may sometimes afford others. (Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory, 1856 edition, I, III)[13]’

      Plutarch, also in the first century, says something similar:

      ‘This also I assert, that children ought to be led to honourable practices by means of encouragement and reasoning, and most certainly not by blows or ill-treatment, for it surely is agreed that these are fitting rather for slaves than for the free-born [also my emphasis]; for so they grow numb and shudder at their tasks, partly from the pain of the blows, partly from the degradation. Praise and reproof are more helpful for the free-born than any sort of ill-usage, since the praise incites them toward what is honourable, and reproof keeps them from what is disgraceful.’ …”

      Chilling, no? Even philosophers in the first century noted the parallel.

      • Sally

        Very interesting!

      • Ruana

        Wow! I’d always thought corporal punishment was pretty much taken for granted until very recently. But then, I had something of an epiphany when I casually mentioned to a friend my own age that my parents were hitters, and she was shocked. I was previously under the impression that eschewing physical punishment was a new-fangled thing and that most people of my generation went through much the same as I did.

    • NeaDods

      That’s exactly what Pearl wants, isn’t it? He wants his wife to serve him and his children too. Independent thought! They may stray off the life path he chose! Better to ensure that they are his slaves in action and thought forever.

  • onamission5

    Frankly it’s amazing what actually listening to your kids, anticipating troubles, not setting them up for failure, validating their emotions, setting practical boundaries, and getting to know them as if they were real people who are participating in a two-way relationship does to a child’s ability to cope with frustration, sadness, fear, jealousy. And it’s not like we’ve done everything perfectly but I’ll be damned if our kids don’t come to us with their problems and just want to talk those problems through, and they usually come up with options on their own in the process.

    “I see that you are frustrated. (alternate: can you name what you are feeling?) Do you want to talk about it, do you need help, or do you need to take a brain break/rest so that you can come back refreshed? (alternate: tell me what you think is going wrong with x activity/what do you think would happen if *thing done differently*)?” goes a lot farther in teaching kids how to cope with future challenges and difficulties than “You cannot do anything besides say yes and smile or I am going to hit you.” How does the second tactic help the child to enter into adulthood as a fully emotionally developed and functional human being in any way? How does it help develop their empathy, their critical thinking, their decision making skills? How does it help them cope with failure or with unwise, difficult people? How does it help them develop tools with which to rebound from life’s inevitable difficulties?

    I’d like to add, too, that our kids don’t “run the house” the way my parents warned me they would if I didn’t beat them or if I ever let them talk back– known in my house as making your case, defending yourself from false accusations, naming your feelings, or using humor to diffuse tension, none of which I was allowed to do growing up– nor are they ignorant of the fact that their parents also have needs and emotions and are not stuff/money/attention vending machines that you put the words “I want” into then a ride across town to the mall for new shoes we can’t afford falls out. Why, it’s almost like we see them as people and they see us as people, too. Imagine.

    • centaurie

      *punches the like button a thousand times*

    • Jackie

      I wasn’t always the perfect parent but we often used the discussion method as our kids were growing up. Our kids are in their 20s and still come to us for these discussions when trying to figure out behavior in relationships. They’ve used it with our grandkids and I’ve heard one son using it with friends. Maybe we should write a parenting book :-)

    • Leigha7

      I’ve never understood why so many people seem to think the options are “Force your children to do everything precisely the way you’d like and spank them if they don’t” or “Let your children run wild and do whatever the hell they want.” There IS an in-between.

      • onamission5

        Truth! There is a broad gamut of in-between, in fact.

  • Hilary

    Rather then get into everything wrong beyond wrong with this, for the sake of my blood pressure I’m posting something else. Something positive from my own childhood. It’s not that I didn’t have problems and I was often lonely and had a hard time getting along with other kids, but my parents never came anywhere near that type of emotional abuse. So for everybody reading this post and remembering too much, here. Watch this, enjoy, and understand it comes with internet hugs and cute kittens, puppies, and friendly ferrets.

    It’s alright to cry

    There’s a land that I see, where the children are free
    And you and me are free to be, you and me!

    • Hilary

      I posted this in a place I couldn’t play the videos so I just guessed that the songs were right – but listening to them again after reading all the comments here, yeah I’m tearing up at what’s been done to children, and what this song sings out for.

  • Rosie

    My mom claims the “stiff upper lip” was an inheritance from the British-American culture in her family, but it sure went well with the fundigelical upbringing too. She told me much later that she’d made some mistakes in raising me, and that was one of them. I certainly didn’t learn anything about having emotions and dealing with them in appropriate ways until I was moved away from home and through college. It’s still a challenge sometimes.

    And Michael Pearl’s comments on the magic of the rod sound an awful lot like…kink. Which really REALLY needs to be ONLY practiced between consenting adults. To call that parenting is…*shudder*.

    • Jolie

      I know what you mean. My boyfriend is British; he was raised by his emotionally warm mother, so he turned out wonderful, but his father grew up with the “stiff upper lip” kind of thing, and it’s NOT been good for him. The thing is- he doesn’t know how to express love to his dear-ones (it’s been sort of ingrained in his mind that it’s a sign of weakness or something…) ad on the other hand when he’s sad, angry or frustrated he becomes shut-in, passive-aggressive and sarcastic, rather than just saying “I feel this way”. As far as I can tell, in his generation (people who are like 50 or so right now) this is a huge problem in the UK. Thankfully my boyfriend’s generation (he’s 27) and the ones after are getting better.

  • attackfish

    Two things.

    1. “Fail to use the rod on this child, and you are creating a ‘”Nazi.””

    This is all the more hilarious, no wait, hilarious is not the word I want, ironically horrifying? This is all the more ironically horrifying because several social scientists have tied the authoritarian parenting methods employed in Germany from the late 1800s until the end of WWII as helping ease the rise of Nazisim and it’s emphasis on hierarchy and obedience. That’s aside from the fact that Quiverfullers seem to be pretty into a fascistic vision of the US, with a master faith instead of a master race.

    And there’s that lovely diminishing the very real horrors the Nazis perpetrated by comparing them to a petulant child.

    2. When I was a child, before my seizures were diagnosed for what they were, we used to call them my temper tantrums. My parents tried to control them with rewards and punishments, to (obviously) no avail, and when I was able to, given the neurological communication issues my illness presented me with, I struggled to articulate that they weren’t my fault, and I couldn’t control them. Fortunately, my parents listened, and spent several years trying to convince doctors and teachers of the same before I was diagnosed, but I really don’t want to know what would have happened to me if I, with my hour long “temper tantrums”, that I Could. Not. Stop. on a daily basis, had grown up with parents who believed in beating the misbehavior out of me. I’m surprised more children don’t end up dead.

    • NeaDods

      Considering the stories of the Liberian adoptees and the racial makeup of all the famous evangelists, I’d say that they want a master faith *and* a master race.

    • aim2misbehave

      And also part of why Hitler was able to orchestrate everything that he did *was* blind, unquestioning obedience to anyone who’s installed as an authority figure.

  • Kellen Connor

    Parenting for people who don’t really want to be parents! >:( Okay, that might be harsh, but I can’t recall the last time I was this angry. Or triggered. I’m going to go lie down on the couch.

    • Shaenon K. Garrity

      I’m a big defender of parents’ right to tend to their own needs and not feel pressured to be Supermom or Superdad, but the number of times the Pearls cite “convenience” as a childrearing goal is disturbing. If you want a relationship defined by convenience and minimal effort, get a goldfish.

      And the promise of a child who will fall asleep on command… Okay, first of all, not going to happen, and second, how creepy would that be?

      • Kellen Connor

        Oh, I have exactly zero beefs with the idea that parents should be tending to their own needs. Humans have needs. It’s a human thing. But, yeah, the Pearls’ crap takes “seeing to your own needs” about ten miles too far. Heck, having raised a few goldfish myself, I would call that too much responsibility for someone who thinks they’re entitled to the effort-free scenario the Pearls seem to preach. What these so-called “parents” want are robots. We should just give them a copy of Sims 3.

      • Leigha7

        Even if you have autonomy set to zero, sometimes Sims will still ignore what you tell them to do. Dresser too close to the bed, even though there’s more than enough room to get by (but not really, due to the way games work) and there’s nothing on the other side? Well I’m just going to stand here and stomp until you fix it. And they have a tendency to randomly leave dirty dishes lying around.

        What I’m saying is, I don’t think even Sims are obedient enough for the Pearls.

      • Kellen Connor

        So the Pearls can take away the swimming-pool ladders out of love and not hurt any actual people.

      • Conuly

        Infesting fact: Goldfish are actually kinda tricky to take care of. You can’t just stick them in a bowl if you want them to be happy or healthy, and properly cared for they will live for decades. (And if your snap answer to that is “I thought they only lived a few weeks!”, all I can say is that you weren’t taking care of them properly. If it wasn’t, disregard that last sentence, I just wanted to jump ahead in the usual conversation.)

      • Shaenon K. Garrity

        Permissive modern secular liberal talk! If you hit the goldfish enough, they’ll stop that rebellious dying.

      • Conuly

        Oh, of course!

      • Hilary

        Goldfish, Red Dwarf style. With the Cat:

        I’m going to eat you little fishies . . . .
        I couldn’t find a clip of the scene when Lister bangs his mechanical goldfish against the table when it ‘dies’ but that’s what you reminded me of.

      • Hilary

        And again with the pets! I think I should keep a tally of every time we turn to real life animal experiences vs the Pearls. It could be an interesting summery after we finish the books. I literally have Cody on m y lap right now typing one handed.

      • Conuly

        LOL! I can’t help it!

      • The_L1985

        Decades? Man, I had the wrong fish! My oldest betta lived 3 years.

      • Conuly

        Two decades, but still…!

      • Leigha7

        Decades?! I thought the lifespan of a fish was only a few years.

        I’ve never owned a fish, and I did know they live a lot longer than most people have them for (poor fish), but I really thought they only lived for maybe 5 years. Wow, that makes it even worse that so many die in under a year.

  • shuttergirl46q

    So by not spanking my child, I’m creating a person who will grow up to exterminate six million people? Thank God I don’t buy that load of crap.

    • Conuly

      Ten to twelve million, of which about six million were Jews. (And six million were Poles, but there was a lot of overlap, Poland at the time being the heart of European Jewish culture.)

      • Hilary

        Thank you. I think it is vital to remember that while Jews were the single largest group, there were literally millions of other people destroyed in the Shoah and ALL OF THEM need to be honored and remembered.

      • Nancy Lebovitz

        And also some 50 million dead as a result of the western half of WW2.

  • Rilian Sharp

    I see nothing wrong with “throwing fits” if you’re not hurting someone or breaking other people’s stuff. It’s good to cry, so why not good to scream or humph, or whatever? I used to go walk or run too. The physical activity seems to appease the anger that you can’t do anything else about. Of course actually solving the problem is better, but when that’s not possible I will not just stand there quietly as if nothing happened. Recently I had worked for 2 hours on an assignment but then my computer messed up and I wasn’t able to submit it. The crazy instructor wouldn’t accept it late. I started screaming-crying and I went outside and fell to the ground and sobbed for a while. There was nothing else to be done and I felt better after that. I also used to tear up paper and throw it around my room, or unravel an entire toilet paper roll. I specifically try to avoid scaring other people or hurting them, that’s all. If someone would really look down on me for crying when I’m sad, forget that person.

    • Conuly

      Other people have rights too. Many people find loud noises upsetting. If you are old enough to refrain from screaming and sobbing, then you should, same as you shouldn’t play your car radio at top volume at 5 in the morning.

      • Rilian Sharp

        It is detrimental to me to keep my sadness bottled up.

      • Conuly

        And it is detrimental to everybody else to have to listen to you while they are trying to go about their day. If you can’t keep it quiet, go someplace where you won’t upset others. That’s good manners. You are not the only person in the world whose emotions matter.

      • Conuly

        That was a little harsher than I intended.

        Listen, as an autistic individual, I have had my share of dramatic meltdowns. I mean HUGE. (And to be perfectly frank, I wonder from your description if you are not totally neurologically typical yourself. That’s not just unusual behavior because other people choose not to lie on the floor and scream, other people simply don’t need to after the age of five or so, certainly not for relatively small issues like frustration.)

        It took me a long time to begin to grow out of them, and longer still to learn to avoid triggering them, but as time goes on I can see, with the lens of adulthood and new maturity, how very upsetting they are and were to everybody else. When you cry loudly, other people will feel upset just because humans, in general, don’t like to see upset people. They will be upset because noise is upsetting. They may be frightened, because you are not acting normally and they don’t know what you might do next. You are harming others by doing this, even if that is not your intent. It is better, if possible, to try to get to a private, safe space first. It is best to learn a way to cope so that you don’t end up having this sort of reaction in the first place.

        I find that pacing helps me, or leaving the situation. Sure, having a meltdown would make me feel better than I did when overstimulad and stressed, but I feel BEST when I don’t ever get to that point in the first place, when I take steps to keep my reactions manageable.

      • rtanen

        As an autistic, I get in near-meltdown states only in situations that I could not have taken quick sensory processing breaks in the middle of, because I couldn’t predict what was going to happen until it did (i.e., already behind schedule in airport, then it turns out dad had a pocketknife in his carry-on for some reason). The poster could not have taken a break when they realized things were slowly upsetting them, because this was a sudden, negative shock. On the other hand, if one can remain collected long enough to explain meltdowns and/or go somewhere better to melt down, that is excellent but not always doable. I find crying is a good way to release strong negative emotions, and much more approved of then reactions associated with anger.

      • Conuly

        Fair enough.

        To be completely and totally honest, and I’m sure Rilian already knows it, I don’t like him too much. Mostly because he is of the stated opinion that it is abusive to ever make your kid do anything that they aren’t thrilled with, including get an education or clean up their own messes.

        So I really should work harder at not snapping at him. (Her?) I think I filter much of what he (I’m running with it, and I apologize if I am mistaken) says through the filter of “Rilian is not a dear friend” and that’s not always conducive to conversation.

      • Feminerd

        Rilian is indeed a him. It’s come up once or twice- for some reason my brain tries to code the name female, and I’ve had to correct my pronoun usage more than once.

      • Conuly

        Thanks. I try to at least hit the right pronouns when talking about people.

      • The_L1985

        I think it may be because of the character Trillian from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who actually is female.

      • Feminerd

        Maybe. I think there’s a fantasy or sci-fi book somewhere out there I’ve read with a female Rilian or Rillian character too.

      • Conuly

        Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of my ability to not have huge meltdowns has been the result of simply getting older. I haven’t done anything in particular, I just grew out of the worst of it.

        At any rate, while I can sympathize with “things got overwhelming fast”, I can’t sympathize with “and it is utterly unreasonable for other people to expect peace and quiet”. But then, the one thing guaranteed to bring me to the brink of a meltdown on a bad day is noise of any sort. I hear my neighbor start up a leafblower and I dream of the day the power goes out and I can introduce him to this strange new invention called a “rake”.

      • Leigha7

        I wouldn’t consider not being allowed to submit an assignment simply a minor instance of frustration. That could make or break your grade in the class, depending on what grade you have, how big the assignment is, and how many assignments there are. As someone who put a lot of pressure on myself (and received a LOT of pressure from family) to get good grades, I would have been devastated by that as well. It’s not just that you don’t get to turn in that assignment, it’s that you get a bad grade through no fault of your own.

  • KnBa

    “Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything! We
    have raised five whineless children. Think of the convenience of being
    able to lay your children down and say, ‘Nap time,’ and then lie down
    yourself, knowing that they will all still be quietly in bed when you

    This hasn’t been commented on much yet, so I figured I would point out just how extremely telling it is – Michael clearly doesn’t care about the children. Whether things are good for them or not is irrelevant, because obedience is convenient for him. It’s much the same as his description of his honeymoon, where everything is about his personal convenience. His writings involve such a level of obvious and displayed selfishness that they would come off as satire, were it not for the clear evidence that these things are taken to heart.

    • Sally

      I was thinking about his nap on his honeymoon, too. -The one where Debi cooked while he snoozed, even though she was so exhausted. Imagine being able to put Michael down for a nap and just say “Nap time,” and as his wife, being able to take a nap too!

    • Kellen Connor

      The more I read by this guy, the more I think somebody somehow brought a Saturday morning cartoon villain to life.

    • Kate Monster

      Just like Debi, the kids are props and status symbols for Michael, showing his Godliness, virility, and strength of will. He never heard the pitter-patter of little feet when he thought about his newborn proofs-of-his-own-correctness–he heard the tinkling of little cash registers.

  • Katherine

    Eugh. All of this comes from viewing children as PROBLEMS rather than PEOPLE. Of course it would be more convenient to have a creature who obeys your every command and never shows dissatisfaction while doing so…. But the point of having children is not convenience!

    My own parents weren’t perfect, I was scolded for “bad attitudes” especially once I hit puberty, but my mother at least instilled in me that it is normal for humans to have emotions and that we all have to deal with our feelings, rather than simply surpressing them. Reading this makes me feel very lucky indeed.

  • Theo Darling

    Wow well that was pretty much as upsetting as expected
    BUT YEAH. I’m not about to claim that my parents/church were ~extreme~ or on the fundie fringe, but (in my experience, at least) very extreme ideas have seeped into more mainstream expressions of Christianity. Run of the mill super Baptisty parents can make your home so authoritarian (but Friendly[tm]) that you realize years later you’ve been suppressing your emotions and desires for so long, you don’t even know what they are.

    • Things1to3

      I’ve recently come to realize just how unhealthy it is to suppress ones emotions. I remember reading Dr. James Dobsons’ book “Emotions, can you trust them?” when I was about thirteen and what I took from that book was that emotions are fickle and something Satan can use to deceive and manipulate you. That a good God-fearing Christian should have the same iron-clad control of their emotions as they do of their tongue. I saved the book so that I could pass it on to my children when they hit puberty.

      Then I actually had kids and found out that teaching them to manage their emotions is a job that starts long before puberty and that it’s very difficult to teach kids to manage their emotions when you haven’t the first clue how to manage your own. I branched out and started learning techniques to teach my kid and it’s done more for me than Dobson’s book ever did.

      I also think it’s horribly ironic just how much of a Baptist church service is designed to manipulate the emotions of the audience. It’s such a hypocritical contradiction.

  • Barbara

    My experiences with punishment as a child were not extreme. But it was instilled within me from an early age that I should be quiet (I learned to close doors without them clicking) and that I should suppress negative emotions. By the time I was a teenager, all my father had to say was, “why don’t you smile more,” and not only would I drop into a spiral, but I’d also do my best to cover up the fact that I was spiraling.

    As an adult, I spent years in therapy trying to undo the patterns that my parents taught me, trying to learn how to determine which emotions were real and good and which were not. Worse, I treated people poorly because I didn’t know how to manage or communicate what was going on inside of me, and so I would explode. I still have trouble trusting myself; I am constantly thinking, “is it normal to feel this? Am I crazy?”

    You are right on the money, Libby Anne. The methods that you’ve criticized may create obedient children, but they also create maladjusted adults who have difficulty knowing (and therefore controlling) themselves.

    • Theo Darling

      aaaahh god <_<
      (how do you learn that stuff)

      • redsixwing

        “Years in therapy” is likely the key phrase here. It can be incredibly helpful to have an expert talk you through it.

        It’s taken me a few years of therapy to learn how to handle Having Emotions, too.

  • Ella Warnock

    A lifetime of suppressing my emotions resulted in a breakdown when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had always just dealt with things, that’s what I did, was known for – dealing with stuff and getting it done. I couldn’t deal with that, and nobody else (besides my husband) could deal with my not dealing. So there was no support, which I also couldn’t deal with and it hurt badly. After some time had passed, I got angry . . I mean really, really furious. It took a couple of years with a therapist to figure out that the anger masked the pain. People had been pretty shitty, and I finally had to admit how much that hurt. Even while going through treatment, family managed to convey the notion that I just wasn’t doing enough for them and that, hey, maybe I’m being a little self-involved.

    Yeah, cancer patients are the most selfish jerks, aren’t they. 9_9

    It’s not always comfortable to feel things. To let unfamiliar emotions bubble up to the surface – where they can be dealt with – is frightening and confusing. If you’re teaching your kids to keep everything in, you might just as well lop off an arm or a leg. It’s crippling, and much of the time there’s never any healing.

    Always a timely subject, Libby Anne. Thanks.

  • Kellen Connor

    The man makes me sick, right down to the marrow of my bones. And his wife’s no better, although I have to wonder how much of that is due to someone “breaking” her the way she helps “break” their children.

    And I think what makes me angriest is… my upbringing was nowhere near this bad. My parents’ biggest flaw was believing that god would really handpick their children for them, and not allow them to conceive before they were ready. They could just wing it, because they believed god had everything under control. And they made absolutely ABYSMAL decisions because of that belief, as well as being too immature not to conflate “being a parent” with “having a baby.” Because their beliefs freed them from the obligation of thinking.

    So, if I got off so lightly, and still wound up in therapy with scars on my arms, social anxiety, an eating disorder, chronic depression, and suicidal tendencies… what kind of hell must the kids of these parents be going through?

    Edit: Gonna try to end on a less sour note. When I read the sentence “Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything!” I heard my brother in my head follow it up with, “But, wait! There’s more! You get the Ginsu!”

    • TLC

      No need to worry about “sour notes.” I think many of us (like me!) are here to find healing and share experiences. And most of those experiences are not sweet!

      And tell your brother I LOVE to say, “But wait! There’s more!” :-D

  • smrnda

    I feel like the term ‘whining’ is usually just used to mean ‘complaining about things that are just not relevant to me.’ Nobody ever whines, it’s always *other people.* Adults don’t whine, it’s just those awful, ungrateful kids (sarcasm.)

    A friend of mine, talking about a work situation, was interrupted by her son saying “Mom, you’ve been whining about that to everyone for days!” Rather than getting pissed at him, she just realized that she really did need to vent about a few things and said “I’ll stop at the end of the week.” I think it was good, taught her son that complaining is okay but that it’s okay to point out when someone is overdoing it, and that whether it’s ‘venting’ or ‘whining’ depends on how many times you’ve heard it.

    • Sally

      OK, but this is a matter of semantics. If someone uses the word “whining” to mean “complaining” or “venting,” then that’s different than using an actual high pitched whiny voice. If you don’t know what I mean by the latter, you just haven’t been around it and are unfamiliar with it. -Or haven’t been around it much. There is a family who lives near me who when their kids were little, the kids were so whiny it was unbearable. It had just become a habit of the kids. Rather than asking for something in a regular voice, they automatically went to whine mode. The mother didn’t even realize it. Then one day she said they’d gone camping with some friends, and she was told on the trip that her kids were whiny and that they didn’t want to spend a weekend with them again until the kids got it under control (or something like that). She told me about this in a, “That’s not really true is it?” kind of way. I basically confirmed that it was pretty bad. I think her feelings were hurt, but she must have started recognizing it and doing something about it, because it got better after that. It wasn’t that the kids weren’t therefore allowed to make requests or to vent; they just started talking like people whose straight-forward words had meaning and power without all the whine to “boost” them.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        That’s a battle me and a friend are having with her son. She is so tuned out to his whining that she doesn’t notice it at all. It’s his default voice for whenever he is speaking to his mother and it’s driving the people around them batty.

      • Leigha7

        I usually didn’t realize I was whining when I was a kid. It wasn’t something I did on purpose to be manipulative. I think it was usually that I started to feel worked up, and it showed in my voice. You know how you can often tell people are trying not to cry, because their voice sounds different? I think my whining was similar to that, only more frustration or desperation than crying (like, “Pleeease can we go home, I’m soooo tired and I don’t wanna beee here anymooore”).

        I wonder if that’s true for other people as well (those who haven’t learned to use it to manipulate).

    • The_L1985
  • JP

    Not allowing a tiny person to express big feelings – in fact, to require them to suppress those feelings for one’s own comfort – is high on the list of damaging things you can do to a child. We’re all shaped during childhood, and if we’re given the message in no uncertain terms that we’re responsible for other people’s feelings by denying our own, it can take a lifetime to overcome it. Some of us never really do.

    I’ll never forget what it felt like to be small and told that the rage or the joy or the sadness that overwhelmed me was unfit for public consumption. What I don’t understand is why so many other adults seem to have so much trouble remembering.

  • Kate Monster

    Dear Debi and Michael,

    I really want to have a lot of babies. I’m a woman, after all! I have no other purpose, nor do I have other abilities. Anyway, I really want to start “filling” my husband’s “quiver” with my “arrows” if-you-know-what-I-mean, but I’ve heard that children sometimes have behaviors. Behaviors!? I don’t want that! God doesn’t condone any behaviors except the ones adult Christian men do. I want children, but without the “child” part. I guess I just want “ren”. Can you tell me how to do this–keep my ren behavior-free– and still provide my husband with the Soldiers for Christ he needs? I’ve tried using ventriloquist dummies and RealDolls–and my husband seems devoted to them, really–but I feel like I need something more, you know?

    Submissive and Fertile in Utah

    • TLC

      Hitting the “up” button 1,000 for this!

  • Susie M

    Is he saying bribery doesn’t work? Because it most certainly does. ;)

    Also, “perfectly obedient” doesn’t correlate with scripture or childhood. Again, Michael fails miserably as a theologian.

  • kittehonmylap

    I love my mom’s way of dealing with whining- when a child starts whining, you look at them & say “whiny gets nothing. Ask without whining & we’ll see.” Eventually this became “what does whiny get?” “Nothing…”

    Worked for me. Worked for every kid I babysat for. No beatings or feelings-bottling necessary.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      There are some great suggestions here for dealing with whining. A friend’s child does this all the time to his mother and it drives everyone around them batty because she’s tuned it out over the years. My general rule is to not reward whining and have the child restate in a normal voice what they want.

      What I have not seen tho are suggestions to deal with crying. Yes, crying is natural. At the same time, this same child cries at the drop of a hat over anything and everything. It is completely out of proportion to the situation to boot. Example: Playing with Jenga blocks and crying because they won’t stay in place like Lego do. At 8 years old, you would think that the child would understand WHY they don’t stay in place like Lego and when asked he understands but that doesn’t stop the crying.

      • Things1to3

        My 8 year old does this. He cries at the drop of a hat and neither of his brothers have that issue, so I think it’s a personality quirk of his. He feels very intensely, and I don’t want to deny that he has those feelings, but I do want to re-direct him to a more socially acceptable expression.

        I’ve started asking him why he’s crying, trying to get him to give me a reasonable reason or problem that can be solved. Then we work on the problem, with the end goal of teaching him to stop, think, and work the problem without having to cry about it. I also make a big deal out of it every time he doesn’t cry about something, making sure to praise him for handling it well.

        In your example, it sounds like the kid isn’t confused about the properties of Lego versus Jenga, but frustrated that it won’t do what he/she wants. If it were my son getting frustrated, I’d have him step away, take a couple of deep breaths, then we step through how to deal with frustration. He can walk away and find something new. He can go back and try again, or we talk about what he wanted to happen versus what is happening and see if we can reconcile the two.

      • Leigha7

        I don’t know if you’re already doing this or not, but while there’s nothing wrong with reinforcing him for handling things appropriately, I’d suggest being careful not to give him the idea that crying is NEVER an appropriate way to express his feelings. My instinctive response to your praising him for not crying was that you could potentially, inadvertently, give him that impression. I’d recommend you make sure he knows that sometimes crying IS an appropriate way of handling things.

      • Things1to3

        “My instinctive response to your praising him for not crying was that you
        could potentially, inadvertently, give him that impression.”

        I try really hard to strike a balance between acknowledging and validating his feelings, and trying to direct him toward control and positive outlets for those feelings. I will admit that it’s a bit out of my league many days, because I was taught that emotion was dangerous and that being able to react to anything logically and unemotionally was the optimum end goal. So I’m learning how to acknowledge and validate my own emotions while I’m trying to guide my son. I’m sure I fail more often than I succeed, and every time an emotional situation comes up I struggle with the same doubt you expressed. Am I stunting his emotional growth? Invalidating his feelings? Did I word my response to him in a manner that might suggest that crying would be unwelcome? Was the tone more teaching or scolding? Was my body language neutral?

        If you have any resources that I could look at that might guide me toward striking that perfect balance I’d love to look at them. I know I need all the help I can get.

      • Caravelle

        I don’t know how this works with 8-year-old kids, but when I start crying at the smallest frustrations I identify it as depression. (that, or I’m over-tired)

        Even if he isn’t actually depressed but it’s just how he responds to things, maybe the techniques used for depression could work for him.

      • aim2misbehave

        It used to be that when I cried over random things, I would know that I was PMSing… now I’m on meds that make me super emotional, so I’ll cry when I can’t find the scent of laundry detergent that I usually buy (not even that they’re sold out, just that I can’t pick it out of the wall of laundry detergent), I’ll cry when I take the wrong bus, I’ll cry when I can’t get coffee before work because I’m five minutes late because I took the wrong bus… it’s just brain chemistry, I guess.

      • onamission5

        Naming your feelings comes in really handy for spontaneous crying. Not as a quick-fix, but as a long term tactic to help the child manage that response by understanding the reasons why they react the way they do. It is my sense that kids (and adults) who are quick to tears are usually coming from a place of disempowerment, shame, fear, or frustration. Nothing makes me cry faster than feeling powerless! Or, they could be having internal conflict over something else entirely and the Jengas are their “safe out” to express those emotions. Like, feeling powerless about the school bully = feeling powerless to control the Jenga blocks. Or? It might not be the Jengas at all. For my youngest, the issue is usually something existential and once he has the opportunity to express his ennui he’s back to being more typically resilient. Or it’s fear. He can be an anxious little bunny, and his waters run deeper than one may expect for a just turned 9 year old.

        With my dd, in fifth grade she started getting all attitudy with me. Now I know most parents would probably write that off as typical pre-teen stuff and not delve into the why of it (and I got tons of advice in that vein, just ignore her, girls are like that, etc.) but I remember being a teen and that there was always, always a reason behind my so-called bad attitude. So delve we did. It took a few months of gently prodding her off and on, but eventually dd realized that the reason she was being all ‘tudish was because a boy at school had said something hurtful to her that had affected her self-confidence. She’d tried to ignore it, tried to stuff it down like she does, was walking around hurting and hadn’t even realized. So we processed her hurt together. With that burden off of her, her attitude became so much more relaxed.

        Kids who are super squishy inside don’t generally care why a thing does what it does, they just don’t want it to do that any more. Frustration at not having the skill to control a tiny part of your world in a manner which makes you feel secure and confident will bring out the tears. Validate, validate, validate. I think adults all too often just focus on the behavior that bugs them without delving into the reasons behind the behavior.

      • Sally

        You’ve gotten really good replies already. I would add one other aspect. Does his mom try to quickly solve the problem for him when he cries or somehow give him what he wants? -Or drop talking to you and make him the focus of attention? Some kids will make a scene to get their way or get attention (or get a problem solved quickly for them). If he’s getting something he wants by crying, then she needs to stop giving him what he wants when he cries and give it to him before he cries (if she’s ending up giving it to him anyway, why not?). If he’s making a fuss because he feels ignored, you might help that by giving him a lot of attention when they arrive, and really talking to him and playing with him for a little while. Then when he’s playing on his own and you’re talking, every now and then comment on what he’s doing (try to do it without a compliment, just a neutral snapshot of what he’s doing). “Johnny, I see that tower you’re building. It looks like you are really enjoying those blocks.”
        Now, if he’s not getting his way by crying, and he’s not getting special attention by crying when he is in fact being ignored, then I think you’re back to the other suggestions about dealing with frustration.
        Exactly what you do with all this advice since you’re not the mother, I’m not sure (except you could do the paying attention one yourself). If you’re close, maybe you can have a heart to heart with the mom.

  • Lyric

    The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand new child emerges.

    A little thing that initially escaped me amid all the other wrongness: I don’t want a brand new child. I want the very same child, only not engaged in hitting his sister/hitting her brother/tormenting the cat.

    I mean, I’m not gonna spank. But if I were, it wouldn’t be about changing my child into a different one, it would be about KNOCK THAT THE HELL OFF OR SO HELP ME with a side of, “That’s cruel and/or dangerous, I am not fooling around.”

  • wmdkitty

    “Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything!”

    Stepford Children.


  • Karen

    That last paragraph from TTUAC is pure sadism. I’m so sorry their followers don’t see through it, and instead read what they want to read into it.

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